Managing expectations around psychedelics is a vital skill to learn when choosing to develop a relationship with these healing medicines. It seems simple, but we get SO invested in our stories of how we want things to go, it can be devastating when we don’t get what we wanted. While it’s natural to bring our hopes, desires, and intentions for healing to the table with psychedelics, carrying rigid ideas of exactly what you want to happen can be a huge downer when the experience doesn’t perform how you planned or hoped. Today we’ll unpack why managing expectations around psychedelics is a skill you’ll want to master, no matter where you are on your healing and self-discovery journey.
Big, Unrealistic Expectations = Big Disappointment
One of the most common issues we deal with in our work as holistic psychedelic practitioners is managing expectations for psychedelics with our clients (we really prefer to say medicine family rather than “clients.”) Every retreat, after every ceremony, someone is going to feel let down, disappointed, upset, or deflated. It’s just part of how this work unfolds. You prepared, planned, got on a plane, drank medicine with a shaman, and expected fireworks and a meeting with God, but that’s not what happened. Sometimes people even feel like NOTHING happened because it wasn’t what they expected or wanted.
Deciding the only definition of success is something we imagined before taking the ride is a recipe for a huge bummer sandwich. When things don’t line up with our plans, it can leave us feeling left out, upset, and defeated, or even jealous of others. In fact, having unmet or unrealistic expectations is a strong predictor for a disappointing or negatively perceived psychedelic healing experience. The more pressure we put on the experience to be everything we want and more, the more likely we are to feel like we didn’t get what we came for, particularly if we are feeling like psychedelics may be the only hope for us in a long battle of dealing with chronic health or wellness issues.
So what do we do to flex our “managing expectations around psychedelics” muscles? As always, start where you are.
Don’t Compare Yourself or Your Psychedelic Experiences to Others'
While it’s certainly valuable to connect with others who have gone before us and hear stories and reports so we have some idea of what could happen, too much focus on other people’s journeys can leave us feeling let down or deflated if we don’t get the big breakthrough that someone else did. We all come to psychedelics with different things we need to heal, and the medicines work with each person in an individualized way that works just for them. Some people need a cosmic bitchslap to get the message, and for others, they may need something more gentle and less intense. However the medicines work in you and for you is PERFECT FOR YOU. We have a saying, “You don’t get the ceremony you want, you get the one you need.”
Breaking the program of comparison and competition is not only something we have to learn with the medicines, but it is vital to living a happy and fulfilled life. When we are always looking around us thinking, “that person has more than me, is better than me, has something I want,” we are choosing to live in a state of lack and scarcity. We get psychedelic healing experiences that mirror our life circumstances and show us the ways we need to change and grow. Healing with psychedelics is not about checking off a bucket list experience. If it feels that way for you, that’s something to look at and work on before you meet the medicines, and could be the very reason you feel dissatisfied.
Do you feel let down in other areas of your life as well? Do you often feel like you are not enough or don’t have enough? If so, this is a great place to focus shifting your mindset from one of lack to one of abundance. There is no right psychedelic experience or one that’s better or worse than another one. There are times that feel easier and lighter and that we may label as “good” or “positive,” and ceremonies where we have a more difficult healing experience that feel more “heavy” or “negative.” All of these states are a necessary and important part of the healing process.
Allowing others to have magical, transformational experiences and cheering them on when they do well is a wonderfully healing practice to work on if you feel competitive or scarce, and feel that you often compare yourself to others. It is also important to be gentle with yourself and allow YOURSELF to have the experience you are having, whatever that looks like.
Be Flexible and Open to the Medicine that is Everywhere
There are infinite ways that the medicines show us how to live, how to be in our divine light, and how to grow. So much of what happens with any psychoactive healing journey can never be fully explained or understood in advance of having the experience yourself, and there’s just no way to know what will happen for you when your time comes. Every journey will be wildly divergent, each and every time. You may go from bliss to boredom to something you can’t even explain and back again more than once in a single psychedelic session.
Managing expectations with psychedelics can look like opening to possibilities and nuances, and looking at everything in a new way. One of my favorite ways to do this is through connective with Nature. The natural world is ALIVE. The plants, animals, and insects, of course, but the Earth is alive in the wind, the water, and the fire. Every stone and rock has an ancient story to tell us, everything has a vibration and a presence. When we begin to listen to the world around us, we start to awaken to the medicine that’s everywhere. Friends are medicine. Opportunities are medicine. We are medicine.
When you have an experience that doesn’t match your expectations, go deeper. Be present fully in the ceremony, be with your annoyance, boredom, or fatigue. Investigate your pain. Really be present with it. Ask it questions. Check in with the motivations behind feeling like you didn’t get enough from the medicines. Maybe you are not yet able to hear them speaking to you, maybe you cannot see what they are showing you just yet. Look for the small, gentle ways that you feel changed, and open yourself to a new way of understanding and learning. Be patient and allow your unique journey to unfold.
Go Beyond Visuals, Live in Your Vision
One of the absolute coolest parts of building a relationship with psychedelics and plant medicines is learning their languages, and the language of consciousness and life itself. Psychedelics are not a contest to see who has the craziest visuals or takes the most medicine. You don’t have to lose your ego or be oblivious and blasted on a high dose of medicine to heal. At all.
I was so surprised as I grew my relationship with the plants at how much of the healing experience for me was not about the psychedelic effects of the plants. Don’t get me wrong, the galactic visuals, the light show, the flash and pomp that draws many of us to these healing teachers in the first place is lovely and I enjoy that part, AND it’s not actually the point. The surreal, otherworldly journey we must take to reach our true selves through the veil is just the beginning, and then, EVERYTHING HAPPENS. Crazy, right?!?
The deeper, more meaningful experience for me is convening with the spirits of the plants, conversing with them, asking questions, growing awareness and understanding, and speaking directly to my Highest Self with nothing in the way. It’s the clearest and most effective form of spiritual therapy I have ever encountered. And while the medicines absolutely speak to us in stories, memories, fantasies, and visuals, ask yourself, what is my vision? What are the visions and dream states showing you? What can you do to take action in your life to implement changes and practices that make your dreams REAL?
This is how we go beyond visuals and live in our vision.
Above all, be patient with yourself, with the medicines, with the healing process, and with the way things unfold for you. When we believe life is happening for us all the time, everything is a gift, even our disappointment, pain, and suffering. Shifting your mindset to one of acceptance and peace with what arises is something that takes practice and time, so be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to be disappointed, especially when you understand that it’s all part of the bigger unfolding. Practicing patience and understanding can radically alter your experiences with plant medicine and help you get so much more out of your journeys with psychedelics. Be an active participant in your healing, and you will find that every moment is another chance to grow and change.
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