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.

FIND THE RIGHT THERAPY FOR YOUR SIGN

Thinking about which form of therapy will suit your unique needs? Wolf Sister has some suggestions for every sign of the Zodiac…Image: Karolina Daria Flora

When checking out the right therapy for your sign below, remember your Sun sign only represents one aspect of your total being. Read for your rising sign (the outer you) and moon sign (the inner you) too to see what resonates. If you haven’t done so already, you can click here to enter the date, place and time you were born and generate your chart for free.

:: A R I E S ::
Mars is the ruling planet of this sign and is associated with the head. Aries tend to be over thinkers, thoughtful by nature but with wandering minds that can lead them to anxiety and overwhelm. Meditation would be ideal to calm those overactive thoughts but to sit still for any amount of time may not resonate with many rams!

Yoga literally translates as union of the mind, body and spirit, and this active meditation is the ideal remedy to balance and recalibrate you when overwhelm takes over. With this holistic practice, free spirited Aries gets to stretch, focus and bring you into the NOW.
Find it: Book a trip to one of the Wanderlust festivals and get your yoga fix with a side of Aries-style adventure! Wanderlust.com

:: T A U R U S ::
This earthy sign loves life’s comforts. Ruled by Venus, a planet of sensuality and luxury, the body parts ruled by Taurus are the neck, throat, thyroid gland, larynx, chin, lower jaw, ears, tongue, vocal chords and tonsils. When Taurus is experiencing a mind/body/spirit disconnect, it may physically manifest in one of these areas.

Aromatherapy Taurus loves to be pampered, and making some ‘me’ time with an aromatherapy massage while channeling the earth’s essence through the power of natural fragrance will soothe your spirit and bring you back down to earth (where your energy feels most at ease).
Find it: Get all the information you need at the National Institute for Holistic Aromatherapy.

:: G E M I N I ::
The sign of Gemini is articulate, busy, charming, adaptable, lively, indecisive, intelligent, sociable and spontaneous – in fact ‘change’ is a constant theme for Gemini. Ruled by Mercury, this planet governs the hands, fingers, arms, shoulders, upper ribs, lungs, nerves and nervous system. It may be hard for some of you Geminis to relax!

Qoya is a movement practice for expressing oneself through dance. This practice encourages creative expression through the body, by connecting to your essence and embodying your divine feminine and sensual nature. This practice is a great way for Gemini to channel your exuberant energy.
Find it: Qoya founder Rochelle Schieck runs retreats all year long. Visit Loveqoya.com for more info.

:: C A N C E R ::
This sign is highly intuitive and emotionally charged. Naturally empathic, those born under Cancer may have a tendency to over-eat (subconsciously) to protect themselves from harsh energy and stresses around them. When feelings aren’t channeled correctly and buried away, this disconnect may manifest as a digestive imbalance – indigestion, food intolerances and other issues with the Cancer-ruled gut.

Nutritional Healing will help you learn more about how food affects your body. It’s also important for Cancers to understand how our emotions affect our food choices and how the body processes food when we’re in different emotive states. With mindful eating, emotional and physical stress can be reduced. It isn’t about prescribing a ‘diet’ but developing a relationship with food that nurtures and nourishes holistically.
Find it: The Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida is dedicated to healing through diet and runs programs all year round. Hippocratesinst.org

:: L E O ::
Leo is ruled by the Sun and is associated with the most powerful organ in the body – the heart. Very independent, it’s important to feel like you are in charge. Leo’s love to rule, your mantra is ‘I WILL’. A big theme for Leo is pride. Your ego may demand respect and adoration, and when you’re feeling ignored or less than, this may manifest physically as back problems, heart ailments and lethargy.

Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta bhavana) is a meditation practice for developing compassion. This practice comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation; it is essentially about cultivating love. This meditation will help tame your determined and sometimes domineering nature, using the practice of compassion to go with the flow and call more love into your life.
Find it: Just log on to YouTube! There are many metta meditations for you to explore and experiment with here.

:: V I R G O ::
The Virgo mind is extremely organized and analytical, as Virgos have a strong need to understand themselves and the world around them. You prefer to channel your energy practically than through your emotions. The earth in this sign can make you relentless when it comes to solving a problem and getting a job done, which means sometimes you can forget to make time for self-care.

Counselling/psychotherapy will appeal to Virgo’s analytical side, and a good therapist will encourage you to tune into the psyche to understand yourself (and your emotions) better. This practical approach to removing personal blocks by gaining insights into the subconscious is a way for Virgo to be guided to a place of deeper self-realization and empowerment.
Find it: Talk Space is a new service that allows you to connect with a therapist instantly via text. Check it out at Talkspace.com

:: L I B R A ::
Libra is the sign of peace and harmony, diplomacy, beauty and aesthetics. Ruled by the planet Venus, Libra tends to play the nice guy and can refrain from speaking their truth in order to keep the peace. The body parts ruled by Libra are the lower back, kidneys and adrenal glands.

Art therapy is a creative method for self-expression, where the therapist interprets the symbolism that is communicated through the art created. The idea is that allowing yourself to get lost in the moment creating your beautiful masterpiece, your subconscious is freed to communicating your inner most feelings and thoughts. Art therapy is a great way for Libra to channel energy into creating something beautiful, while receiving insights from your subconscious for personal development.
Find it: You can find out more and locate an art therapist near you at Arttherapy.org

:: S C O R P I O ::
Scorpios are known for being mysterious, deep, magnetic and determined. A theme for Scorpio is self-mastery. Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, and this planet can influence the energy flow of the reproductive organs, as well as with the kidneys and bladders.

Kundalini yoga The word Kundalini translates as ‘coiled’, referencing a ‘serpent’ of energy at the base of your spine. The intention of Kundalini yoga practice is to uncoil the serpent and release the energy within – starting at the base of the spine (the root chakra) and moving it up through the top of the head (the crown chakra). Focusing on breath and movement, it is a mental and physical challenge Scorpio will find strength in committing to.
Find it: The RaMa Institute in Venice, CA, is a hub for the thriving Kundalini community and you can take classes remotely at Rama-tv.com

:: S A G I T T A R I U S ::
Sagittarius is known for being adventurous and optimistic, always in pursuit of higher knowledge and experiences! As an active fire sign, you would rather be doing something interesting than wallowing in your emotions for too long. Ruled by the planet Jupiter, the body parts associated with this sign are the liver, hips, thighs, pelvis and femur.

Light Grids is an energetic therapy that encourages you to release blocks in your life helping you connect to your authentic self. Working on a subconscious level to bring deep change and empowerment, Light Grids therapy tunes into your energetic blueprint and targets your core belief systems. Facilitating healing, alignment to your highest self and giving you a deeper understanding of your life.
Find it: Jody Shield is a UK practitioner bringing Light Grids therapy to the masses! You can also book a Skype session with her at Jodyshield.co.uk

:: C A P R I C O R N ::
Capricorn is one of the most driven and dedicated signs of the zodiac. An earth sign with a strong work ethic, Capricorn is led by Saturn, the planet associated with the skeleton, joints and teeth. When you are overworking yourself, self-care may fall by the wayside and tension may build up in these areas.

CranioSacral therapy is a hands-on technique that restores the flow of energy in the body. It facilitates the release of blocked energy and tensions stored in the body, relieving pain and associated dysfunction. Often used in conjunction with osteopathy, the light touch in this therapy encourages the body to relax and rebalance, enhancing flexibility and well-being.
Find it: The Breath of Life clinic in London runs regular retreats internationally, which incorporate CranioSacral therapy with yoga and other body work. Breathoflife.co.uk

:: A Q U A R I U S ::
The free spirit of the zodiac, Aquarius’s purpose as a humanitarian is to break the outdated paradigm and call in the ‘nu’! You are independent and may come across as detached, but it’s just because you like to do things in your own Aquarian way. Your ultimate dream is to always being true to yourself, never to anyone else’s standards. Aquarius rules the circulatory system, ankles, Achilles heal, calves and shins.

Sound healing facilitates healing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level with the intentional use of various different interments – crystal singing bowls, drums, chimes, bells and gongs. The frequencies emitted work on a cellular level, and with this form of healing you are lulled into a relaxed state while the sound frequencies wash over and through you with their healing effects.
Find it: Eileen McKusick is one of the leading practitioners in sound healing. Find out more about her work at Eileenmckusick.com

:: P I S C E S ::
The dreamer of the zodiac, Pisces straddles both the material and the mystical worlds – and sometimes this can mean interpret what they want to see. Pisces may be vulnerable to disappointment because they are so idealistic. Even with the talent and resources that they possess, their limiting self beliefs and low self-esteem may hold them back.

Tarot therapy may appeal to your ethereal nature. When life is mirrored back to you by the magic of the Tarot, it can be easy for your imaginative and artist sign to recognize the bad habits and destructive cycles you keep finding yourself in. Insights from a talented Tarot therapist can encourage and inspire in all the right places.
Find it: Our very own Louise Androlia is available for Skype readings internationally! Connect with her at Louiseandrolia.com

What therapy have you found works best for you, and why does it chime with your chart? Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and share your story

HOW TO FIND THE HEALING PATH FOR YOU

Ready to explore your awakening, but unsure where to start? Hairdresser-turned-Shamanic-practitioner Wolf Sister shares a simple formula to start you on your healing path…Images: Johnny Abegg

*Are you at a point in your life where you want to instigate some positive change?
*Are your usual pastimes or achievements feeling a bit lacklustre?
*Do you keep finding yourself back in a perpetuating rut?
*Are you curious enough to dip your toe in the pool of awakening, but not quite sure if you’re ready to dive fully in…yet?

Maybe the thought of making changes in your life seems overwhelming, and you feel like you don’t know where to start.

It’s likely you find yourself looking at others, and comparing your journey to theirs. But everyone’s path is unique, and it’s so important to find what feels right for YOU. This way, you can have what you think ‘they have’ and MORE.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my healing journey so far has been to break it all down into bite-sized goals. Think; what can you do NOW? How can you make yourself feel better today?

So write down some simple steps, and then play pick and mix, choosing one or two to start off with. Focus on what feels good for you, and at the same time be brave enough to step just outside of your comfort zone (this is usually where the juiciest life results occur).

Making significant life changes requires a certain amount of tenacity, surrender, and commitment, as well as a whole lotta self-love – these are the key ingredients for positive transformation. There follows below a simple formula to get you started…

:: READ ::
There’s a plethora of self-development books out there to help you find the healing path that’s right for you. I’ve noticed that the books we need will often find their way to us. Either by a friend’s recommendation, as a gift, the fact they appear in recurring adverts, or maybe simply by catching our eye in the book store. Books are a great and portable way of absorbing new information, and getting inspired about new ways of living.

:: MEDITATE ::
Have you been feeling anxious and overwhelmed? The quickest fix is to stop, drop (sit or lie down) …and meditate! Just a few minutes of regular meditation can help you develop more clarity and balance in times of stress and chaos. Meditation isn’t just for gurus and ‘enlightened’ beings. You can do it too, and you don’t have to sit in silence for hours to get the benefits.

:: EXERCISE ::
It’s time to get moving. If you’ve been feeling sluggish and stuck mentally and emotionally, physical activity will boosts those feel good vibes – a.k.a. endorphins. Exercise is also a great way of practising active meditation, encouraging you to focus on a single task and bringing your consciousness nicely into the present moment. Regular exercise can result in increased self-confidence, improved sleep, increased energy, and life vitality.

:: EAT RIGHT ::
What we put in our body has a great impact on how we feel. With processed food, the sugar high or full feeling wears off quickly, and will leave you feeling sluggish and low. If the old saying goes – ‘you are what you eat’ – what do you want to be? Colorful and radiating high vibrations, or over-processed and beige? You don’t have to become vegan overnight or suddenly break up with all of the sweet treats you love. Just start by adding more fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet and drinking more water. Now see how you feel and go from there.

:: SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX ::
There’s almost no avoiding our social media feeds, but is what you’re following inspiring you or weighing you down? Focus on finding feeds that light you up and inspire you and only then click ‘follow/like.’ This way you can make sure that when you’re having a bad day or just killing time, you’ve got an online treasure trove of good vibes to pick you up and keep you going.

:: HOLISTIC HEALING ::
Working with a therapist, in whatever modality you are drawn to (Counselling, Psychotherapy, Shamanic healing, Reiki, Crystal Healing, Tarot, Light Grids etc) will help you tap into unseen layers of yourself. With the awareness of your emotional/mental/energetic blocks these modalities bring, you will be better equipped to dissipate any restrictions that may have been influencing your life until now.

Having regular sessions with a healer encourages you to make time for yourself, escape from your everyday routine, and step into your soul-journey. How to find the right therapist for you? It’s easy healers on the Internet now, and lots also work via Skype, so you aren’t limited to people working in your locale. When choosing a healer or therapist, they should be someone that resonates with you. It’s VERY important that you feel comfortable with your choice, and there needs to be a strong sense of trust – so really listen to your gut.

:: WORKSHOPS/TALKS/RETREATS::
Time to find your tribe! At group gatherings such as workshops and talks, you are creating an opportunity to meet like-minded souls and honouring your journey by taking time out of your ‘real’ life to learn about more about the subjects that truly ignite your spirit. Your friends may not be on the same journey as you at the moment, but don’t let that hold you back. Be bold enough to go on your own – and be open to making some new friends!

As you embrace where your spiritual journey wants to take you, it’s likely you’ll begin to feel happier, and so the world around you will begin to vibrate on the same frequency. This is when the law of attraction kicks into action, and more magic starts heading straight for you! So make sure you surround yourself with all the things that inspire you, and people that support your healing journey. Don’t forget…THE UNIVERSE IS SUPPORTING YOU, EVERY STEP OF THE WAY!

What was the gateway to your healing journey? Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and share your story!