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The other side of Plant Medicine Journeys: Experiencing A Disappointing Ceremony

​Psilocybin and plant medicine ceremonies have gained attention for their potential to catalyze profound personal transformations. There are many stories of individuals encountering life-altering insights, curing depression and experiencing spiritual awakenings after just one (?) session with the sacred mushroom. However, amidst the countless success stories, there exists a quieter narrative – one of disappointment and unmet expectations.


Not every psilocybin journey unfolds as a transcendent experience. Despite the popular sotries that a single encounter with plant medicine can fundamentally change the course of one's life, the reality is far more nuanced. There are several reasons why a plant medicine journey may end up feeling like a disappointment.


Practicalities


One contributing factor is the dosage and potency of the medicine. Too little may result in negligible effects, while an excessive amount can overwhelm the senses and lead to confusion. Achieving the right dosage requires careful consideration and guidance, yet even with meticulous planning, outcomes can vary. Welcome to the organic world of plant medicines, where we get to learn trust, and where (in my opinion) we get to learn that we have a choice on how to react to this organic unpredictability. But we'll come back to that!


Surrender


Another factor is the ability to surrender fully to the experience. Plant medicine journeys often ask for a willingness to relinquish control and follow the (organic) flow provided by the medicine. Embrace the unknown and let yourself be lead. However, this can be challenging for individuals who find it difficult to let go of their perceived sense of control - which is most of us!


Brain development and age


The developmental stage of the brain also influences how one experiences psychedelics. With the brain not fully matured and plasticity still intact until around the age of 25, younger individuals may have some more difficulties with integrating the journey. From the perspective of life, it could also be more difficult to integrate  or understand the journey, as generally, the younger you are, the less chance you've had to self reflect through different life experiences. We tend to learn more about ourselves and our (subconscious) programs and patterns when we are in situations that allow us to see them. Less years in life, sometimes mean less of these experiences. This is not disregard the experiences of the younger generation, as they too went through shit. The difference is that when you go through the same shit 10x you start to smell it slightly different :).


Self reflection and awareness


Furthermore, a sense of self awareness,-reflection and connection to self is essential for a transformative psychedelic experience. Those who are not used to self reflection and practicing self-awareness, or struggle to connect with their innermost emotions may struggle to find meaning or usefulness in a plant medicine journey. In my experience those who are open to learn about themselves, and life and are used to doing honest self reflection, have the most beneficial journeys.


Connection to the emotional and physical body


Moreover, plant medicines like psilocybin work more on an emotional, spiritual. physical and subconscious level, rather than solely a rational one. For people who are used to predominantly operate from a the rational/logical part of the brain, and have limited connection to their emotions and body, understanding (and therefore integrating) the journey may prove challenging.


What to do when your plant medicine journey is disappointing?


So, what to do when a plant medicine journey fails to meet expectations? First thing is to find chocolate (that's half a joke..). But jokes aside, allow me to offer some advice from my point of view - which is that we can learn from every experience if we wish so:


1. Instead of categorizing it as a failure, it's valuable not to dismiss the experience entirely. Labeling it as "a failure" or "a disappointment" confines the entire experience within one label or box – the box of disappointment. This is easy, as you can just put the whole box/experience away, but this is not how you learn. See if you can find some openness. If we take the box as an example, you would try to envision the different components of the box, such as its color, fabric, size, and dimensions. This creates room for different perspectives, philosophies and room to explore and learn;


2. Cultivate compassionate curiosity and acceptance towards. Acknowledge your feelings of disappointment – they are valid. Then, employ compassionate curiosity to delve deeper. Pose a multitude of questions to yourself without judgment (compassionate). For instance:

  • Why do you feel disappointed?

  • What were your expectations?

  • Is disappointment a recurring theme in your life?

  • Have you gleaned any insights about disappointment?

  • How do you typically respond to disappointment?

  • Is disappointment a familiar territory for you?

  • What lessons can you extract from this experience?

I recommend seeking assistance from a friend, coach, or therapist, as it might be difficult to explore this emotion, but so valuable to understand from your own inner world.


3. Determine how you wish to perceive this experience. Here we come back to choice, and that we can make a conscious choice how we wish to put away experiences. If we have disappointment as the emotion, what narrative do you want to attach to the feeling of disappointment? Was it a failure? Or was it an endeavor that you courageously embarked on, but maybe one that simply wasn't suited for you at this moment? Perhaps it serves as a reminder of the intricate interplay between mind, body, and spirit, or as an opportunity for further self-exploration and growth?

The possibilities for the narrative are infinite, and what it means to you lies in the choice you make. However, bear in mind that you are conditioning yourself – or your brain – to associate the emotion of disappointment with a specific narrative. If this narrative is detrimental, disappointment will likely feel more burdensome than if it's a gentler narrative.


Although I've written above within the context of a disappointing plant medicine journey, the mentioned steps are applicable to nearly all disappointments. Disappointment, in and of itself, is merely an unpleasant sensation, but we have the ability to reframe how we perceive disappointment within our system.  This might not be easy, but it is possible.


Ultimately, a disappointing plant medicine journey shows us again the complexity of the human experience. Transformation is not always immediate or guaranteed, but rather an ongoing process of exploration and self-discovery. A disappointing plant medicine journey sucks, but if we want to, we can use it as another way to come closer to ourselves.


I've written this blog as elaborate as I could, but ofcourse there are many things that are more nuanced or could be explained better. If you're looking for any guidance please don't hesitate to send me a message.



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