Worrying about a bad trip with psilocybin? Psilocybin is a powerful substance and worrying about the darker side of a psychedelic experience is perfectly natural. Physically, psilocybin is extremely safe. But many people have downright traumatizing experiences with psychedelics, and a certain amount of caution is just a sensible approach. In this article, I will be touching a bit on the darker side of psychedelics. The purpose is not to scare you, it is just to be honest. Keep in mind, I willingly, and enthusiastically, continue to treat my headache condition with psilocybin, so none of this is stopping me. I can recognize the negative side of this medicine while happily reaping the benefits.
In this article, I want to teach you the basics about creating the structures needed to promote a safe and productive environment for your psychedelic experiences. Structure is extremely important, especially for the person who must enter this state more regularly due to a pain condition. The psychedelic state is very destabilizing, and any external structure will provide protective support. This applies to the physical space, such as having a comfortable place with snacks and drinks where you will not be disturbed. It also applies to placing boundaries around your mental space for that time, where you will not engage in decision making or anything too stressful/taxing.
Why is structure so important? Well, because a psychedelic experience is so destabilizing and allows so much chaos in your brain, that it resembles a psychotic break. You literally feel like you have temporarily lost your mind. LSD, which has similar effects, was initially used to simulate psychosis so researchers could have firsthand knowledge of what psychosis felt like. Under the influence, you are crazy as a loon, mad as a hatter, and it is absolutely glorious right up until the moment it’s not. In the moment it goes off the rails, you better hope you have someone who knows how to rescue you, or that you have at least learned some tricks to rescue yourself.
The Chaos Is Part Of The Magic
All this chaos and general craziness is a huge part of the therapeutic benefit of psilocybin. I know all the nervous types are probably running for the hills after reading the previous paragraph. But consider this- if I gave you a 4000-piece jigsaw puzzle, the first thing you would do is dump all the pieces out in a big messy pile so you could sift through to better organize them. You understand the concept of creating chaos to create order, and probably use the concept in your everyday life. It isn’t that much of a stretch to imagine applying this to our thought processes on problem solving, or even to physical sensations like pain.
The way you frame these sensations will have a great impact on the way you react to them. Are you losing your mind? Or are you reorganizing?
The Big Picture Vs. The Small Picture
I have already written and article about managing uncomfortable thoughts and sensations during an actual trip, so I want to keep this article focused on framing the big picture. If you are looking for a quick guide on how to keep an individual experience on the rails, check it out here. The “big picture” is the role psilocybin plays in your overall care plan, and how to manage the good trip/bad trip dichotomy in that context.
There are several tips and tricks to keeping a trip on a consistently pleasant track. It starts with a deep understanding of the physical health benefits of psilocybin. If you are aware of the neuroprotective effects, you are less likely to send yourself down the torturous rabbit hole of worrying about harming your brain, a common theme in “bad trips”. If you are truly convinced of the physical safety of psilocybin, you will not assume that the pleasant tingling in your limbs is the first sign of your impending death from mushroom poisoning. The less drama, the better. Knowing additional little tricks to redirect your attention during the session is just icing on the cake.
A State Of Change Is A Vulnerable Place To Be
First and foremost, psilocybin is an agent of change. And change is a vulnerable, delicate, and sometimes scary state to be in. Some insects completely liquify their bodies in the process of changing, in the process of going from their larval state to their adult form. What would happen if you try to help a butterfly out of its chrysalis? What would happen if the butterfly doesn’t have time to properly dry and unfold its wings after emerging? The results will not be good at all. You must be very careful about what you do when you are in that delicate state. The boundaries you set and the environment you choose are like your chrysalis, or container.
The Container Isn’t Just For The Session
You may need to call upon this container in the days or weeks following an intense psychedelic experience. That sense of vulnerability may persist a bit for a while, but it is perfectly normal. Be kind to yourself and give yourself the space and protection to adjust. This process can get a bit tiring for those who must dose often to manage pain, and it makes being disciplined about self-care and providing YOURSELF this structure even more important. Everything in life comes with a cost, and while psilocybin can significantly improve the quality of life for many people with chronic pain, there is still a cost involved. The cost is the additional need to be disciplined and structured when it comes to mental health and self-care.
This might sound a bit discouraging to many people who are looking to psilocybin specifically for improvements in mental health. Don’t be discouraged. This is temporary, and you can effectively emerge stronger and more resilient than before. Using psilocybin for mental health usually involves dosing only once every 3 – 6 months, much less than those with chronic pain. Of course, microdosing is much more frequent, but less impactful.
Find The Methods That Work For You
I like to refer to that off kilter feeling in the aftermath of a session as feeling “soft”. The feeling is not a weakness, but instead a proof that change is in progress. That change is a part of the process of becoming stronger, it is just still too new and soft. I don’t want to lift something that is too heavy with my new limbs until they are hardened and strong or I will cause damage and impede my progress. If I need to treat it delicately, let the feelings populate and fill out. I just sit and wait and rest and let things happen in their correct time.
What does this look like in practice without the flowery cliché butterfly analogy? Well, it means that I have taken to consciously choose to not think of things until it feels comfortable and right. I use the structure of the “container” to place boundaries for myself. If my thoughts take a direction that becomes stressful or uncomfortable, I take that as a cue that it means I am just not ready to cross that bridge yet. It might mean putting off tackling a certain problem, or attending a social engagement, until it feels right and natural. “I can’t think about this right now, I’ll think about it when it’s more comfortable” has become an integral part of my inner monologue.
Self-Care Is An Investment, Not Just A Luxury
I realize that this does sound like it is coming from a place of privilege. Taking time for yourself is a luxury, one that is not afforded to many people who have full time jobs in the corporate world or as parents. But whether it was the search for improved mental health or the search for better pain management, something about your previous situation was deemed untenable. There is no going back, and you are going to have to buy back your health and peace of mind with some rest. The difference is now, after the psilocybin, the rest should be exponentially more fruitful.
I Still Keep Coming Back
Will all this in mind, I continue to come back session after session. My quality of life is significantly improved with psilocybin, and it is worth all the little mantras and rules. It is not an all wise, all-knowing self-contained miracle cure, but rather a tool to be used judiciously and with caution.