Updated: May 3
The concepts of Set and Setting comes from the early 60s before Psychedelics were outlawed, but they remain key concepts and considerations today. They are easy to remember but can be quite complex: in this post we will explore first the idea of Set. Set which is short for "Mindset" relates to our general state leading into the experience.
This concept applies whether using psychedelics recreationally, therapeutically or spiritually.
Although Set is linked with the mind, the meaning is more holistic.
When I think about someone's Set I ask how have they been doing lately in terms of their Mind, Body and Emotions.
Mentally do you feel prepared for the psychedelic experience? Are you ready to go into the experience or is there a lot of "what if" thinking about the experience? If so, today may not be the best time until you feel more mentally steady or until you've done research or found a good sitter/facilitator.
If you identify as a worrier or tend to overthink novel situations, learning how to control worries may be beneficial especially during a psychedelic experience. Next I ask, is your body physically ready for this kind of experience? How's the body today, are you suffering from fatigue, illness or pain? Can you sit in one place for several hours today?
Some people get nervous when they feel odd sensations in their body, are you willing to let go and accept some funny sensations that may arise?
Next I ask what kinds of emotions are present at the moment? If it's a particularly emotional time such as post bereavement or loss then is today the best time to consider doing a psychedelic?
How is your relationship with your emotions? Many people resist theirs and psychedelics can bring up old or even unexplained emotions. Being able to let go into whatever arises will assist the process even if it doesn't make sense.
Overall, a mindset of openness for whatever arises and an attitude of self-compassion and patience is highly recommended for an optimal and integratable experience.
Setting of "Set and Setting" refers to the physical and social space in which we consume psychedelics. Getting this right is crucial to avoid a bad experience and helps the eventual Integration; with some forethought it's absolutely possible to get this part right.
The Setting of course links very much to dosage and intention. If we are looking for a social experience then maybe the correct setting for this could be a party, a museum or a concert. However, we must bear in mind that these settings may be lovely, but if we go beyond a certain dosage these same settings could become overstimulating.
For a social dose, being with people and friends we can trust is also very important. If we intend to go to a higher therapeutic dose, we might ask if we have a trip sitter or friend available? Especially at a high dose it is important to think about things like familiarity with the space/people, the chance of being interrupted and having comforts to hand. Is there a comfortable space ready, maybe with some food and water or a toilet nearby?
Familiarity: is the experience taking place somewhere you feel safe or in a place you've never been before? High dose trips can leave us vulnerable, so we must remember that safety is key. For a high dose session, you may want to have a playlist ready, eye shades, sun glasses, comfy clothes, personal items, art supplies or ceremonial items.
If you are going to be working with a facilitator then research into this, plus being able to trust them is key; I'll probably do a post just about this. Being careful with setting is all part of a safety smart approach to exploring Psychedelics. Being mindful of this might make the difference between a rewarding or potentially traumatic experience.
Manual of Psychedelic Support
MAPS – Rites of Passage project :
A Model for Working with Difficult Psychedelic Experiences at events:
Psychedelic Crisis FAQ
Helping someone through a bad trip, psychic crisis, or spiritual crisis
The Psychedelic Experience FAQ
Crisis Intervention in Situations Related to Unsupervised Use of Psychedelics
Ethical Caring in Psychedelic Work
Guidelines for the Sacramental Use of Empathogenic Substances
Suggestions for Sitters or Guides
Using Psychedelics Wisely
Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides – Council on Spiritual Practices
Drugs and the Meaning of Life, by Sam Harris
Dr. Holland presenting lessons learned in a psychiatric emergency room
Ground Control, A Sitter's Primer, by The Teafærie
Reading List of recommended readings:
● How to Change your mind: Michael Pollan (2018
● The Psychedelic Explorers Guide: James Fadiman
● LSD My Problem Child: Albert Hoffman.
Jung's Map of the Soul: An Introduction, Murray Stein (1998)
● After The Ecstasy, The Laundry, Jack Kornfield
● Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
● A New Earth, Eckhard Tolle (2005)
● Raise your Vibration, Sabrina Raber (2009)
● Eastern Body Western Mind, Anodea Judith (1996)
● The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz (1997)
● Being and Vibration, Joseph Rael (1993)
● You are here, Thich Nhat Hanh (2001)
● Awareness, Anthony De Mello (1990)
● DMT the Spirit Molecule, Rick Strassmann (2000)
● The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley (1954)
● The Psychedelic Experience, Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert (1964)
● Manifesting Minds: A Review of Psychedelics in Science, Medicine, Sex, and Spirituality,
Rick Doblin (2014)
● The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell (1972)
● Decomposing The Shadow, James W. Jesso (2013)