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People from all over the world travel to The Netherlands in search of high-end legal psilocybin retreats. In the Journal of Psychedelic Studies, Anna Lutkajtis and Jules Evans published an article where 30 participants were interviewed about the biggest challenges in their integration process after having participated in one of these legal psychedelic retreats. They ended up discovering six of the most popular challenges of the integration phase:
The 6 Most Popular Challenges of The Integration Stage
The first challenge is related to mood fluctuations that can happen after a significant experience. In the days after the trip, when the effects are gone, the lessons still need to be integrated into everyday life, and this process requires time. Unresolved questions can surface during this time to be answered after the trip. It is normal to feel a little “raw” after the experience. Because of this, it is important to reserve some days, ideally weeks, after the psychedelic experience for integration.
A psychedelic journey is an experience of openness and self-awareness that reverberates lessons for years. Days after the experience, the participant may feel like they are more aware of what is going on in their body and mind. This may contribute to the feeling that they are “all over the place”, as previously hidden fears and anxieties may surface because of the psychedelic experience. However, participants have reported that this enhanced self-awareness allowed them to work on their shortcomings.
Accompanying your integration practice with mindful activities like meditation, yoga, breathwork, etc…, can help you connect with the changes that occurred during the experience and connect it with benefits in normal life.
Another challenge reported by some psychonauts was the melancholy experienced after the voyage. Besides the serotonergic imbalance caused by some of the most popular psychedelic substances, participants occasionally outline a long-lasting feeling that mundane reality may not be as interesting as they initially thought. In addition, in a state of magnified sensitivity pos-journey, things in ordinary life that bothered the participant may become hard to ignore. This can be a rich soil for changes in life, but it can also represent tribulation.
Writing, and speaking to others can assist the participant going through post-journey blues to integrate more effectively. A psychedelic experience can cause the participant to revisit old beliefs with a renewed view of life. Putting that into paper can help. The broader worldview provided by the psychedelic experience is just a fragment of reality. This is why being part of an active community or having a dedicated coach following your integration process is so important. This brings us to the next challenge:
Disconnection from Community
In the days following the psychedelic retreat, the participants in the study reported that they had trouble communicating their experience to people who never had a psychedelic experience before.
Furthermore, Changing old perspectives may cause the psychonaut to see the world from a different point of view. This may cause a sense of alienation and can have an impact on the integration practice. Feelings of being different from others after a psychedelic experience are normal, but can be hard to deal with without a supportive community. Unfortunately, the prejudice against sacred medicine has arrived in the present day. Many psychonauts don’t feel comfortable sharing their experiences. If you feel overwhelmed, consider an integration coach.
As a psychonaut, I have personally experienced flashbacks after a sacred ceremony. Most of the time they were just subtle changes in perceptions or geometric patterns. But I am aware that some people have experienced stronger flashbacks than myself. This is one of the reasons why I believe it is fruitful to reserve several days after the ceremony dedicated to the integration so that when the sacred experience surfaces in ordinary life, I can focus on it.
They don’t occur often, but visual hallucinations happening after the effects wear off have been reported. Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder is the technical term for when the participant relives moments or effects of the psychedelic journey days after the experience. During the integration process, it can be valuable to tune in to the reverberations of the ceremony because they can carry important lessons. Prepare for possible flashbacks, because they can happen, and observe them carefully because they can reveal something you didn’t notice before.
A false sense of spirituality may enable the participant to avoid psychological problems they want to hide from. Spiritual bypass happens when the participant uses spirituality as a shield to defend them from unresolved issues, giving transcendental answers to hard questions with no practical relevance. Common issues linked to spiritual bypass are:
1 – Compulsive goodness;
2 – Repression of undesirable or painful emotions;
3 – Spiritual narcissism;
4 – Spiritual obsession;
5 – Blind faith;
6 – Social isolation;
Lack of Support
Most psychonauts don’t receive the after-trip care they need to fully integrate their psychedelic experiences. This can contribute to a more challenging integration and can be remedied by an active and supportive community. The first step is to speak about the sacred experience openly without repressing the other members of the community. Our society is gradually transitioning to a world post-war-on-drugs. Using science as a tool of guidance, we are learning how to benefit from the sacred experience in a long-lasting way.
Supporting each other goes much beyond promoting good trips. It involves daily accountability throughout the integration process, in the weeks, months, and even years after the psychedelic journey. Lack of support can stunt the personal growth of a psychonaut transforming the experience into valuable lessons that can be applied to a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Lutkajtis, A., & Evans, J. (2023). Psychedelic integration challenges: Participant experiences. After a psilocybin truffle retreat in the Netherlands, Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 6(3), 211-221. doi: https://doi.org/10.1556/2054.2022.00232