YOU are the Medicine (aka the Risk of Psychedelics)
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Over the last few years psychedelics has gone mainstream and many people are seeking them out with very little understanding of the territory they are stepping into. They’ve often listened to an interesting podcast, watched an insightful Netflix documentary, or heard about a positive experience from a friend or loved one who recommends it (projecting their experience).
Access to more information around the positive psychotherapeutic and spiritual potential of psychedelic experiences is an important step, as they have often been demonized by modern media, political and health establishments. These institutionalized bodies (which rarely prioritize the well-being of citizens) have long discredited and dismissed evidence provided by psychotherapeutic studies, personal experiences, and non-conventional perspectives (such as indigenous and shamanic cultures).
They also completely dismiss any discussion around the spiritual component – which is a glaring issue in our culture. As beneficial as the public interest and support has been in opening up doorways of curiosity and advocacy, what is often misunderstood by the average individual is that psychedelics are not medicine.
They are not magic pills that instantly resolve our issues.
They are not magic genies that fulfill our wishes and expectations.
They are not quick fixes for persistent challenges and obstacles that we face in our lives (both internally and externally).
Having worked personally and professionally in these spaces for almost 2 decades now, it is my perspective that psychedelics (or entheogens) have a very simple, yet infinitely complex function:
They put us in contact with deeper layers of (often uncomfortable) truths. The truth of what we feel beneath the surface of our performative personality. The truth of how we perceive and experience ourselves and others. The truth of where our behaviors originate from and what their consequences have been/are.
Different models/layers/dimensions of reality that potentially conflict with the beliefs /perspectives we have constructed through personalized distortions.And in the presence of this (often overwhelming) information, we are invited to accept aspects of ourselves and reality that fly right in the face of everything we previously thought that we “knew.”
These challenging feelings, experiences, perceptions once exposed are often unbearable, as they touch on the most primal pain points of our psychoemotional makeup (our identity and worldview). When we are put in direct contact with this internal content we may be triggered, disappointed, overwhelmed, destabilized, confused, or upset. We might have desired a experience, feel cheated that we didnt get what we signed up for, be completely debilitated by the intensity of conflicting feelings, or have our sense of reality shaken as our core beliefs are ripped to shreds.
A wise approach to working with psychedelics is to take every available step to prepare for these very real possibilities. The healing process is not one of dissolving into pure love and light and having all of your problems simply evaporate into the ether, but rather diving deeply into the “shadow” (hidden/unconscious) aspects of our being that have yet to be integrated and resolved.
The ecstatic experience sometimes does indeed occur, but established identity /behaviors / patterns will resurface once the euphoria fades – often producing a sense of failure, depression, or disappointment. The “healing”process is rarely (if ever) immediate and often carries significant consequences towards every aspect of our lives – our self-perception, our relationships, our work, etc.
As we start digging into those challenging, disrupting places within there is a very real possibility that instead of being "resolved overnight", our issues will actually be magnified, heightened to an intensity that is very challenging to navigate. A simple explanation for this is that when deep wounds begin to move towards resolution they re-activate in our system to the same intensity and degree as the original wound so they can finally begin to discharge.
They do not magically disappear.
They pass THROUGH us.
And we have to feel it all.
The experience of this can be completely overwhelming, even more so if the wound is intergenerational or societal, as the intensity of the feelings may extend beyond our individual self and into a collective field. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to find competent space-holders / facilitators for our psychedelic experiences – to co-regulate and aid in the alchemical transmutation of energy that is too much for one individual system to process on its own.
Once again, psychedelics are not magic. They VERY RARELY result in the immediate resolution of any significant issue. They simply catalyze and amplify the healing process – which is already occurring (or attempting to occur) through the natural unfolding of our lives. The recurring situations and circumstances that we struggle with (which often act as triggers) are opportunities orchestrated by the intelligent unfolding of life, putting us in ontact with the unbearable feelings (and the resulting coping mechanisms) that have taken up residence within us and dominated our lives.
Psychedelics EXPEDITE the natural healing process.
They are teachers. Mentors. Allies.
But they are not healers.
YOU are the healer.
If someone approaches a psychedelic journey with an EXPECTATION of a specific feeling or experience, they are often setting themselves up for struggle and disappointment. Entheogens assist by putting us in contact with whatever we are carrying in an AMPLIFIED way, so that we can process material, discharge energy, and arrive at novel insights through heightened perception beyond what we can normally access.
The process in simple terms, is to allow EVERY and ANY feeling to pass through us in an uninhibited way. It sounds simple (and it is), but it is extremely challenging to put into practice. Perhaps the most challenging thing we can do as humans. If we have very little experience in engaging in the deep FEELING process, the psychedelic experience may in fact be detrimental, for it can very easily cross the line into overwhelm. This has the potential to re-traumatize a person, amplifying their suffering.
In fact, the more experience I have in these spaces the LESS likely I am to recommend psychedelic journeys for people.
What I often suggest is to first establish some practices that allows one to begin softening into the sensations of their body and emotions. Combining a feeling practice with active self-care is often all the “medicine” that a person needs, and perhaps the most effective approach is not to enter into an experience
of overwhelming intensity when they have yet to establish an intimate relationship with their sensations, emotions, and sense of self.
I also consider it essential to engage with professional support in a variety of fields before AND after the psychedelic experience (such as psychotherapy, somatic experiencing, breathwork, etc.) so one can LEARN to cultivate the tools and skills to navigate challenging internal content, and also expand their repertoire of support systems should they uncover material that is beyond the scope of their capacity to process on their own.
Essentially what I recommend is to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in a long-term self-actualization process, rather than seeking out some magical “savior”- which many people unconsciously project upon the psychedelic experience.
There are very real risks to working with psychedelics. We have defense mechanisms and coping strategies specifically designed to protect us, and blowing up those structures with a psycho-emotional hand grenade might not be the most effective approach, especially if we haven't first cultivated the necessary internal and external resources to deal with the potential fallout.
One of the greatest risks is outsourcing our healing to an external force, rather than taking personal responsibility. If one can take personal responsibility for their healing process, establishing solid support systems around them and PRACTICING somatic, emotional and psychological processing, they are able to build both competency and trust in the process. With this foundation set, the multidimensional healing potential of the psychedelic experience can thus be more fully received and realized, catalyzing long-term transformation.
If you are considering or seeking out a psychedelic experience, I would highly encourage you to explore other psychotherapeutic / healing modalities and practice incorporating new behaviors into your life BEFORE diving into the intense unknown. You will be much better equipped to surrender to whatever experiences arise for you, and much more able to integrate it into your life in a meaningful way.
YOU are the medicine.Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Entheogens aka psychedelics