Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

As a guide, one of the most common questions that I’m asked is, “I’m afraid of having a bad trip, how do I not have one?”

From that starting point, I find that what we discuss is what isn’t a bad trip.

A challenging trip is not a bad trip.

One of the “stories” that live in the stigma around psychedelics is that the bad trip is a ticking time bomb with a hairpin trigger, that one thing that can spiral someone into madness. But, the same way that people aren’t built that way (even schizophrenics have a period of onset that shows gradual signs), psychedelic experiences aren’t built that way either.

It takes more than one wrong turn to fall off the map. Knowing this, early intervention becomes natural.

This is one reason why “set and setting” are repeated over and over again in the research as “crucial”. From the beginning, it’s important to set up not only the external environment, but also the internal environment: a perspective of curiosity, spaciousness, as well as trust in yourself, the substance, and your guide.

Having a guide hold the space gives you the breadth to let go, to explore.

Then, if intense feelings do emerge, you’re able to see their source and take the moment, the space, to breathe, and be curious about it instead of resisting it. Then it’s possible to go through it and maybe even explore what’s beyond.

A challenging trip is not a bad trip. Feeling fear is not a bad trip. A trip that passes through these experiences can be deeply rewarding and meaningful. What’s important is the passage. Your experience flows. Sometimes it flows through fear or pain. Beauty can feel more poignant and rich if mixed with some pain. The guide helps to remind you to surrender to that flow and be open to whatever the truffle has to show you.

The name, “bad trip”, itself assumes there are bad trips and good trips. But this false duality doesn’t fit psychedelic experiences just as it doesn’t fit people. People are not either/or. We are complex, nuanced, and we are also not static but constantly changing.

It’s also important to point out that it is absolutely normal to have these questions. It’s human to resist the unknown and for your mind to come up with reasons not to venture into uncharted territory or at the very least to want for reassurance before stepping off the threshold. It’s amazing how far a little gentle reassurance goes to recollect your courage.

Once you’re in, you’ll have survived the plunge into the deep. So, open wide your existence and let the current carry you.