Before my first ibogaine treatment, my life was plagued with fear, insecurity and so many other negative emotions. I felt like I wasn’t really living, as if I was somehow missing out on what life was supposed to be, and my entire existence seemed empty and pointless – which is what led me to self-medicate and self-sabotage. I wanted to be happy and sure of myself, so I took ibogaine in the hope that it would help me to eliminate my dark side.
The experience was powerful and insightful, and I benefited from a temporary afterglow period during which my mood was more balanced and I was generally happier. But I soon started to experience the same negative emotions as before and fell back into my old patterns. Like my previous experiences with ayahuasca, psilocybin, LSD and other psychedelics, I had now learned that ibogaine was an extremely powerful facilitator for change, but that there was something I wasn’t quite grasping.
That’s when I began to look seriously at the importance of preparing properly for a psychedelic experience. With a lot of help and guidance, I came to understand that I had always approached these substances with the wrong intention: I had always hoped that after using them, all the dark and negative thoughts, feelings and emotions would be banished from my mind, allowing me to remain connected to joy and happiness. But that’s never what these ancient compounds were intended for.
For thousands of years, people have used visionary plants like iboga, ayahuasca, peyote, san pedro and psilocybin mushrooms not to resolve or cure their negative emotions, but to find meaning in them and learn to embrace them. Psychedelics don’t take away our pain, but help us to experience its true value.
As human beings, we all have the capacity to feel fear, sadness, confusion and pain, as well as joy and love. In fact, we are supposed to feel all of these things. The desire to eliminate any aspect of the human experience is like wanting to amputate part of your soul. Yet negative feelings can be hard to deal with when we can’t find any meaning in them.
Psychedelics are tools to help us learn to celebrate life and to see the value of every experience. They have the power to remove the illusion of separation and disconnection created by the ego, and to show us that we are simply the universe experiencing itself. The only reason we are able to feel pain, joy or anything else is because we are alive, right now at this very moment. Every emotion is testament to this, and adds value to our fleeting physical existence.
This sentiment is summed up beautifully by the psychotherapist Carl Rogers, who said: “I believe it will have become evident why, for me, adjectives such as happy, contented, blissful, enjoyable, do not seem quite appropriate to any general description of this process I have called the Good Life, even though the person in this process would experience each one of these at the appropriate times. But adjectives which seem more generally fitting are adjectives such as enriching, exciting, rewarding, challenging, meaningful.
This process of the Good Life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-fainthearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one's potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life. Yet the deeply exciting thing about human beings is that when the individual is inwardly free, he chooses as the Good Life this process of becoming.”
Yet the ego will kick back once the psychedelic experience wears off, and the gift of being alive can become harder to appreciate once again. This is where intentionality comes into the process: everyone who uses psychedelics for healing has a responsibility to become aware of the unconscious narratives that create the illusion of separation and strip their experience of meaning.
My second ibogaine treatment didn’t eliminate my dark emotions either. But it helped me to stay connected to the Good Life.