One of the powerful mechanisms that psychedelic medicine uses to facilitate healing and transformational change is emotion.
The psychedelic experience reconnects you —often quite directly— with the raw power and feeling of your emotions. It promotes cathartic releases, joyous elevations, deep gratitude, moments of transcendence, or oceans of calm —a full spectrum of emotions.
How do you integrate these emotional experiences afterwards? What does it mean to reconnect with your numbness, your sadness, your capacity for anger, your endless love, or your boundless joy? Where do you go from here?
Together, we’ll explore several techniques and ideas to help you continue to integrate emotionally after psychedelic medicine sessions.
1. Ask your emotions what they need you to know
Emotions can be viewed as an ancient form of wisdom.
They are clear, powerful messages to guide and help you through life. They’re trying to tell you something. But what?
“Emotional integration is the conscious choice to feel a wave of emotion and learn from it,” Asha Urban, Mindbloom Guide Lead, says.
As part of a journaling [INTERNAL LINK], meditative, or contemplative practice, the first place to start is to reflect on your recent medicine experience:
- What did you feel?
- Why did that specific emotion arise for you at this time?
Sit down, ask, and write out whatever the answer is. You might say and ask out loud: “I felt quite sad in that session. Sadness, what are you trying to tell me?” Write out what the response is.
To help you interpret the response, here are some potential meanings behind the emotions that arise:
- Anger, anxiety, or depression may want you to know you’re not expressing healthy boundaries effectively.
- Numbness wants you to know you’re not engaging with your interests and passions.
- Happiness is a reminder of all that is good and beautiful in your life.
- Calm tells you that it’s okay to rest, that it’s all going to be okay.
If you’re looking for a place to start with integrating your emotions, sit down and ask them why they are present.
Express your emotions
Unexpressed emotions don’t just disappear. They hang out in your nervous system, accumulating “dust” or generating anxious energy inside of you.
You need to press the release valve sometimes. In terms of emotional integration, the release valve is expressing your emotions.
As you begin this exercise, it might surprise you just how much of your feelings you keep bottled up inside of you. Pent up emotions can lead to tension, depression, numbness, or outward explosions of anxiety or anger.
Ways to express your emotions
Make a list of all the emotions you need or want to express in your life. Then, begin to take action on each of them. You can feel yourself become lighter, and more in control, with each expression.
Here’s what your list might look like:
- Call my parents and tell them that I love them
- Share the frustration I’ve been holding onto with my partner
- Message my friend to thank them, and tell them I appreciate their friendship deeply
- Provide important feedback to my coworker despite it being uncomfortable to do so
- Write a letter to that bully from high school and forgive them, then burn the letter to release these feelings
- Make a noise associated with the emotion (e.g. sing, scream, hum, whistle)
- Dance or move to music that brings forth this emotion
- Look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m proud of myself
This is what integrating your emotions looks like. Understanding what they’re trying to tell you, and then taking action to do exactly that.
It’s not easy, go slowly at first. Expressing your emotions is a powerful path to integrating psychedelic experiences.
Feel your feelings
You can easily fall into the belief that you “felt your feelings” during your 60-90 minute ketamine therapy sessions, but that’s unlikely to be the case. Emotions and feelings that have sat unaddressed for months, years, or decades likely need more space to be processed and released fully.
It’s helpful to take intentional time to sit with yourself, and feel your feelings through to their completion. Maybe that completion is simply feeling them fully. Or maybe it’s feeling them until the next action becomes obvious.
“Perhaps it’s transforming your relationship to those emotions, and giving yourself love as you feel things which may be difficult,” Urban, herself an expert guide, says.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or dealing with emotional messiness from childhood events, carve out some additional time during your integration periods to sit with and continue to feel these feelings.
How to connect with, and feel your feelings
Here are some recommendations to help connect with your feelings:
- Schedule a few hours a week to do nothing but sit with your feelings
- Get yourself into this state by gently revisiting the memories or recalling your last session experience
- Listening to music can also help bring about these moods
- Allow the feeling and emotions to arise naturally, and take their course
- Whether crying, shaking, laughing, or dancing, play a part in feeling them fully
Most emotions just want to be felt. But we do our best throughout our lives to suppress them, to avoid them, to dampen them.
Taking just a few minutes to feel your feelings can resolve them completely, and you no longer need to walk with that weight.
Sometimes during your integration period, or in your medicine sessions themselves, you can tell that there is a powerful emotion or feeling close by.
If it’s not obvious what the emotion or feeling is, you might work with the Bio-Emotive Framework to identify this. This framework —developed by noted clinical psychologist Dr. Doug Tataryn — helps you match your emotions and feelings to bodily sensations.
Using the Bio-Emotive Framework
Sitting with eyes closed, go through a series of present, positive emotional statements, and notice if any of them produce a visceral, bodily reaction. If you feel a reaction, you’ve probably named the emotion correctly.
Sitting with eyes closed, gently say out loud:
- I feel anger
- I feel ashamed
- I feel guilty
- I feel remorse
- I feel helpless
- I feel heartbroken
- I feel confused
Continue through your list until something resonates with you. Once you identify it, use the earlier techniques to help see the process through to completion, by either feeling the feeling fully or expressing it outwardly into the world.
“Notice how each of these statements feels in your body: if there is an associated emotion, where the emotion arises, and if it travels anywhere in the body,” Urban suggests, “Work on noticing these things without judgement or ‘meaning-making.’ Breath deeply into these areas until it feels less intense.”
Emotions make us human. They are a symphony of signals, helping you know what is unresolved, what inspires you, and where to go next. Once you learn to listen and speak their language, they can be trusted fully.
To continue integrating your medicine experiences through your emotions, four common pathways are available to you:
- Ask the emotions what wisdom they have for you
- Express unresolved emotions to the best of your ability
- Feel your feelings to completion
- Use the bio-emotive naming system to identify hidden or unclear emotions
By showing up for your emotions, you can more easily integrate the content of psychedelic experiences. This will help you take action where you need to, and help your body and mind return to a state of calm, composed health and wholeness.
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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. If you are in a life-threatening situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at +1 (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.
Important FDA Safety Information
Ketamine is not FDA-approved for the treatment of depression or anxiety. Learn more about off-label uses here.
Side effects of ketamine treatment may include: altered sense of time, anxiety, blurred vision, diminished ability to see/hear/feel, dry mouth, elevated blood pressure or heart rate, elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure, excitability, loss of appetite, mental confusion, nausea/vomiting, nystagmus (rapid eye movements), restlessness, slurred speech, synesthesia (a mingling of the senses).
Do not proceed with ketamine treatment if any of the following apply to you:
- Allergic to ketamine
- Symptoms of psychosis or mania
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
- CHF or other serious heart problem
- Severe breathing problem
- History of elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure
- History of hyperthyroidism
- Other serious medical illness
- Pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant
Ketamine has been reported to produce issues including, but not limited to, those listed below. However, lasting adverse side-effects are rare when medical protocols are carefully followed.
While ketamine has not been shown to be physically addictive, it has been shown to cause moderate psychological dependency in some recreational users.
- In rare cases, frequent, heavy users have reported increased frequency of urination, urinary incontinence, pain urinating, passing blood in the urine, or reduced bladder size
- Ketamine may worsen problems in people with schizophrenia, severe personality disorders, or other serious mental disorders.
- Users with a personal or family history of psychosis should be cautious using any psychoactive substance, including ketamine, and discuss potential risks with your MindBloom® clinician before proceeding with treatment.
- The dissociative effects of ketamine may increase patient vulnerability and the risk of accidents.
To promote positive outcomes and ensure safety, follow these ketamine treatment guidelines:
- Do not operate a vehicle (e.g., car, motorcycle, bicycle) or heavy machinery following treatment until you’ve had a full night of sleep
- Refrain from taking benzodiazepines or stimulants for 24 hours prior to treatment
- Continue to take antihypertensive medication as prescribed
- Avoid hangovers or alcohol intake
- Refrain from consuming solid foods within 3 hours prior to treatment and liquids within 1 hour prior to treatment
- Ketamine treatment should never be conducted without a monitor present to ensure your safety