Psychiatrist and renowned psychedelics researcher Stanislav Grof refers to psychedelics as ‘nonspecific amplifiers of the psyche’. This is reflected in the name given to this group of compounds by the psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond - the Greek word ‘psychedelic’ translates as ‘mind/soul manifesting’. Grof states that the content and nature of the experiences are not artificial products of their pharmacological interaction with the brain, but are expressions of the psyche revealing itself in ways that are usually hidden. Therefore, in Grof’s view, a person doesn’t have a predictable psychedelic experience, but takes a unique journey deep into the realms of their psyche’s unconscious, which can be experienced as transpersonal, beyond the Freudian notion of the individual psyche, and indeed beyond the limitations of space, time, and the range of our physical senses.
Which is all to say that it’s almost impossible to predict the nature of the experience or its outcome. That being said, below are some commonly reported experiences.
Meaningful realisations may appear spontaneously. You may receive fresh perspectives and revelations about issues from your personal or professional life.
Psychological concepts you’ve understood intellectually may be felt experientially.
You may get clarity and a broader perspective on the overall direction and meaning of your life.
Experiences you have forgotten, denied, or repressed, yet still influence you unconsciously, may surface. This may expedite ‘breakthroughs’ as an adjunct to an existing therapeutic process.
You may have a ‘peak experience’, where you encounter the joys of existing without the fears, anxiety, judgements, and cultural conditioning that habitually cloud our perception of reality. This may grant an awareness of the risible nature of some of the inherited, socially-constructed stresses we unnecessarily impose upon ourselves.
You may become more attuned and sensitive to the natural cycles of life.
You may rekindle a sense of awe for ordinary life that might have become dulled over time.
If you have a terminal illness, some of your anxiety around dying may be alleviated.
You may experience your own birth, or have a transpersonal experience that transcends the limitations of space, time, and the range of your physical senses.
You may experience your consciousness as being part of a much larger field of consciousness, or you may experience yourself as being inseparable from everything else. This experience might have a spiritual/mystical quality to it.
You may feel less isolated and detached, and more connected to yourself, others, and the world.
If your heart has been closed, you may experience what it feels like to let love in.
You may instinctively and spontaneously release memories, blocks, or trauma that have become frozen in the body. A narrative may or may not be associated with this release.
You may gain a deeper appreciation for beauty in art, music, and nature.
On very rare occasions, you may experience very little. This doesn’t necessarily mean that transformation didn’t occur under the hood, so to speak. Subtle experiences often lead to demonstrably positive outcomes.
And, you may have an experience that is both noetic and ineffable. In other words, an experience that is deeply felt as true, yet one where words seem limiting when trying to describe it.
“I had an experience of tenderness towards myself, a feeling of true compassion I’d never felt before."