Gissele: Welcome to the Love and Compassion podcastwith Gissele. Don’t forget to like, and subscribe to our podcast or write a reviewto see more of our show. Our topic today is on psychedelics and compassion. Using psychedelics to assist in healing is such a hot topic right now that we brought someone special to talk about this important issue.
Please welcome our guest, James W Jesso. Who is an author international speaker and podcast host of adventures through the mind, where he engages in dialogue around psychedelics and their role in social development. . His work is inspired by his healing path through depression, substance abuse, trauma, and focuses on translating the profound insights of the psychedelic experience into a higher quality of life
for both the individual and society. Please join me in welcoming James. Hi James.
James: Hi Gissele. Thanks for having me.
Gissele: Oh, thanks for being here.
Can you begin by sharing a little bit about what got you into psychedelics and how that specifically helped you heal from your previous trauma?
well My story with psychedelics goes through different phases. They were not, they were not always in my life with the degree of respect and care and reverence that they are now. they entered into my world early, around 14 or 15. if you don’t count the day, I found myself very excited and inspired by what magic mushrooms are.
James: When the police officer came into my grade school class to teach me how to just say no to drugs. but so I, my first introduction was early in, in my life. And at that time there were mostly a play thing that, mostly were a reasonably good time most of the time, but didn’t really have much of a giant impact on my life,
except for just a couple of cool experiences that were somewhat insightful. Later in my life I got into taking psychedelics in my twenties, as a part of a larger sort of relationship with drugs that was based more on escapism and being reckless and being hedonistic. at the time I didn’t think I was escaping and being reckless while I knew I was being reckless.
I just thought I was young and flying high and loving life and doing whatever I wanted because I could, within, within a certain degree of what I wanted to do and what was actually mostly legally available for me to do. obviously the drugs, none of them were legally available, but that’s a whole other story.
So, yeah, it wasn’t until, in, at about the age of 23, that I was coming through an experience where I had just found myself out of this reckless substance use time in my life feeling really damaged, and really grappling with a lot of things that were a cause of that lifestyle. But also we’re brought back up as a consequence of that lifestyle because making those decisions at the time was not a decision were not decisions that I was making from a very clear coherent, mature, healed, healthy, integrated place.
James: There were decisions I was making out of, out of a place of wounding, a place of sort of a misplaced sense of identity. And if I were to go back further, you know, behaviors in my early twenties being a compensational response to unmet childhood needs and wounds, and that have, I had incurred up until that point.
Um, and a lot of that stuff was sort of left up in me and um. being up in me, I was grappling with a lot of depression and anxiety. And, I was also grappling with the consequences of now having at some point developed a bit of a substance use habit, but also, out of the consequences of that habit a lot of sort of confrontations with the type of person I was in that time, which included a lot of guilt, a lot of shame.
And I ended up, you know, at the time I was also in a pretty dark place and I was, I was living in my parents’ house, actually in their basement having basically done this incredible life thing. And then just all it all came, crashing down and I’m living in my parents’ basement and I’m depressed and so on and so forth.
And at some point I come to the sense that perhaps, you know, perhaps although the way I was using substances was not serving me and the way I was using even psychedelics at that time, wasn’t really of any sort of. Allowing them an opportunity to really positively impact me in substantial ways that the sort of possibility for psychedelics to positively impact my life was not, was not removed it.
Wasn’t impossible. And so I somewhat paradoxically decided that I would utilize psilocybin to heal the sort of at the time, what I understood it to be the leftover fractures of my time using excessive amounts of drugs. And so it’s like this weird thing. I was like, I’m going to use drugs to fix my drug habit, which, you know, isn’t even all that, you know, strange if you, it just, it was just that I chose to continue using illegal drugs.
Cause if I went to see a doctor and said, Hey, I’m depressed. And I’m anxious. because I was using substances and now I’m confused and blah, blah, blah. They would probably say, oh, well, you know, here’s this drug, this will help with your depression. This will help with your anxiety. Or like, oh, you have some strange ideas about spirits or, you know, reality being more than what it seems or that there might be other dimensions of existence, which were coming out of my psychedelic experiences while you should probably take this anti-psychotic too.
so. Yes, it’s paradoxical, but it’s also maybe part of the course that to treat, to treat with drugs in our society anyways. And it was in that journey with psilocybin over the course of 13 months, where I went in pretty much once a month, every month, always under the full moon. First few times I had someone sitting with me and then after that, it was mostly just me alone, walking in the woods, meditating, crying, baring my soul, asking for guidance, receiving it, talking to trees, this kind of stuff that.
James: That ended up on the other side of it in an incredibly healthy and resilient place. Having felt like I had developed something in my relationship with psilocybin that developed something in me that enabled me, a happier, like a more stable foundation. Now this doesn’t mean, and I think this is an important point to consider.
It doesn’t mean that I took the mushrooms for awhile and now I’m like, perfect. You know, like, boom, no, I mean, it just helped me through a difficult time and gave me in that time, some skills that I’ve continued to develop on and I like everyone else. And anyone else who has been healed from psychedelics continues to be, you know, struck with life as life unfolds.
Right. But, they definitely really helped me come out of that time in my life and sort of occasioned what eventually became the reason why you have me on this show, which is my larger work around psychedelics.
Gissele: Brilliant. Thank you. I have so many questions. One of the most fascinating things that you have just mentioned explains the question I had around,the addictions versus using psychedelics and other drugs, for, for healing.
if you think of the drugs as a tool, right. How you use the tool when you are younger to escape, and so on, it didn’t serve the purpose, right? Like it didn’t help you, it wasn’t healing. It was just, it was causing down, leading you down a path of addictions and shame and guilt and so on, but then you decided to still use the drugs.
Gissele: It’s not like you said, well, I’m going to be drug free. Now I’m leaving drugs. You, you, perhaps it could be that you saw it as a tool and said, okay, but now I’m going to use it. For to go into the emotions to go into, rather than escape with it, with drugs, I’m going to go into the emotions and going to use it for healing and, you know, use it for benefit and ask for guidance in the process.
And therefore it was helpful. Do you think that’s, that’s the case? Because I think one of the things that I’ve experienced is I came from a family that really didn’t frowned upon drugs. Did not think anybody should take in drugs. And it was, you know, huge supporters of people, people being in jail for using drugs or distributing drugs.
and I used to also work in the child protection system where, where children would be apprehended if the parents were drug users and were neglecting their needs or abusing them and somehow, and so for me, it’s fascinating how, as a society, we’re shifting to see. You know, psychedelics, but also, you know, how could psychedelics and drug use be used to help and heal mental health?
Gissele: So to me, this raises an interesting issue and I was having this dialogue with myself in terms of, you know, how can you have drug use on the one hand that can be really helpful. And on the other hand, it could also be such a hindrance when it, so I think you’ve kind of answered it, but I don’t know if you want it to expand further on what I said.
James: I think there’s a couple of lines there that I find interesting. I don’t actually think psychedelics are tools, but this would be getting more into my sort of spiritual perspective on things, I believe that, you know, So let’s say psilocybin mushrooms.
I don’t know about the chemical I’m going to save like just the chemicals, synthetic, whatever. I’ll save my opinion on that. I’m not decided, but the mushrooms themselves or a plant or a fungi, you know, so they’re a once living organism that we harvest or we cultivate and we then consume and experience the biological and psychological consequences of that living organism.
And to me, I don’t see living organisms as being tools. We could think of them as tools, although it is dead, you know, it’s dry what we could think of them as tools. But when we think of something as a tool and I take this specific description from someone I look up to named Stephen Jenkinson, you know, a tool is an extension of a human of the human hand.
And in that sense, also an extension of the human will. And when we see psychedelics or say mushrooms or Ayahuasca or something like this as tool. And it’s a very popular language tools for psychotherapy tools, for healing tools, for transformation tools, for the betterment of well people. What we’re basically saying is that these things, what they are is an extension of human will, they’re an extension of the human hand and that is all.
And to me, this is very anthropocentric and very narrow-minded. And, uh, the sense of superiority that comes with such a claim, um, is likely behind the various levels of crisis that we face right now, ecologically, and even economically in a number of other things because of how human superiority and all of the world exists, basically asked to find by what we want from it.
James: Rather than what it might want or need onto itself. Not that I’m claiming I know what the mushrooms want or need, but it’s just a question, you know, if I, if I have an ox, right. And that ox has a plow attached to the back of it, right. That plow is a tool. But as the Ox tool, you know, so maybe the psychotherapy is a tool, but is the mushroom a tool?
So that’s one inquiry. I have non answer, just an inquiry, a line. Another line is about context of use. And it’s funny how in society, we have drugs, right? And I say drugs. And depending on the context of the statement, you think of a number of different things you think of, you know, a doctor medication, you know, anywhere between a set of medicine and haloperidol at all, you know, you, you think of a doctor.
and medication. There you go. Right. And then even if you think oxycodone, you could be thinking like, wow, an incredible painkiller to help people who are struggling with a lot of pain or you could be thinking, you know, 15 year olds dying on the street.
James: Right. And so with drugs, you could also think, yeah, alcohol good times,
Alcohol cigarettes, coffee, drugs. Yeah. There, yeah. There you go. Nothing wrong with that really context. Or you could think, you know, the horrid, the horrible, the junkie, you know, this, this caricature that we have in society, which I believe is as much a, a stereotypical description, which is to say that the way society characterized the junkie encourages people to be junkies as much as it encourages a stereotype of junkie in order to scapegoat.
The large, vast complexities of what drug use actually is, which is not as easy as good and bad drugs, certainly. and so that’s another line of wondering. So when I think about something that you asked me there about how the drugs were different based on how I was using them differently, of course, you know, Dennis McKenna, excuse me, I believe it’s Dennis McKenna.
He’s, a very well-established comment or researcher academic in psychedelics in this space, especially ethnobotany says, you know, there are no good or bad drugs. Drugs are not good or bad. They’re not moralistic. You know, there’s what makes it good or bad is how we use it. The context in which we use it and the context in which we use it to finding a good or bad is defined by what are the morals and ethics of thesocial.
Cultural context. Right? So for example, you know, it’s, it’s, if you talk to some people they say it’s okay to be on Percocet benzodiazepine drink alcohol smoke cigarettes and consume unbelievable amounts of sugar.
And you can still have your kids. And as long as it’s under a doctor’s approval, you know, it’s all good and dandy, right. And perhaps it is, but you have somebody who doesn’t use any of those, but they eat psilocybin mushrooms once a month under the full moon to go into a healing reverie with themselves in the forest and the spirit of the mushroom.
And all of a sudden this person shouldn’t have their child. Obviously they’re dangerous. Obviously they’re a drug user. So it’s, it’s this weird complex sort of dance society has with its, I’d say hang ups, you know, hang ups around drugs, just like it has had and continues to have hangups around sex, around sexual orientation, around gender identity, gender expression.
You know, there are all these hangups that we have as a society that we create these moralistic divides as to what’s good. And what’s bad now in so far as actual drug use in a person’s life, you know, and addiction, I leaned towards Gabor Mate. Gabor Mate defines addiction. Something like, you know, any action that provides short-term positive benefit, but causes long-term positive detriment that you cannot stop repeating the action or something like this, which is to say, you know, if you think about an addiction, first thought most people have is why do you have this addiction?
While if you ask somebody why they use something, say why they use. Heroin, for example, they might say, well, it alleviates pain. It helps me not feel depressed. It helps me feel like I am like, I can escape my suffering. It helps me feel happy. It helps me feel relaxed. Well, well, what’s wrong with any of those things.
There’s nothing really wrong with wanting those things, right? So the question is not why the addiction, the question is why the pain. Now there’s Gabor Mate, why the pain, right? And so then an addiction is something say in a way that we’re addressing pain or trauma or compensating in some way or another, for a disposition emotionally or otherwise, that we don’t want to, or are not capable of handling for any number of possible reasons, likely because it really is too much for one person to grapple with, you know?
and we reached to things that provide us short-term immediate and reliable relief because long-term damage. Then we could get into discussions about physiological dependence, which comes hand in hand with some addiction, but not necessarily. So when I look back on my substance use, then I think that there could have been a lot of positive benefit and there was a lot of positive benefit.
James: I had a lot of fun. I made a lot of friends. I did some cool stuff at great conversations. I changed as a person, and yet there was something else in the context of my use, which was that I wasn’t able to recognize nor capable of altering my behavior in a way that stopped the other side of that short term gain.
I had the short term gain and the hangout, all these positive things, but all these negative things were happening and the negative just built up and built up and built up. And so I just kept taking more and more and more to try to sort of compensate for the negative and stay in the positive. And I was getting positive, but I was also getting negative and the negative was never being addressed.
and then hit a point in my life where I was like, okay, it was actually LSD. That was like, you’re addicted to drugs. And I had to like, oh shit, oh no, I can’t help. But acknowledge that. That’s true. And you know, it changed the course of, of my, of my use of the time.
James: And then stepping into mushrooms. I didn’t say I’m going to step into my, I’m going to, I’m going to use this mushroom as a tool to facilitate my healing I had no idea what I was doing. I just trusted that the mushroom possibly could show me something beautiful.
And I just said, you know, Where where’s the hurting and show me how to heal. And I just did that. And part of it was also the healing, but it was also coming to understand psychologically what type of mindset, context best encouraged me to dip into the type of experiences that I could then with a similar mindset context, bring into the rest of my life in a way that those positive transformational experiences actually became positive transformations, which took time to learn, which is what we talk about now is integration in psychedelic culture or the psychedelic field, which was not really much of a thing that was talked about 10 years ago.
It’s all the rage now, but, that was something I was figuring out along the lines and all of it had to do with a shift in why? In the why? You know, and, and then when that why shifted all of a sudden something else was possible. And I, believe what was possible is that w what is the mushroom.
Inclination for us. I don’t really know, but I assume it’s inclination to us as to decompose the shadow when free sort of pent up emotional, psychological, resources from having to constantly be holding feelings down and, you know, maintaining strategies to both protect ourselves from feeling feelings while also protecting other people from inciting feelings while also constantly being hypervigilant in a way that distorts your behavior only creates scenarios for feel those feelings even more to then feed into the process that they can break that down and liberate all of that.
And from there we can step into something or beautiful with something insightful, revealing or healing out of, out of that. And the context of saying I’m ready, I’m here was the way in which I allowed it to open up to me. and so I, I said a lot there, but yes, the, the way in which I chose. To shift my understanding of why and what it was.
I was interacting with, changed the experience that it was offering me and shifted it from something that was negatively impacting me, sort of net negative to something that was net positive.
Gissele: I loved what you said about your, why you started to understand why and what you were using. and again, like I agree with that, the premise that there is no good or bad, it’s how we, interpret it, how our perspective on it and how the perspective of the systems we’ve created, Is there a difference between, and I’m sorry, you have to forgive my lack of knowledge between you would say like natural drugs, like Iowasca and mushrooms versus, you know, like cocaine and these other drugs that are maybe more manufactured in terms of helping you on the healing journey.
James: That is a highly contentious discussion in the, in the psychedelic culture, and field and people land in different sides of it. And some people say, you know, a chemicals chemical, and the question is really like, what does it do? Can we use it safely? What harms inherently does it have, or not have both from a actual effect of the chemical and also from a, where does that chemical come from?
What is the industry that brings it you know, questioning about the harms and, and can the cost-gain analysis of the benefit optimization harm reduction process develop more benefit than harm. And if so, you know, it’s about that. It’s not about organic versus synthetic, that that’s kind of a fallacy in a way, you know, chemical, the chemical, there’s no difference. Now in that you can maybe say, you know, synthetic pure psilocybin versus psilocybin, it comes from a mushroom. You know, there are other metabolites in that mushroom that might be influencing the experience such as mushrooms contain small amounts of, of a class of chemicals called beta carbolines.
it could be changing things, different variations of psilocybin and psilocin. Those are the active alkaloids and magic mushrooms where psilocybin becomes psilocin, psilocin is what gets you high.
James: So, oh yeah. It’s different between mushrooms and synthetic because there are these other compounds, but then there’s another question about that too, which is like, is a plant more than just its chemical constituents, you know, is the fact that we’re not able to easily empathize or recognize intelligence in a non mammal species mean that there isn’t a, there, there that would warrant, perhaps something that might.
Arise subjectively in the con in the consumption or any sense engagement with that plant or fungi. And in that case, probably there is a difference, you know, and of course, there’s, there’s an obvious difference between what psilocybin does to the brain and what cocaine does to the brain, you know, and then even cocaine.
I mean, cocaine comes from the coca plant. It’s not a, it’s not chemically synthesize. It’s very easy to extract. You could go to, you could go buy some coca leaf tea from somewhere in central and south America. Cause you can’t really buy it in north America, you know? And you can just mix it with a little bit of water and a little bit of baking soda and you extract the cocaine hydrochloride.
It’s very easy. I mean, not enough to do a fat Hollywood line or anything, but like enough to sort of increase its effect on you. There are a lot of factors that there are a lot of factors to consider there that are contentious and complex. but I would, I would say that there is something available to us as people, and as people working with psychedelic substances or substances in general, if we keep in mind that these things that we’re interacting with come from a natural landscape and that they are, or at least once we’re alive and they came from a landscape that was, or is, or once was alive and that we are in communion and connection with that place, that land, that those plants, You know, there’s something valuable there to say, like, actually I’m a part of something. Something larger than myself, something like the planet and there’s a connection piece as well.
But when it comes down to what does or does not sort of help a person get through difficulty, get through trauma, get through illness, get through, you know, just get through the difficult times that we’ve all been faced with right now. You know, it really comes down to the individual as to what, what, and in what ways, do substances of all possible varieties, be the naturally plant derived or not, influence our ability to get through these things positively or negatively, you know, over the short term, medium term and longterm.
obviously there’s no clear cut answers here because it’s different for everybody.
Gissele: Thank you for that. I was thinking about, I had recently heard of a study that trees communicate with one another. And so, I believe it is it’s an elephant comes and tries to eat the leaves. The tree will communicate with the other trees and then they will release this toxic.so the elephants will have to go further out.
And so it does make you think it brings a greater awareness in terms of how we define living in how we interact with our world. So it’s fascinating.
James: Well, to add to that is that the trees don’t necessarily communicate with each other.
They communicate through the medium. That is the Michael Risal fungal network, which is, you know, mushrooms. Okay. You see a mushroom, you’re like, oh, that’s a mushroom. Washrooms are part of a larger kingdom called fungi. Fungi include mushrooms, yeasts, molds, lichens, lichens, actually being a symbiotic life form between at least analogy and a fungi and some other things too.
And yeah. Thinking of a mushroom in particular, you know, the mushroom is not the organism and the mushroom is just the fruiting body of the organism. The organism is actually this sort of web that looks like a neural network. If you’ve ever seen a neural network, it’s like that it’s three-dimensional web of sometimes thousands, millions, or more connections that are the organism that exists under the soil.
And the mushroom is just it’s fruiting. and budding, the mushroom is sort of like what it puts up into the world so that it can spread it spores like seeds to go out into the world and to get back into the soil and lay new what’s called Hi-Fi, which I’m fine, others, and then become a mycelial network. So they grow and mycorrhizal fungi are fungi that exist under the ground and are interwoven.
Into and through the root structure of plants, such as trees and extend throughout the forest floor. And it is through the trees relationship with the mycorrhizal fungi fungal network that allows the trees to communicate and share nutrients between the fungi and the trees, so that it’s symbiotically mutually beneficial.
This is a very complex and beautiful arrangement that you can learn more about reading entangled life by Merlin Sheldrake aside, but it also enables those trees to communicate with each other and to signal each other of disease or other stresses. And it’s the fungal network in the living soilthat allows the forest as a whole ecosystem to be adaptively responsive to things happening within it, in order to protect its health and integrity over the long-term.
It’s not the guarantee that’s going to happen, but that is one of the. one of the ways that it does that, which is also one of the reasons why you can’t cut down an old growth forest and then just plant those same trees back. You can’t just cut down a forest and plant the same trees back and think that that equates to new forest by doing that, you’ve disrupted what could be 10, 20, 50 hundreds of thousands of years of deeply established symbiotic relationship between the plants, the fungi, of course, also the animals.
So something interesting there about trees communicating and how the fungi helps to connect those trees to communicate.
James: Now you can extend that metaphor to wonder about how psilocybin happens to seem to connect us with each other and create increased sense of connection, both interpersonally, but also spiritually and inter environmentally as oftentimes people on psychedelics feel as though they become one with nature, having UN questionably, literal communication and conversation with the plants in their environment.
So this is something I hang on. Yeah,
Gissele: No, this is a great segment. Cause I was going to ask you to talk a little bit about psychedelics,and what you’ve experienced about it being helpful with mental health. helping people heal their trauma have find greater connection to themselves and others.
So you could expand a little bit on that.
James: Well presently the, the research on psilocybin, helping with, increasing connection and wellbeing through that way is, is pretty established. There’s, there’s some great work coming out of, Imperial college, London through researchers, including,
Dr. Rosalyn Watts, who I actually had on my show, and her whole work on the except connect embody model for using psilocybin for therapy and connection is a huge part of that connection to ourself connection with others connection with the larger web of life, even thought larger web of life. You can find looking into people like Sam Gandy, who’s,PhD entomologists who explores psychedelics and naturalistic settings and their relationship to increase nature, relatedness and nature connectedness, but in so far as connection that can come out from working with psilocybin in my book, decomposing the shadow.
I talk about how we can use, psilocybin, to what I say is at the time described as clear emotional repression that we have all of these emotions that we haven’t dealt with for a long time. And that, and that all of that being held down sort of holds us down in a way that it sort of is like undigested food in our bellies.
It just kind of rots there and that psilocybin can come in and it can help us decompose just like,Sapper trophs type of mushroom that, that thrive off decaying matter, assisting the decomposition of say wood from a dying tree in the forest to liberate as nutrients back into the soil to be absorbed by microbes, as well as other trees, plants, et cetera.
And then of course that would link into the animal network and so on and so forth. so with that, I I’ve recently been thinking about a different way to look at it and it’s something like. When we are holding on to things like wounds or sadness or something leftover traumas or belief structures, or what have you, when we’re wounded in a place.
And we have defenses around that the defensiveness we have around that is not only something that sort of keeps us out of that feeling, but it keeps us disconnected from ourselves because that feeling was a response. That feeling was us responding to something, something that happened in our lives.
So we’re disconnected from ourselves. And not only are we disconnected from ourselves, but the same strategies that we put up to protect ourselves from that feeling are strategies that we put up to protect other people from inciting that feeling inside. Which means that we’re sort of constantly walking around with this sort of like, you know, assessment model, this measuring sticker.
Like, are you going to make me feel this way or you’re going to make me feel this way? And if it’s even close, then you can’t get in. No, I won’t let you in here. Are you going to trigger this feeling? I can’t let you in there. And so in a sense, not only is it disconnecting us from ourselves, but we’re also disconnected from others because when the walls that hold all those feelings in the sort of strategic defensive walls around our wounds, around our pain, you know, and, and, and a lot of us are conditioned to think any type of feeling that we don’t want is something that should be responded to strategically with walls and defenses, be it sadness, anger, you know, aloneness grief that we, that we, that those feelings should not be felt.
They’re bad, they’re wrong, you know, love and light. That’s what it is. You know, like we got to feel good, feel positive. I am worthy. Despite the fact that I feel otherwise. And so when we put up these defensive walls, protect us from ourselves, not only does it keep us locked in there and keep those feelings, lock-in it also creates it is also a wall that prevents the nourishment of connection with others.
Because if I’ve got my walls up around being sad, I can’t feel sad. I’m not connected with myself, but I can’t let anybody witness me or hold me in my sadness either. And so it’s this weird thing that it holds me, traps me inside and prevents me from feeling the nourishment of connection that would otherwise help that sadness resolve itself.
Not that resolving sadness is the way that we should respond to it because that’s just another way of trying to make it go away and defend against it. Right. And so with psilocybin, It does something to our brains and to our minds that makes it so that all those walls that we have up, they’re not really there anymore.
They dissolve away. And the stuff that we’re holding on just comes right out. You know, we go to therapy and we try to get somebody else to sort of like strategically probe and try to like, you know, get around our defenses to trigger some sort of like insight and connection with our feelings that will enable us to sort of let them go.
And recontextualize, I’m a re re meaning them in a way that allows us to be less wounded and guarded with psilocybin. It’s just coming right out of you. I mean with a high enough dose anyways, or you go too high then who knows what’s coming out of you. you know, and sometimes I describe psilocybin assisted psychotherapy as, as it is presented psilocybin assisted psychotherapy.
They’re giving people psychotherapy. And then they’re giving them psilocybin with eye shades and headphones on and basically silent while this person just does their thing. And therapist’s role then is just to help them go through the process. And then on the other side of it, they give them therapy to help make sense of the experience.
It’s not psilocybin assisted psychotherapist, psychotherapy assisted psilocybin. But yeah. And so because of this, right, the. The way in which it allows us to confront those feelings, if held in the right way can provide us a lot of resolution, a lot of resolve. And one of the sort of like key sort of things about psilocybin is also seems to give us insights and perspectives on why that came to be, how it is that we’re making it worse, how it is that we might be able to do differently.
You know, like all the ways in which we, we didn’t, weren’t able to understand how our F how these things were impacting our lives and how it was impacting others and how people, how is impacting our perception of others and how people actually care for us, how connected we actually are. And then we have this experience of these feelings.
The ones that we pushed away in this context of them, you know, if it’s held well and in a safe place in those feelings being held in something compassionate, held in something larger than ourselves, held in something caring, loving, then all of a sudden, now we can step into the rest of our lives afterwards with those walls slightly more down, and we can better cultivate responses to our feelings and our wounds in a way that allows us to let in the nourishment of connection more so over time, which is a change in behavior, a change in perspective, a change in conduct, you know, a change in our sense of self and how we navigate our emotions, not just by default of having the experience, but the experience offers us something that we can then work with afterwards.
I hope that mostly answers your question. thank you. what I did want to just clarify, One of the reasons why people sometimes don’t go to therapy or don’t take drugs is because they don’t actually want to face all of the stuff that’s in there.
Gissele: Right? sometimes we have, a lifetime’s worth of trauma in pain that we don’t want to face. you sort of answered this, but some of our listeners may be concerned that if they just, have experiences with magic mushrooms, that all of our stuff’s going to flood them in there, it won’t be able to cope.
how is it that you can, or have, managed safely? How have you created that safe space? Um, So I would say that if you, the listener are really concerned that you’re going to take these things, and it’s going to flip your world upside down and confront you with a bunch of stuff you’re not ready for.
James: And that’s going to overwhelm you and negatively impact your life. Then a, you probably shouldn’t do it. Or B you should find a skilled, trained professional to make that assessment with and have support you through that experience. Not easy. It is presently still illegal, unless you have a lot of money and are able to fly to like Jamaica or, you know, the Netherlands or something, and pay for these rather expensive experiences or, you know, find contact through an underground provider, which is variable, you know, sometimes really amazing, sometimes not so amazing.
So tread cautiously. And the other thing is that chances are addressing what it is that you don’t want to address is going to benefit you more in the long run than trying to continue to hide away from it. Right. and it’s a weird way in which, you know, the same defensive patterns that keep us trapped in and block others out.
Leave us stuck in our pain as this weird way of trying to respond, to not making the pain worse, become a place in which we perceive ourselves to be safe. Not because it’s an absence of danger, but because not feeling that pain, not having those strategies, not warping our identity about who we are around those feelings and our responses to them is scary and unknown and unfamiliar, and thus feels less safe and feels like there could be more potential danger and fair enough.
You know, but chances are, it will help you more than it will hurt you to do therapy. For example, psilocybin, psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca psychedelics in general. They ramped that process up in a very strong way. And it’s very easy to get yourself hurt if you’re not cautious about it, you know, fire can cook your food, warm your house, save you from hypothermia, you know, but can also destroy everything you’ve ever known and loved.
Right? So I don’t want to put fear in people, especially low doses of psilocybin with reasonably healthy people, chances are incredibly low that you’re gonna hurt yourself, you know? but do your research, prepare yourself, get a sense that, you know, things might get difficult at some points and things might just be a blissful ride through eternity for a little while, while you reconnect with the deep joy that inspired you as a child, until it was shut down by someone’s careless words, you know?
So. So there’s something to think about there. And, and, and, and I don’t want it to sound like, yeah, it’s fine. You should just face your shadow. but you know, it, it can, it can go wrong, you know, and it can go very right. There’s a, there’s a documentary called, neurons to Nirvana. And in it, I th it was, I believe it was Rick Doblin who said, he’s the founder of the multidisciplinary association of psychedelic studies.
Who’s doing a lot of work for the medicalization of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder. and he said something like, the critics always warned that you shouldn’t do these things because they might change your life. But what the critics don’t realize is that exactly the point, right? So, this is not to minimize their potential harm.
And I think the more you feel like you’re going in with the more safety and support and skilled facilitation, you should have, Sometimes it can be really scary, especially because the only way for it not to go wrong is to not try to resist against and control the experience.
Not try to make it go away, not try to make it what you want it rather than what it is. And letting go of control is terrifying for a lot of people and fair enough, you know? and so be it therapy, be it psychedelics, be it, anything that we do in life that pushes us outside of our comfort zone at the, at the potential cost of everything that was comfortable within it, but for the potential gain of growth, of healing, of new levels of being able to love and relish in this gift that is being alive.
Courage is required,
Gissele: that was a very powerful, thank you.
I, I wanted to ask about, um, I loved, I listened to your lecture on psychedelics and compassion and I loved it.
Gissele: I thought it was wonderful. So I suggest everyone check it out. you talk about, how the root of compassion is obviously “com”, which means together and passion, refers to suffering. So talking about compassion is literally suffering together or suffering in community. And you talk about the two different types of suffering.
and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit with the audience about why it’s important to suffer authentically or skillfully?
James: Yeah. So the two types of suffering that I present in that talk is authentic suffering and reactive suffering. And I also presented being like, look, I’m not trying to say that there’s only two ways you can suffer.
I’m sure every one of us can think about 20 or 30 different ways to suffer that we have skilled practicing, you know? but the difference between them is. Authentic suffering is feeling the pain you’re feeling right now and reactive suffering is feeling the pain that arises as a consequence of resisting against the pain that you’re feeling right.
Authentic suffering sort of eventually moves itself through and reactive suffering never really moves itself through, it continues to be forever a compensation because like, legendary, psycho, a psycho psychedelic psychedelic researcher stands off. Grof says, you know, the funeral Pyre of an emotion is the fullest expression of that emotion.
And, and, and the reason why I said it’s, it’s important to learn how to suffer. Skillfully is a way of saying, like, it’s important for us to understand how to be with pain, emotional pain. How to be with sadness, with grief, with, with, an adequacy with worthlessness helplessness, hopelessness in a way that in a way that doesn’t create greater suffering as a consequence of trying to react away from them, that we learn ways in which we can feel our feelings as they arise, not easy, not easy at all.
James: Learning to suffer authentically, which is basically just learning how to feel pain without emotional challenge, uncomfortable, emotional experiences, without trying to make them go away first. the reason I say that that’s important, in compassion is that if we are to learn how to suffer together with someone, then we first need to be able to be moved by their pain and to be moved by their pain in a way that allows us to be with them in suffering.
Now in the talk, I also outline how this is different than empathy, because it’s not just like us being in their suffering with them just resonating, but the, that compassion comes from being a place in rooted in a sense of safety in ourselves. So we’re connected with that suffering with them, but we’re rooted in a sense of safety in ourselves because those feelings that are being brought on are not ones that are unsafe for us to feel as a consequence of witnessing them in another person.
and people can listen to the whole talk on, on my website or on my YouTube channel.
Thank you. in your, your podcast, you talked to, I’m just, sorry. I just want to make sure that I have her name, right. Akua Ofosuhene.
Gissele: Akua Ofosuhene
Gissele: About how, when you look at, compassion in terms of, you know, having self compassion for our suffering compassion for others, and then a more global compassion in terms of, ending things such as, you know, racism and so on.
she talks a little bit about how psychedelics can help on the journey towards addressing racism. Can you share a little bit about, how psychedelics could have that larger global impact?
do I, as a white guy, I want to talk about how to use psychedelics to make racism go away, not entirely, but, I think, I think Akua’s words stand for themselves if you want, if your listeners want to go check it out, but from what I understand, and what I agree with is that, is that there’s a lot of pain.
James: And blame and hate and prejudice and a number of things that exist in all of us that exists for a variety of reasons. Usually it’s from being wounded somewhere, you know, or, you know, we inherit our prejudice, according to who I mentioned earlier, Stephen Jenkinson, you know, so we inherit some of these things, wounds, pain, trauma, prejudice, racism, sexism, misogyny.
It gets passed down through the family, through the cultural lines as well. And that in there is a lot of resistance to feeling that pain and maybe a lot of resistance to feeling the impact that our prejudice has on another person. You know, there might be a lot of, there are a lot of people I think who, you know, express to they, they internalize and express prejudice that they do not recognize as being prejudice.
Because to recognize it, being prejudice means grappling with a lot of guilt and a lot of shame. And presently we aren’t in a culture or a society or guilt and shame are safe. Things to feel
The reality is in our society, blame and shame are weaponized in order to manipulate people, to behave according to what other people expect of them. And we’re in a situation socially and culturally, where there is no capacity for someone to play out a redemptive state. Did you make a shitty tweet 10 years ago?
That kind of sounds racist according to what we think of now, but at the time was actually common, common speak that you didn’t really think about. Well, guess what, you’re racist now and you’re a racist forever.
James: Right? So, so, so there is no, there is not only is there’s no encouragement for people to really own where they’ve been wrong unless they do so sometimes in a self-hating way, then it’s okay.
So there’s no sort of like avenue to, to really hold our blame and shame as an opportunity for this redemptive story.
James: Meanwhile, most of us have conditioned ourselves and been conditioned to resist blame and shame as much as possible. And contort ourselves in order to protect ourselves from feeling it and to protect ourselves from being sort of called to feeling it because of how it’s been weaponized against. And psychedelics can take all of that down and force us to deal with what’s actually going on in there.
Right. It could also confuse us. It could also, it could also make us worse, you know, like it’s no guarantee that I take mushrooms and I become a better person. I, you know, like there are people who take lots of psychedelics and they end up still being prejudice and angry and hateful, you know, how that applies to how the could be a dismantling of institutions, of racism and sexism and et cetera.
I think Akua’s, like I said, words stand for themselves and trying to sort of represent what she was saying here and my own perspective simultaneously. But I don’t, I don’t entirely know. I don’t think any of us really understand how to do this yet. You know, there are some people who have great ideas like Akua, for example, or like Chloe Valgerie and her theory of enchanment anti-racism model, you know, but we don’t really know how to do this yet on large scale because we’ve never been sort of like confronted.
With the reality of how messed up all these, all these different expressions of institutional prejudice are how embedded they are in a way that is like, whoa, we need to revamp this. You know? So I don’t think we, I don’t think we really know how to do it yet. I mean, some people say that they know and they could be right.
so I don’t know if that’s, I don’t know if that’s an answer. That’s such a big question,
Gissele: that’s great. And I appreciate that. You’re you and your podcasts are looking at these topics, right? the fact that we are having these conversations about
How can we be more forgiving towards one another? Cause I often ask myself, I’m like, where did forgiveness go? It just feels like, right. Like, I mean, I have hurt people, not intentionally, but I have wanted to be forgiven and I have forgiven people that have hurt me. and I think my relationships are better because of it.
so I often wonder like what has happened, I’m cognizant of the time. I’m wondering if there’s anything you would like to share with the audience about what you’re working on now, this podcast will probably be a couple months in, so I was just wondering if there’s anything you want to share with the audience.
Gissele: Um, I’m writing right now. It might be a book, but I’m not sure. I don’t know if anyone has ever written a book before, about something that is unlike anything anyone else has said that is on the edge of your thinking and is revealing itself to you as you’re attempting to conceptualize it.
James: And narrativize it in a way that is,coherent to others is hard. It’s tough sometimes, and I’m not sure how long it’s going to take. Certainly a lot longer than I thought and probably longer than I think. but hopefully not as long as I am afraid of. so yeah, stay up on that whenever you too.
From this point on, that’s a possibility and I will be continuing to produce the podcast. that’s sort of my main goal as I work on the book. I also provide, coaching for people who are looking to get into psychedelics or looking to make sense of an experience. I don’t provide psychedelics or therapy in that sense, and I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist or a psychologist or anyone with any numbers and numbers of letters at the end of my name.
So I can offer some experience from that point, but that’s about all. but I, I do offer integration coaching for people who are, who are looking for that kind of support. and all of that can be found @ jameswjesso.com. And the best way to stay in touch with me would be to sign up for my newsletter, which you can find through there.
Thank you so much.
It was such a fantastic conversation. I wish we had more time. Please check out James, his website www.Jameswjesso.com and his podcast adventurous through the mine and join us soon for another episode of our show.