How to Navigate a 'Bad Trip' on Psychedelics
How to Navigate a 'Bad Trip' on Psychedelics

Psychedelics can catalyze profound life-changing trips through the mind, and those can take the shape of euphoric mystical experiences, or sometimes, the dreaded “bad trip.”

But in the eyes of the experienced psychonauts and facilitators, like Psychedelic Passage co-founder Nick Levich, those negative experiences actually yield positive results. “Many describe a psychedelic experience as like having 10 years of therapy in one night, and you can’t expect that to be exclusively pleasant,” says Levich, who guides clients through ceremonial psychedelic journeys within the comfort of their own home.

Country star Kacey Musgraves recently reported a similar experience during a guided therapeutic psilocybin session. “It was not recreational at all,” the hit singer-songwriter told Rolling Stone. “It was like mental and spiritual labor. Like, 10 years of therapy in one sitting.”

Personal and spiritual growth requires deep work within, so we prefer to label those experiences as challenging, not inherently bad. Psychedelics offer us the chance to face difficult memories from a new perspective, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it can still be difficult in the moment. 

With that in mind, Psychedelic Spotlight spoke to Levich about how to face those uncomfortable moments. If you ever find yourself in a challenging psychedelic journey, or are supporting a friend or loved one through a difficult trip, it’s important to have these practical tactics and tools at your disposal to minimize risks and allow space for the experience to unfold. 

Mindset Is Key

Approaching the space of discomfort with the proper mindset is one of the most influential factors in successfully navigating a challenging trip.

If you ever find yourself facing discomfort during a trip, Levich recommends approaching it from a place of allowance and surrender rather than fighting it. “When we fight back or suppress something, the discomfort grows, but when we allow it and accept it, it has nothing to hang on to or fight with, so it passes,” he says.

If you are supporting someone else through a hard moment in a trip, sometimes the best thing to do is simply to reassure the person that you are there with them, but to not try and stop their discomfort.

“One of the challenges about holding space is that, as humans, we have the desire to alleviate the suffering of others, and it is not always our job to do that,” adds Levich. “As the support person [for someone else’s psychedelic journey], it’s not your job to ‘fix it’, it is your job to simply be there.” 

Change the Environment

Beyond mindset, another technique to affect the energy of a challenging trip is to change the external environment.

Simple things such as changing the music style or volume, the temperature, or the lighting in the room can go a long way in changing the energy.

An eye mask or wash cloth can be offered to the person to cover their eyes if external stimuli feels overwhelming. Offering a blanket if the room is cold, or turning on a fan if the room is hot can also help the person feel more comfortable in the space. 

Get Back into the Body 

Bringing awareness back to the body through a variety of different techniques can also be a great way to lessen the intensity of a challenging trip.

Levich states that bringing the attention back to the breath instead of the mind can help bring someone out of a hyper-cognitive mental space and ground them back into their body. If you are supporting someone, you can remind them to take slow deep breaths and continue to focus on their inhales and exhales.

Another technique to try is called “body scanning” where one brings their awareness to various parts of their body from the feet up to the head and simply notices what they observe and feel at each body part. “At each point in this scanning process, all you are doing is becoming aware of what you are feeling without judgment,” Levich explains. “It is simply shifting your awareness.” 

Call the Fireside Project Hotline for Support (623-473-7433)

If you need additional support, the Fireside Project is a first-of-its-kind psychedelic peer-support hotline, with a mission to “help people minimize the risks and fulfill the potential of their psychedelic experiences”.

If you feel like you need someone to talk to in real-time, Fireside Project offers free and confidential support whether you are experiencing, or you are supporting someone else through a challenging journey.

The hotline is open Thursday through Sunday from 3:00pm to 3:00am PST and Monday from 3:00pm to 7:00pm PST. Starting in October 2021, the line plans to be open every day from 3:00pm to 3:00am PST. 

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