This subject is of great interest to anyone wanting to try a psychedelic substance – and none seem to produce more fear than magic mushrooms, LSD or ayahuasca. But what is this fear? It is, ultimately, a primal emotion dominated by instinct whose raison d’être is to try to help you survive life’s dangers. There is fear in the unknown – very rarely does one feel scared of something with which they are well acquainted.
The absence of fear is not courage, but carelessness. After all, one cannot experience courage when there is no fear to overcome. Yes, you’ll need a little bravery to confront a psychedelic substance, as it puts before you something completely unexplored: yourself. Fear is the training grounds of courage.
Truth and Lies
Why feel apprehensive in the face of psychedelics if you feel no fear when faced with actually dangerous drugs? It’s simple: mushrooms reveal the truth, whereas drugs only lie.
Let’s take cocaine as an example, which cheers on and reinforces whatever your ego believes. In fact, your personality truly draws most strength from situations in which you feel at your most vulnerable – at least for as long as the substance is in effect. The result one obtains is a reinforcement of that which you want to escape by taking that drug. The cocaine isn’t scary because it makes you feel stronger, safer. In this state, nothing is unknown, except for fear and insecurity which disappear behind a mask.
Magic mushrooms, meanwhile, display the psyche, or rather they are psychedelics. For many, it is akin to leaping into the dark, and so the fear that people feel is more than understandable. The fungi show you your psyche; highlighting your weakness; illustrating to you all of your contradictions; giving form to fears, both known and unknown. Mushrooms have the ability to convince you in an absolutely real way that you’re going to die – a moment in which many important realisations can finally take place. Studies demonstrate that the experiences of “death” with mushrooms are incredibly spiritual and a rich opportunity to learn, to which participants attribute a strength they feel deeply grateful for. A troubled trip is always a sign of that which you are desirous not to see. Therefore, recognising it can be the basis for understanding that which lies behind the difficulty in your daily life, whether that be in relation to your work, your relationships, or even your health.
That cocaine doesn’t cause fear is no great mystery. It will give you a false sense of security to reinforce the mask of your outward personality, behind which all is hidden. These widespread drugs only deceive us, while mushrooms tell nothing but the truth, because they show us things for what they really are.
Escape the Matrix
The choice between a drug and a psychedelic substance is like the famous question Morpheus proposes to Neo: blue pill or red pill? Do you want to keep dreaming or do you want to wake up? Want to continue with the illusion of a normal life, or dive into the rabbithole and find out how deep it really goes?
If you’ve started reading this article, and seeing that you’re reading still, I assume you want to take the red pill and meet Alice in Wonderland. But in order to do this, you want to first confront your fear – and that is what we’re here for. I can’t make that fear just disappear, but I’d like to make those hidden emotions come forth a little. Before understanding, the mind needs to know, in order to feed one’s all important courage and strength.
Looking Fear in the Eyes
Let’s give concrete form to that which scares us about psychedelic substances – let’s start looking it right in the eyes. The greatest fears most will have are just two: suffering – or even dying – and madness. Is there any fear greater than these? It takes a lot of bravery, but the bigger the challenge, the bigger the benefits will be in the end.
Why Do I Want to Take a Psychedelic?
In most cases, this journey is undertaken for the sake of simple curiosity. Many people have told me that their first encounter happened in Holland. You’re on holiday, so why not try all the things that are illegal at home?
Cannabis in all of its forms – grass, hash, space cakes – is tempting for one, and secondly so is psilocybin. Once magic mushrooms were no longer prohibited from 2009, the market expanded to include truffles and then, to a lesser extent, Salvia Divinorum – probably the name which instills the most fear in everyone, provoking worry not only in those who are unacquainted with it, but also those who have discovered first-hand the species’ potency.
Most people holidaying in Holland haven’t the faintest knowledge of mushrooms or truffles, obtaining their information mainly from Coffeeshops. Often this information is approximative in nature or simply read from labels attached to the purchased package. In all too many cases, the resulting experiences are scary ones and so Hollanders are, in general, adequately prepared to calm paranoid tourists – especially in the ER!
Today, magic fungi are enjoying a new renaissance, becoming generally better known. However, this social change is never quite sufficient. If you know nothing, you’ll feel no fear – it is a question of the absence of consciousness – but as soon as one discovers the intensity of something’s effects, one immediately starts to treat it with respect. If the initial experiences are entered into out of curiosity, one can understand straight away that these aren’t necessarily recreational substances – even those who do it for fun almost always have a chance to glimpse the unpleasant side, and sometimes it takes very little to veer from hearty laughter to dark, gloomy paranoia. In the majority of cases, these experiences are not followed up on as one only wants the vacation to come to a close – but also because we hardly feel at ease in the absence of Set & Setting. If you’re not yet acquainted with the phrase Set & Setting, please read more HERE.
The few who remain impressed by the potential they’ve glimpsed find themselves before a choice over how to best proceed. Two roads appear to present themselves: should one go down the path of recreational use, or should one dare to explore consciousness itself?
Now, there is nothing wrong with recreational use: a low or very low dose won’t bring you to your knees and provide some interesting sensory experiences. The eyes and the ears are altered so that which you see and the music you hear are often enriched by some very intriguing special effects. But if I seek only fun, the novelty that renders the first few experiences so special ends up wearing off. To rediscover that range of experience which is implicit in the recreational approach, I’ll need to up the nose, or even start to combine the mushrooms with other substances.
This is the route tourists tend to take with psychedelics, trying all of the substances possible without experiencing any one of them fully. They seek the experience of “combos”, or rather the combinations which allow them to use as many substances together as possible. It is a route which discourages us from feeling – it is dangerous, in fact, in that it lacks a certain respect towards the fungi and also towards oneself. Sadly, some have died in this process, and many others end up receiving hard lessons they’ll remember all their lives.
Augmenting the dose for fun is a road to nowhere, because mushrooms are not actually fun at high doses – at least by the common definition of the word.
If I increase my dose, I do so knowing I need to be prepared to take a dive into myself – and this dive increases in depth exponentially with higher and higher quantities.
But why take mushrooms at all? If it’s a now and again thing, it can be a matter of curiosity, and also pretty fun. But right after I’ve set an intention to discover the substance’s real potential, I need to gear myself up like a scuba diver prepping for the depths.
Rules for Reducing Fear
Mushrooms are safe. If we only respect the progression through which the quantity is increased, as well as a rigorous practice of Set & Setting, the experience will always be ineffable, but never problematic. In this document I have detailed everything necessary to avoid feeling any more afraid than is useful, but let me go a little further because I think the information I have to impart will be clear and useful to anyone.
Make a Path
The first three of four experiences serve to set the groundwork for understanding our own individual psychophysical responses, i.e. our sensitivity to the substance, and our likely emotional reactions. Any paranoia? Fear? Pain and discomfort in the body and mind? These experiences help us measure what kind of “dose” we can handle without risking any psychotic episodes, or “losing it”. That is the quantity one should be working with.
The use of magic mushrooms is a path discovered over time and, in addition, is a process of working on oneself that plays out even in ordinary states of consciousness. Meditation can be a good aid; take a therapeutic job; meet with a psychologist; or look into Family Constellations perhaps. In short, the fungi are part of a journey that we take outside of them, in which consciousness meets direct experience – they are but an instrument which opens one up to precious knowledge.
There are actually counsellors and psychologists who conduct psychotherapy with the assistance of psychedelics. However, they do so illegally and so risk going to jail for helping their clients to get to the depths of their problems, even though the efficacy of their methods outstrips that of more conventional therapy techniques.
I’d recommend that the law-makers catch up with results from experiments carried out decades ago now (from as early as the ‘50s). What they’d find are extraordinarily positive results with no side effects and the undeniable conclusion that these substances are safe. I wonder what we could do to concretely seal a legislative change, but in Italy we’re quite behind. One only has to look at the obtusely unreal prejudices people have here against something as simple as Cannabis. It’s not hard to predict that the US will probably get to that point before we do.
In the absence of the chance to work with a competent therapist, one must try a little “DIY”. A little discretion is necessary here: one must understand the substance one is using, and also understand the basic rules required to go forth without any risk to one’s mental or physical health. I dedicate many pages of my book to the principal mental and physical drawbacks – and this last very delicate one is often underestimated. The simultaneous consumption of pharmaceuticals is an issue that one must pay a great deal of attention to. Indeed, various over-the-counter medicines can have major interactions with the consumption of psilocybin. One of the most notable is that of antihistamines used to treat hay fever allergies, which one can acquire without a prescription from the doctor but result in strong interactions with other common self-medicatory pharmaceuticals. In the book, this subject is explored over an entire chapter, which also discusses some of the medical applications of psilocybin.
Jump Out a Window
People have asked me if anyone’s thrown themselves from a window during a psychedelic trip, convinced that they can fly. Is it true? Can that really happen? Is this something you should be wary of?
I’d personally be more scared of the prospect of trying to drive after a couple of Margaritas, putting myself and others at risk – but is this the Margaritas’ responsibility, or the responsibility of the drunk-driver? Are the mushrooms at fault if something bad happens, or is it down to whoever has taken an excessively high dose with no regard for Set & Setting and then jumped from a window in the midst of an episode? Attempted flights from windows are no more than urban legends – like the sensational lies about how taking LSD can literally burn one’s brain cells to a crisp – but the consumption of some psychedelics on the part of someone suffering mental disturbances is serious grounds for concern. Therefore, one should be cognisant of all possible interactions and risks when taking psychedelics.
Mushrooms are Safe
Simply put, in 60 years of taking magic mushrooms I have not died once from the effects of the substance. Peanuts, for example, are much more dangerous, being that they have bumped off many, many people with anaphylactic shock. Fungi, meanwhile, have done nothing remotely of the kind.
In summary: fear is physiological, especially just as you feel the effects of a dose starting to emerge. But fear is completely fine too, as long as you know what you’re doing. And what do you need to know? You’ll need to understand the mental and physical side effects, apply a rigorous Set & Setting practice (read more on that HERE), start off with a low dose and increase that incrementally in relation to your physical reaction. Once you and the magic mushrooms have been well acquainted with one another, you can try to explore even deeper within yourself with higher quantities. That is where the experience changes considerably – but you’ll see that the healthy fears you’ll experience once in a while are to be taken as nothing more as an occasion to excite your courage.
(don’t forget to read the WARNINGS here)