Psychedelic guides and teachers form a key part of the healing process for many journeyers – sitting, supporting, and helping to integrate the experience. Join Barbara Sanders, LCSW in expressing gratitude to our guides and teachers who hold this space.
Psychedelic journeys may reflect and symbolize our own biological lives. Or, rather, psychedelics may be emblematic examples of how we have experienced and can experience life itself. Maybe these medicines create metaphors for our lives, spiced up with some dramatic actions, emotions, and landscapes – some tragic, rocky, and blissful. Like, but perhaps more intense than, our everyday realities.
As we venture into these spaces and places, chances are we are embarking on a vivid illustration of some part of us, our past and future selves along with our collective Self. Are we picking up on the community’s wounds and sore spots, conscious and unconscious, or just our own? As if knowing that would matter much at all.
We don’t know what exactly creates our cells, our bones, our brains, not really. Science and brain researchers may tell us about some tendencies, some physical facts, and some issues with our brains, hearts, and bodies. But do they also explain how we got to be these ways? A little of this ingredient mixed up with a touch of that, a scoop of something utterly delicious, along with some sour notes, is that how we are born these ways? What kind of brew does a magician or a witch concoct? Not so simple.
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The Therapeutic Relationship
As a psychotherapist for over 30 years, I have practiced through phases of using a variety of clinical frameworks and theories that appeal to me and seem to be useful to my clients. Until I realized that one of the most important variables in healing is the therapeutic relationship itself, not just the particular skills, techniques, and gurus we follow.
So, too, are psychedelics specific to us and to our relationships with ourselves, our pasts, and our ancestors, along with any traumas and tragedies that we and our worlds have experienced. Particular themes and symbols reach out to us, including societal beliefs and our individual beliefs. While journeying, some beliefs are supported, and some are blasted through, seeming highly suspicious. Who is this gorgeous alien being, and why is she taking me to the river? To drop me in and watch me squirm, or because she is a benevolent spirit who will guide me safely through these crazy currents?
What is our relationship to the psychedelics themselves? Are they friend or foe, are they gentle or tough, how do we feel about each specific medicine?
Gratitude for our Guides
I have been blessed to have experienced journeys with expert psychedelic guides who set the stage carefully, from designing excellent physical environments conducive to human comfort to finding and dosing the actual medicines themselves. Is it their playlist that keeps me afloat when I enter into the hell of the dry, desert sand, all alone? Or, is it my knowledge that I can reach out to them if I need a special hand, some type of connection, or a warm human hug?
Although I have had a variety of experiences, I continue to tread back to these psychedelic guides who seem like family, love, and home, who help me feel safe no matter what comes up. I know they will help me navigate and maneuver so that I will survive whatever comes up or out.
If we have had good-enough human parents, we may view our psychedelic guides with positive transference, initially. Then, when they say, “No,” to us, as usually happens in any relationship, we struggle with our feelings of betrayal, rejection, disappointment, and/or infantile fears of annihilation. If we can work through these deep matters within ourselves and with our psychedelic guides, life can be beautiful!
Finding Meaning in the Challenges
Similar, too, with the medicines. Although there are some medicines that friends tell me they love and enjoy, when I had my own experience, I ended up in a worse place than ever before. During integration sessions, I saw my psychedelic guides delighted that I was able to allow such a deep surrender to take place, and that changed my experience. If I had been left alone to wrestle with my own personal experiences, I would have said this medicine was maddening, at first. But, with their integrative reflections I actually feel proud of myself for daring to go down into that murky, dark, dangerous hole where I found myself for far too long.
Do our lives reflect our psychedelic experiences or do psychedelic experiences reflect our regular lives? Just like the philosophies behind many healing practices, we may never know all the variables that answer those questions, and somehow that is OK – if we have deep and consistent trust in our psychedelics guides, along with trust in the medicines themselves.
Surrender to the Experience
I would offer that psychedelics do have minds of their own, even if we love to control as much as we can about our journeys. We all know the goal: pushing past or giving up resistance and surrendering to the experiences themselves – and to the teachings that are shared.
We are made more whole, more compassionate and more understanding when we have seen ourselves become one with the fluids and gases of the universe. We experience our being as only a tiny part of the vastness and realize that there is so much more to “life” than we could have imagined before. And though tiny, we learn that we are Beloved. This is a nice piece of education from these marvelous medicines and the people who guide us. We thank you.