What If I Have a “Bad Trip?”

Woman's hands cupping a bowl of psilocybin mushrooms

There is a lot of stigma associated with what we colloquially referred to as a “bad trip.” A lot of our clients, especially those with little or no experience working with psilocybin, often ask us the question, “what if I have a bad trip?” Some people have already had what they think of as a “bad trip” and are scared that it could happen again.

How to Prevent A Bad Trip

So, how do we safeguard against challenging and scary experiences?

The short answer is, we don’t. Psilocybin is a very intuitive medicine, and can sometimes confront you with challenging truths or states of being. Feeling stuck, trapped, or confused for hours during an experience is usually akin to how the person feels in their day-to-day life but hasn’t been paying attention to. Having intrusive thoughts about your partner being disloyal, or worrying you have cancer, are usually good signs that there needs to be some change or deepening in your relationship with the challenge that arises.

At Neo-Shamanic Healing Arts, we believe the difference between a “bad trip” and a challenging but productive journey with psilocybin is the container the experience is held within. When we take psilocybin within a transactional context, as our culture trains us to do, we set the expectation of healing or a good time without first building a proper relationship with the mushrooms. The general thought process behind this way of being sounds like, I’m taking this substance because I want something from it. This kind of interaction is asking for trouble because psilocybin is, like everything on earth, a sentient being deserving of respect and reciprocity.

Cultivating a Ceremonial Container and a Relationship of Reciprocity

When working with psilocybin, it is important to:

  1. Create a ceremonial container within which to ingest the medicine.
  2. Form a relationship of reciprocity and mutual respect with the medicine.

Doing these two things ensures that what might be a “bad trip” in a recreational or unsupervised context becomes a possibly challenging but productive and healing experience.

So, how do we go about doing these two things to ensure we never have to worry about a “bad trip” again? To create a ceremonial container, we strongly advise the aid of a qualified guide. Working with seasoned practitioners who are there to ensure your physical, emotional, and spiritual safety is the best and easiest way to create a proper ceremonial container in which to do the work. It is also a great way to learn how to do it on your own if you so choose to do so in the future.

To form a relationship of reciprocity and mutual respect with psilocybin, it is paramount that we shift our internal dialogue away from I am taking this thing because I want something from it to I am partnering with this being because I want to form a connection with it. Do you feel the difference between these two sentiments? Another way to think about this concept is to imagine going on a first date with someone. We’ve probably all been on a date with someone who just wanted something from us but didn’t actually want to get to know us. Sound familiar?

Transforming Your Relationship With Yourself

It doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end of an interaction like that, right? Relating to psilocybin is no different. Mushrooms were not put on this earth solely to give you a roclicking good time, or even to heal you from your depression. No, mushrooms were put here for the same reason as humans were: because they deserve to live. That is it! We are all worthy of being just because we are. Any extra gifts that we happen to possess or cultivate while we are here are just that–gifts.

Imagine relating not just to the mushrooms, but to yourself as a being worthy of respect and reciprocity. As a being who is good enough just as you are. Learning to relate to the medicine in this way has the effect of transforming your relationship with yourself. In a way, learning proper relating skills is the biggest form of healing the medicine gives us.

Embodying Medicine Culture

We have noticed that many of our clients, once they have a few ceremonies under their belt, actually begin to prefer the challenging experiences that arise over the easy ones. Why? Because there is so much more opportunity for growth from those moments. It’s just like life in general–integrating the challenging experiences we encounter in the days, weeks, months, and years after they happen almost always yield the biggest life transformations.

So, let’s embody a new way of thinking about healing. A way that is based in trust and respect, instead of fear and transactionalism. A way that acknowledges the role of ceremony. A way that doesn’t try to take shortcuts for quick results. A way that sees the journey to healing as the destination itself.

If you are looking for guidance, care, and support in building your relationship with psilocybin, please reach out to us. We are here to serve!

Dara is a ceremonial medicine guide and co-founder of Neo-Shamanic Healing Arts. She has worked with countless clients preparing for, imbibing, and integrating medicine journeys. She has over a decade of experience working with sacred medicines.

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I learned that I lived always and everywhere. I learned that I knew everything, only I had forgotten. –Initiation Poem translated by Malidoma Somé