Challenging psychedelic crises cover a vast area
The following manual excerpt is from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS, 2010), and just touches on challenging experiences. Jules Evans also adds his opinion. For a more in-depth study, see (MAPS) reading list below.
There is no clear manifestation of any substance or mixture of substances. But there are some generalities. It is very important to know the active duration of the different substances. All psychedelics have a similar pattern: there’s the doorway with different physical, mental and emotional manifestations. There is a buildup, then an extended stay on a plateau, then the coming down, re-entry.
The most common felt threat to sanity is the feeling/experience that one is going crazy, losing one’s mind, or that this will never end. This feeling/experience is supported by changing mental states and powerful (sometimes) changes in perception. Major shifts in ego/personality structure, regarding one’s belief and understanding of oneself, the world, and God, are common.
Old traumas can be remembered and relived. These memories can be of a physical nature (reliving one’s birth, childhood abuse and/or illness, memories of famine and/or war, accidents, rape are some of the possibilities of re-emergence). These memories can also be of an intellectual, emotional nature (reliving verbal abuse, a lack of basic emotions, body contact, love, nurture, or a disassociation due to a traumatic experience).
These traumas can also be of a transpersonal nature, meaning phenomena that go beyond our personal identity or biographical understanding of the universe. These could be experiences from another life, becoming one with the earth or other life forms, or experiencing the life cycle of an animal. One could leave one’s body, have the experience of merging with an archetype, or experience the world of a god or a goddess. The memory of a violent death can be a most traumatic experience.
There can be many different, sometimes never experienced, sensory, energy, and body sensations. These can range from hearing colors to seeing music. It could be an extremely heightened sense of smell, taste, hearing and vision. Some of the most frightening manifestations of the psychedelic experience are energetic. People go through powerful releases, rendering their bodies out of control, shaking, twisting and vibrating. These energies, being activated by the psychedelic substances, could be related to birth, an opening of a frozen body pattern, bioenergetic, neo-Reichian type of release, or be a reconnecting with the universal life force. The life-force may manifest in a powerful opening of the body’s energy centers. It could also be an intensive sexual or other emotional release.
The body sensations also cover a wide range of sensations and feelings. This can be the feeling (for the first time in one’s life) of coming home into the body.
Here’s a small list of other possible experiences:
- Reliving birth
- Remembering different deaths
- Reliving accidents
- Reliving illness
- Reliving drowning, torture, and many other physical experiences from this and other lives
- Reliving mystical states
- Identifying with and reliving in detail the victimization of humans throughout history.
- Leaving the body and traveling in the spirit realm
- Merging with rocks, animals, plants and experiencing the pollution and death of the planet and different species
- Merging with people, reading their minds, feeling their emotions
- Being caught in a certain experience
- Having a UFO experience
- Being overwhelmed by feelings and emotions
In a psychedelic experience and crisis the person may react to the healer/sitter and project her/his own feelings and experiences onto the healer/sitter. This could be a sexual, demonic, godlike or fearful transference. When this takes place it is important just to be with (the experience as it is), not to defend the transference.
- Psychedelic Reflections,Lester Grinspoon & James B. Bakalar (Eds.)
The Adventure of Self-Discovery, Stanislav Grof
3. LSD Psychotherapy, Stanislav Grof
4. Spiritual Emergency, Stanislav and Christina Grof
5. Green Psychology, Ralph Metzner
6. The Unfolding Self, Ralph Metzner
7. The Healing Journey, Claudio Naranjo
8. The Cosmic Serpent, Jeremy Narby
9. The Secret Chief, Myron Stolaroff
10.The Ethics of Caring, Kylea Taylor
11. Shamanism, Roger Walsh
Jules Evans (above) is the author of Philosophy for Life, and co-author of The Art of Losing Control, and Breaking Open: Finding a Way Through Spiritual Emergency. He researches challenging psychedelic experiences and what helps people who have them. He feels that MAPS is the leading psychedelic organization in the world and it should also mention other possible problems such as panic, paranoia, fear of dying, derealization, dissociation, etc.
Then again, we have to be on the lookout for inappropriate labels being applied to those with challenging experiences such as “psychosis”. This can make it seem as if the challenging experience(s) is part of a mental illness. With appropriate support the experiencer can overcome the challenge and be enriched by it.
More research is needed.