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Healing Journeys – Trauma and Psychedelic Self Care

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Table of Contents
My Near Death Experience
The Science - Psychedelics and the Brain
Healing is a Journey
Into the Wilderness of the Soul
The Glory of Kings
Starting the Journey
The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

“I think psilocybin should be looked upon as a nootropic vitamin” – Paul Stamets [1]

“LSD demonstrated, even to skeptics, that the mansions of heaven and gardens of paradise lie within each and all of us.” – Terence McKenna [2]

My Near Death Experience

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Chemical Collective or any associated parties.

When I was 15 I had my first Near-Death Experience. 

In all my adolescent wisdom, I thought climbing a steel and concrete basketball hoop would be an outstanding idea. The base of the pole broke away from the ground- and it fell. Fast, and hard. Right into the back of my head. 

I saw stars, then I saw black. I spun through the air, and hit the ground, slamming my head, a second time, against the pavement. 

I thought I was dead, and then my eyes opened. I laid there, alone, in my driveway, for what seemed like an eternity. My legs didn’t work. My arms didn’t work. My mind was enshrouded in fog. Get up! But I could not. For at least fifteen minutes I willed my body to move, with no success. 

Then, when I began to fear I’d be paralyzed forever- my legs and arms began to move again. The fire inside my body and spirit re-ignited, and I stood. Dazed, exhausted, and not thinking clearly, but knowing something was truly wrong with my body and mind, I went inside to tell my parents what had happened. 

My personality, my memory, my creativity and artistic spirit had been permanently altered. I wouldn’t know the true effect of the damage for years. 

The immediate effects of what was diagnosed as a traumatic double concussion were dramatic. My short-term memory was nuked. I failed classes in school. I lost all ability to concentrate. My emotional capacity was diminished to fear and anxiety. Survival response was the only mode of being I knew. 

I was a musician- an artist. My creativity stalled completely. Original ideas- which were my lifeblood, no longer interested me. Nothing interested me. 

It stayed that way for years. 

Until I tried Psilocybin and LSD. 

Psychedelics were the vehicle for the restoration of my mind and artistic spirit. Planned, careful, deliberate, and spiritually aligned use of these substances brought my heart back to life. Healed my brain. Restored my ingenuity and originality. If you’ve been feeling like a piece of your spirit has been missing, or like you’ve been living in grayscale instead of color… they may be able to do the same thing for you. 

The Science - Psychedelics and the Brain

Our objective, measurable understanding of the psychedelic experience is obviously still limited. This area of study is not only bleeding edge in the scientific community, it’s absurdly hard to quantify. How do you measure spiritual, soul-level changes in people? You really don’t. No trip is the same. No human is the same. And when the scientific method depends on replicating results, the highly subjective nature of Tripping skews all of the data. Ain’t nothing like Acid, baby. 

What we can measure is brain activity. So far, we know a couple groundbreaking things about how psychedelic substances affect our neural networks. 

Fact: LSD alters the energy and the power of individual harmonic brain states in a frequency-selective manner. Remarkably, this leads to an expansion of the repertoire of active brain states, suggestive of a general re-organization of brain dynamics given the non-random increase in co-activation across frequencies. [3]

Explanation: LSD reconnects previously disconnected areas of the mind. In Layman’s terms, it re-wires your brain. Time to start thinking new thoughts, permanently. This is magic if you’re a creative person. 

Brain imaging of the human brain under the influence of LSD and compared to a placebo.

Fact: Serotonergic psychedelics are capable of robustly increasing neuritogenesis and/or spinogenesis both in vitro and in vivo. These changes in neuronal structure are accompanied by increased synapse number and function, as measured by fluorescence microscopy and electrophysiology. [4]

Explanation: Psilocybin, LSD, and other Psyches can straight up re-grow your neurons. This expands your consciousness and heals your brain.

Brain imaging showing changes in Cerebral blood flow before and after depression.

 

Great. Cool stuff- so how do we take full advantage of this? I’ll tell you – from personal experience, it’s probably NOT by tripping balls at a chaotic music festival or party. 

This requires deliberate, careful, and meditative practice over a long period of time.

Healing is a Journey

A broken arm does not heal overnight. You don’t recover from a kidney transplant in an hour. Similarly, your brain doesn’t restore itself in one trip- or two, or even three. Sorry, but Psilocybin, and/or LSD are not cure-alls for your mental illness. Like physical therapy facilitates and solidifies muscle and ligament restoration, you have to reinforce and exercise the new connections you create. This is known as integration, and it is a critical practice. 

Let’s say you’re looking to heal your PTSD. You spiritually and emotionally prepare for the trip, set an intention, and eat three grams of Cubensis Mushrooms in a safe and controlled setting. You battle your inner demons. Cry. Realize the source of your trauma stems from being ignored by your parents as a child, and that it is manifesting as your refusal to emotionally, intimately connect with others in your life. You discover that this intimacy is a deep-seated, human need that cannot be separated from your spirit. Powerful knowledge- but now what? 

Integrate. Priority number one. Integrate. 

You have to take measurable, deliberate steps in your sober life in order to reinforce the new learning. If you do not- like any memory, they will fade, and you will have lost the benefit of the trip experience. 

If, as in this hypothetical, you’re failing to express and receive love and intimacy, you have to choose to embrace the learning and learn how to give and receive that which you are seeking. This takes actual work. Extend yourself, trust others with your deepest feelings, and see what happens. Confront the issue in the sober reality of your life outside the psychedelic trip. 

Often, approaching yourself from this angle leads to more questions than it does answers, at least initially. Subsequent trips may be required- even encouraged, in order to seek out the internal wisdom and knowledge you are seeking. 

This is like flexing a muscle. You will feel weak at first. You will feel scared. Stick with it. It’s absolutely worth it. 

Into the Wilderness of the Soul

I used to go exploring in the woods nearly every day as a child. My brother and I would set out on a grand adventure, in search of an animal, plant, or secret treasure. It’s a joy to be in nature, and even when we didn’t find what we were looking for, the disappointment was easily overcome by an appreciation for the journey. 

Now, as an adult, I regularly head into the woods for a few days at a time, following trails from campsite to campsite, looking for a new and beautiful place to spend my evening, and rest my body, mind, and spirit. In the US, our trails are typically marked by a painted marker on a tree, known as a blaze. Every couple hundred yards, you will see one, and depending on which blaze it is, you can tell if you are still on the correct trail. If you don’t see a blaze…  Well, congrats, retrace your steps, because you are probably lost. 

This is how we approach intentionality on subsequent trips during our healing journey. 

Let’s continue our previous hypothetical. You’ve recognized a deep need for intimacy in your life. This is the trailhead, the first blaze. You square your shoulders, and hike off bravely into the unknown. You start allowing space for that intimacy in your life. You feel more alive! It’s powerful, it feels wonderful to let others pour into your heart. This is the second blaze on the trail. Healthy, positive results you’ve been seeking. But then… 

You offer yourself fully to someone and they destroy your trust. You are wounded again! 

Why was I wounded! I followed the trail! I was experiencing happiness and love! I gave of myself, and I was hurt anyway!

You are presented with two options- head back, because obviously this isn’t working. Or, trust the trail, believe that the blaze you saw earlier did in fact mean that you were on the right path, and continue forward on another Trip with a new intention – How do I set healthy boundaries and expectations of others in my life so that I am not hurt? 

In the same way that each blaze on a trail leads to another, each new answer leads to a new question. When we are trying to grow ourselves, it’s absolutely our responsibility to humbly submit ourselves to each new question and accept the truest, wisest answer we can find. We integrate the knowledge, and then do the work to hike to the next blaze, regardless of how difficult it can be. This can be rough terrain at times. Use truth and wisdom as your guidestones; don’t leave the trail. It’s there for a reason. Embrace the joy of the journey, and the struggle will be lessened. 

The Glory of Kings

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs of King Solomon 25:2 [5]

“Start from where you are – not where you wish you were. The work you’re doing becomes your path.” – Ram Dass [6]

Great men and women of history have one thing in common- they sought answers. Sun Tzu sought wisdom in warfare and tactics, ever seeking the best way to win a conflict. Einstein looked for understanding of the mathematical problems posed by the very existence of the universe itself. King Solomon wanted to know the meaning of life. 

These are glorious, satisfying, and powerful pursuits- but they are utterly meaningless without self-awareness and humility.

It is unbelievably tempting to seek out some kind of higher ideal as a solution to your own brokenness mentally, or emotionally. But knowing the nature of the universe is completely irrelevant if you don’t know yourself first- which is why psychedelics are so attractive for those of us trying to develop a stronger understanding of our created nature. 

Psychedelics alter many aspects of experience: sense perception, emotion, cognition, and the apprehension of time and space. But of all their effects, perhaps none is more provocative than the profound alteration to the ordinary sense of self or ego. [7]

Getting that double concussion when I was 15 profoundly altered my sense of self – in a deeply troubling and negative way. I forgot who I was. Years of emotional abuse and trauma altered my sense of self – again, in a deeply troubling and negative way. I forgot who I was. 

Psychedelics, by reconnecting my brain chemistry and dissolving the false self I created to cope with my physical and emotional trauma, reminded me of who my true self was. I embarked on the journey to re-integrate that person into my consciousness and healed my mind and spirit simultaneously. Psilocybin showed me the true nature of my feelings. LSD taught me to love my creative ideas again.

This is, I think, the truly wonderful and unique nature of psyches. Not only are we physically regrowing and healing the cellular network of our consciousness, but our actual cognitive and self-perceptual thinking is also deeply impacted and heightened. Knowing this allows us to take full advantage of the power of these substances, and deliberately utilize them to repair our identity and spirit on a holistic level. I personally believe this makes them superior in nearly every respect to classical SSRI Inhibitors/Anti-Depressants, which mask symptoms, instead of driving straight to the core of the internal cognitive issues and physically healing them. This- is glorious. 

Starting the Journey

Every time I go hiking, I’m thrilled and intimidated by knowing what’s ahead. Anything can happen in the woods – we can lose our way, we can get hurt, and we can encounter dangerous weather, animals, or people. It’s wild! It’s challenging! That’s the point. 

The Self-Healing Journey is the same. Your life will change, as you change your mind. This is the point- after all, if you were comfortable and healthy, why change anything about your perceptive consciousness at all? 

I do understand, however, that this can be extremely scary, especially for people with significant trauma. You may wander off of the path. You may get confused and spiral into negativity for a time. Do not be afraid- you are loved, and as long as you make every effort to seek out the truth, you will heal your mind, and your consciousness. Psychedelics are tools, and they are extremely powerful. Treat them with respect, treat yourself with love and respect. Put in the work, search for the truth, and integrate. 

You will find what your heart seeks. 

James Faraday | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective

James is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to Matt via email at matt@chemical-collective.com

1 Comment

  1. I finally got around to reading this after Matt prodding me about it for days. This was an absolutely brilliant read in every way. Thank you James!! I’m honoured to have you on our writing team.

    Jack

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