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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. Integrating a bad trip to 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.
A challenge in introducing psychedelics in our modern society is the old way of seeing pharmaceuticals as a magic pill. 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.
Integrating a Bad Trip is Not Magic
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.
Exploring the Bad Trip
A psychedelic emergency – or a bad trip – is a like a dream (or nightmare) we can consciously explore. The mystical experience projects parts of who we are external during the trip, just like in a dream. 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 and integrating 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, centred, 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.
How an Integrating a Bad Trip Can Prepare You For Life
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. It feels hard to do but that brings benefits if we stick to it and figure it out. By learning how to deal with a psychedelic bad trip, everyday challenges become less feared because the participant can learn and grow from it.
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 from a job, 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 centred even under challenging situations is an excellent way to prepare for life. And this is the core of integrating a bad trip.
Find an Integration Coach
Entheogens are substances known to trigger the participant in potentially life-changing experiences. However, this process demands an active posture from the participant and is not limited 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 get more insight into what they experienced. 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/
Relevant Sources for integrating a bad trip:
- 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: https://fortune.com/2022/05/11/psychedelics-mental-health-benefits-research-startups/
- 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: https://doi.org/10.1016/s2215-0366(16)30065-7
- CNBC’s report on the Psychedelic Boom in health treatment by Eric Rosenbaum: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/10/psychedelic-drug-boom-in-mental-health-treatment-nears-reality-.html