Limitless and Limited: Micro-dosing and Schemas


In 2011, Bradley Cooper started taking a drug that allowed him to use the full awesome power of his brain. With his innate cognitive capacities unlocked, he is able to attain superlative levels of motivation, power, wealth and sex.

In recent years, several of my clients have disclosed to me their use of psychedelic micro-dosing.

Psychedelic drugs are those which produce hallucinations and expansion of consciousness, such as LSD (acid) and magic mushrooms. Psychedelic substances have been used for thousands of years, and are connected with shamanism in numerous cultures to this day. They have gained widespread recreational popularity since the 1960’s.

Micro-dosing means taking an extremely small dose, one which does not have any noticeable effects. Micro-dosing has a long history in homeopathic treatments. Information spread on message board websites (such as Reddit) and on Podcasts has lauded the effect of psychedelic micro-dosing for improving mental health, creativity and other cognitive capacities.

My micro-dosing clients are like Bradley Cooper, from the movie Limitless: They are seeking a magic pill to break through their limits. But I wonder – how did they get so limited in the first place?


It is common to tell kids they can be anything they want to be. But kids know better. Part of childhood development is working out the possible from the impossible. The burgeoning human organism, rather than striving equally hard at all activities all of the time, tries to work out what they are good at. They try to discover their Efficient Niche: The roles or activities that will give the best return to time and energy investment.

There’s nothing quite like school to drill it in that you’re limited. While your brain is at its most supple and suggestable, you are constantly exposed to those who seemingly find excelling in academics, sport, motivation, self-organisation and creativity to be so, so easy.

So, unconsciously we quit. A negative way of describing this quitting is Learned Helplessness. A positive way to describe it is Acceptance. As kids, we accept we’ll never be good at some things like academics or creativity or sport. Giving up the struggle to be good at these matters frees us to start looking for a more efficient niche within which to spend our time and energy.

This process is one possible way that a Failure Schema or an Incompetence Schema forms.

Fast forward to adulthood. We are now anxious and depressed, the adult world requires us to be smart, and we “know” we are not smart enough. We hear that humans like us only use 10% of our brain (a common myth, still circulating in the ether). If only we could unleash this capacity, then we wouldn’t be nervous wrecks before starting a difficult task. Then we wouldn’t fall into a pit of despair after each failure.

The popularity of the movie, Limitless, reveals this secret wish for a quick fix for our limited brain. And we wouldn’t have this wish to become limitless, unless we first had a deep-seated insecurity that we were in fact limited.

Placebos: Suggestibility breaking through Limits

The popularity of psychedelic micro-dosing started before the activity was researched. More recently some studies have started to investigate the phenomena.

A Dutch study in 2018 took a bunch of people and tested them on creative problem-solving tasks both before and after micro-dosing on psychedelic truffles (great name for a band!). The researchers found that creative problem solving improved after micro-dosing. A small, randomised study, found that People who micro-dosed LSD reported more subjective effect from higher doses of the substance. These studies give some tentative evidence that micro-dosing has some positive impact.

So, does micro-dosing offer a solution to our “limited” human minds? My guess is yes, but probably not due to the psychedelic effects. I would guess that the placebo effect is at work with micro-dosing. My guess is that micro-dosing works for people who have a hope and expectation that the drugs will work. And this is because it is our acceptance (or learned helplessness) of our limitedness holding us back rather our faulty brain.

A study released earlier this year lends some support to this theory. The researchers studied people both before and after they started a micro-dosing regime. They assessed self-reported anxiety, depression and feelings of wellbeing. The group as a whole improved on these measures. But predictor of who would improve the most? Those who had a higher expectation of improvement in the week prior to first dose showed the most significant improvement.

So, should you give micro-doing a go? Well, it’s illegal so I should probably say – no. But, if you believe that it will improve your brain, then it probably will. Not because it is unlocking your potential, but because it is unblocking your insecurities.

A longer route to the same outcome, that doesn’t involve relying on tiny doses of an illegal substance, is schema therapy. This process involves identifying and changing self-limiting beliefs. Not quite becoming limitless, but definitely pushing the boundaries of what is currently possible.

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102-106 Boyce Rd
Maroubra Junction, NSW 2035
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