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Embrace Enlightenment And Heal Trauma – Exclusive Interview With Ben "Doc" Askins

Ben "Doc" Askins has degrees in Outdoor Education, Intercultural Studies, Physician Assistant Studies, and Divinity. He has two decades of experience practicing and teaching wilderness, tactical, and expeditionary medicine in the military. In civilian life, he is a Psychiatric Physician Assistant with an integrative approach to mental health and extensive experience providing psychedelic-assisted therapy and precision medicine. He is certified with the Multidisciplinary Association on Psychedelic Studies in MDMA-assisted therapy. Doc is a National Outdoor Leadership school alum, a veteran of the Global War on Terrorism, and has postgraduate training in Neuropsychiatry and Genomics.

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Ben "Doc" Askins, Anti-Hero's Journey

Introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better. I am psychedelic science war storyteller Captain Ben "Doc" Askins, PhD (Hon.). Honestly, I am no one. I’m Banksy’s erudite elder brother, a Deadpool wannabe, and the Shadow of the world’s most interesting man. When artificial intelligence has a fever dream, it dreams of being me. I’m a son, brother, husband, father, veteran, psycho, therapist, and friend. I’m the grinning embodiment of the Duchenne marker, all of my lies are true, and I write my books with tears in my eyes for you and only you.

If that’s just too mysterious for you then you might also get me to admit that I have a pretty eclectic background, with degrees in Outdoor Education, Intercultural Studies, Physician Assistant Studies, and Divinity. I have two decades of experience practicing and teaching wilderness, tactical, and expeditionary medicine in both civilian and military contexts. I also have extensive experience providing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and spiritual direction, including a certification with the Multidisciplinary Association on Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. I’m a National Outdoor Leadership School alum, a veteran of the Global War on Terrorism, and have completed postgraduate training in Neuropsychiatry and Genomics.

What inspired you to create Anti-Hero's Journey and what is the main goal or mission behind your website?

Anti-Hero’s Journey: The Zero With a Thousand Faces is a warped war memoir that I wrote about the way to attain enlightenment. It’s an integration therapy guide in the form of my life story. And it’s only about 150 pages, so it isn’t boring. The Anti-Hero’s Journey is anti-boredom. It’s also just the right thickness to be useful for propping up a wobbly table or chair leg. It’s important for tools to have multiple purposes.

Every night for two weeks straight, I couldn’t sleep until I wrote a chapter of the book. Once I wrote each chapter, I went right to bed and slept like a baby. At the end of the two weeks, the book was written. So from one perspective it only took two weeks to write it; from another perspective, it took 42 years. (I’m 42 years old now, which is fun for me since I’m a big fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

Could you provide an overview of the content and resources available on your website? How do you aim to assist individuals on their own Anti-Hero's Journey? Currently, my website just offers a link to buy the book on Amazon, but I have been working on a podcast and have several other potential offerings in the works. So stay tuned! There’s also a link to Expedition Mental Health, the clinic where I work with some of my friends.

Are there any particular themes or principles that guide the content and message conveyed through Anti-Hero's Journey? How do these themes resonate with your target audience? The themes of the book are all the big things people care about: life and death, war and peace, trauma and healing, suffering and joy, pain and love. I wept and laughed my way through writing the whole thing. Like my friend, Dr. Mike Stone says in the foreword to the book, it’s “the most concise, entertaining, irreverent, and punk rock set of pointing-out instructions ever seen.” Just read it. You’ll see what he means.

From the back cover: Joseph Campbell famously described the pattern imbedded in every good story, from ancient mythology to science fiction, as the Hero’s Journey, the Monomyth: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are encountered and a decisive victory is won; the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” The Hero With a Thousand Faces. The Hero’s Journey is a fantastic children’s story. Alternatively, this book is for adults only. When you are ready to see the pattern of reality inscribed on the bottom of every story, Anti-Hero’s Journey offers the Zeromyth: “A zero ventures further than a hero, beyond the illusions of supernatural wonder, beyond fabulous forces, beyond decisive victory, never returning from a mysterious adventure, unknowing everything untrue. There are no powers, no boons, no fellow man. The zero has nothing, gives nothing, takes nothing, is nothing. The hero is all illusion, all reality is zero.” The Zero With a Thousand Faces. Looking into the future, do you have any plans for expanding the website or introducing new features? Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives that you would like to share?

Oh, I have about a dozen or so book ideas in mind that would be expansions on themes from Anti-Hero’s Journey. I really need to get this first one out there into the world and see what boomerangs back from readers before I start writing the sequels, though. They’ll be much better books if they’re written in conversation with my readers than if I just go charging ahead alone.

I’ve also been working with some friends on putting the audio version of the book out as a podcast rather than an audiobook. We’re calling it a “podbook.” I don’t really care about royalties for the audiobook or anything like that. I just want people to get a chance to hear it. It’ll be like a guided meditation on the Anti Hero’s Journey. It’ll probably be about six episodes that we drop all at once so people can binge-listen. Total runtime would be just about three or four hours. So the book is for adults only and the podbook is for advanced psychonauts only. “Whoever has ears to hear let them hear.”

Tell us about a pivotal moment in your life that brought you to where you are today.

While I was in Physician Assistant training in the military, I received news that an old friend – a fellow veteran - had died by suicide. He was a tough guy with a big grin. A husband and a father. We had a lot in common. While working in the emergency room the following day, a woman was brought in via ambulance for an intentional drug overdose. Having been a combat medic for over a decade, I knew how to intubate her and stabilize her before admitting her to intensive care, but only time would tell how much brain function she might be able to recover. After stabilizing her, I went into the waiting room and sat with her husband and her very young daughter - she was the same age as one of my little girls. I knew what to do for someone after they attempted suicide in order to keep them alive, but the prognosis if they recover from that first attempt is grim, both medically and psychologically.

Something inside of me shifted while I was sitting in that waiting room with that grieving family the day after losing my friend to the same problem. I decided in that moment – with that man who could have been me and that little girl who could have been my daughter – that I was going to leave emergency medicine and work in mental health to help heal trauma and prevent suicide. For as long as the good Lord allows me to keep breathing, that’s what I intend to do.

My mission is to embody all of life’s paradoxes in a way that overcomes fear with love.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!



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