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How Simple Phrases Can Aid Psychedelic Integration

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in this article
  • Introduction
  • ‘What Would Psychedelics Do?’
  • ‘Go With It’
  • ‘Pay Attention to Set and Setting’

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 the Chemical Collective or any associated parties.

Introduction

One of the essential aspects of psychedelic integration, alongside making sense of the experience, is bringing the insights and lessons gleaned in the psychedelic state and incorporating them into one’s everyday life. But this is often challenging. Deeply meaningful insights can arise in an altered state spontaneously and effortlessly, and you may have a clear memory and documentation of those insights (through notes made during tripping or in a trip report), yet actually making those insights a part of your sober reality takes effort and work. 

While a peak or breakthrough psychedelic experience can sometimes create quick, seismic, and lasting shifts in your personality, outlook, beliefs, and mental health, this isn’t always the case. Changing your attitudes and behaviours in the long run often requires conscious effort; it means being aware of something that needs to change and taking steps to make that change happen. It’s all well and good when tripping to realise your habits of thinking and acting are unhealthy, or that you should focus on your relationships, or that there is a more positive direction in life you should be taking – but these insights will remain memories, and nothing more, unless integrated. 

If not integrated, psychedelic insights can nag at you, reminding you of what areas of your life need improvement. And so long as they remain as memories only, you can be left with a kind of psychological dissonance: the conflict between what is and what could be, who you are and who you could be. 

For this reason, I think anything that can aid psychedelic integration, making this process simpler and easier, is worth highlighting.

In this respect, maxims for psychedelic integration can be helpful.

These are simple phrases that help to return the mind to psychedelic wisdom, which is especially useful when one finds oneself stuck in an old, habitual pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

This post will delve into some examples of maxims for psychedelic integration and how they can be effective (this will not be an exhaustive list, of course, since there are innumerable possible phrases one could use, and many will be individualised and personal as well). 

‘What Would Psychedelics Do?’

This is my variation of the phrase:

‘What would Jesus do?’ or ‘WWJD’.

‘What would psychedelics do?’ or WWPD is a way of imagining how you might think differently at a particular moment if you were under the influence of a psychedelic. The intention behind the phrase, however, is a positive one: If you find yourself in a negative frame of mind – such as ruminating about the past or the future, or feeling overwhelmed – how might you approach your current situation with a psychedelic-altered mindset? 

The aim of this phrase is to essentially put yourself in a state of psychedelic wisdom, the kind of state you’ve experienced before in a psychedelic state, without needing to take a psychedelic again in order to gain a healthier perspective. This is one way, then, of bringing an orientation of looking at things from different angles – as experienced while tripping – to a situation in which you feel stuck and distressed. WWPD is a broad maxim, so it could evoke all kinds of particular thoughts and emotions; the point, though, is for these responses to be relevant, realistic, and helpful. 

This maxim is also meant to encourage psychological flexibility, which refers to the ability to think about problems in novel, creative ways – a way of thinking often experienced while tripping and which, as a trait, can persist long after the trip ends (see this 2020 study). It’s common, however, to find psychological inflexibility returns eventually, perhaps after a period of weeks or months, meaning you adhere to rigid and unhealthy patterns related to who you are as a person and how to respond to situations. Keeping maxims of psychological flexibility in mind can be one way to encourage a more adaptive response in the face of changing circumstances.

During a psychedelic trip, if you encounter psychological difficulty, you can pluck yourself out from a place of fear by telling yourself:

‘I don’t have to feel this way’.

The same applies in sober reality; you don’t have to be harsh on yourself or turn over regrets or what-ifs in your head. WWPD is a phrase that you can use to interrupt a negative train of thought, giving you space to consider how self-criticism and fear are, to a certain extent, optional, and that there are different places from which to stand.

‘Go With It’

psychedelic integration

There are other variations of this phrase, such as ‘Be with it’, ‘Relax into it’, ‘Be open’, ‘Let go’, ‘Surrender’, and ‘Trust’. These phrases, or the attitude underlying them, are what you might bring forth when experiencing distress during a psychedelic experience. Challenging periods during psychedelic trips often arise or become exacerbated because something is experienced that is deemed ‘too much’ or disturbing, and the experience elicits a reaction of aversion and resistance – a wish for it to stop. But a state of calm can be introduced if one accepts what is happening and decides to go along for the ride and just see what happens. This attitude is encapsulated by a phrase like ‘Go with it’. 

When you give up trying to control the experience or push it away – when you surrender or ‘let go’ of the tension or negative attitude you adopt towards what is happening, in other words – you can experience an emotional breakthrough. This is because you become more open to what is happening, which can lead to greater insights. As the authors of a 2020 article published in Frontiers in Psychiatry write:

Patients [in psychedelic therapy] often experience episodes of unique openness to greatly intensified emotions during dosing sessions, and commonly describe the sensation that previously “hidden” or “suppressed” feelings became “accessible” or were “released”.

This emotional openness can also last long after the effects of the psychedelic wear off. 

However, it’s not just in psychedelic experiences that you will feel overwhelmed, fearful, and wanting a situation to be different or disappear. Everyday situations also cause us to feel this way. Just as certain wisdom is helpful in altered states of consciousness, it can achieve beneficial effects too in a sober state of mind. Here I would like to draw attention to the phrase “As above, so below”, which derives from an ancient text known as the Emerald Tablet, purportedly authored by Hermes Trismegistus. The phrase is meant to embody the Principle of Correspondence, or the truth that there is always a correspondence between the laws and phenomena of the various planes of existence. I believe we can apply this perspective to the psychedelic state and the sober state. We can say that there are correspondences between the phenomena of various planes of consciousness

Thus, if you want to apply psychedelic wisdom to the stresses and emotional difficulties of day-to-day life, it can be helpful to remember phrases like ‘Go with it’. These phrases are not meant to make one indifferent and passive, however. They do not mean that you should let yourself be taken advantage of or be apathetic in the face of unfair or unjust situations (caused by relationships, work, or wider society). What they intend to do is lessen distress in the face of difficult situations so that you have the equanimity to act effectively. Reminding yourself of, and repeating, phrases like these can ensure that you suffer no more than you need to.

‘Pay Attention to Set and Setting’

psychedelic integration

Some may find it odd that I would include ‘set and setting’ in this discussion, as this is a concept exclusively used in terms of psychedelic preparation, not integration. Nonetheless, I believe set and setting is also important in terms of how you bring positive psychedelic states into your sober life (or how you transform challenging experiences into valuable ones). For instance, let’s say you have a glowing, peak psychedelic experience, but you return to a lifestyle and environment that naturally bring you down. We could say, therefore, that the post-session set and setting are antithetical to your integration. 

Even if your ‘set’ (or mindset) is enhanced following a psychedelic trip, this doesn’t mean that your newfound confidence and improved mental health are immune to negative influences. You want to pay attention to mental states like stress, anxiety, and depression, and query what might be contributing to them. Lifestyle factors could be at play, such as being sedentary and isolated and eating unhealthily. Environmental factors matter, too, which would include your physical, social, and cultural setting – in other words, where you spend your time (e.g. where you live, inside vs. outside, the city vs. natural surroundings), who you spend your time with, and the kind of society and culture you are situated within.

Unfortunately, many of these factors might be largely out of your control due to economic, political, and social influences, but paying attention to set and setting can still shed light on the factors that are helping – or not helping – you to integrate your psychedelic experiences. 

This benefit is twofold.

By understanding the aspects of set and setting in your control, you can take actionable steps that will shift your life, and therefore your mind, in a direction that is aligned with what you gained from a psychedelic experience.

This might mean, for instance, moving away from toxic relationships and towards fulfilling ones.

Secondly, by knowing the aspects outside of your control, or outside of your control to a large extent.

You don’t have to feel that returning to distress is your fault because you ‘failed’ to integrate your trip.

Moreover, understanding the economic, political, and social causes of your distress (which psychedelics cannot fix) may provide you with motivation to take action, join a movement, or pursue a career path that aims to address those causes.

For these reasons, I believe that the phrase ‘Pay attention to set and setting’ matters not just in terms of ensuring you’re well-prepared for a psychedelic journey; it also applies to the goal of psychedelic integration – that is, effectively turning altered states into altered traits.

Sam Woolfe | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective | www.samwoolfe.com

Sam 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 David via email at blog@chemical-collective.com

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4 Comments
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janeb3825
11 months ago

great post! WWPD is gonna be my new motto lol

punchele
11 months ago

WWPD is a great concept, love it!

Mariotxalo
1 year ago

Buenas frases para recordar durante un viaje

steveylang
1 year ago

Applying these psychedelic phrases to ordinary non-psychedelic moments is genius.
Also, WWPD is my new favorite acronym!

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