Ahhh… the dreaded bad trip. If you’ve ever taken psychedelics, you know there is always a risk that your good time will take a turn for the worse. Maybe a dark shadow fills the space, or some anxiety starts to creep on; maybe you are left sitting there outside of your body, able to see only what is going wrong in your life.
This type of experience can be quite traumatic for some users of psychedelics, and perhaps even deter people away from trying them in the first place. But why exactly does a bad trip happen, and what can they teach us, if anything?
The first time I took part in a psychedelic adventure with magic mushrooms was also the first time I experienced a bad trip. Luckily for me, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and it wasn’t so traumatic that it stopped me from trying them again — though it did deter me for a number of years. Eventually I had a friend explain to me that if you do them with the proper intention and take only a small amount, it is very unlikely that you will have a bad experience. So I gave it another shot, this time with an intention to be shown what I needed to see.
Becoming aware of the powerful plant medicine that psychedelic mushrooms really are completely changed my experience with them. I now recognize their amazing ability to take you outside of yourself and view your life from an outsider’s perspective — a valuable experience, to be sure. Anything that is perceivably ‘bad’ or feels uncomfortable or heavy that shows up is actually just an aspect of yourself that needs to be addressed. Having this understanding makes it much easier to navigate through these experiences, and hopefully gain something from them as well.
Why a ‘Bad Trip’ Is Actually Good for You
New research has come out that supports this theory. In a survey of 1993 adults, 34% of participants reported that having a bad trip was one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. Thirty-one percent even said that it was one of the most spiritually meaningful experiences. Researchers from John Hopkins University asked the participants specifically about their ‘bad’ experiences with magic mushrooms. More than nine out of ten participants had taken psilocybin more than twice.
Generally, if you have a bad trip, it’s something you remember. Sixty-two percent of the participants said that their bad trip was one of the top ten most psychologically difficult situations they’d experienced in their lives. So with that being said, how and why could so many of these people report coming away from the bad trip with positive feelings?
Seventy-six percent said they emerged from their ‘bad trip’ with a better sense of personal well-being and satisfaction, while 46% said that they would even have the experience of the bad trip all over again if given the option.
Experiences Do Vary by User
Even with these surprising statistics, 11% of participants reported that their bad trips put either themselves or other people at risk of physical harm, and 3% said they had sought out medical help after the trip. While psychedelics offer many benefits to their users, they still carry potential risks, and anyone who wants to try mushrooms should do so under the supervision of someone who is a trained professional, has had a lot of experience with it, or understands how to use the drug as a plant medicine.
When psychedelic mushrooms are taken without an awareness and knowledge of self, and without the understanding that this is a plant medicine that is designed to teach you something, a bad trip is more likely to occur. If, however, you are doing them with the purpose of gaining awareness and insight into your life, you will be better equipped to navigate through these experiences. Starting off with a small dosage and then working your way up to a larger dose is also a sensible way to ease yourself into using this medicine; it will give you a glimpse of how the mushrooms make you feel and what they bring up without overwhelming you.
If used correctly, psychedelic mushrooms can be a wonderful tool for bringing insight and clarity into your life. It is important to note, however, that they will not ‘fix’ you or your problems. They can offer a glimpse into your life, showing you what isn’t working and helping you to see and feel the amazing being that you are, but it is up to you to work up the strength to help yourself, armed with this new knowledge.
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