What Should I Expect With a Psychedelic Journey?

The fourth in a series of articles designed for those who are psychedelically curious and interested in understanding what psychedelics involve and what these substances can do for people. From the author of Triumph Over Trauma.

One of the biggest questions related to psychedelics deals with what the experience will be like. In other words, people want to know what they might see, feel, hear, taste, during a psychedelic journey.

This article takes a look at the basics involved in the preparation for and what to expect during your first psychedelic experience.

Before jumping in, let's just clear up one thing about psychedelics. People have two options with psychedelics at the moment (though that will change in the future):

  • Macrodosing. Taking a dosage large enough to experience novel and new things, have the so-called "psychedelic experience" of colors and geometric patterns, and face some important truths about your past and who you are.

  • Microdosing. Taking a small dosage (typically 5-10 percent of a full dosage, taken over the course of a month) of a psychedelic compound to foster healing and transformation without having to experience a full-blown psychedelic experience.

While there are some parallels with the preparation, this article will focus on the full psychedelic experience from macrodosing.

The Basics of Psychedelic Journeying

While many have just jumped into a psychedelic experience as part of a concert or festival, the focus is here is on the intentional use of psychedelics for healing, spiritual growth, and transformation.

1. Preparation: By reading this article, your preparation period has started. It's during this period in which you should be researching more about the healing benefits of these medications, the length of journeys, some of the temporary side effects, and the types/varieties of different medicines.

Preparation goes far beyond research, and includes getting yourself ready for the medicine.

Some of the key elements related to preparation include:

  • Securing a spot (by locating a healing center/retreat or clinical trial or other method for sourcing the psychedelic medicine)

  • Mental preparation (by limiting social media, news, bad influences)

  • Intention-setting (by focusing on the key thing you want from the journey)

  • Harm reduction (by securing a safe, comfortable place for the journey)

  • Music (because it can greatly enhance your journey)

  • Comfortable clothing/layers (for the day of the journey)

  • Diet (reducing fatty, bad "junk" foods, fast foods; and eating more cleanly)

  • Community (finding like-minded people to integrate with, share healing stories)

2. The Journey: The core psychedelic experience. While all psychedelic journeys have similar aspects, it's important to know the specifics about the medicine you are consuming, and to know that EVERY psychedelic experience is different -- ranging from nothing happening (a null experience) to tremendous revelations.

All journeys start with the ingestion of the medicine, which leads to the ramp up, as the medicine works its way through your body and brain. Expect to feel a number of different physical sensations, from temperature fluctuations to other issues (such as upset stomach, change in heart rate). Psychologically, you may experience some anxiety, disorientation, panic, euphoria, and restlessness. Most of these feelings dissipate after a short period.

As you move into the full flow of the medicine, expect to start having the hallucinations -- with colors, lights, and sounds all behaving differently. I still remember the first time I was on a journey and the knots in my wood floor all started acting like little bass drums, vibrating to the beat of the music; truly trippy.

Some people report flying like a rocket into space, others talk about being transported to a mountaintop, others have lengthy conversations with dead ancestors, while others encounter scenes related to their (known or unremembered) traumas. Many see/visit with Jesus, God, and other Divine beings. Some people experience their birth -- again. Each experience is unique, so be gentle on your expectations here.

You may also encounter some dark and challenging things during your journey -- but all these things are under your control AND there's something there that the medicine feels you need to face. These moments are what many erroneously refer to as a "bad trip." These so-called bad trips can be good -- because they show you the challenging stuff that leads to healing. That said, if the challenges are too great, you can signal a healer or facilitator to help guide you to the next phase.

Challenging journeys may also be related to a battle with your ego. The higher the dose, the more likely your ego is going fight it. One of the key elements you learn -- but while easy to learn, it is often so difficult to implement -- is surrendering. The more you fight the medicine, the more challenging the experience. In higher dosages, the medicine temporarily dissolves the ego to allow the healing.

During the journey, you will also most likely release some emotions. Typical ways people release are purging (vomiting), defecating, crying, laughing, coughing, writhing. The key is simply going with it.

You will also experience a few breaks back to semi-reality, where you can get up and get a drink, pee, or grab a snack.

Expect a few more interesting experiences -- depending on the length of the medicine -- and some great insights, even as the medicine is winding down.

While love is a MAJOR outcome from psychedelic journeys, it is not the only one -- and the medicine may be tough on you before showing you the healing and the love.

Do NOT make any rash judgments or decisions here... your brain is still fragile and trying to comprehend what just happened with the change in consciousness you may have experienced.

As the journey winds down and comes to completion, you may feel exhausted, depleted, and ready to sleep/nap or snack. In contrast, you may feel energized and alert and ready to make some changes. Regardless of how you feel, the next step -- integration -- is essential to the success of the medicine.

3. Integration: About determining the wisdom from a psychedelic journey and bringing it fully into your waking life. Integrating is about changing perspectives and creating a path to change.

Consuming psychedelics without completing the integration of your journey into your regular life is like going to an expert for advice and then completely ignoring that advice.

Sometimes the lessons you are supposed to learn are brought out during the ceremony; others take reflection and time to come together into something meaningful. Regardless, psychedelic journeys provide you with an abundance of knowledge and insights, often an overwhelming amount.

Integration can be painful -- intense/confusing realizations, acceptance, difficult/painful changes. Yet, integration is for the good -- for leaving behind trauma and negative experiences and beginning anew.

Keys to integrating include sharing your story with others in your community, journaling all your thoughts and reflections, and simply meditating and reflecting on your experience. Some people also use art, dance, music as part of integration.

Another great tool to help with integration is hiring a coach or therapist to help you with piecing all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Final Thoughts: Positive Experiences from Psychedelic Medicines

Beyond the aforementioned therapeutic effects, many participants report lasting benefits from psychedelic medicines, including:

  • Improved self-esteem

  • Enhanced mood

  • Deepened spirituality, divinity

  • Greater positivity

  • Stronger sense of connectedness

  • Heightened optimism

  • Enriched world view

  • Mindfulness (and a calmer mind)

  • Psychological flexibility

One final thought about psychedelics and integration. A psychedelic experience is the seed, your life the soil, integration like a blooming flower; as the petals open over time, the depth of your understanding, healing, and growth expands exponentially -- so keep at it. To take this analogy one step deeper, as you are integrating your experience, you may need to change the "soil" in which you live -- so that your flower blooms bigger, better, brighter.

Ready to Buy the Book?

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Additional Psychedelic Resources

Psychedelic Resources From Dr. Randall

Dr. Randall Hansen is an advocate, educator, mentor, ethicist, and thought-leader... helping the world heal from past trauma. He is founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com.

He is the author of the groundbreaking Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic Medicines are Helping People Heal Their Trauma, Change Their Lives, and Grow Their Spirituality and the well-received HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

Dr. Hansen's focus and advocacy center around true healing ... healing that results in being able to live an authentic life filled with peace, joy, love. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.