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‘Mindset’ and the Role of Our Relationship to Psychedelics

psychedelic mindset
in this article
  • Introduction
  • The Importance of 'Set'
  • Historical Context
  • Mindset Affects All Transformative Practices
  • How Set Can Influence Psychedelic Experience
  • The Explorer’s Fundamental Mindset
  • The Importance of a Harmonious Relationship with Psychedelics
  • The Role of Community
  • Final Thoughts

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.


The field of psychedelics is a world teeming with new discoveries and untapped potential.

But as most of us know by now, making the most of our experiences isn’t as simple as dropping a big dose. The transformative power of these substances isn’t solely a result of their chemical composition.

Our experiences are significantly influenced by another factor that often escapes the attention of newcomers: our mindset, commonly known in psychedelic parlance as the ‘set.’

After a recent article on ways to cultivate a mindset beneficial to psychedelic-assisted growth, I wanted to share a broader and deeper dive into the topic.

In this article, I’ll explore the role that mindset plays in shaping deep psychedelic experiences, the history of the concept, the key components of an explorer’s mindset, the importance of our relationship to psychedelics, as well as the role of community.

My aim is to deepen your understanding of mindset as it relates to psychedelic experiences and to also provide actionable steps to enrich your own psychedelic explorations.

As always, my intention is to help you improve your ability to safely and effectively work with psychedelics for insight, healing, and growth.

The Importance of 'Set'

When it comes to understanding the influences shaping a psychedelic experience, many focus on dosage, setting, and the specific substance.

However, a less tangible but equally vital factor is set. This is the emotional state or mood we bring to the experience, as well as our overall attitude and approach.

It can help to think of mindset as the mental framework that guides the navigation and interpretation of your journey, shaping how you engage with the experience and any insights that come your way. You can think of mindset as everything that you bring to the experience, with the power to influence whether your psychedelic journey will be a labyrinth of confusion or a pathway to self-discovery.

Historical Context

To understand the concept of ‘set and setting’, we must go back to when the term was first coined. This was the era of Timothy Leary and the psychedelic pioneers of the ’60s.

Leary was credited with coining the term, which was first published in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association on 9 September 1961.

‘Set and setting’ wasn’t just a catchphrase or a buzzword. It was an attempt to establish a framework that empowered individuals to explore their minds safely.

Pioneers who used and helped to popularize these terms like Leary, Aldous Huxley, and Ram Dass were not just psychedelic enthusiasts; they were intellectual forerunners who understood that conscious engagement with psychedelics required a structured approach. 

‘Set and setting’ has since become something of a philosophical cornerstone for psychonauts venturing into altered states of consciousness, and a key consideration in the scientific research studies of today.

Although the term set and setting arose in the ’60s, it has roots that go as far back as the prehistory of medicine.

As has been noted in a paper on the history of set and setting:

Shamanic healing rituals are fundamentally a performance in which various elements are carefully brought together to enhance the purported healing process induced by a psychoactive. Shamans apply elaborate schemes to amplify and control drug effects […] by manipulating set and setting through the use of icaros (ritual songs), whistles, smoke blowing, and sucking, as well as host of other indigenous techniques

From indigenous shamanic rituals to the cutting-edge research labs of today, the focus on a proper mindset has been a continual theme. This historical sweep not only validates the concept but also helps us to bring respect to the psychic fields we enter.

Mindset Affects All Transformative Practices

It can be helpful to look beyond the world of psychedelics and consider how mindset influences other transformative practices.

Whether you’re sitting in deep meditation, engaging in intense breathwork, or entering a therapeutic relationship, the approach matters.

In meditation, the right mental approach can mean the difference between a frustrated attempt and a deep relaxation. Similarly, the outcomes of therapeutic relationships are heavily influenced by the mindset that both the therapist and client bring into the session.

When you align your mindset properly, the likelihood of achieving meaningful personal growth in any of these domains grows.

The similarity in these practices underlines the universality of the concept of mindset, highlighting its applicability within the psychedelic sphere.

How Set Can Influence Psychedelic Experience

Your anticipations, guided by your mindset, can genuinely shape your experience during a psychedelic journey.

For example, a mindset loaded with apprehension could be more likely to lead to negative emotional states, further influencing your experience. This could manifest as physical tension or a reluctance to confront certain visions.

On the flip side, a mindset geared towards open-hearted exploration can catalyze a series of beneficial emotional experiences, that are conducive to deep introspection and transformation.

Unpacking the Layers of Set

Digging deeper into the concept of set, we can find multiple layers that require our attention.

On the surface, there’s the emotional state we find ourselves in—whether it’s joy, anxiety, or neutrality. This emotional tone is the stage from which we set off on our journey, and can filter how we perceive the unfolding psychedelic experience.

As we go deeper, we find our mental attitudes make up another layer of set.

Are we seeking to escape, to confront, or to explore?

Each perspective, attitude, and intention molds the overall trajectory, guiding us through our psychedelic landscape.

The Explorer’s Fundamental Mindset

psychedelic mindset

The idea of approaching your psychedelic journey with the mindset of an explorer can be very helpful when we consider the fundamental aspects of a mental attitude to show up with.

This is because an explorer’s mindset encapsulates three critical attributes: openness, curiosity, and courage. 

Openness acts as a receptive ground. It allows you to more fully absorb the immense range of sensations, emotions, and ideas that the experience can reveal. It opens us to more content, and to a wider range of perspectives.

Curiosity encourages openness. It encourages you to look more closely into the content and intricacies of your own consciousness. It helps you to navigate deeper into the experience.

Courage helps to motivate you to face the uncomfortable or challenging areas of the psyche. This can transform potential U-turns, dead ends, or pitfalls into opportunities for growth and transformation.

Look the monster in the eye and move towards it… Dig in your heels; ask, ‘What are you doing in my mind?’ Or, ‘What can I learn from you?’ Look for the darkest corner in the basement, and shine your light there.

From Bill Richards’ Flight Instructions, given to participants of John Hopkins psilocybin studies

The Importance of a Harmonious Relationship with Psychedelics

A lesser talked about influencing factor of mindset is your relationship with psychedelics.

This relationship has the ability to both positively and negatively affect the nature of your psychedelic journeys over time.

A good place to start when looking at this relationship is any cultural and personal biases we might be bringing to the table.

Navigating the Cultural and Personal Biases

Although we are collectively making great progress in the widespread acceptance of psychedelics, there is still a hangover from the war on drugs.

Our culture is still largely peppered with misconceptions and stigmas, which often feed into our personal biases against psychedelics. These prejudices can emerge from societal conditioning or may be reflections of our upbringing.

It is important to examine these internalized associations and their origins and question their validity. Whether it’s feelings of mistrust, fear, or even guilt, it’s best if they are looked at i in the light of reason and personal experience.

Do you feel guilty about taking psychedelics? If so, why?

Are you scared that you’ll go crazy or become addicted? If so, where do those beliefs come from?

Psychedelics are some of the least addictive and physiologically safe substances on the planet, so it’s worth examining any negative connotations you have around them. The process of deconstructing these biases can be therapeutic in itself and is often the first step toward a more fulfilling and enriching relationship with psychedelics.

Once we’ve looked at any biases we’ve held, it can be useful to develop other aspects of a healthy way of relating to psychedelics.

A relationship with psychedelics that is more likely to lead to more beneficial outcomes would be one rooted in trust, respect, appreciation, and gratitude.


Trust is a cornerstone. To be fully open to what these experiences have to offer, there must be a level of trust in the substances themselves, and in what they are showing you in your experiences. To trust that you are not in any danger, and to trust that there may be a good reason for whatever your own mind is showing you in these experiences, and the potential of learning in them.

Just like any meaningful relationship in life, building trust can be a gradual process that comes with time and experience. It is something that doesn’t need to be rushed but can be cultivated over time through careful and respectful engagement.
Learning about the history and effects of substances can help develop this trust, as well as knowing their safety profile, especially at the doses you are working with.

For newcomers, beginning with microdosing can help develop trust on an experiential level, without jumping into the deep end of more intense experiences.


Respect comes from understanding the immense power of psychedelic substances. This comes naturally when we understand their ability to radically and completely change our reality. Remembering that they have the power to not only open us to healing but also the power to throw us into intense and difficult experiences in which we may feel helpless or lost.

The concept of ‘Going Pro’, borrowed from Stephen Pressfield’s creative classic The War of Art, can elevate your level of respect for psychedelics.

Think about it this way: if you were a professional psychedelic explorer, how would your approach differ?

Treating your psychedelic exploration with the seriousness and dedication that a professional would bring to their craft can change how we engage with our experiences in a positive way.

Maybe you would invest more time in preparation, creating a sacred space, and a thorough debrief to integrate insights into your daily life.

Respect for psychedelics is shown through conscious usage, thoughtful preparation, and committed integration of experiences. Bringing this respect helps to reduce the chance of bad trips and traumatic experiences, and increase the potential for benefits.

Appreciation and Gratitude

Appreciation and gratitude encourage you to approach each new journey with a sense of wonder and reverence. They help to bring a positive mood and outlook to the experience, and further encourage an attitude of being open and to receive.

Remembering a psychedelic experience you feel fortunate to have had can help to instill an appreciation for these substances. This could be simple statements of thanks, reflective journaling, or even a more elaborate ritual. 

You can also express gratitude for the opportunity to have this experience. Many people in the world are seeking access to psychedelic experiences, but because of legal or other restrictions, are unable to do so. You can deepen your appreciation by acknowledging this.

Gratitude for psychedelics can also awaken a desire to pay your blessings forward and contribute positively to the lives of others, amplifying the collective potential for healing and transformation.

The Role of Community

Beyond our relationship with psychedelics, another relational factor that can influence our set is that of the collective.

Whether you’re a solo journeyer or take part in guided sessions, being connected to a like-minded community can support your mindset.

Whether your community consists of fellow explorers you share your journeys with, group chats or forums, or even organizations or individuals that disseminate valuable knowledge and resources, the fellow explorers you interact with can have a powerful influence.

Communities can offer emotional support, best practices, critical insights, and even safe spaces to experience psychedelics. They can validate your experiences or offer different perspectives that challenge your views and enrich your mindset.

Try to choose communities, organizations, or individuals that resonate with you, and align with your values and intentions, as they can either reinforce a healthy mindset or inadvertently cultivate a detrimental one.

To find a community near you, you might try using the Psychedelic Society Locator. For information and resources, you might try my own newsletter, or the organizations of ICEERS and The Psychedelic Society UK.

Final Thoughts


Psychedelics offer an incredible opportunity for personal growth and transformation. For those committed to deepening their psychedelic practice, the path offers opportunities for self-inquiry, continuous learning, and experiential wisdom. However, the richness of these experiences is significantly influenced by the mindset and relationship we have with these powerful substances. 

Understanding and nurturing your mindset and relationship with psychedelics can transform your experiences from sporadic experiments into a meaningful, lifelong journey toward self-discovery and empowerment.

I invite you to develop your own set: to embrace the mindset of an explorer, going forward with openness, curiosity, and courage; to cultivate a relationship with psychedelics that is grounded in trust, respect, and gratitude; and to find the individuals or communities who can support you on your way.

John Robertson | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective | mapsofthemind.com

John 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

Stay safe, journey well.

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Petr Halík
5 months ago

Thanks for info

7 months ago

Very well done! Loved this read, and it’s a good reminder of a few very vital factors of the psychedelic experience that are often forgotten.

7 months ago

great article

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