HEALING FROM TRAUMA WITH PSYCHEDELICS

Psychiatrist Will Siu, MD, is an advocate for healing from trauma from psychedelics. Currently a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD, he shares his insights into a very human way to heal …

When we think about trauma, we often go straight to war, physical, or sexual abuse. But as important, are the traumas of neglect, of feeling un-safe, of feeling un-loved. People think: “I don’t deserve to say, ‘I’ve suffered trauma’. But that’s BS. All of us have suffered numerous traumas in our lives.

When this trauma is unhealed and unresolved, this manifests as suffering—in our bodies and in our beings. And so we find strategies to cope. Depending on our genetic make-up, our family history, and our place in society, this might look like a cluster of symptoms that we call OCD, PTSD, or addiction. I don’t think about these as disorders. They are simply what our body and mind are doing to try to protect us. There’s nothing wrong with us—these symptoms just show us that there is a trauma to be healed.

We’ve been throwing medication at this for years, and it doesn’t work. When it comes to mental health, Western medicine has seen most success with SSRIs like Prozac for treating depression, for example. But they only work slightly better than a placebo. It’s silly when physicians say this is the answer.

In contrast, the data from trials on MDMA for PTSD, psilocybin for alcoholism, psilocybin for end of life anxiety, and MDMA for social anxiety, is better than anything else we’ve seen for mental health. But there’s still a lot of resistance to integrating these therapies, which I believe stems from a fear of these being dangerous or addictive drugs.

I also want to emphasize that the studies being done are using these substances to facilitate the psychotherapy process. It’s not the molecules themselves that are doing the healing. Rather, they are assisting the interpersonal healing process that we call “psychotherapy.”

When it comes to healing trauma, I think of the concept of “catharsis”—and old psychology term for the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. And three things need to happen for our bodies and our minds to release us from our traumas. There is a need for the intellectual memory of the trauma to be coupled with the emotional memory of it, and for this to happen in an empathic setting. Empathy is different from sympathy, when we might hear: “oh, that must have been hard for you.” It’s about really feeling that the person in front of you understands your experience. In many cases with empathy, there isn’t even a need for words.

What you’ll notice in my recipe for catharsis is that psychedelics are not in the equation. That a therapist is not in the equation. That a shaman in white linen a warehouse in Brooklyn is not in the equation. This is because we’re capable of doing this work by nature of us being human. Not that these things can’t be helpful, but thinking that one or more of these modalities themselves is going to heal you, is a mistake.

I believe that because of the way that Western culture has developed—with the breakdown of community, the breakdown of family—we’ve created the need for mental health professionals. It is possible to do this work on our own. When people are trained, there is a higher chance of healing the deepest wounds, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There are people who’ve been doing underground therapy for a long time—not that everybody does it well, including people who are trained to do psychedelic therapy. The key is to trust yourself and the way you feel when you are working with someone.

A psychiatrist named Stan Grof, who was friends with Albert Hoffman, who discovered LSD, has said: “The full experience of a negative emotion is the funeral pyre of that emotion.” This is an important way to think about healing from trauma. With psychedelic therapy, we’re talking about enhancing “negative” emotions and memories, whereas the Western approach has focused on suppressive therapies. Look at the categories of medications we use: anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety meds. We’re really doing the opposite of trying to feel every emotion through to its “funeral pyre.”

Western medicine and psychiatry are not to blame for this. It’s also an approach that represents our culture and where we are as a society. The emotions that we tend to suppress are sadness and fear. Interpersonally, and in self-help memes on social media, they’re thought of as signs of weakness. Something to be ashamed of, as if there’s something wrong with us for feeling or expressing them. I think the way we treat them medically is a result of this cultural treatment of them. Emotions like joy and anger, meanwhile, are very, very acceptable. We need to shift this if we’re going to do any real healing.

Using psychedelics as part of the Western medicine approach in doing this work is also going to take a change in society. These are evocative therapies. They’re the opposite of suppressive therapies. They evoke emotions, they evoke memories, they evoke physical symptoms. Hopefully in an environment that is conducive to healing. The term “set and setting,” coined by Timothy Leary in 1961, speaks to where you’re at personally, who are you with, and what is the physical space like. All of these elements have an impact on your overall experience.

Of course, some of these consciousness altering molecules can also be used to escape from our problems, including ketamine, marijuana, alcohol, MDMA, and nicotine. Again, it comes back to set and setting as to whether these things can be helpful or harmful. I’m also not saying these substances can’t be used for recreation, for fun, for creativity. We just need to not be fooling ourselves when we’re trying to do healing work with them.

The final piece I want to mention is integration. People aren’t focusing enough on this part of psychedelic healing, which I think of as the work that is done in the days, weeks, and months after the experience itself. In my opinion, the majority of the long-term benefits of psychedelic therapy is in the sober work that follows.

Real bravery doesn’t come from taking a third of fourth cup of ayahuasca, or five or six tabs of acid. It’s really about going back to work the following week and seeking to make peace with the coworker that irritates you. It could be calling a sibling you haven’t spoken to in nine months because you felt they aren’t as “enlightened” as you, and choosing to love them anyway. These healing interactions are truly where we find the long-term benefits of this work.

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Will Siu, MD , DPhil, studied medicine at UCLA, the National Institute of Health in Washington DC, and Oxford University. In addition ton addition to his private practice in NYC, he is a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD. Learn more about Will and his work HERE and follow him on Instagram.

DEEP INSIDE: READING FOR THE SCORPIO NEW MOON 2016

The Scorpio New Moon is an invitation to journey deep inside—so that we may emerge reborn, says Sandra Sitron…Artwork: i MANIPULATE

 

On Sunday October 30th at 1:38 pm ET (17:38 UTC) we have a New Moon at 7 degrees Scorpio.

The Moon and it’s message: “Cradle your heart in your hands.”

This Scorpio New Moon asks you to get quiet, so that you can hear her persistent whisper…Slow down. Study yourself. Prepare to let go of that which is no longer serving you. Be brave. Trust yourself. Cup your hands around your heart in honor and protection. Be your best witness. Hold space for yourself. Listen to the quiet, still, emotions that have been buried beneath “busy-ness” and action.

Your job right now is to Be. Your job is not to Do.

Every New Moon marks a new beginning; a time to plant seeds of intention for the upcoming Moon cycle. To visualize the manifestations of the coming 28 days. And the Scorpio New Moon especially is here to show us what needs to be eliminated in order to make room for the new.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Scorpio New Moon arrives with the season of Autumn in its fullness. It invites us to witness the trees as their leaves fall away. The leaves are ready to die, to decay, to go back to the earth. The leaves have served their purpose. The tree trusts this. There is no effort in letting the leaves fall away. The only action is to let go—trusting that the next cycle will bring new leaves.

Scorpio tells us about cycles. As such, it rules Sex. Birth. Death. Rebirth. You may not fully understand the cycle that you are moving through. But trust that you are moving. You may not understand why letting go is so important. Yet let go you must. This watery, intuitive moon is not about logic. So let go of logic and open your heart to trust.

But also, don’t expect to be shown the easy way out.

Scorpio’s ancient ruler is Warrior Mars, while her modern ruler is Transformational Pluto. She will challenge you. She will prod you. This Scorpio New Moon may poke at your underbelly. May knowingly turn your eyes to what is decaying in your life. She wants you to see what is ready to be burned and transformed. She wants to help you eliminate the old to make room for the new.

The challenge of this Scorpio New Moon is to explore our deepest, most habitually fixed emotional reactions. The emotional grooves that are scored deep into the nooks and crannies of our psyche. Want catharsis? Recognizing these buried emotions could bring a lot to the surface. Releasing them could set a fresh new cycle in motion. So show up courageously. Look closely at your wounds. Don’t shy away from intensity.

Look at the part of your life that you are trying to control. Scorpio rules letting go AND control. Can you loosen your grip?

Ask: what are your thoughts and feeling about this area of your life? Is there some fear there? If so, is the fear triggered by a thought? What is the thought? Why do you believe the thought? What proof is there? When was the first time you thought this? What was going on in your life at that time? Is there another thought that could replace it? How would you like to feel instead?

Free up some time this weekend to just sit quietly and see what comes up. Scorpio archetypes are the Detective, the Researcher, and the Psychologist. It is the job of all these archetypes to search and uncover. To reveal a hidden truth. Do this with your emotional self. Take a steady, close look beneath the surface.

Then slow down. Trust. Witness. Let go. Cradle your heart in your hands.

Read on for the cosmic aspects at play PLUS New Moon self-inquiry by sign…

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NEW MOON CONJUNCT MERCURY
The pitter patter of rain.

Chatty Mercury joins the Scorpio New Moon to help communicate to you what you are ready to let go of. These communications may be quick and persistent, like the pitter patter of rain. All you have to do is allow the message to come through. Mercury is bringing lots of ideas and new information. Areas of your life that you think you have all figured out may be ready for new interpretations. Get ready to start up a conversation with your highest self.

NEW MOON TRINE NEPTUNE
Finding your way through the maze.

Dreamy Neptune is in a harmonious Trine aspect with the Scorpio New Moon. This energy will help you open up to your intuition to receive a message from across the veil. The symbol promises that if you use all of your senses and follow your best hunch, you will arrive at your destination. Let your third eye help you navigate.

SUMMARY
You are ready to go inward. Explore your deep feelings. Let the unnecessary fall away. The leaves have fulfilled their purpose. Let them go, reflect, and prepare for the next cycle.

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NEW MOON SELF-INQUIRY BY SIGN :: For a more accurate reading, see which house in your birth chart contains 7 degrees Scorpio.

Aries or 8th House
What desires are you avoiding? What is blocking you feeling into what you truly want? What do you see when you lean into the feeling you would like to have right now?

Taurus or 7th House
Are you holding on to any assumptions about relationships that you are ready to let go of? Where did these ideas originate? Can you see how they are no longer serving you?

Gemini or 6th House
Is anything preventing you from making healthy choices for your body? What is one habit you can let go of this week that feels aligned with your goals for your health?

Cancer or 5th House
What is blocking your creative self-expression? Why are you allowing this to persist? How might you bring more creativity and fun into your life?

Leo or 4th House
Take a moment to tune into yourself and have your notebook ready: If your inner child could talk to you, what would she tell you right now? Is there a pattern she is holding onto that she is ready to let go?

Virgo or 3rd House
What is coming up for you mentally right now? What are the ideas that won’t go away? How can you pay attention Do you see any assumptions that are influencing you in relation to this topic?

Libra or 2nd House
What is blocking you from realizing your self worth? What limiting beliefs are behind any instances of poverty consciousness (“I am not enough / There is never enough”?)

Scorpio or 1st House
Let yourself breathe more fully, and see if you can get more deeply in touch with yourself. What is blocking you from expressing your unique energy in the world? How can you step past this?

Sagittarius or 12th House
What is the dominant feeling surfacing for you right now? What’s it like to feel this way? Journal on this feeling and then ask yourself: What can I let go of in order to heal?

Capricorn or 11th House
Jot down some hopes and dreams for your future. Who in you might interfere with your goal? (Can you give a name to the part of you that may interfere? Can you have a conversation with that part?)

Aquarius or 10th House
Where would you like to be ten years from now in regard to your career? Can you imagine how you might get there? What must you let go of to realize your greatest ambitions for yourself?

Pisces or 9th House
What deeply held beliefs have you found yourself questioning? How could you chose to see things instead? How could this help you progress on your spiritual path?