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Integration Tips
Ideas for improving integration of a strong psychedelic experience and/or crisis
by C.J. Barnaby and Other Contributors
v1.0 - Nov 27, 2006
Integration is the part of a psychedelic experience where the experiencer gets to take some of the journey back into their normal day-to-day life. It can take months or even years to fully integrate a powerful trip. Some tips and techniques for integration are presented here. This document is an adjunct to the Psychedelic Experience FAQ and the Psychedelic Crisis FAQ.

The beginning of a trip: Setting an intention
Setting intention is framing your experience, or guiding toward a desired outcome, or "programming" it. Setting intention can be as simple as stating inside one's mind or aloud what one would like to happen during this experience, or as complex as a personal or group ritual.

Some things that can complement this phase:
  • Writing down the intention(s)
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Vocalizing
  • Listening to specially selected recorded music
  • Looking at pre-selected photographic images

    In the case of a group experience, setting the intention together (as in an "opening circle") can be a powerful way to influence the cohesiveness or theme of the experience.

    During the trip (all dependent upon dose)
    If the person is able to manipulate tools effectively and their motor control is not too impaired, they may want to make a note of any ideas or concepts that occur, attempt to draw or paint, or otherwise express creatively. The higher they are, the harder this becomes. If anxiety crops up during the attempt to express oneself one way, finding another or waiting for later during a less intoxicated moment may be wise.

    Some thoughts:
  • "I personally like to have a blank notepad and a pen about just in case."
  • "Sometimes I like to speak about what is happening so I keep a recorder handy."
  • "A blank canvas can be so inviting to some paint in some spaces."
  • "Even when my motor control is lacking a pencil and paper is still entertaining."

    As the trip is ending: Considerations for the sitter
    Checking the person occasionally for personality recognition can give clues on how ready they are to engage in post-trip integration ("coming down" and moving on). Occasionally asking them their name, where they are, etc., can cue them to everyday reality. If these questions are causing stress, then they are not close enough to baseline to converse on these issues and this line of questioning is best left alone. During this period, care can be taken that they stay warm, free of anxiety-causing stimulus, and that they have access to someone if they want to interact.

    Some thoughts:
    "Once they give an answer that is concurrent with whom you know them to be, you can move on to gaining an understanding of what they believed happened during their experience." - Aquapan
    "If they seem to be asking for reassurance, remind them with an unworried, calm tone and few words that everything is OK! Everything is going just fine, and perfect. Don't ask too many questions, because it can be confusing. If they seem very agitated, gently reminding them to breathe from their belly can help." - Samanthe

    After the trip
    A strong trip can be physically exhausting. Taking the time to contemplate the "heroic adventure" can later become an advantage, as this is when new hard wiring of the self can occur.

    The sitter can help with integral changes in the person's being. Negative patterns may surface on the way back to baseline and can manifest many ways, from crying to absolute sobbing and negative word patterns about the self being spoken aloud.
    "I once heard a friend say... "i kissed _ and he was a good kisser!" and then went into abreaction to the memory saying, "shame on you!" as if being reprimanded by a scolding parent. A quick reaction on my part was to clearly say that there is no shame here and you can let that flow away with the river. The tension upon their face instantly eased." - Mist
    Once the person is down enough to express themselves, writing, singing, painting or other expressive arts can allow for greater understanding of what happened. The suggestions below don't necessarily come in this order.

    Sleep is key to recovery and integration. Not only does it give the mind and body physical rest, but it allows the tripper to let go of any paranoia and doubt they may be feeling after a crisis episode, and importantly lets the subconscious start dealing with all the new information they've experienced.
    "My dreams immediately after were incredibly warm and informative and it was here that I was able to process a lot of the information from the experience in a gentle and ordered way. (I ended up sleeping for 24 hours with a couple of food and writing breaks)." - Mist (after LSD and 24 hrs awake)

    "I wanted to fall asleep, I really did! But my mind was so wound up I was convinced that if I did fall asleep I would die, because clearly I'd completed all my karmic agreements and there was no reason I was still needed on this earth. That's how huge that trip was. Finally I took 10 mg of Valium to knock me out and give my brain a rest. I was still high when I woke up, but it helped a lot." - Samanthe (after LSD + P. cubensis)

    Food is necessary for both physical and mental grounding reasons. Fresh and good food and water are a great idea if the stomach can bear it; things like soup, fruits, crackers. After an experience in which MAOI's were used, it's important to avoid eating anything that is high risk (see Foods to Avoid). Experienced groups and guides prepare food before the trip so that the mess and complication of preparing good, healthy food is taken care when people start to get hungry. A pot of soup ready to go is used as a classic example of a grounding, but easy-to-digest meal for after strong psychedelic experiences.
    "Before I was even able to gather the energy to sleep peacefully I had to eat some food. Everytime I woke I had a ravenous appetite which I completely gave into each time, and which continued for days! I ate whole foods with an emphasis on fresh fruit and veg, particularly root vegetables (carrots, potatoes etc) which were recommended by a friend for their grounding earth energy." - Mist

    "My sitters had warm soup and bread waiting when I was ready. Even though I was still really looped, it helped mark the return to normalcy, and it also communicated to me a very important message of 'take care and nurture yourself and others; comfort is important!' I was very hungry and could have eaten more." - Samanthe

    "At a trance party once I was approached by a man who really needed grounding. He was spinning off into the realms and didn't know what to do about it as he started to gain fear from all the elements around him. I went to a friend's van and pulled out something as simple as a carrot and said, "Go sit under a big cool tree alone or with close friends and eat this whole carrot slowly". He came to me hours later and thanked me profusely for helping through that tight spot. I know I was only part of the help, as a lot of the grounding came from the carrot being in his stomach and the act of eating. His body was probably low on blood sugar and he needed something to concentrate on rather than his own fears and the slow carrot eating task was perfect for this" - Aquapan

    "I find that the healthier I feel the next day, the more I can take from the night before... there's less noise. And a warm meal (even a small one) and some sleep (even a disco nap) really helps with that. When I wake up and I feel like I'm inside of an old fluorescent light bulb -- everything is too bright and there's an annoying buzzing and flickering -- I get almost nothing positive from the night before. It takes nutrition, hydration, and restfulness to really be able to learn." - G.S.

    After a crisis episode grounding one's energy is essential to recovery. "Grounding" is making one's conceptual framework of oneself and body energies connect again with the earth and this third dimensional reality. Showering helps with grounding, as does bare feet on dirt or stone, a swim in a safe water zone like a river or at a beach, or simply having an oil and herb-enriched bath.
    "I spent a lot of time on the grass meditating and picturing red earth energy surrounding me and earthing all the stray energies I picked up during my adventure 'out there', and drawing all my own essence completely back into myself. Hugging trees also works!" - Mist

    "I used to make a point of laying on my stomach on the earth under a tree in nature where I could barely hear cars or city noises. When I lay there I imagined the earth's energy entering me and rebalancing my soul. I dreamed with the planet. It was always a cathartic experience to do this." - Aquapan

    There may be parts of the journey that have been forgotten due to the amount of processing that occurred. Writing out an experience can help in discovering all that happened during the night.
    "Write it down! Writing is very therapeutic and allows lots of ideas to be sorted out and put in order. Plus it gives some tangibility to an intangible experience. Writing it down preserves details and feelings that may fade over time. Writing it down is also a good way to share your experience with others who you may not get to relate it to verbally, and gives you something you can post on the internet if you like so others can read it too and maybe use it to help them integrate their own experiences into everyday reality. If you are into art... express your experience in whatever way you prefer." - Aquapan

    "Write things down as soon as you can! Do not put it off! You may think you'll remember salient details, but often they leak away quickly. Writing things down, even in sentence fragments or bits of descriptions of visions, has been a really important way for me to remember insights that I got from trips that reverbate with me to this day." - Samanthe

    Support in Crisis
    Not all experiences are free from negative emotions and thoughts. In cases where crisis (bad trip, freak-out, panic, etc.) occurs, it can affect people in unexpected ways. In some cases, people experience crisis in the company of others -- sometimes even their good friends -- who have no context for how to handle it, and who are not at all supportive or present to it. This in itself can exacerbate a situation, requiring more attention to the integrating at trip's end.

    If people are not aware of what is happening or cannot lend support during the time of crisis, it may be best that those people are taken to another safe zone so as not to become "infected" with crisis themselves. Otherwise crisis can escalate to others who are not able to handle it well.

    Sitters (or whomever is helping handle the situation) may want to explain carefully to others that to keep "whomever" safe and to help them it is best "whomever" is left alone until such time that they are able to gain full understanding of what is happening. Casual explanations like, "'whomever' is having a 'god moment' and needs to go through it alone", may help at this time. If there are volunteers who want to help the sitter then the sitter must assess the others as to their ability to assist in the situation. They have to be given clear instructions on what to or not to do (see Psychedelic Crisis FAQ).

    At the finale of a situation, discussion with a seasoned journeyperson is a good idea. Reflecting ideas off of them can help with understanding what has happened and putting it in context.
    "Understanding, love and support from others, particularly those who were there during the crisis was possibly the most important thing for allowing the experience to be a positive one. Knowing I had someone whom I could talk to openly and at anytime with no judgment, just love and understanding..." - Mist

    "It helps if you're able to talk with someone who has been there before as going way 'out there' to the infinite is a place that's hard to relate to unless you've been there, but of course any one friend who will listen without judgement and just offer love and support is great. Also, if you need to explain or apologise for anything you may have done (eg: really naughty or destructive behaviour following unplugging from consensus reality), it is best to do so in an honest and forthright way as soon as you feel up to it as otherwise paranoia can start overtaking what can be an amazing experience and very positive time for learning (if you let it). Don't expect too much of people's response or reactions though, just accept with the same love and understanding you want them to show you." - Aquapan

    Deeply negative stuff can come out in a trip, and once that zombie is unearthed, you can't always love it back into the ground. I think that there is a place for talking about the black marl that pours off the soul while tripping, and a sitter can really help with that. I think it's important that the sitter figure out what they or the tripping person can handle, and surf as best they can. - G.S.

    My personal belief is that negatives are best dealt with on the down side, not after a trip. Not while ascending. Ascension is not the place to set things straight. - Scruff
    Patience is key: attempting to articulate the breadth of the experience can be anxiety-causing if one's verbal faculties are not all the way back yet. If it's too hard to describe, it may be too soon to try to. This is where the sitter can be a huge help.
    Something that really moved me once when I was still really high but trying to make sense of it, my heart was beating fast and it was worrying me, and I shared this with my sitter. She replied, 'You're feeling your heart, like maybe it's too big for your body?' Her intention was to get me to think symbolically about my heart and love, I think. Framing a thought as a question to ponder, rather than as a set idea, got me contemplating a beautiful open-ended idea ("My heart is so big I have a lot of love to give"), rather than focusing on my biological fear response. Other useful things she said that helped anchor the experience for me were 'just remember, there's a beginning, a middle and an end' and 'if you get lost, pick one note of the music and follow it.' Which I realized of course once I was sober, is a Grateful Dead lyric." - Samanthe

    [For the sitter] "Go over the experience in ways that will enable them to integrate whatever happened to them positively. Listen for any negativity over what they have done and whom they may have affected and turn it toward the positive. Don't push them to acknowledge any commonly socially unacceptable behaviors that they may have been expressing throughout the experience. It is highly likely that during the intensity of the experience they were not relating to consensus reality in ways that are considered 'normal'. Keep steering the conversation toward a positive understanding of what happened to them; as at this stage this could influence their whole life. Be very patient with them and allow for them to express themselves at whatever pace they need." - Aquapan

    Seeking Professional Help
    If you find that you want more help with self understanding after a huge experience you can contact a transpersonal psychologist (transpersonal psychology acknowledges extraordinary states of mind as part of the human experience), local psychedelic elder if you know of one in your area, minister, or professional mental health worker.

    If there are serious emotional or psychological disturbances lasting long after the effects of the drug have worn off, please consider helping the affected person find trained, professional psychological counseling.
    "Going in exhausted and scattered will bring exhausting and scattering experiences."
    -- C. J. Barnaby
    The key to NOT having a psychedelic crisis is to look after yourself and your body. Although you may not want it to happen, sometimes the party has to end for your body to be healthy before your mind is ready to let go of the experience. The body and brain need to recover before you can intrepidly leap off into the universe again. Doing good for your body does good for your mind.

    Essential keys to all of this is are mindset ('set'), setting and dose. The mindset that you take in with you when you go, the setting you are doing it in, and the dose appropriate to the intention. Be clear with yourself and those around you, be healthy, and your experiences will be clear and healthy for you. Going in exhausted and scattered will bring exhausting and scattering experiences. Remember these are powerful tools so use them wisely with appropriate respect.