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Psychedelics & the Nervous System: Regulating Fight or Flight

Exploring the interplay between psychedelics and the nervous system, this article delves into regulating trauma responses, such as the fight or flight response, how the body carries emotional pain, and how to prime your nervous system for a psychedelic experience.

Learn the importance of embodying the lessons learned through the exploration of your own stress responses before, during and after transformative psychedelic experiences. 


Today, we delve deep into the intricate relationship between the nervous system and intentional psychedelic use. Drawing inspiration from a comment on our YouTube channel, we embark on an exploratory journey into how psychedelics influence the fight-or-flight response, sensitive nervous systems, and the experience of intense emotions from our pasts.

Our insights illuminate the often overlooked but vital role of the nervous system in shaping our psychedelic experiences. We highlight the significance of preparation, the power of the environment, and the importance of integrating our emotional, spiritual, and physical selves for a holistic psychedelic journey. 

Through engaging dialogue and personal anecdotes, we’ll address the nuances of navigating psychedelics with a sensitive nervous system, offering practical strategies for grounding and regulation before, during, and after the psychedelic experience.

Readers are invited into a reflective space to consider their own responses to psychedelics, as we offer a blend of scientific insight, spiritual wisdom, and actionable advice for harnessing the transformative power of psychedelics in a safe and intentional manner.

This article is inspired by our insightful podcast episode hosted by Psychedelic Passage co-founder, Jimmy Nguyen, which you can listen to on all streaming platforms. 

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Key Takeaways

      • Practicing nervous system regulation is a key aspect of preparation for therapeutic psychedelic experiences.

      • Understanding the window of tolerance can help individuals navigate fight-or-flight responses within psychedelic journeys.

      • Embodying lessons learned through the exploration of your own nervous system responses are vital for long-term healing potential and self-expression post-psychedelic journey.

      • Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.

    The Interplay of The Nervous System & Psychedelic Exploration

    The nervous system serves as a vital mechanism in shaping and enhancing psychedelic experiences, acting as both an interface and a tool for individuals embarking on transformative journeys. 

    The state of your nervous system can affect your psychedelic experience because of its role in facilitating the connection between mind and body. 

    A properly regulated nervous system may allow for a profound exploration of emotions, sensations, and consciousness during psychedelic encounters.

    An unregulated nervous system will have an effect on psychedelic experience that directs the experience towards the unregulated parts of yourself, allowing for a chance to work on them. 

    Recommended Reading: Psychedelics & The Physical Dimension of Emotional Release

    Fight-or-Flight Responses

    The Window of Tolerance

    The concept of the “window of tolerance,” can bring understanding to how individuals navigate the realms of fight-or-flight responses within psychedelic experiences. 

    This metaphorical window delineates a range within which individuals can maintain a functional state of being. 

    When individuals surpass this threshold, they may enter states of hyperarousal, akin to the fight or flight response, where heightened reactivity or response mechanisms come into play. An individual in a state of hyperarousal may actively work to get back to a comfortable state.

    Conversely, dropping below the window of tolerance can lead to hypoarousal, resulting in freeze or dissociative responses. 

    Through the lens of the window of tolerance, individuals can gain insights into their physiological and emotional responses, shedding light on how their nervous systems interface with the psychedelic experience.

    Hyper & Hypo Arousal in Psychedelic Experiences

    Same as everyday life, these arousal states can appear during psychedelic experiences. Individual responses can vary, ranging from animated and expressive somatic experiences to subdued or internalized states, where there may be a lot going on internally but there isn’t much expression.

    There is also the possibility of catatonic or dissociative states during a psychedelic experience, even though it’s more dependent on the type of psychedelic used. 

    Ketamine can elicit a psychedelic response, however being a dissociative anesthetic, has a higher chance of dissociation than the “classic” psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and LSD.

    Recommended Reading: What Are The Benefits and Pitfalls of Ketamine

    The Fawn Response in Trauma-Informed Care

    In addition to the well-known fight or flight responses, “fawning” is a well-known nervous system response in the context of trauma-informed care and psychedelics. 

    “Fawning can manifest as people-pleasing as a trauma response, as a nervous system response. It can also mean that you are going into a mode of caretaking and focusing on others.

    Oftentimes a response to trauma or to heightened psychedelic experiences can be this need or desire to actually focus on other people’s needs and things like that.”

    Shedding light on the fawning response in the psychedelic landscape emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and setting boundaries in therapeutic settings

    As a facilitator, Jimmy reminds his clients that he is self-sustaining and there in service to them. If needed, he invites individuals to give themselves permission to focus back on themselves and their needs when they find they are turning their focus elsewhere. 

    How to Prepare Your Nervous System for a Psychedelic Experience

    Cultivating a regulated nervous system through mindfulness, grounding techniques and self-regulation in preparation for a psychedelic experience can help to optimize it when the time comes. 

    By engaging in “practice runs” in an ordinary state of consciousness, one begins to understand their own historical stress responses and how to work through them to be able to re-center their nervous system in a range of scenarios. 

    Creating this “roadmap” of your own responses to challenging situations allows you to then give yourself permission to have these responses in order to work through them, and then hopefully gives you permission to receive support from a facilitator or service provider.

    Finding Practices That Suit You

    Tune into your own preferences and inclinations to discover what types of practices resonate with you. Some individuals respond more to auditory cues, while others prefer somatic techniques like deep belly breathing. 

    Some may find comfort in a more visual or internal experience, like visualizing a time and place where they felt more grounded or secure. 

    Regardless of modality, the goal remains the same: to create a sense of safety within oneself to effectively navigate the intricate terrain of emotions, traumas and insights that may occur during a psychedelic experience. In doing so, one can foster an enriching exploration of their unique inner realms. 

    Psychedelics & Sensitive Nervous Systems

    How Psychedelics Uncover Traumatic Residue

    The heightened awareness that’s associated with psychedelics can cause us to be reminded of the aspects of ourselves we might have disassociated with or locked away, that otherwise are very difficult to recognize. 

    This heightened awareness can be used as an excellent tool for investigating and working through the physical connection to emotional pain.

    Unpacking Psychosomatic Pain and Emotional Intensity

    Recommended Reading: How Psychedelics Help Release Traumatic Residue

    The first thing to acknowledge when discussing psychosomatic pain is that sometimes it is too painful to go back into the body, and that’s okay. Sometimes our busy lives don’t warrant the time we need to fully process before returning to our everyday life, and that’s okay too. 

    The important thing to remember is that that doesn’t fully close the door on meaningful somatic processing and the therapeutic potential of a psychedelic experience.

    Jimmy shares an example from his own experience with psychosomatic pain during a psychedelic experience:  

    “I felt in the psychedelic experience, like my heart was cracking open. And one of the things in that experience that was actually really helpful was that because it kind of cracked open my heart in a really meaningful way, it actually allowed me to release some trauma and some residue that was stirring around inside of me. 

    Now what that felt like in actual terms is, ‘Oh my god, am I having a heart attack?’ I was lucky to have basic first aid skills to check my heart rate and blood pressure to be like, okay, it actually seems like I’m physically fine, but there’s still this sensation, this pain that I’m feeling.”

    The conventional approach typically revolves around alleviating symptoms through medications or quick fixes, prioritizing the suppression of discomfort over exploring its underlying sources. 

    This paradigm of symptom management can lead to a tendency to avoid pain rather than engage in a more profound investigation of its origins and implications.

    Jimmy invites us to lean into the pain instead, in order to release it. The idea stems from Michael Singer’s book The Untethered Soul, where he described that oftentimes the process of releasing trauma stored in our bodies can be just as painful as when the trauma first entered our system. 

    Co-Regulation and Therapeutic Support

    The concept of co-regulation involves another individual, like an experienced facilitator, in providing a grounding presence for individuals undergoing psychedelic experiences. 

    Drawing on the idea of lending a calm, grounded nervous system to clients, facilitators create a safe tether for individuals to navigate challenging emotional and somatic processes with a sense of security and stability.

    Co-regulation offers a waypoint to return back to a regulated state if you find yourself feeling in over your head during a psychedelic experience. 

    Jimmy borrows one of his friend’s metaphors, describing the facilitator’s role as “that calm grounded rock in the midst of a torrential river.”

    Harmonizing The Mind & Body Through Integration

    In the integration phase, post-psychedelic journey, embodying the lessons learned and regulating the nervous system back to a balanced state is vital for a lasting healing potential. 

    “How can I return to center, how can I calm the nervous system through breathing techniques or visualization. 

    Finding that place of safety within that window of tolerance. How can I return back to center. This is a process that’s easy to talk about, but it’s very very different for each individual.”

    Acknowledging the complexities and individual nuances of this process, self-exploration, internal work, and compassionate self-reflection are key aspects in finding personalized pathways to nervous system regulation and holistic self-expression.

    A Comprehensive Guide for The Interaction Between You, Your Body, and Psychedelics

    With careful preparation and thoughtful research, you can ready yourself for a conducive psychedelic experience with intentional results.

                  • How Psychedelics Work in the Body: Use this guide to learn how different psychedelics impact different parts of the body, and leave with a better understanding of the relationship between psychedelics and you.

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                Get Matched with a Trusted Psychedelic Therapy Provider Near You

                Hi there! We sincerely hope that you’ve found valuable takeaways that resonate with your current intentions. To explore research-based education, stay updated with psychedelic news, and benefit from practical how-to articles, we encourage you to head over to our resources page.

                If you’re seeking personalized advice and are prepared to take the first step toward a therapeutic psychedelic experience, we invite you to book a consultation with our team of experienced psychedelic concierges.

                This consultation is more than just a conversation; it’s an opportunity to be matched with a trustworthy local facilitator. You’ll be seamlessly connected to our rigorously vetted network of psychedelic guides, ensuring potential matches align with your needs.

                Psychedelic Passage offers confidence and peace of mind by alleviating the burden of having to guess who’s right for you. If you want to discover how Psychedelic Passage can help you, we empower you to learn more about our services and check out client testimonials from those who’ve gone before you.

                Your healing path is uniquely yours, and our commitment is to serve you at every juncture. Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic assisted therapy near you in the United States.

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                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    1. Can a properly regulated nervous system enhance a psychedelic experience?

                    Yes, a properly regulated nervous system can significantly enhance a psychedelic experience. It facilitates a deeper exploration of emotions, sensations, and consciousness by providing a stable foundation from which individuals can safely embark on transformative journeys.

                    Techniques such as mindfulness and grounding can help achieve this state of regulation, allowing for a profound exploration that is both meaningful and therapeutic.

                    2. How does the “window of tolerance” affect psychedelic encounters?

                    The “window of tolerance” is a crucial concept in understanding how individuals react to psychedelic experiences. It represents a range of emotional and physiological arousal within which an individual can function effectively. 

                    Straying outside this window into hyperarousal (overwhelmed) or hypoarousal (numbness or disassociation) can shape the psychedelic encounter, potentially leading to challenging experiences. 

                    Awareness of one’s window of tolerance can aid in navigating these states, ensuring a safer and more insightful experience.

                    3. What happens if you experience hyperarousal or hypoarousal during a psychedelic journey?

                    Experiencing hyperarousal might lead to heightened reactivity, anxiety, or a fight-or-flight response, whereas hypoarousal might result in disassociation, numbness, or a freeze response. 

                    Recognizing these states allows individuals to employ self-regulation strategies to return to their window of tolerance. Techniques like focused breathing, grounding exercises, or visualizations can help mitigate these responses and facilitate a return to a more balanced state.

                    4. Why is the fawn response significant in the context of psychedelic therapy?

                    The fawn response, a less commonly known trauma response where individuals seek to appease as a way to avoid conflict or reduce perceived threat, holds particular relevance in psychedelic therapy. 

                    It points to the importance of self-awareness and setting boundaries, especially in therapeutic settings. Acknowledging the fawn response can guide individuals toward focusing on their own healing journey, rather than prioritizing the needs or expectations of others during a psychedelic experience.

                    5. How can one prepare their nervous system for a psychedelic experience?

                    Preparing the nervous system involves engaging in practices that promote regulation and resilience in the face of stress or emotional intensity. Mindfulness practices, grounding exercises, and developing a personal “roadmap” of one’s stress responses can be invaluable. 

                    These “practice runs” in ordinary states of consciousness allow individuals to explore and understand their reactions to challenges, facilitating a more centered, regulated state that can optimize the psychedelic experience.

                    Looking for a professionally supported in-person psychedelic experience?

                    Take the first step and book a consultation call with us today. We'll walk you through every step of the process after getting to know you and your unique situation.

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                    At Psychedelic Passage, we offer professional 1-on-1 guidance and companionship on your journey of healing. We simply can't sit back and let Americans continue to sit in silent suffering trying to battle mental health issues within a broken health care system, all while knowing that effective alternatives exist. We stand for the sacred, at-home, ceremonial use of psychedelics for consciousness exploration, which we believe to be a fundamental human right.


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