healing relationship psychedelics

For today’s closing post of this year’s PSYJuly, I would like to share my thoughts on an aspect of long-term psychedelic integration. That is, how we relate to psychedelics.

I think improving our relationship with psychedelics is a key but mostly unrecognised piece of long-term integration. This piece is more relevant for the long term practitioner because you don’t need to have a good relationship with a one night stand partner. For something longer term, you do. 

If you are someone who has some kind of ongoing practice of working with psychedelics, how do you relate to them? What do you think about them? When you talk about them with others, how do you feel?

Healing and Understanding

Many users of psychedelics have feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment tied into their use. This is usually due to social stigma, cultural perceptions and drug laws, and many people remain closeted about their use.

Whilst opening up to friends and family members can be healing in some cases, it isn’t always the best option. Keeping the psychedelic part of ourselves hidden from others may often be the most pragmatic course of action. 

To enjoy a really healthy relationship with psychedelics, however, it’s important to resolve any feelings of embarrassment and shame that we have around them.

Exploring the roots of these feelings can be done by journaling. Writing answers to some simple questions, such as ‘Why am I embarrassed? What do I feel ashamed of? Why am I keeping this hidden?’ can begin to bring more clarity, understanding and healing to the relationship.

Trust

Did you ever come out of a session feeling disappointed? Maybe you felt like it was a little bit of a letdown? I certainly have many times, and trust is something I have had to learn over time.

Trusting in psychedelics, the experiences they provide, and the insights they reveal, will bring about a more fruitful journey with them. Can you let go of the seeds of doubt in your mind? 

‘You don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need”
– Psychedelics

This can also mean trusting in the process. Maybe you didn’t get what you were hoping for from a session. You still have the option to trust that on some level it was what you needed at this point in your journey, and that it will make sense within the larger context of your journey. Leaning into trust will ultimately benefit you and your relationship with psychedelics.

Patience

Through engaging with psychedelics continuously over a number of years, one of the most valuable but also hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that of patience. This is intertwined with trusting that I am being given what I need when I need it, and that ultimately, where I am is where I need to be, not at some point further along where I think I’m supposed to be. This means being patient in allowing the unfolding of my own journey, letting it unravel in its own perfect time, without trying to push it.

psychedelic integration journey progress graph

Patience helps us allow ourselves to be where we are

An example of practicing patience would be in the integration process. Rather than trying to fix everything at once and improve all areas of your life simultaneously, realise that you are a human and have limits. It’s wisest to choose one or two key areas to focus on. As for all the other things, be patient, they will come in time. 

Respect

Psychedelics are incredibly powerful. They can can sit us on our ass, reducing us to babbling babies, and they can propel us to the far reaches of the universe to spaces we never even knew could exist. They can transform ourselves and the realities that we exist in, both inside and outside sessions. Psychedelics deserve y/our respect.

Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful things we can do. I find it hard to express in words how much I love psychedelics. But beneath that, how grateful I am that they exist at all, and how incredibly fortunate I am to be in a position where I have access to them. Many people who would like to use them simply do not have the means, ability or access. There are people suffering from heavy depression, and others suffering with terminal cancer who are seeking access and are unable to receive it. I know because I’m contacted by these people and I do find the current reality around their access to be both upsetting and hard to accept. In those moments it’s again a chance to practice patience, and also gratitude for the privileged position that I find myself in.

Final thoughts

These are all overarching principles and lessons that I have received from psychedelics and I believe it’s a fitting response to reflect them back to the wonders which have bestowed these gifts upon me. 

I believe anyone wishing to work with psychedelics over the long term can benefit from establishing a relationship with psychedelics founded upon these core elements.

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Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day!

drugs babies child psychedelics

Hello! Welcome to day 30 PSYJuly 🙂 Tomorrow we wrap up, but today, I’d like to talk about how drugs can make us like children, and what to do about it…

Drugs make us infantile

Drugs can make us childlike in many ways. How so? What are the upsides and downsides? And what does it mean in terms of how we approach taking them? I’m glad you asked.

Firstly, drugs can make us more open and playful. They can increase our sense of wonder, curiosity and awe. These effects have many positive implications, such as increasing feelings of enjoyment and appreciation, and for the most part, is a big reason why many drugs are so popular. 

Drugs can also make us more sensitive, and emotionally vulnerable. This can be useful to process feelings and experience other ways of being. However, it can also become uncomfortable, and heightened emotions should generally be handled carefully.

Another way in which drugs making us childlike, is that they can make us incapable of many ordinarily straightforward tasks. This type of debilitating effect can range from slightly inhibiting our abilities, to turning us into full-on babbling babies.

It’s hard to do things when high

Being high makes us less, or even un, able to perform a variety of tasks. This includes verbalizing thoughts into a comprehensible form i.e. speaking coherently; or successfully coordinating the body and mind to utilize motor skills of varying complexity, from carrying a tray of drinks across the room, to playing a musical instrument.

Being high can also interfere with our ability to conduct rational, linear, logical thinking. This can have all kinds of complications depending on the context and what one is trying to do or achieve. Trying to organize and book travel, such as a journey which requires multiple changeovers and modes of transports, for example, would be an absolute nightmare whilst high (I’ve tried it, it was unbelievably confusing). Using any kind of technical equipment can also be especially difficult. Basically, performing any task which requires thinking about and coordinating more than one thing at a time will become more challenging.

Maintaining focus and holding attention on one specific thing can also be difficult. The mind wanders more freely when high, and this is great for creative thinking, it also makes it very easy to forget or lose track of things.

Simply put, the simplest of tasks can become incredibly difficult, arduous, or just outright impossible.

Yes, we are like children, infants, or babies, when we’re high. There is even scientific research that shows a tripping brain is similar to a child’s.

“In many ways, the brain in the LSD state resembles the state our brains were in when we were infants: free and unconstrained”
– Robin Cahart-Harris |Reuters

How to treat our tripping selves

So, if our tripping selves are basically children, what does that mean about how we will approach a session?  Well, children need parenting, and I’d say the best way to approach that role is in a loving and caring way. Whether we’re looking after ourselves, or tripsitting for someone else, this can mean a number of things.

When it comes to setting, this can mean childproofing the space and setting everything up to be as simple and straightforward as possible.

When it comes to sessions where more challenging emotions or content arise, it can mean being sensitive to the vulnerable states of that person.

For group sessions, or tripsitting, it can mean clearly stating things which may usually seem obvious. This might take the form of explicit agreements to remove doubts around safety and engender feelings of trust. Agreements can define boundaries and limits, and this can create a clearly defined container for the experience. This might include agreements to not: engage in any sexual or violent behaviour, leave the space or go outside, or commit to any future plans within the group.

Overall, it means being aware that people who are either tripping or very high, are not thinking or behaving like a normal, logical adult.

Final thoughts

Even outside of psychedelic sessions, treating ourselves as children can quite often be a healthy way to relate to ourselves. Of course it won’t work for most of our day to day life, and can be patronising or even annoying, but aspects of the approach such as gentleness and patience can be very helpful in developing healthy relationships both with ourselves and others. 

I have personally found the mantra of “I can always be kind to myself” to be one of the most useful phrases for self talk that I’ve picked up, and especially helpful in the context of psychedelic sessions. If you have any tendency to be hard or tough on yourself then I encourage you to experiment with this phrase, and call it to mind in moments of uncertainty and doubt. This includes the totality of yourself, so being kind to your future and past selves, too. 

So, what are you waiting for? You can start right now…

How can you be kind to yourself?  🙂

groups psychedelic integration processes

Hello and welcome to day 29 PSYJuly 🙂 Can you believe it? We’re almost at a close!
Today we have a post from my friend and fellow Berlin based psychedelic enthusiast David Heuer. I first met Dave at Beyond Psychedelics in 2018, when we both showed up for pre-conference psychedelic facilitation workshop with Bill Richards, and since then Dave has guided many group integration processes with the MIND foundation, and I am happy to share some of his insights today…

Insights on The Power of Groups in Psychedelic Integration

Psychedelic experiences are a naturally occurring and potentially awe-inspiring part on the spectrum of human experiencing (and beyond). Due to the increased interest in psychedelics, and the challenges that come with new attempts on trying to embed and legitimize their usage in (post)modern societies, the concept of psychedelic integration has become a prominent buzzword in different groups within the psychedelic field. A range of varyingly specialized providers are offering psychedelic integration coaching and therapy, handbooks, workbooks, and courses on the topic, as well as many different ideas on what it should entail.

Instead of trying to give a concise definition of what psychedelic integration might be, I want to share with you some insights coming from four years of developing and facilitating various psychedelic integration formats. At MIND Foundation we are currently offering a 5-day group intensive, and a 6-week online course. The main goal is to support all participants in developing a beneficial stance towards their psychedelic experiences. I want to focus on a core aspect, which both formats share, that I’d like to explore a little deeper with you here. It is the social aspect of psychedelic integration, namely, coming together in a group of like-minded people.

Psychedelic Integration and the Need to Connect

Psychedelic experiences can be very intense, also accounting for the deep sense of unity and connection that we might be blessed to feel for the time being. Were you ever taken by such a deep sense of connection? Or any other experiential quality that addressed your whole being tremendously? In which way could you express this feeling at the time?

While it is often the case, that we are having the experiences mostly internally (depending on the setting of course), the urge to connect with others through our experiences is very common.

What I am experiencing in my work as a psychedelic integration facilitator, really as a human being in general, is that we all want to be seen, be heard, be witnessed and provide that for others, too. The idea of coming together in a circle is probably at least as old as human beings. And the main reason for that is the sheer power of shared presence and connection.

How Can We Connect in Deeper Ways?

When we enter the port together as fellow psychonauts, who sailed the same ocean but on different routes and different vessels, we are still sharing a certain way of experiencing. Why is the tavern such a highly frequented place? Because finally, the sailor can share all the stories of monsters conquered and tides survived.

The (partial) ineffability of psychedelic experiences is partly due to the lack of context, we can normally give. What we can “say” about a psychedelic experience can feel like faint glimpses of the density and intensity of the actual experience. However, finding ways to express these experiences (also going beyond words!) can still have a range of positive effects.

In a sense, psychedelic integration boils down to learning from psychedelic experiences (and applying the lessons). While this is something we have to do individually, the social dimension of psychedelic integration is not to be underestimated. Integration circles are a basic and powerful format to connect with our experiences and others to achieve a greater sense of wholeness.

Beyond the idea of coming together and sharing, structuring such a process can help to fully harness the power of group dynamics and personal exploration. In BEYOND EXPERIENCE and Footsteps, we are combining personal exploration through various means with a multitude of interaction methods to create a rhythm and space, where ‘missing pieces’ can be found and assembled to an (ever-evolving) personal integration puzzle.

How Being in Groups May Facilitate Deeper Integration Processes

Here are a few factors, why semi-structured group processes can help with psychedelic integration:

✔ Time to get to know each other deeper, in a structured way, providing a bigger context from which we can be understood in more width and depth.

     → Guiding questions for showing ourselves and being seen could be: What were significant biographical incidents in my life? How extensive is my experience with altered states? Do I engage in any spiritual practice? What are my core values? Etc.

✔ Deep listening processes / mirroring.

     → Practicing our capacity to listen deeply to another’s sharing and being mindful about any sensations and thoughts that come up without being reactive can help us attending to our own experiential content in the same way (compassion as encompassing).

✔ Combining integration mediators, e.g. creative expression (painting etc.) can mediate integration processes by allowing non-verbalized content to emerge.

     → Doing this in a group is adding even more layers to this. Sharing about a creative expression, group members can (consensually) share their perspective and felt resonances. Often what we can’t see ourselves is most apparent to others.

✔ Normalization of psychedelic experiences.

     → To be able to speak openly about your experiences with like-minded people can be liberating in itself.

✔ Diversity of phenomenology, often shared values.

     → Coming in contact with a wide range of different psychedelic experiences, puts our own story in perspective. At the same time, connecting with all the similarities and differences we have, can assure us of being okay the way we are. Harmony doesn’t mean smoothing out the edges

✔ Being seen in a more holistic way.

     → Making changes and ‘doing something’ with our experiences is only one aspect of psychedelic integration. It is at least equally important to simply take time for our integration processes and not be focused on any outcome. Even in times where we are apparently not doing anything, nothing is left undone.

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About David
David A. Heuer is MIND Foundation’s integration program manager, project leader, and a key contributor to the BEYOND EXPERIENCE workshop. With a deep interest in the complex processes involved in integrating psychedelic experiences, he is co-developing the Integration & Augmented Psychotherapy Training and creating other multi-modal formats like the Footsteps webinar.

In 2020, he graduated from the University of Hildesheim with a Master of Arts in intercultural philosophy and arts. With a master’s thesis focusing on the notion of “experience” and its implications for understanding psychedelic integration, his main research interest lies in bridging theoretical and practical aspects of psychedelic integration work. David is a psychedelic integration counselor, intercultural philosopher, gestalt practitioner, author, and workshop facilitator.

With his work in MIND, he wishes to contribute to a culture of psychedelic integration that advances the creation of diverse beneficial contexts for a well-informed, skilled, and supported engagement with psychedelic experiences.

create psychedelic setting space place station

Welcome to day 28, PSYJuly 🙂 Sorry today’s post comes late, this one took longer to edit than I anticipated. Today we’re talking psychedelic setting…

Set and setting, yada yada. You’ve heard it. But what to do about setting? How to craft it?

Beyond ambience, one thing is to make the space as practical as possible.

Careful preparation of the setting for a psychedelic session can help to make the experience more seamless and smooth. By removing friction ahead of time, you can make the most of your trip and the time available. Setting up the space is a way of being a kind and considerate sitter for yourself ahead of time. It’s giving a gift to your future self and building a friendly relationship with your shamanic persona.  

To illustrate, I’d like to introduce three terms to the world of psychedelic setting. These are: stations, spaces, and places.

Stations

  1. A station is a designated and prepared place for doing a specific action that requires tools.

“I just got an idea! I’m heading to the writing station”
“Hey man, can you set up the dosing station whilst I prepare the food? Nice one.”

Some examples:

  • Dosing station
  • Writing station
  • Music station
  • Painting station
  • Tea station
  • Rolling station

A station, by its nature, has equipment. It should be practical and comfortable. All the tools needed for the task assigned to that station should be located there. It should suit the purpose of its existence.

Each station should be:

  • Sufficiently lit
  • Prepared for action
  • Laid out for optimised used (see places, below)
  • Considered (it suits the area)

The station should be sufficiently lit for the action that is to be performed there. For example, if you are writing, you need to be able to clearly see the pad or paper you are using. So, lamps or candles are set up or nearby. 

The station should be prepared for action. For example, at a tea station: mugs and a thermos of prepared tea. If it’s a music station, the guitar should be tuned, the picks laid out. If using digital equipment, all audio cables are connected, headphones readied and sound levels set. At a dosing station you should have all the tools needed to prepare and consume doses and boosters. If using ketamine for example, this would include: the substance, a set of scales, an item to crush the substance, a steady hard flat smooth surface to crush it on, a thin item to create lines, and straws for ingestion. It also makes sense for a dosing station to include a logging station. This would include: a log book, a pen, and a watch.

Each station should be laid out and optimised for use. This is covered in places, below.

The location of each station should be considered. What are the possible areas it could be? It should be considered within the entire space and the larger geography in mind. That includes what happens in each station, the implications of that, and its neighbouring stations and spaces.

When placing a station, ask: what’s the upshot of it being here?

If the action is a noisy one, such as singing, or loading up a gas, consider if it is adjacent to neighbours. On a recent weekend in an airbnb, I went to work on a music track where I would be recording vocals (loud ones!). I put the vocal station in the kitchen, as it was a room in the middle of the apartment and only neighboured the bathroom and the living room. It was distanced from neighbours so I could let rip.

If you might be dancing or walking around, consider if there are people on the floor below. You might make an extra padding on the floor by laying down an extra yoga mat or blanket. If you’re using paints, they might get messy. Consider where doors are and where people will be coming in and out of rooms. If you’re gonna be smoking joints, note the smell and smoke. Overall, aim for harmony with the surrounding environment. Take spaces into account.

Spaces

  1. A space is an area of a session setting.

Spaces are more about the ambience of a region, rather than its practicality for a specific action. Setting space can be thought of as set design. It takes into account the intended atmosphere. A space might be decorated or lit in a certain way.

The benefit of spaces beyond practicality is more opaque. It is more about eliciting certain feelings in certain spaces. Our brains make associations with certain areas. This is why it’s nice to have a room for work and a room for sleep as separate spaces. One is a work space, one is a sleep space, and we set them up to be conducive to their purpose.

In terms of psychedelic setting, examples might be a journey space, or a chill out space.

An example of this would be the quiet room, which when I’ve used it, acts as a chill out space. It would be prepared to be cosy and calm, setting the appropriate tone. If you’re wanting some level of sensory stimulation, you might have some fairy lights blinking, pieces of art hanging up, or engaging music playing.

I was once on a long weekend with friends in the Dutch countryside, where the hosts set up an insanity room for our session. There was a shrine to deity The Hord Lord, and some questions hung up on pieces of paper around the room to challenge visitors. If someone wanted a bit of madness, they just headed to the insanity room. It was pretty funny.

When setting up a space, take into account are the intended atmosphere of the space. What feelings do you want to promote in each space? Relaxation? Stimulation? Fun?

Places

“A place for everything, everything in its place.”

  1. A place is a designated location for a specific tool or instrument.

Having places for things brings systems thinking to the level of psychedelic setting. It makes tools easy to locate and actions easier to perform. 

Firstly, this saves confusion and avoids wasting time looking for things. 

You know the situation where you walk into a room to get something, then your mind goes blank and you think ‘what did I come in here for?’. Well when you’re high, this type of misdirection can be heightened and you might even forget that you were even looking for anything at all. This can turn into aimless wandering, which can lead to disorientation, feelings of ungroundedness, confusion and anxiety. You may even come round to the point of asking, ‘what am I doing?’. The answer to which, you may or may not remember.

Another benefit to having set places is that it streamlines actions. For example, imagine the scenario:

A great idea comes to you on that project you’ve been working on for a while. Naturally, you want to note it down. Because you were rushed, you haven’t set up, and because of your altered state, you can’t easily locate your pen. So you begin your search for it, wandering from room to room. You finally locate your pen, which was on the counter in the kitchen, but by then, ten long time-dilated minutes later, you’ve not only lost that precious session time, but even worse, you’ve forgotten the idea you had in the first place.

Let’s contrast that with a prepared station with items in their places:

A great idea comes to you. You walk over to the writing station. You pick up one of your pens from the pile laid beside your open pad of paper, and jot the idea down. Seeing it written down causes other ideas to begin sprouting from it and you see it beginning to grow. You want to see where this goes, so you pick up a larger piece of paper from the pile on the shelf beside you, and place it down to begin a brainstorm. As you get into it, you decide to add images and drawings. You reach over to your left, to the pot of coloured pens, and add some different colours to connect ideas by theme. You run with the ideas until the train loses steam, and then head to the chill space to smoke a joint and wind down.

When choosing places for tools, consider how and when they will be used. If it’s part of a multi step process, what other tools will you need to use? In what order will you need to use them? Lay them out to reduce friction. 

Final thoughts

How you set up and utilise stations, spaces and places will depend on the intention and type of the session. 

The concept of stations and places might seem more relevant for sessions where you will be actively doing things which require using tools or instruments, like a creative session, as opposed to a typical psychedelic therapy style session. However, being precise and mindful in preparation shows respect for the session and can help to focus the mind. It’s taking drugs like a nerd. The sense of ‘everything in its right place’, and being fully prepared can help to promote feelings of relaxation. It’s also useful when you come out of journey space to hydrate or go to the bathroom. 

This level of preparation is also especially useful for journeys without a sitter, be they solo or with others. It shows love, caring and consideration to your future tripping selves, and in some way it is pro-actively tripsitting for your future self. Your tripping self should appreciate that in your heightened state.

By utilising stations, spaces and places into your setting design, you set up to make the most of your session. You optimise your session and increase flow. You allow your mind to focus on what’s important, the content of your mind, rather than logistical considerations.

learn how why to use psychedelics

I honestly believe that learning how to use psychedelics is one of the most useful skills one can learn.

You may have heard psychedelics being called a technology or a tool. They are sometimes referred to as a technology for exploration and growth. Beyond those more abstract terms, they can also be very practical in terms of personal and lifestyle change. For me, at this point in my life, they have been the most useful tool for personal development that I have come across. For many other people too.

Why doesn’t everyone spend time learning how to utilise this magnificent technology?

To me, not learning how to best utilise psychedelics to leverage positive change and improvement, is like not learning how to use computers, or the internet. Why would anyone deprive themselves of such a skill?

The technology can open doors that were never open before, it can open up possibilities that simply weren’t there. When it comes to using such remarkable technology, I believe investing some time and energy is absolutely worthwhile. 

What does it mean to learn how to use psychedelics?

There are certain ways of using psychedelics which can make them more useful, ways of using them which can increase the likelihood of bringing about desired results. One could call this, as Bill Richards does in Sacred Knowledge, ‘skilled use’. 

Learning to use psychedelics can mean both going deeper and broader. 

Broader means learning how to use them for different applications. Perhaps you’ve learned a particular method of use, with a specific purpose in mind. The purpose might be healing, creativity, or connecting with nature. The method might be a specific way of using them, such as the psychedelic therapy style method. Broadening would mean learning different methods, for a wider range of purposes.

Going deeper means learning how to use them more effectively. This includes careful consideration and utilisation of things like: intention, dose, ritual, music, preparation, navigation, set, setting, and integration. These might include tips, tricks and best practices. This also includes developing personalised methods and approaches that best suit different individuals. 

How to learn

Like almost anything, the best way to learn how to use psychedelics is through a combination of knowledge and practice. You read a manual or guide, then you have a go at using the technology based on what you’ve read. You incorporate what you’ve learnt from your own experience and factor it in next time. You might go back to the guidebook, or read other ones, and eventually you might experiment with things that aren’t in any manuals. Through continued education and practice, you develop your skills and approach.

Final thoughts

Psychedelics have catalysed many positive shifts and changes in my life. They introduced me to meditation, gave me a firm helping hand in going vegan, aided me in quitting smoking, and gave me courage to start a pioneering business. They’ve helped me make sense of a confusing world, embark on worldwide travels, heal from personal traumas, and find meaning and purpose in my existence.

What I find so incredible is that after many years of taking psychedelics, their gifts show no sign of running out. They continue to give. And I continue to learn from them. At ten years of beautiful relationship with these magnificent wonders, I am committed to going deeper, and learning even more. I invite you to join me.

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