Optimizing Psychedelic Healing: The Power of Intention, Belief & The Placebo Effect
The Importance of Preparation and Integration.
I might not necessarily label it as a problem, rather something that is still lacking in shamanic medicine and psychedelic culture, largely because we’re still in our infancy when it comes to understanding and navigating the vast potential for these sacraments, tools, ally and teachers to benefit humankind.
Seekers are looking beyond the Western medical model which has failed many in attaining optimal health, to pursue psychedelic experiences intended for rapid healing and growth.
Increasing numbers of people are flocking to the jungles of South America to find shamans to guide them through an Ayahuasca journey, or to the Andes mountains to drink the sacred cactus brew Huachuma, while their are those who use various consciousness altering substances in the comfort of their homeland; with friends, or by journeying solo.
While it’s simple enough to book a ticket, jump on a plane, and drink a psychoactive concoction, the piece of the puzzle that is lacking for many, is resourceful, functional preparation and integration. And I don’t just mean following a few guidelines on diet, abstinence from sex, and avoiding pharmaceutical medications.
Assessing one’s internal and external environment with great detail, implementing sound structure and strategies looking towards the future, with specific actionable steps, can be such a crucial element in both the preparation and integration stages; especially when we’re considering the smooth transition between the two and the efficacy of effective, long lasting, transformational change.
There are many aspects to this, and a one size fits all model is hard to implement when so many people are seeking a variety of things from the psychedelic experience. I certainly don’t have all the answers, however on my path as a Psychospiritual Transformation & Psychedelic Integration Coach, I’m coming to understand how to better serve others on their personal healing journeys.
Without sound preparation and integration, one can still attain profound healing on their self discovery and personal development path; reframing unhealthy beliefs, and processing deeply held emotional trauma which can lead to physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual healing.
Even so, there’s a variety of helpful frameworks available to help guide us in levelling up in various aspects of our lives, which can certainly make it a little easier to avoid more of the potholes and pitfalls on the road to creating the reality we really want.
I fumbled around in the dark for a long time during my integration process, and whilst I’ve gone through incredible growth and transformation in such a short amount of time, it would have made for a much smoother journey had I known how to prepare and integrate with more knowledge, understanding, guidance and structure.
How Intention, Belief & Placebo, Play a Vital Role in Change
Something that has recently coalesced into a richer understanding for me, is just how powerful our intentions, beliefs, and the placebo effect can be, when it comes to affecting our potential for long lasting future change and healing across the board.
Just recently, I read three books in succession, which all played their part in being the catalyst for this deeper comprehension, and while I’d come across these concepts before, it was nice to be able to add science into the equation to solidify my understanding.
The books were:
- The Cognitive Rampage: A Scientific Approach to Self Discovery, Change and Life Optimization, by Adam Lowery.
- The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles, by Dr Bruce Lipton.
- You Are The Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, by Dr Joe Dispenza.
First off, I think it’s important to recognize a pretty standard progression of how we show up in the world, which was presented in The Cognitive Rampage.
Perception > Beliefs > Thoughts > Feelings > Behaviours
Our Perception of reality comes from our Beliefs that we hold about our self, others, and the world, which may be either true or false.
Our Beliefs will largely give rise to our Thoughts. And the Thoughts that we think, largely give rise to our Feelings and Emotions.
Our Attitude is a short term state of being made up of Thoughts and Feelings. If we have unhealthy, dysfunctional beliefs towards our self, others, or the world, it’s likely that our Attitude will be unfavourable a great deal of the time, which will play out in our Behaviours.
So we Behave the way we do, largely because of our Feelings, which arise due to our Thoughts, which come from our Beliefs, which make up our Perception of Reality!
So if we want to create change in our life, often times we have to get to the core of our beliefs to do some recalibration work.
Now while this isn’t a defined linear progression in all situations, it’s a pretty decent model to keep in mind while we take a look at both Lipton’s and Dispenza’s work, and how this all relates to both Preparation and Integration of the psychedelic experience.
Let's get a little bit science-y here for a minute...
In essence, Lipton explores the latest in scientific research to conclude that every single cell in the human body is affected by the thoughts that we think, which stem from the beliefs that we hold.
The way in which he teases apart cell biology for the layman to understand, adds great depth to the understanding of how our Thoughts and our Beliefs shape our physiology on a cellular level, however for the sake of keeping this article as short and readable as possible, I’ll skip the complexities and touch on the basics.
Through the field of Epigenetics, we now know that a cell and its functions are not defined by its genetic code, but primarily by its interaction with the environment.
Environment is paramount when it comes to genetic expression and how certain genes are either turned on or off, which give rise to health and disease, and how the cell functions.
We take in and process information from our environment, which gives rise to the mind’s energy - Thoughts, which directly influences how the physical brain controls the body’s physiology.
Our Thoughts stem from our Beliefs, and if we have dysfunctional, unhealthy Beliefs, this is going to play a significant role in how our cells function.
Lipton puts it like this:
“The conclusion is simple: positive perceptions of the mind enhance health by engaging immune functions, while inhibition of immune activities by negative perceptions can precipitate dis-ease. Those negative perceptions can also create debilitating, chronic psychological stress that has a profound and negative impact on gene function.”
So to live an optimal life of health and wellness, we want to be making sure we hold functional, healthy Beliefs about our self, others, and the world!
The thing to keep in mind here, is that our Beliefs stem from the subconscious mind.
“The subconscious is an emotionless database of stored programs, whose function is strictly concerned with reading environmental signals and engaging in hardwired behavioural programs… similar to a programmable ‘hard drive’ into which our life experiences are downloaded. The programs are functionally equivalent to stimulus-response behaviours… When a stimulus is perceived, it will automatically engage the behavioural response that was learned when the signal was first experienced.”
So to change our Thinking and our Beliefs, we need to tap into the subconscious mind and override our dysfunctional programming and conditioning, which may modify the moment to moment biochemical expression of emotions and feelings that arise due to our experiences.
There’s a variety of modalities to do this, and it’s never too late to tap into the subconscious and begin to reframe some of our Beliefs and Perceptions; The Psychedelic Experience being one of them.
Research shows that during the psychedelic experience we’re essentially handing over the keys and shutting down the parts of the brain responsible for our sense of self and personality, which allows our awareness to observe the workings of the deep subconscious/unconscious mind.
In turn, this allows us a much greater capacity to learn things from within that we cannot ordinarily access during our normal waking state, leading to the possibilities for processing past emotional trauma, and reframing past experiences and dysfunctional beliefs in healthy, functional ways.
So we have a very basic overview of how our mind's thoughts and beliefs affect our bodies on a cellular level.
Joe Dispenza explores the power of belief further, as he discusses how both placebo and nocebo, the positive and negative thoughts, beliefs and expectations we hold towards an outcome, hold profound implications when it comes to not only shaping our moment to moment experience, but our future.
He asks the simple question:
“If your environment changes and you then signal new genes in new ways, is it possible to signal the new gene ahead of the changing of the actual environment?”
And he answers it with a resounding, yes.
The two main characteristics involve thinking of a clearly defined healthy intention for a future event or possibility, paired with a heightened state of emotion, such as joy, gratitude, inspiration or awe - leading to a new state of being in the moment.
According to Dispenza:
“This process involves making a decision with a high-enough level of energy that your thought about the new belief becomes an experience that carries a strong emotional signature, which alters you on some level in that moment.”
In this new state of being, you’re essentially “bathing your body in the neurochemistry that would be present if that future event were actually happening,” wherein one will “start to embody the information, because they are chemically instructing their bodies to emotionally understand what their minds intellectually understand.”
It’s important to note that in these states, we’re tapping into our subconscious mind, allowing us to override dysfunctional programming at the core with more efficiency and efficacy.
This all goes back to epigenetics - the potential for genes to be modified and switched on or off, in which the research and data detailed in these books show that we hold the innate ability to regulate our own health at the cellular level by the power of thought and belief.
In this state, our brains and our bodies don’t know the difference between imagining a new state of being in the present moment, and the actual event as if it had already happened.
This is how one changes their own biology, becoming their own placebo.
If it’s not already clear where I’m going with this,
I’m about to lay it all out…
Psychedelics can stimulate experiences with the capacity to induce heightened states of emotional potential, much greater than any emotional states ordinarily available in everyday waking consciousness.
So we have direct access to our subconscious/unconscious mind, and we potentially have a heightened emotional state of being, which often times carries on for a time after the actual experience itself.
Pair this with a clearly defined intention for specific healing, and we could be expanding the possibility for epigenetic change and optimal healthy gene expression.
Tapping into this innate ability not only during the actual psychedelic experience itself, but during the preparation stages beforehand, and the integration stages afterwards, could lead to some very potent healing experiences, and is perhaps why a wide spectrum of disease and illness are seemingly being treated and healed through the use of various psychedelics and plant medicines.
Lipton draws from scientific research and states:
“Scientists have linked lots of genes to lots of different diseases and traits, but scientists have rarely found that one gene causes a trait or a disease. In the realm of human diseases, defective genes acting alone only account for about 2 percent of our total disease load.”
Yes, these substances themselves may be having neurobiochemical interactions in the body that induce specific healing mechanisms, but it’s entirely possible that we could be accessing our own innate capacity to shift our beliefs and the why, how and what we think; becoming the placebo that induces such profound healing and transformation.
A little more on environment…
Through many studies, it’s becoming more well known just how influential, even critical, healthy relationships and supportive environments are to one’s psychological health.
“Successful recovery from psychological trauma is highly associated with levels of perceived social support individuals receive,” writes Lipton.
Dr Dan Siegel, (creator of the Wheel of Awareness meditation, and author of several fantastic books on the brain and the mind) states that “Scientific studies of longevity, medical and mental health, happiness and even wisdom, point to supportive relationships as the most robust predictor of these positive attributes in our lives across the life span.”
This is all incredibly important to consider when reintegrating after the psychedelic experience, especially when it comes to having a great support group upon landing.
Someone’s internal landscape may undergo dramatic changes, however without sound preparation of the many challenges that may lay ahead, and without a supportive environment to embrace one’s change, there lays potential for the re-identification of one’s old state of being with the same external environment that they were once in previously.
(This all ties back in with epigenetics. Cells function and respond accordingly to the information from their environment. Healthy beliefs and thoughts - positive mind energy - about our environment, events and experiences lead to healthier cells. Unhealthy beliefs and thoughts - negative mind energy - about our environment, events and experiences can lead to diseased cells.)
Having some sort of understanding and structure pre and post ceremony, can really help to strengthen one’s mindset in being able to really ground in solid changes, and progress in a healthy direction.
I hope I’ve described this in a manner that’s easy enough to understand!
As I mentioned in the beginning, the entire preparation and integration process is incredibly personal, and is going to look different for each individual.
However having a map of the territory, and an understanding and the knowledge of what’s possible, as well as defining our own values, goals, actions, and exploring and clarifying the reasons we’re coming to the medicine, is something that is beneficial to all.
I’d encourage you to check out the above books to see if they resonate with you, especially if you’d like to gain a deeper appreciation for what’s possible through the power of belief and placebo, not only to enhance your personal growth and healing on the medicine path, but to recalibrate your own beliefs about what you’re truly capable of.
Drop me a comment below, whether you’ve already read the books, have something to share, or have questions to ask!
I enjoy connecting with the community and hearing what you have to say :)
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