Psychoactive medicines are powerful tools that open the doors of perception, and, if used in the right way, can unlock cosmic truths and provide deep insights into the depths of one’s psyche. having someone to watch over you during this can unlock even new levels – confident in the safety of your surroundings.
The psychedelic experience can sometimes be a scary and confusing place, and so, for first-timers and inexperienced users, we recommend the use of a “trip sitter”. What follows is a guide for how to perform this role effectively. This guide assumes that you are capable of distinguishing between symptoms that are benign and those that are potentially life-threatening. When in doubt, it is always better to contact emergency services than to be responsible for potential bodily harm.
WHAT IS A TRIP SITTER?
A trip sitter’s role is mainly to be a reasurring and friendly presence during a psychedelic experience. A trip sitter is ideally someone who is a good friend of the user, and preferably someone with a strong background of experience with either psychedelic medicines or spiritual practice. Observing a person during a psychedelic experience can give deep insights into their mind, and so it’s very important that the user trusts the sitter, and vice versa. To be invited to sit someone’s trip is a great honour and an extreme privelege, and should be approached with caution and respect.
“He [the tripsitter] is the ground control in the airport tower. Always there to receive messages and queries from high-flying aircraft. Always ready to help navigate their course, to help them reach their destination. An airport-tower-operator who imposes his own personality, his own games upon the pilot is unheard of. The pilots have their own flight plan, their own goals, and ground control is there, ever waiting to be of service. The pilot is reassured to know that an expert who has guided thousands of flights is down there, available for help. But suppose the flier has reason to suspect that ground control is harboring his own motives and might be manipulating the plane toward selfish goals, the bond of security and confidence would crumble.”
A good sitter is experienced. A good sitter is patient, calm, and caring. A good sitter is on the same wavelength as the user, understands them and knows what they are trying to achieve by taking a psychedelic compound.
BEFORE THE TRIP
It’s important that, before the trip, you have made all the necessary preparations to make sure that your friend has an easy ride. Set and setting are of utmost importance when preparing a psychedelic experience. Trip in a safe, comfortable place. Natural settings are the best, like a forest or somewhere with some very beautiful scenery. It’s important to make sure you aren’t disturbed for the duration of your trip. If there are no quiet, natural places around, or if the tripper is a beginner, then consider tripping in a comfortable place that feels safe to them – like their bedroom. A psychedelic experience can be a long time – so bring a picnic and perhaps a book to read. It’s good practice to make plans for afterwards, like preparing them a bed or driving them home. If you’re out in the woods somewhere, perhaps consider camping out for the night.
Following this, make sure phones are disconnected for the duration of the journey – nobody wants to receive a call or message with bad news whilst they’re tripping. Whatever it is, it can wait until after the trip – so turn the phones OFF. Same with social media – if part of your plan is using the internet to stream media, perhaps you should operate the computer for whoever you’re babysitting.
Another thing to make sure of is that you have researched your substance thoroughly – by learning about the pharmacology of the drug and also by reading trip reports on the internet, so that you know what to expect. If the tripper is a beginner, it’s important that they consider you to be knowledgable about the subject, to keep them feeling reassured and secure that their sitter is someone that knows how to take care of them. Make sure that the drugs you are providing are the real thing – if you are taking mushrooms, make sure they are the right subspecies, and an appropriate dose for your friend. Make sure the tripper is sober when the session starts, and ensure that they don’t mix substances – although a lot of experienced mushroom users claim that smoking a little marijuana or hashish on the “come up” helps to relieve anxieties and calm down the nauseous stomach that some experience.
DURING THE TRIP
When both you & the tripper are comfortable and settled, give them their dose and explain to them that this is a place of no judgment – the space that you are in is their space, and they should feel free to act & express themselves however they want to whilst under the influence. As a good trip sitter, it’s your duty to stay present for the entire duration of the experience, and to give your friend all the care and attention they require, should they require it. In some cases, or if you are particularly experienced, it may be appropriate to guide them through the experience using meditation or visualisation. Alternatively, and this is usually the preferred method, you can take a more passive approach and simply be present in silence whilst the tripper explores their consciousness. In these cases the sitter is mostly uninvolved – except to perhaps bring a glass of water, or to provide a friendly, sober voice, should the tripper become distressed, anxious – or have any questions during their trip experience. Do whatever you can to minimise fear and maximise comfort & openness to the experience.
One of the most important things is not to get in the way. For as long as they want to, let the user dictate what happens during the experience – be it music, conversation, or activity. The worst thing a sitter can do is to constantly ask the user “Are you OK?”. Mostly, your role is to make the user feel reassured, to answer any questions that they might have about their experience, and finally – should they begin to drown in the waters of their psyche – it’s your job to gently swim them back to reality.
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT EXPERIENCES
If the tripper appears to be distressed or having a hard time, gently ask them if they need anything. Be there for them. Try to relate to what they are experiencing based on your knowledge. Reassure them that everything is under control and that you will look after them. Don’t pressure the tripper – ensure them that you are there for them if they need you, but otherwise, unless they have some questions or would like to talk, just let them do their thing (as long as they are not at risk of physical injury).
While under the influence of a psychoactive compound, it’s easy to forget who you are, where you are, or even that you have taken a drug. Sometimes, it can feel like the state is going to last forever. Assure the tripper that they have taken a psychedelic drug and they will return to a “normal” state in time. Although uncommon, it’s pretty normal to go through a spiritual crisis under the influence and everything will be fine if they just relax and let the substance run it’s course.
Occasionally, paranoia can manifest, and the user will lose trust in their sitter. It’s best when this happens to leave them alone and watch them more discreetly – hang back a little and don’t stare at them directly. Stay calm and don’t do anything to increase the user’s paranoia. Remember that your main goals are to minimise risks of physical or emotional harm. Everything else is a process that the user needs to work through themselves.
A good tactic is to change the setting – this can be as simple as turning the light on or off, moving to a different location, or even just wrapping the tripper in a blanket. Often this small change in environment is enough to change the user’s internal setting, and perhaps they can use this change as a vehicle to drive themselves to a more comfortable place. However, it is important to never forcefully change the environment or touch the tripper – it must be with their permission. Otherwise, you can make things worse.
Other things you can try include breathing exercises, grounding meditation, and singing! Singing works to calm trippers because the very act of singing releases dopamine in the brain. Sing, and you feel good, and maybe the trip will move in a more positive direction also.
An important thing to remember is that while a spiritual crisis is often not comfortable or fun in any way, they are a part of a person’s natural processes, and should be approached as a way of healing rather than a problem that needs to be fixed.
A FEW THINGS TO HAVE HANDY
A book to read – sometimes your friend will just want to lie there tripping and you won’t have much to do. Occupy yourself by reading, and keep an ear open incase the tripper needs something.
Water – something that everyone should drink a lot of. It’s important to stay hydrated even when you’re not tripping. Make sure that your friend drinks enough throughout the duration of the experience.
Herbal tea – a nice alternative to water. Chamomile is calming and soothing, whereas lemon & ginger is invigorating and energising.
Snacks – most people don’t like to eat a meal whilst they are tripping, but small snacks can be a lot of fun to try. Natural things like fruit are great, and everybody loves chocolate.
Toys – fun things to play with to stimulate the user. Glow sticks, science putty, a yo-yo, Rubik’s cubes…be creative! A lot of very mundane things can become both interesting and fun while tripping.
Music – essential! Psychedelics classically increase appreciation of music, and so playing instruments or playing a favourite song can really enhance a trip.
Things from nature – plants, crystals, pieces of wood and seashells all can be fun to look at and play with while tripping. The visual effects of mushrooms enhance the patterns of nature and can be both mesmerising and grounding whilst under the influence.
Creative tools – provide paper, and coloured pencils for drawing or writing. Sometimes the thoughts that come to you under the influence can be hard to express with words, and powerful imagery can be summoned from the depths of one’s subconscious.
AFTER THE TRIP
When the effects of the psychedelic begin to wear off and your friend feels like they are “coming down” from their trip, things tend to quiet down a little. This is a good time for conversation, or to listen to music or watch a chilled-out, pre-selected movie. Tripping can be exhausting and so it’s good to minimise activity during this stage. When bed-time comes, stay awake a while longer after your friend appears to be asleep. The effects of psychedelics can come in waves, and so when you think it’s over, it might not be. Stay awake near them for a time until you’re sure they aren’t going to wake up needing something.
THE NEXT DAY
Even the following day, and in the days or weeks to come, your job as a trip-sitter is not complete. Your friend’s trip was (hopefully) a powerful experience that you went through together, and you shared that experience with them – and so as a sitter it’s your job to help your friend to integrate that experience in their lives. Perhaps you remembered some of the things that they said whilst under the influence – providing after-care can be a way for them to make sense of what they experienced, and deep lessons can be learned from this. Do not try to force conversation on the experince. It is for the tripper to internalise and come to you if they need it. Rember fro, the quote, you are there to offer assitance, not force it.
With the help of this guide, you should have enough knowledge to be able to provide safe, comfortable experiences for your friends. Good luck, and happy trip-sitting!