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  • Writer's pictureMartin Polanco

Bad Trips Gone Good: What We Can Learn from a Difficult Psychedelic Experience

Originally posted March 6, 2017

While taking psychedelics for a medicinal or spiritual experience can be an extremely enlightening and healing experience, there is always the probability that what a person goes through isn’t what they’d hoped for. A negative psychedelic experience can be extremely frightening, and truly show a person the aspects of their subconscious they’d rather leave alone.

What a Bad Trip is Here to Teach Us

The effects of a “bad trip” can last for days or even weeks after the experience, leaving a person wondering if psychedelic medicine actually holds the potential for healing so many people claim. A negative psychedelic experience, however, can be a blessing in disguise. Having an adverse reaction to psychedelics can show a person the emotional and psychological issues they carry that need to be healed.

It’s the negative things a person goes through during a bad trip that are most often the problems they need to address the most. Psychedelics are powerful conduits for change, and, when used for healing, they can bring up some very serious emotions and feelings. Having this insight can make it a lot easier to see the positive side when something like this occurs.

After all, it’s often through difficulty that we experience tremendous change. The only way out is through–and a challenging psychedelic experience is here to show a person exactly the problems they need to work out in order to experience the healing they need. This understanding can make a tremendous difference when looking for insight through psychedelic healing.

Do You Need to Have a Difficult Experience to Heal?

While having a difficult experience on psychedelics can offer more awareness of the darker aspects within one’s psyche that need to be healed, it isn’t something that should ever be promoted. No one should have the idea they must experience a “bad trip” to heal their psychological discomfort.

In fact, going into a psychedelic experience with a negative mindset is something that will most often encourage a negative experience. Psychedelics should be treated with respect, as they are extremely powerful substances. And while there haven’t been many studies that look at negative experiences under the influence of psychedelics, the mindset a person has going into it will have a lot to do with what they go through.

It has been shown that going into a psychedelic experience with an open (and positive) mind is something that will reduce the chance of having a negative experience. Not everyone who goes into the experience with a positive mindset is going to have a positive experience. Remember, psychedelics open parts of the subconscious mind that not everyone is ready to look at, and the experience one individual has is going to be completely unique from another’s.

A Better Understanding of the “Good” in a “Bad Trip”

A survey performed by John Hopkins University in 2016 took the results from almost 2,000 people talking about their most difficult experiences on psilocybin mushrooms. The study consisted of an online assessment that asked questions about the single most difficult experience they had while taking psilocybin mushrooms.

Of the participants, 39 percent rated it as the most difficult experience of their life, 11 percent put self or others at risk of physical harm, with three cases associated with the onset of psychotic symptoms. There were also three cases that attempted suicide. Regardless of the negativity of the experience many people had, 84 percent of all participants said they benefited from the experience they had–and 46 percent of the participants said they would do it again, difficulties and all.

Results from the survey also showed that the longer the psychedelic trip lasted, the more difficult the experience was. Another thing highlighted was the more difficult the experience, the more meaning it had. Results like these show there is undoubtedly something to be learned from a hard experience on psychedelics. It is often these very difficult times that can be inundated with the most meaning.

What We Can Learn from A Negative Psychedelic Experience

No one goes into a psychedelic journey hoping for a difficult time. Opening the mind with psychedelics is a way to see what’s underneath the surface. Psychedelics penetrate the subconscious and show a person what rests in its depths. The negative aspects a person might find when experiencing a bad trip can often be the catalyst necessary for lasting change.

The only way to heal from our issues (and we’ve all got them) is to take a very close look at them. And while this can be done through having a positive experience on psychedelics, a negative experience can hold just as much potential for change. Learning from these negative experiences rather than labelling them as “bad” may be the necessary tool for positive transformation.

Many believe that psychedelic medicine will show a person exactly what they need to learn. While what a person finds might not always be what they were expecting, what they do find is often exactly what they need to experience the most personal growth and lasting change.

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