The “Bad Trip”, we have all either heard of it or had to experience it at some point. The very idea of such bears a negative charge and causes most people to feel uneasy. To what extent are these feelings legitimate and consistent with the characteristics of the psychedelic experience being perceived as oppressive, unpleasant or even frightening? Is there a way to interpret the negative experience in a different way? Perhaps what can help is to learn about the so-called “Bad Trip” with an open mind, without directly connecting ourselves to the negative feelings that occur from it.
The Psychedelic Shadow Side
For the the majority of people, the Psychedelic experience is a mystical journey with miraculous moments and profound insights. Nevertheless, as with all events in life it also has a dark side. Psilocybin is a non-specific mental enhancer which means that it randomly boosts specific features of the brain. The increase in neural activity provides the opportunity for more information to be processed. The result is that reality can be experienced in a multitude of different ways. How this will be perceived is entirely dependent on the individual. For some this is very pleasant and insightful but there are also people who get confused by it and become anxious and unsettled.
The role of Subjectivity
Within the experience there is many different effects that can occur, but how these are experienced and processed is highly subjective. Whether an experience is perceived as positive or negative isn’t always immediately related to the effects, but rather to the receptivity of the individual. A meticulous approach and the necessity to create a safe environment, both mentally and physically, are important factors which can have a significant impact on the experience. Can we actually speak of a “Bad Trip” in this setting? And is the degree to which we are sensitive to this, dependent on factors that we may have more influence on than we initially think?
The positive Experience
The positive experience distinguishes itself as an inspiring, insightful, highly enjoyable, profound and fascinating journey through the subconscious mind. Preparations have been made, set & setting have been considered, and the traveler feels safe and secure. This is the moment where he or she can fully surrender to the experience. There may be moments of confusion or discomfort. Nevertheless, the traveler knows that he or she is safe and that this moment, too, when fully open and receptive, will pass. The positive experience is the one of complete surrender, out of love and respect for the truffle or mushroom.
The negative Experience
The Psychedelic experience may cause unresolved traumas or personal issues to surface. This manifests in various forms and often causes people to become resistant. In most cases this resistance is the underlying cause and trigger for a so-called “Bad Trip”. Resistance or defensiveness in such moments can cause intense moments of anxiety and panic. As a non-specific reinforcer, Psilocybin tends to amplify these feelings causing one to spiral into negativity. Getting out of it can be a real challenge and is experienced by some as very negative.
Carl Jung & the Unconscious Mind
How we get caught up in moments of resistance often transcends our awareness of it. The work of Swiss Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung illustrates the unfathomable depths of the psyche with his analysis of the subconscious. According to his predecessor Sigmund Freud, the subconscious is the part of the mind where repressed experiences are stored. Jung lifted this concept beyond the individual level and argued that behavior, memories, feelings and thoughts are collective elements of humanity in the form of a spiritual inheritance.
The Collective Unconscious
The Psychedelic experience has amazing similarities to what Jung referred to as the collective unconscious. Material from this unconscious, often symbolic in nature, is usually difficult to understand with our rational perspective on the world. The symbolic and visual nature of the Psychedelic experience seems to allow for the content of this collective unconscious to surface. Sometimes we are confronted with tangible memories, past suffering or even trauma. In other moments it is elusive and we are overwhelmed with astonishment. Our rational mind is always looking for a straight explanation, but the complexity of consciousness is showing us that we may not always need to understand everything.
The Power of Letting Go
Sometimes we are allowed to detach and simply experience things without worrying about whether or not they are making sense during that moment. Many times we find that allowing ourselves to experience such moments can be incredibly liberating. By welcoming the experience in complete and utter neutrality, we all get the chance to travel through the Psyche’s sometimes mysterious contents, without fear. Face it and embrace the experience with open arms. Allow yourself to explore in full confidence that the magic truffle or mushroom is giving you exactly what you need.
Misconceptions about “Bad Trips”
To what extent can we refer to a “Bad Trip” if the negative experience can be seen as a learning opportunity? Sometimes the “negative” experience leads us to confront our deepest fears and reveals aspects of ourselves that we cannot normally gain access to. Living through such moments can produce profound insights and encourages some to learn from them. There will also be times when we don’t understand what is going on and that we are seized with fear and confusion. That is allowed too. It is important that we can let go of that and surrender ourselves completely to the course of the experience. Once we can do that, it is possible for the experience to turn into something peaceful, pleasant and enjoyable.
8 tips to prevent a Negative Experience
Keeping in mind a few important points of focus can help inhibit or even prevent a negative experience. It will help you to prepare for the potential effects a Psychedelic experience can have on you. It isn’t a guarantee for a comfortable journey but it does give you a clear understanding of the tools you have available to optimize your experience. Spending time on this thoughtfully mitigates the likelihood of a negative experience considerably.
Both the mental and physical setting, are the absolute foundation for a safe and rewarding experience. Mentally prepare yourself in the preceding weeks and eliminate unnecessary stressful activities. Minimize your participation in social media and fuel your mind with positive influences. Get outside, exercise a little more, meditate more often or read a positive book instead of watching a thrilling movie. What you mentally carry into the experience really matters!
The environment in which the journey takes place has a great impact on the course of the experience. If you decide to have the experience with an expert or at a retreat center, it will be completely taken care of. If you are going to organize this by yourself it is essential to consider this well in advance to ensure safety and well-being. It is important to feel comfortable with the chosen location in order to fully accept what is happening to you during the experience.
When you take Psilocybin you open a door to the unconscious. You wouldn’t just knock on someone’s door, certainly not if you know the occupant has magical powers. It would be appropriate to respectfully approach this door. What would be your response when the occupant opens the door asking what you have come to do? What brings you here and what are you looking for? Is there something you want to find out about yourself? Is there an area that calls for healing or are you just curious about what the experience has to offer you?
In the same way you are taking time to thoughtfully consider your intention, your mental and the physical setting, you are also preparing your body. Having a cleansed body will help you to let go of your physical limits in order to confidently immerse yourself in the experience. Leave alcohol, tobacco and other addictive substances aside and eat light and healthy, preferably plant-based as much as possible in the preceding weeks/days.
There is nothing more valuable than the presence of a good guide. The space-holder has a responsibility to provide you with your basic needs when needed. A hug, an encouraging word or mere presence can be highly valuable. Find a person who meets the qualities you are looking for. Someone with knowledge, love and respect for Psilocybin, who is experienced and with whom you feel comfortable.
No matter how experienced you are or how well you have prepared yourself, there is nothing more powerful than surrender. This may be the most important and challenging element of Psychedelic practice. Relinquish control, let go of your expectations and surrender to the flow of the experience. At this point, you may fully trust the power of the truffle or mushroom.
The breath is one of the most powerful tools when the experience becomes intense. Conscious breathing is like balancing on a big wave. We are not trying to control the wave or deny its power but we are allowing ourselves to be carried along without becoming disoriented. You can always rely on the breath! Breathing slowly and deeply in and out activates the parasympathetic nervous system which brings the body into a more calming and relaxing state.
A valuable tool during the Psychedelic experience is the power of expression. Thoughts, feelings and emotions are forms of energy that seek to flow freely. There is no right or wrong here. Listen to your body and express whatever comes to mind when you feel it is needed. Move, dance, stretch, walk, talk, sing, cry, laugh and go with the flow of the moment.
If you want to dive a little deeper into the preliminary work, we have a short guide which you can download for free. Based on a self-reflection method, you can get started with the placement of an intention and making the necessary preparations.
- Psychedelic Drugs and Jungian Therapyhttps://jungianjournal.ca › jjss › article › download