Updated: Oct 11, 2020
As psychedelic states become more mainstream, there are more examples of the healing principles being used to sidestep actual emotional maturation. This can happen with any practice when the ritual is given more importance than the work the ritual represents. Using substances to deal with personal problems, rather than directly dealing with fear and insecurities, is nothing new. This escapism is often described as Spiritual Bypassing. This is the habitual avoidance of emotional work disguised by the rhetoric of a spiritual practice.
Here are some signs it’s time to slow down on partaking in altered states and focus on integration:
1. A good party weekend leaves you positively glowing but by Wednesday life is falling apart. This is a sign of habitually ignoring problems by focusing on parties or ceremonies. It’s tempting to disconnect the cosmic message from the need to change. Start by assessing the difference between the world you see during ceremonies and the practical matters of your life. Small changes can help you bridge the divide.
2. Believing psychedelics are the answer for everything. Entheogens are amazing and can potentiate miracles for healing, but like other panaceas, they do not solve every problem. They are simply one tool available. Try filling your toolbox of skills with a variety of coping habits for addressing a myriad of difficulties. DBT, for example, has dozens of useful skills to supplement your life.
3. Not focusing on the here and now and living in a psychedelic world much of the time. This could include being overly interested in finding fixes for other people's problems using psychedelics. Even psychedelic practitioners need to ground into this reality to maintain relationships and pay a bill from time to time. Try being more mindful of the present moment, exploring problems and people just as they are without attempting to change outcomes. Maybe, consider holotropic breath-work or meditation when looking to take a break from this plane.
4. Being more interested in taking psychedelics than in taking action to change habits. An active psychedelic community offers many opportunities to enter an altered state and requires restraint to avoid being tempted to do frequent ceremonies. Constantly thinking about the next ceremony or trip leaves little energy left to take action. Working with a coach on integration can help focus energies on assessing patterns and changing habits. Identifying actionable items are an important part of change.
5. Being self-righteous about psychedelic use. Believing yourself better than others who choose not to use entheogens for healing. Healthy spiritual paths may or may not include psychedelics. The world is changing and the usefulness of psychedelics is being explored by new science for the first time. Extreme opinions hurt progress more than it helps when educating naysayers.
6. Overly emphasizing the positive and avoiding the negative of substance use. It is easy to focus on the “feeling good” assistance of entheogens at social events even though it can corrupt the usefulness of the therapeutic altered state. While social use can be therapeutic, a reluctance to focus on the less comfortable aspects avoids the space where the majority of growth happens. Most people report their most therapeutic trips were not entirely pleasant and involved a lot of uncomfortable feelings bubbling up. Difficult is not the same as bad.
Using entheogens as a form of spiritual bypassing is basically avoidance and repression. By avoiding uncomfortable emotions that arise in social situations, there is a repression of growth opportunities. Aside from delaying challenges needed for growth, there are direct negative side effects of psychedelics used in this way.
Unfortunately, the use of altered states for spiritual bypassing can manifest itself as more intense anxiety, worsening of depression symptoms between sessions, and may potentiate suicidal thoughts. The biochemical and psychological reasons for the negative after effects that are often ignored when spiritual bypassing. Listen to loved ones who express concern about usage patterns. One sure way to avoid using psychedelics for spiritual bypassing is abstinence in conjunction with an integration plan. A little sobriety can improve benefits from future experimentation.
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