What is Set and Setting?

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

Set and setting are terms used to describe the internal and external environment that is occupied during an altered state experience. The set and setting can have a huge effect on the overall experience. Setting is the physical place where an altered state occurs. Consuming LSD at a music festival can be chaotic, taking mushrooms before dinner with your mom - potentially disastrous! Psychedelics amplify almost everything, meaning that tripping in a dirty dorm room might become incredibly unpleasant. The internal environment, or mind ‘set’, is also amplified. Tripping the day after a break up might not be the best idea. 



Timothy Leary coined the term "set and setting", but how are they utilized to get the most out of a journey? Set and Setting can have a huge influence on the out come of an altered state experience. They can have an additive effect or become opposing forces during a psychedelic experience. 


Set refers to the current internal state of both body and mind. Consider how you are feeling both physically and mentally pre experience - an altered state will most likely magnify these feelings. If your body is sick maybe consider waiting until another day. Positive pre work such as yoga, meditation, intention setting and eating a great breakfast can potentiate how deep of an experience occurs.  


Setting refers to the physical and social environment where the experience occurs. It is important to choose a safe place to be a container. The ideal place will feel both safe and comfortable. A good setting will be different for everyone. Some considerations for creating this container are: picking out soothing music beforehand, a trip sitter (https://tripsafe.org/psychedelic-trip-sitter-guide/), avoiding crowded public areas, and not having any pressing responsibilities. I turn my phone off beforehand - my mom always seems to pick that moment to call.  


An easy way to influence both set and setting is to utilize personal rituals. These can look various ways but can include: using sacred objects, chanting, meditation, essential oils, prayer or flow arts. Anything that helps hold attention and intention can serve to magnify an altered states experience. A little bit of careful consideration of the set and setting can go a long way to producing the healing results desired.

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