A psychedelic bad trip can happen even to the most experienced and well-prepared psychonaut. Knowing how to deal with a bad trip peacefully and how to integrate the lessons into ordinary life is key to giving meaning to the trip and learning from it. In everyday life, we encounter situations that challenge us as a psychedelic trip does, and learning how to integrate a bad trip and improve from it will also prepare us to grow from the challenges of life.
In July 2022, The World Health Organization (WHO) released the World mental health report revealing the alarming estimation that the financial cost of mental health illness ten years ago was close to 2.5 trillion dollars and projected to go as high as 6 trillion dollars in 2030. Journalists call the increased interest in psychedelics as a solution for several mental health issues including PTSD, and treatment-resistant depression a ‘psychedelic boom’. Up-and-coming startups and even companies big enough to be listed in the stock market are starting to bet on legal psychedelics as a relatively safe, effective, and low-cost medicine for the future. In this context, the importance of a wholesome practice of psychedelic integration becomes evident, especially when dealing with a psychedelic emergency or a bad trip.
The old way of seeing pharmaceuticals as magic pill that we take and works magically is outdated and represents a challenge in introducing psychedelics in our modern society. Psychedelic substances require a different posture; with this ceremonial medicine, the effect itself is a part of the healing process and frequently requires active exploration for the lessons, insights, and experiences to sink in.
Again, entheogens are not a magic pill; the benefits of a profoundly transformative psychedelic experience are not a result of idly waiting for the medicine to work, instead, it is the result of a journey-like experience that invites the participant to navigate their minds and often offers them the opportunity to confront parts of the self that they usually ignore or hide from themselves. Realizing that there is something inside of us that we never noticed before and having the opportunity to face it can be liberating and often result in a cathartic experience. However, for some participants, the experience of self-confrontation can give rise to hellish landscapes and engage the participant in what is infamously called a bad trip. In some cases, the participant may even experience ego-dissolution.
In his lectures, Philosopher Alan Watts used to say that if you wish to calm a turbulent lake, you shouldn't use your hands because it would disturb the water even more. It is hard to force yourself out of a bad situation without making it worse, and I think this is also the case during a bad trip. A big part of the mystical experience is about letting go and accepting things how they are. If I initially feel scared, embarrassed, or even ashamed of what I am dealing with during the trip I have to make myself comfortable and deal with it. When the participant stops fighting so fiercely to avoid this psychedelic self-confrontation, they are ready to start learning from the bad trip.
A psychedelic emergency - or a bad trip - is a like a dream (or nightmare) we can consciously explore. Just like a dream, the mystical experience is composed of fragments of the subconscious, and what you see projected externally during the trip is a part of who you are. Now and again we may not quite like what we see; looking at ourselves from the psychedelic advantage point means that we may have to confront and accept the parts of ourselves that we don’t like and try to hide from others and even from ourselves. While the mystical experience offers a wonderfully broad advantage point, it also highlights hidden aspects of the self that the participant has been avoiding facing, yet, it is still a part of the self and who they are. Psychedelic integration includes confronting, accepting, and implementing all facets of the self, weaknesses, and all.
Dealing with a bad trip is easier said than done; during a psychedelic emergency, it is essential not to panic and keep yourself safe. Don’t try too hard to analyze the journey as it happens, focus on the moment, there will be a moment to investigate the trip in the integration stage that follows the psychedelic journey where the participant works to put the pieces together, composing a better picture of who they are. Rest assured that you will have the opportunity to analyze and process what you are experiencing, as the journey happens, it’s imperative to stay present, centered, and calm with an explorative mindset free of judgment.
During a bad trip, it’s fundamental to observe the bad trip in a non-reactive and non-judgmental way to note the symbology and details to analyze it in the days, weeks, and months after the psychedelic journey in looking for meaning.
Getting a bad trip under control does not mean that you have complete control over what you experience; it means that you have a broad grasp of how you react to the experience. When you do this with an exploring and self-growth mindset, psychedelic emergencies stop feeling like a “bad trip” and start feeling more like a challenge, something that is hard to do but will bring benefits if we stick to it and try to figure it out. Suppose the participant can bring that aspect of dealing with a psychedelic bad trip to their everyday life; In that case, hard situations suddenly become less like something to be feared and more like an experience we can learn from.
The “psychedelic” experience is not limited to ceremonies with entheogens, a myriad of trivial occurrences could trigger a mystical experience, like watching a cat sleep soundly, or a picturesque sunset or it could happen spontaneously during a meditation practice. In the same way, there are also ‘happenings’ that could trigger a bad-trip-like experience, like being fired, being in a car accident, a painful heartbreak, etc…, the experience of dealing with bad trips during a psychedelic experience can prepare you to deal with challenging situations in real life too. In life, we often find ourselves in a circumstance that we have little or no control over, but even in these situations, it’s possible to still learn and grow from the challenges. Using the psychedelic ceremony as a stage to practice keeping the spirit and mind centered even under challenging places is an excellent way to prepare for life.
Entheogens are substances known to trigger the participant in potentially life-changing experiences, however, this process demands an active posture from the participant and it does not limit itself to the duration of the effects, in reality, the benefits of a deeply meaningful psychedelic journey need time to settle. In the weeks following the experience, the participant may gradually have more insight into what they experienced and what it all means. An integration coach can help you untangle the lessons of the psychedelic trip and accelerate the integration process. Check out our verified Integration Coaches at: https://www.psychedelics-integration.com/
World Mental Health Report (July 2022): https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240049338
Article on Fortune.com by Mahnoor Khan on Psychedelic Startups on Mental Health:
Researcher Marcela Ot’alora on the results of her research on the effectiveness of MDMA-assisted treatment for PTSD patients: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B54O_AbxU3Q
Dr. Carhart-Harris's research on the use of psychedelics for treatment-resistant depression:
CNBC’s report on the Psychedelic Boom in health treatment by Eric Rosenbaum:
The text expresses personal opinions and it is written as an informative text. It should not be considered to be professional advice nor should it be used as professional advice. Neither the Blog (psychedelics-integration.com) nor the author is liable for the wrong use of this information.
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