THIRD WAVE PODCAST
Question Everything: Destigmatizing Mushrooms For Mothers
Katie Wells, proud mother of six, has been a leader in the health and wellness industry for the past fifteen years as the founder of Wellness Mama and her latest company Wellnesse. Katie has been on a relentless quest to solve her own health problems and heal trauma, so she can be the best person and mom she can be. In this episode of the Third Wave podcast, Katie talks with Paul F. Austin about her journey into the wellness space and how psychedelics recently played an important role in her healing journey. They also discuss how psychedelics might help mothers deal with little-t-trauma, and the future intersection of the wellness industry and psychedelics.
Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, is the founder of Wellness Mama and Wellnesse, a natural personal care products line. With her background in research, journalism, and nutrition, she dedicated herself to solving her own health problems after the birth of her first child. Now, as a mother of six, she has dedicated over fifteen years to making her mark on the health and wellness industry, focusing especially on issues for moms. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox. Most recently, Katie has gone public about her experiences with psychedelics: how they helped her face past sexual trauma and the profound effect they had on accelerating her physical healing from thyroid disease.
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- 1:31 Katie’s entry to the wellness space and, later, psychedelics.
- 8:59 How Katie benefitted from the proper set, setting, and integration.
- 11:53 How a high-dose psilocybin experience helped Katie confront sexual trauma.
- 14:06 How Katie recovered from thyroid disease after her psychedelic journey.
- 18:12 Why psychedelics had such a profound physical effect on Katie.
- 29:35 How psychedelics can help with some of the lower-t-traumas of motherhood.
- 36:28 Katie’s practice of ‘questioning everything.’
- 38:05 Katie’s experience of psychedelics and religious belief.
- 43:26 The future intersection of the wellness industry and psychedelics.
- 46:44 Katie’s thoughts on the medical versus the wellness/performance/creative model.
0:00:01.1 Katie Wells: The wellness model has to stem from a personal responsibility aspect, and I think this applies to mental health as well as physical health, so I often say, you are your primary health care provider. I think often people look to their doctor and they wanna outsource their health or their mental health. And I think in both areas, we have to start from the position of extreme responsibility that I am completely responsible for what happens to me and for my experience of life, and that while I can work with amazing partners and practitioners in whether it be psychedelic therapy, whether it be physical health, and there’s a time and a place for that, at the end of the day, the responsibility starts and stops with me. And I am my primary healthcare provider, I’m the one who is making the daily choices and putting things in my body or not putting things in my body. And so I think that mindset shift needs to be part of the continuing conversation going forward in both realms, and I think that’ll be a piece in uniting the two.
0:00:51.8 Paul Austin: Welcome to The Third Wave Podcast, I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go, and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
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0:05:35.0 PA: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to Third Wave’s Podcast today. We have another very special guest, Katie Wells. Katie Wells is the founder and voice of wellnessmama.com, as well as a mom of six beautiful kids. Wellnessmama.com is the most trusted website and community for moms around wellness related topics. And Katie is also the CEO of wellness.com, a company dedicated to create natural personal care products that outperform regular alternatives. She is also the host of the top rated Wellness Mama podcast and author of the best-selling Wellness Mama cookbook and Wellness Mama five-step lifestyle detox. A lot of wellness and a lot of mama is in that, and Katie, I’m just… I’m happy to welcome you to the show, because today we’re gonna be talking about your journey with psychedelics and how those have helped your own wellness path.
0:06:37.0 KW: Absolutely, I’m excited to chat about this. I’ve talked about it publicly a little bit on my own podcast, but it’s not a topic I’ve gone super deep on, so I’m excited to have this conversation and get to share it.
0:06:44.9 PA: Beautiful, but let’s just sorta start an anchoring for the audience a little bit more about who you are, you know? So just tell us where your story begins as it relates to psychedelics? And we’ll use that as an anchoring point for the rest of our conversation.
0:07:06.3 KW: Absolutely, and as you said, I’m a mom of six, which is my most important job, and the one I take the most seriously. I’m guessing I might also be the first mom of six on this podcast. So that’s kinda fun. My journey with psychedelics had a kind of roundabout start. I grew up in a pretty dogmatic religious household where that was part of a category of drugs that were considered completely off the table, and there was a lot of, I think, fear and misinformation, and certainly a lot of things being lumped into one category without at least education or explanation. And I had… In high school, I had an experience of a pretty brutal sexual assault that at the time I thought I had completely just dealt with, then it turns out, I had just gotten really good about building walls and shutting down emotions related to that. But as people have probably talked about on here before, any time we shut off emotions or shut off whole parts of ourselves, that tends to lead to some downstream consequences.
0:08:02.0 KW: And I started noticing those sort of in combination with having my first son. I was always very type A and driven. I think I hid in academics because that felt like a safe playground. And so, I looking back, tell people jokingly, if you wanna create autoimmune disease, just don’t sleep, eat really crappy food and be really stressed all the time, which is pretty much how I got through college. And then, when I got pregnant with my son, and that was in a lot of ways the straw that broke the camel’s back. It just was a lot of things physically that hit for me at once, and when he was born, I read that for the first time in two centuries, his generation would have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. And so, combined with my own health problems, it really opened my eyes to this looming crisis that was happening that was really affecting our kids. And with all of those new mom hormones, I sort of vowed that day that I was gonna change that statistic, and I had no idea how, or even what that would look like.
0:08:58.0 KW: But it began what has now been a 15-year journey into trying to do that, and that’s how Wellness Mama was born, with my background in journalism, I delved into the research and started publishing around topics of health and wellness. But it wasn’t about… About 10 years into that, I realized there had to be another piece besides just the physical, because despite doing all of the “perfect” physical things, I had talked to all the top experts, literally in the world. I was eating a super dialed in genetically position diet. I was doing all the supplements, I had everything literally dialed in with spreadsheets, I still was experiencing these health problems and I still wasn’t able to lose weight. And that was the thing that took up a lot of my mental energy for a long time, but that I didn’t realize at that point, that was also really related to that emotional experience and that physical assault in high school that I had shut down from.
0:09:54.1 KW: And ironically, it was the weight gain part that was the most tough for me because it was just a constant top of mind reminder. But I truly didn’t know how to actually face that and how to start undoing that emotional… The emotional walls I had created. And it wasn’t until one day I saw my oldest daughter, she was in the bathroom with me and I was getting ready, and I saw her register in her eyes, how I was looking at myself in the mirror with this like disdain for myself and disgust about my body. And I saw that register in her eyes and realized that was probably the first time in her life she realized that someone would not just appreciate their body and that they might see flaws with their body. ‘Cause to her, she was an athlete, her body was this an amazing tool that did these amazing things. And so I saw that surprise of seeing how I was looking at myself, and that was the moment I decided, whatever it takes, I’m gonna fix this, because I’m not gonna pass on this mental prison to my children.
0:10:49.2 KW: But I still didn’t know how I would actually address it. And I started realizing through, again, the research, ’cause that’s always my default, that this mental, emotional piece and spiritual too is probably a lot bigger than often just physical health experts really talk about. Although ironically, on my own podcast, that’s a thing that most people talk about as being a huge part of their own success in life in whatever area they’re talking about. So I kind of started down this pathway of experimentation and research that eventually led through various types of psychedelics in various ways. I say I didn’t have the best gentlest start in that I was at an event with people we both know and ate a piece of chocolate that I didn’t know had psychedelics in it. And so, in that point, I was still…
0:11:38.4 PA: That’s not a good way to kick it off at all.
0:11:41.3 KW: No, I didn’t know I was taking it and I definitely didn’t know set and setting or what to expect, and ended up, I think that day eating about three grams and then kind of being like… And still being in the mindset of drugs are bad, so I was going into it with not a great mindset to begin with. And had what now in hindsight, I can describe as an ego death, which… And now it’s great, and I’m very grateful for it, but at the time was terrifying, ’cause I had reconciled that my kids were gonna be orphans and obviously I was dying. I didn’t understand that just my ego was dying. So for a while, that made me pretty hesitant to try psychedelics again, and it wasn’t until I really started reading the actual research and seeing everything that Maps was putting out and that people like you were putting out, and understanding that I had inadvertently chosen a pretty poor set and setting, but that I was throwing the baby out with the bath water on that one, and then perhaps there was a way that this was gonna be a really important piece of my journey.
0:12:34.3 KW: But there’s also a lot of stigma around it, I think, especially as a mom and having grown up in the environment that I did, it was something that still felt scary until I started really understanding that research and then truly trying it myself and having that first-hand experience to understand. ‘Cause it’s like that analogy, you can research everything there is to know about a mountain, but until you actually go to the mountain, you don’t actually know the mountain, and I think it’s the same with psychedelics. You can research all of the scientific literature about it, but until you’ve had the experience, you don’t fully understand how transformative it can be.
0:13:08.2 PA: Well, it’s like the Map versus the terrain, and I think that’s the metaphor that I first came upon in Tucker Max’s article, in fact, that he wrote about plant medicine therapy. Tucker was the one who introduced and set this event that we were at several weeks ago. And that Map, so to say, for an individual like you had been cultivated through, again, a lot of the wellness approaches, diet, exercise, sleep, even probably elements of mindfulness with maybe meditation or other things like that. So there’s a sense of… And then diving into the research with psychedelics, right? So there’s a sense of… You have a clear sense of, “Okay, this is what’s supposed to unfold,” but the actual terrain when you get into it, especially when it comes to some of this darker shadow stuff, like trauma and working through trauma as a catharsis, it requires a lot of courage, right?
0:14:01.4 PA: It requires a willingness to do maybe some difficult work that something like meditation might not put you sort of face-to-face with and confront it with. So, as you’re stepping into that, then you had that first experience with psilocybin, and let’s say a more unintentional setting in a way you weren’t even cognizant that you were doing it, when did that shift for you in terms of approaching it with a sense of set and setting, with a sense of maybe a therapist or a guide? What were those experiences like? How did they impact you?
0:14:33.7 KW: Yeah, great question, and I think you’re so right, it’s like, psychedelics are such a unique tool because they let us access the shadow self and the subconscious and the stuff that we’re able to consciously keep under control when we want to. And I realized that happening when… ‘Cause I had been in therapy for a decade, and I realized I was so good at playing the game of therapy, but it didn’t feel safe to address some of those things even in therapy. So I knew how to play that game and they would start talking about your inner child or your shadow self, and I knew the things to say to work through that without actually working through that. And I think one of the beautiful things about psychedelics is that… And also the challenging things about psychedelics is it will bubble those things to the surface, and often you don’t have that conscious control over what direction it’s gonna go, which is what partially makes it such an amazing teacher, is that it often shows you, at least in my experience what you need, not necessarily what you want.
0:15:26.2 KW: And that’s what makes… I also very much believe there’s not… I don’t like using labels good and bad, I really any aspect of life, I don’t think there’s bad experiences with psychedelics. I feel like they’re always teaching. But if you don’t have the context for them, they can feel very scary or challenging, just because of the situation or whatever you’re facing internally. For me, it was a couple of years before I really was willing to face psychedelics again after that first experience, and there was a lot of research before that point. And then instead of jumping into, I’m in a group environment and I didn’t know I was taking this, it was a very intentional set and setting in a trusted environment with a trusted guide, and I did smaller doses at first just ’cause I was still gun shy. And realized on smaller doses, it was just a lovely blissful experience, but I was still somewhat able to keep that kind of locked down control, and not have to face the hard stuff.
0:16:18.7 KW: I think the most transformative one for me actually was a solo journey that I did. I had people in the house in case I needed anything, but I was kind of a sensory deprived going… My goal was, I’m gonna go internal and I’m gonna face whatever these things are, and so, I had a blindfold on, I had music on a headset, and I took seven grams and rode that out. And I feel like I learned more about myself… You know, it’s so cliche, people say it was like 10 years of therapy in one day, but that really was what it felt like for me, and that experience especially also really hammered home the importance… Which is the other piece they talk about so much, which is the integration. And I think that was another huge missing piece for me in that first experience is not understanding psychedelics and not knowing how they can be beneficial.
0:17:04.5 KW: I also didn’t understand the importance of integration after. And so, in this other experience with seven grams, I was very proactive about integration, that I made sure I had therapy set up in the weeks that came after that. And I was journaling and meditating and spending time outside, and that one I think helped me re-experience and face a lot of those traumatic moments, but in a way where I was able to process them, it kind of connected the subconscious and the conscious. And I think it was Jung who said, until you make the subconscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate. And I realized that that was what was happening, and I was able to see… I think this is a very common experience for that first time you really have one of those paradigm shifting psychedelic journeys, it was like, I got so much information at once, and I felt like it was hard to even integrate and pull all that back with me. I think like, one journey can be very difficult to remember and integrate everything, but I was glad I had made some notes in a journal and that I had enough of those really deep core experiences to be able to integrate after.
0:18:06.6 KW: And I think that was the day I really actually learned to reconnect with my body. That was the piece I didn’t realize I had lost in the sexual trauma, is I had basically shut down from my body and then I couldn’t understand why my body wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. And the experience I had that I found a quote for it later, that perfectly embodied it, and it was like, in that moment, I said to my body, I want to be your friend. And my body took a deep breath and said, I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. But I felt like I kind of re-united the physical with the inner side that day, and I also made sure to use somatic integration after that experience. Because one thing I’ve researched, that’s relatively common in sexual trauma survivors, is that disconnect from the body and the Bessel van der Kolk idea that the body keeps the score.
0:18:53.0 KW: That we actually not just that physical trauma or can express in bodily experiences, but that we actually store trauma in our body as a protective mechanism. So I was very intentional about making sure I was using somatic therapies and body work and myofascial release to re-integrate that body experience after. And the irony is that at that point, I realized on that psychedelic journey, I had always had this story in my head of, “Oh, if only this and this and this happened, then I’ll be happy, or if I get back to the size I was in high school, then I’ll be happy.” And in that experience, I realized I can actually choose happiness right now, and I can choose to love and accept myself right now, I don’t have to wait for those external factors, and those external factors will never actually be the cause of happiness that has to come from the inside. And I had this visual of this kind of deep black hole inside of me that had been caused by these traumatic experiences in my life, and I realized I had been throwing all these different external things into that black hole trying to fill it up.
0:19:53.7 KW: And I had this just visual of realizing you can’t ever fill a bottomless hole from the outside, you have to build that framework from the inside, and I think that’s what started that day for me. And the irony was at that moment I made friends with my body and was able to see those shadow parts of myself that had become so scary because of the trauma, all of those things I had been fighting so hard for for a decade to try to get better, to recover from thyroid disease and to lose weight, those things all became effortless byproducts of that reintegration with self.
0:20:26.3 KW: And so over the course of the next six months, I lost what’s now 100 pounds with literally without trying. And that’s the part that I tell people that it feels even unbelievable when I say it out loud, is I eat more now, and I feel so much more in tune with my body. I end up eating protein and nutrient vegetables, and I just crave the things my body needs, but I lost weight without crazy deprivation diets, without over-exercising. I felt like I for the first time was working with the machine that was my body instead of against it.
0:20:55.2 PA: Wow. That’s so powerful. The shift. ‘Cause you had been doing this work for 15 years. And I remember when we met at that event six weeks ago, or seven weeks ago or however long ago that was, Tucker had come up to me and said, I think he had known you before, and he saw you now and you told him that psychedelics had been that shift, and he was just so blown away, I’ve only known you in this way of being. To actually hear that that shift was that dramatic, and also what I’m hearing in your story is this sense of what psychedelics brought was an opening for unconditional love for yourself and for who you are. Because so often times you talk about this hole, this black hole, this gaping part of yourself that could not be filled by anything external, and what feels very true is that the healing that comes from psychedelics is from this unconditional love of source or God or something, that’s the universe, something that’s much greater than what we can even fathom in many ways. In fact, and I’m sure listeners will be familiar with this, but what I often refer to is there was this study published in 2006 by Johns Hopkins, which showed that psilocybin could occasion a mystical type experience.
0:22:34.6 PA: And that because of that mystical type experience, there were all these downstream effects on depression and addiction and end-of-life anxiety, and in fact, the stronger that experience was, the more tangible the healing and the more intense the healing was for that individual. So it’s just always interesting to hear that then reflected in stories, but I think out of all the folks that I’ve had on this podcast, what I’m hearing from you is the physiological impact of psychedelics was significant. We hear about the mystical experience, we hear about the spiritual stuff, we hear about even the emotional stuff, but for you physiologically, it had been so helpful, and I’m curious, just based on your understanding now with psychedelics and psychedelic research, and also based on your understanding more broadly of wellness. Why is it that you think psychedelics had that impact that they did on you?
0:23:38.4 KW: I think for me, it was probably somewhat multifaceted, at least in two different ways. I think it was an element of reconnecting with the body in a way that let me be in tune with physically what my body needed, but I think also that often when it comes to health, well also before I move on, I’ll say, I think that connection is more important than we realize, and I think often it’s easy to get swept away in the health world with the science and the perceived silver bullets of what’s gonna help in a physical sense, but science more and more points towards the individualization and personalization of health and knowing, having to each be our own and of one and figure out what works for us. And for me, I had actually tried literally every system I could think of, every expert out there, every book, and what one of my realizations was, is I had to learn to listen to the inner voice that we often search for answers on the outside, those types of answers and certainly also the spiritual bigger life question answers that can be even more important. Those have to come from the inside. And I do also think that, to your point, that being able to feel unconditional love toward myself was a paradigm shift there.
0:24:50.1 KW: Because I shifted mentally from this mindset of fighting my body to try to get it to do what I wanted and punishing it into looking acting and feeling how I wanted it to, to experiencing that unconditional love toward myself, which I had experienced of course, that love for my children, but that’s one thing I tell people that’s so unique and amazing about psychedelics. And also with MDMA-assisted therapy, I’ve experienced this. I tell people, it lets you view yourself and your inner child and your psyche with that same unconditional love that you have when you have a baby, and you just feel this overwhelming force of unconditional love, but many people never get to feel that for themselves.
0:25:28.4 KW: I also think on a purely physical level to answer your question, because of the trauma and because of shutting down those emotions, like I vowed in that moment that I would never be hurt again and I would never feel helpless again, and I would never feel that pain again, and in doing so, I built these walls around all of my emotions and never let them crack and to go… To give you an example of the degree to which I did that with at the time, five kids, now six kids, I had never raised my voice at them. I never got angry, I never raised my voice, I never cried. For all of those years, I never cried. And so I had had this really traumatic physical experience that involved being brutally beaten too. And I never cried, I never processed it, I had just shut it down. And so physically, my body was basically stuck in a sympathetic nervous state, because they say psychologically our body and our brain don’t actually know the difference between an event happening and our memory of that event causing it to re-happen.
0:26:22.8 KW: And so I was living in essentially a perpetual state of that happening, but just kind of consciously locking down those emotions and the psychedelic experiences, let me unpack that and then on a somatic level, experience the emotions that would have been beneficial to have happened that day, which the analogy I use is, if you see an animal in nature, even though they have near-death experiences all the time, or they get attacked by other animals or whatever the case is, they don’t walk around with PTSD, and part of it is they have that integration and they somatically process things. So if you’ve ever seen National Geographic and an animal almost gets killed, as soon as it’s in safety, it’s whole body shakes and it has this somatic reaction and it releases this adrenaline, and then it goes on about his life, it’s not in therapy talking about it’s near death experience.
0:27:08.8 KW: But as humans, we have the ability to not do that because we’re able to be in our mind so much, and that’s what I had done. And so I think that experience let me for the first time, literally in 16 years shift from sympathetic nervous system state to parasympathetic nervous system state, and for people who understand what that means, that basically sympathetic nervous system state is that fight or flight or freeze. My life is in danger. I do not need to prioritize things like digestion, sleep, fertility. I need to send all my blood to the areas of the body where it can move quickly and get out of danger, which is great if you’re actually in danger.
0:27:45.2 KW: It’s counter-productive when you get stuck there for a long time, because all of those normal bodily processes are not happening. And when you shift to parasympathetic, your body is able to process things much more easily, your digestion improves, your sleep improves, and for me, I think that shift into parasympathetic was the physical reason that somatic processing and parasympathetic is the physical reason I started to see those changes. But I think also in that particular experience, not directly a physical benefit, but feeling that unconditional love and re-framing how I thought of myself, let me not just continue to feel unconditional love, but also to feel gratitude, and I think there’s a lot of science about gratitude being an antidote to a lot of these mental health problems and talking about a gratitude practice that is really important for our psyche.
0:28:31.1 PA: I think that became… I think that I was able to make that shift very quickly because of the psychedelic experiences, and so now I can look back and say with complete honesty, I’m not only okay with what happened to me, I wouldn’t have chosen it, but I’m intensely grateful that it happened to me, because I also wouldn’t have processed these things and I wouldn’t be the person I am now, had that not happened. And I know some people could look at that and say, that is spiritual bypassing, but having experience it I actually can say… And I now look at this path in reverse and realize this experience led me to all these understandings about myself that also made me a better mom, and that now because of Wellness Mama, let me have this conversation publicly. And when I started sharing this, I realized… I think in any kind of trauma, and I wanna talk about little T trauma in a minute, but in any kind of trauma, we have this tendency to feel alone, and in that isolation is a protective measure, but it’s also counter-productive. And when I started sharing the story, I realized not only am I not alone, this is an extremely widespread thing, it does not just affect women, I think actually in a lot of ways, it is even tougher for guys because there’s even more stigma societally around certain kinds of trauma.
0:29:40.5 KW: But I received literally thousands of messages and emails from people who had been through the exact same experience or things that I can’t even fathom that just seemed so much worse than what I had been through, and I realized there are so many people that are hurting and suffering through things that happened in their past, that their body still thinks are happening in the present moment because of the way that we experience trauma. And that this is an opportunity that I can hopefully help open this conversation in a public way, especially because having this ability to connect with moms, I’m profoundly grateful for that because I think that’s when we see societal shift, and I know you and I talked about this a little bit, but any time we see a massive societal change, it’s typically when the women and the moms and society change their opinion on something.
0:30:25.7 KW: And not just because we control the purchasing power. And we’re raising the next generation. But from a societal principal standpoint, that’s when society starts to shift, and so it felt very important for me to start, even though it was scary at first, having these conversations publicly because I realized there are all these people hurting, and like I was at that point, often we don’t even know how to find the answers or how to start the path to begin to untangle some of that. And I think while they aren’t the only tools psychedelics are a really helpful tool, especially for people who have been through some of the more extreme versions of that, but I also don’t wanna discount…
0:31:02.4 KW: I think sometimes the big T trauma conversations can minimize or discount the experiences of people who haven’t maybe had that extreme of an experience, and what do I mean by that is, so I was brutally raped. Most people hopefully don’t go through something like that, but when they hear my experience with that, they might internalize, well, I didn’t go through something that bad, so now I feel guilty for even having these same emotions or experiences or problems when I didn’t… Or people who say my childhood was perfect. I shouldn’t have these problems. And what the research is pointing to is that there’s kind of the big T trauma and little T trauma and we all have some type of formative experiences often in childhood that even without realizing it, or maybe that little T trauma that change our psyche in some way. So as an example of that I had a realization come up on psychedelics where I had internalized this feeling of, I’m not good enough, which was in some ways very helpful ’cause that drove me in academics and it may be very compulsive, but I realized it went back to a moment in childhood when I was three years old and I dropped something on the floor and my mom was like, “Oh why did you do that?” Which is a totally normal mom reaction when something gets broken, she wasn’t…
0:32:10.5 KW: That was literally all she said, there was no really anger directed at me, there was no punishment, but I internalized from that moment like I’m not good enough, and mistakes are not okay. And that started to form my reactions in a lot of situations in the future. And even therapist wouldn’t define that as a massive trauma, and it’s not, but often we have these childhood experiences that we then interpret and that become a filter for our behavior in the future. And so that filter made me look at other things with this lens of I’m not good enough. And just like if we think people don’t like us, we will find examples in our interactions with people of them not liking us, if you think you’re not good enough, you find examples of your life of not being good enough, and then either feel that need to be a perfectionist and prove them wrong, or have a fear of starting at all. I feel like they’re often…
0:33:00.8 KW: Almost all of us have moments like that from some point in our lives that are hard to even see, because even if I had had a conscious memory of that experience as a child, I don’t know that I would have connected that to my behavior as an adult. And I think psychedelics with blurring that line between the conscious and the subconscious helps us sometimes to make those types of connections that while the moment itself might not have been physically abusive or like some kind of paradigm shifting moment, we are able to understand where there’s patterns come from. And then start to make conscious choices going forward to undo those patterns we’ve created.
0:33:34.6 PA: Boom! So much here that I wanna get into, and sort of the trifecta that I wanna explore is little T trauma, which you mentioned, and I think is an important point to emphasize, and how that for an individual can be just as life-changing as the big T trauma for other individuals. Not saying that the little T trauma isn’t as heroine as some of the big T trauma, but for the individual who’s experiencing that little T trauma, it’s still significant. And what I’m curious is, with your role as a mom and having six kids now, there, I imagine in having children, especially for the first couple of kids, a lot of new moms struggle with postpartum depression, for example. There’s a lot of shifts that come from motherhood that may involve some of these little T traumas. And you also mentioned the role of moms in shifting societal norms, so to say with psychedelics. So I’m just curious to hear your thoughts with the platform that you have through Wellness Mama and as you’ve talked about psychedelics more publicly, what kind of response are you getting from either new moms or moms who have been around the block for a while around how about why they might be interested in psychedelics and how it’s helping them to address some of those little T traumas of motherhood?
0:34:50.8 KW: That’s a great question. I’ll admit when I first, I had a lot of hesitation about sharing any of this publicly, just knowing the audience and knowing that a lot of people likely came from similar upbringings as I did and might have had a lot of filters wrapped around this idea of psychedelics in any form. I was really surprised actually that when I started sharing it, I got almost no negative feedback, and I got a lot more positive feedback than I expected. I think in part, this is because this conversation has started happening in the mainstream a little bit, thanks to people like you, and thanks to MAPS and even Tim Ferriss talking about this in a big way, often on his podcast, I think people have at least had maybe a peripheral exposure to the idea of psychedelics, which is helpful. And I think my generation is also maybe far enough removed from the last wave of psychedelics and all the misinformation that happened there that they’re not coming from the same viewpoint as maybe their parents would have.
0:35:45.4 KW: So maybe there’s a little bit less to dismantle there, but you’re right, I think Motherhood is one of the most profound shifts that a woman goes through in her life, if not the most profound, that fundamentally alters your life and your daily decisions and your daily interactions forever. And there have been volumes of books written about that transition from maiden to. Other and the psychological shift that occur, and I would argue it actually takes years, it’s not at all an overnight process, it’s a journey of becoming that lasts your whole life.
0:36:15.2 KW: And I think for a lot of women, it does bring back up childhood things in their own life. It also puts you face-to-face with your own fears of inadequacy or anything like that you have in yourself, because now your experience of life is impacting directly the people you love most in the world experience with life, and you feel that responsibility of being a good mom, to be able to be a good mom for them, to be able to teach them and inform them in life. And I think that this is why again, it’s so important to be having this conversation, especially in including moms.
0:36:45.9 KW: I think in the early stages, there were a lot of early voices that were really great at bringing the issue up, but it was more in the beginning, male-dominated. I think the guys were maybe more willing to try things or at least to speak more publicly about their experience, but it seems like we’re starting to see that trend shift a little bit. And I’m definitely noticing more conversation about psychedelic use and especially in clinical settings within the mom community now. And I think that’s helping to de-stigmatize and to kinda dispel some of the misinformation that still does exist societally, I know you talk about this a lot on your site, and I’ve shared you quite a bit because you break it down so comprehensively. It seems like in almost every area of life, and certainly with psychedelics, it’s the fear of the unknown or ignorance of something that makes it seem much more scary than it is.
0:37:31.0 KW: And so just like every aspect of parenting, education is such a big key, and so that’s why I’ve been willing to start fully talking about it, and I think that the more we can approach the conversation in an educational and gentle and non-pushy way, like you do and like some of these other voices do, I think we have the opportunity to bring it into the mainstream more and really help people. I think moms especially will be a huge group that benefits the most from that kind of a change.
0:37:57.2 PA: Yeah, it’s funny, we have a recurring joke now on our internal team at Third Wave that the reason I built The Third Wave was for my mom. Because in, I think 2014, when I first told my parents that I had been working with psychedelics, and had been doing psychedelics, my dad’s pretty chill and easy-going, so he was, I guess, disappointed just because he had no context of psychedelics, but it wasn’t like a thing or an issue, my mom, it was a thing and an issue. And so early on then I started Third Wave in 2015, I was sending her, you know, some of the research that was done, or the article that Michael Pollan wrote in the New Yorker or some of these other resources that were starting to come out, and what appears to be true is, because of that interaction that I had with my mom, who is from the Midwest and grew up quite religious and is a feminist from the ’70s, so progressive socially, but has thought of drugs as being this bad evil thing, of course, she’s changed now quite a bit with cannabis and these other things, but six, seven years ago, that wasn’t the case.
0:39:04.9 PA: And so, the whole impetus behind Third Wave was, well, what’s a sort of platform in a way to break this down so that that way it’s trustworthy by someone who is not interested in going to music festivals, is not interested in the Grateful Dead and the whole countercultural scene, but just as a normal person from the Midwest whose lives could be impacted in a positive way by working with these substances. It feels like, as you were saying, accessibility can be initiated by education, and that the starting point is just having conversations across the table with people who, like you experienced, you might think that, “Oh, I don’t know how this is gonna be received,” and then when you actually speak from the heart and talk about how it’s so positively impacted you, people are very receptive to that and willing to ask questions and not just dismiss it out of hand, like they might in the past.
0:40:01.6 KW: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s important to have that level of respect in education, especially in the conversation about something as powerful as psychedelics. I know I’ve seen it myself, but also in other people, when you have a psychedelic experience that’s so profound and you wanna share it with everyone, and I often hear people say like, “Oh my gosh, you have to do psychedelics,” and I try to really avoid that word “should” in every area of life, but especially when it comes to something like this, because having had both tougher and amazing experiences on it, and realizing how profoundly impactful it can be, it’s not a thing I would ever push someone into. And so I’ve always shared from a perspective of this is my story, and this is what happened for me, and this is… These are the changes I noticed, but I’m very careful, especially publicly not to ever say it in a prescriptive sense, or this is a thing you should do. Like you, I think a lot about my mom though, and I don’t think her reaction to psychedelics even now is still completely positive, but it is hard even for me not to look at my parents and say, “Oh, I wish I could just kind of make you MDMA cupcakes and have a conversation and see what happens.
0:41:03.6 KW: I would never do that, mom, if you’re listening. But I do think having seen it be so profoundly impactful to myself, it is a thing that I wish I could gift to people if they were willing. And I’m hopeful that as we start to see these societal shifts and we’re seeing clinical trials on a lot of these substances, that availability will be a lot more widespread than it is now, and I think a lot of people, especially coming from any place of trauma, might feel safer in those clinical settings, especially in the beginning, because it feels more structured and safe and there’s, like to the point of set and setting, there’s someone there who can help guide you, which I think is a huge piece, especially for someone who has been through a traumatic experience and is going into it trying to face it.
0:41:42.0 KW: The other conversation I’ve had a lot with my audience, not just about psychedelics, but kind of across the board in general, is the idea of the importance of questioning everything. And this is a yearly practice I have, which is to make a list of anything I would say I believe with any certainty to be true, and then over the course of that year, I go by and systematically question each of those things and read alternative viewpoints with the idea that if I’m right, then I’ve only increased my awareness about this issue and hopefully have a better understanding for people who don’t feel the same, but if I’m wrong, I’ve found important information that is gonna be helpful in developing a better mindset about whatever this issue is. And so I think anything psychedelics, because they get lumped into a drug category, can feel scary to people who are raised for the paradigm around that. And so to those people, I say, I’m not ever encouraging you to even try psychedelics, I’m just encouraging you to research and to ask questions surrounding it, because if something is worth believing, it’s worth questioning.
0:42:40.2 KW: And so that’s always the first step I encourage, is definitely don’t just jump in and try psychedelics if you think it might be helpful, but start the education process and ask the questions and do the research, especially now as more and more information is available, and so many people are sharing their experiences with it as well as we’re seeing clinical research about it, it’s at least worth questioning to say, is this something that could be beneficial? And especially looking at those specific groups of trauma survivors and veterans who we know have very high rates of suicide and all kinds of other problems, it’s very worth asking that question and beginning that process because it can be so helpful.
0:43:14.9 PA: I wanna come back to something you mentioned, which is that if something is worth believing, it’s also worth questioning, right? And you had mentioned that the family and the environment that you grew up in was quite religious, and mine was as well, and I was never fully bought into church and sermons, and Jesus and religion. In fact, when I was 18 or 19, I started to get into atheism and read quite a bit of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and early Sam Harris when he wrote a book called Letter to a Christian Nation. And then, so I was atheist for maybe a few years, and then I did psychedelics and I was like, “Oh, I get it, now all these things that Jesus talked about in the Bible I actually viscerally understand where he was coming from and what he was talking about.” So, I’m curious just as somebody who has that foundation, what impact of psychedelics had on your views on religion or your sort of spiritual practices? Were you someone who you’ve been committed to your faith this entire time and it’s helped it to evolve. Did you… Yeah, I’m just kind of curious about that general intersection.
0:44:23.6 KW: I would say growing up it was… That was a very black and white area of life that was taught from a very, very young age, so that wasn’t one that I thought to question for a long time. Even in my rebellious teenage years, that wasn’t an area that I ever really challenged, because it had been taught so early. And I think that was kind of a part of coming into my own as an adult. I think often we’re, in any area of life, like The Four Agreements talks about this, we’re kind of pre-programmed with beliefs, and it might not even be a religion, it might just be the way that you interact with people and with the world or the way you live your life, but we’re all kind of given these programmings from an early age by society, by our parents, by religion, by school, whatever it may be, and we’re not taught to question them. And for me, this was kind of the coming into my own as an adult process in every area of life, partly through the process of, for my own children, kind of stepping backwards and asking, how do I…
0:45:21.0 KW: What is my goal with raising them? How do I help them become the best version of their adult self that I can? What does that look like? And realizing it centered around things like maintaining creativity and critical thinking and the ability to ask hard questions, because especially in the entrepreneurial world that we’re both in, those are the assets that let you adapt to an ever-changing environment, and that’s what we’re gonna need more and more in this current landscape of the world that we’re in.
0:45:44.6 KW: And in realizing that for my kids, I realized that was actually something I had not cultivated as a skill in myself, that growing up, I preferred to latch on to an idea, and I was in debate club, I could defend anything to the death, but it made me afraid to question those things. And so the first year of that process was really scary, ’cause that list of beliefs that I believed to be true was very, very long, and I didn’t leave anything off the table, so various aspects of religion and God and family and society, all of those things went on the list, and it was an intense couple of year process of that kind of first reckoning of beliefs. But I think it has made me now probably a much more integrated and compassionate person having dismantled some of those and then rebuilt them. I think it’s that process of taking the information and beliefs we’re given as children, and then learning and deciding if we are gonna choose to believe those things and live our lives according to them as adults, and that might look different than it was as children, like, certainly even the drug conversation being a very easy example of that.
0:46:51.3 KW: But like you, I have had that experience where on psychedelics and now in meditation and just in daily life, I feel such like a oneness and love and compassion toward other people, and while I understood logically what religion had taught me growing up about the existence of a God and how you were supposed to live your life, I felt those experiences and can feel them now, both in that there’s something that connects all of us. I think we all make different words for that, maybe in every religion and society and history has had all these different words for it, but I think there’s much more in common there than that small percentage of differences people love to focus on, but I would say feeling that taught me much more than all of the book learning I had ever done about that, and I would say it makes me a kinder human now operating from that perspective than from the more dogmatic religious side that I grew up with.
0:47:44.9 PA: And I think that’s reflected even in the earlier thread that we were exploring in this conversation around unconditional love, right? When you experience that for yourself, and through psychedelics recognize that you are connected to everything around you, then the way in which you treat yourself is the way in which we’ll treat others. So as you become more self-compassionate, so to say, you’ll naturally have more compassion for those things that are around you. It’s as above as is so below, I think it’s another Jung quote that he used. So, final question before we wrap up is just around wellness in general. You’ve really been a pioneer in this space, having been involved… When did you start Wellness Mama?
0:48:28.6 KW: 2006, and then in 2009, I officially registered that domain, so it’s been a long time.
0:48:33.5 PA: So, it’s been 15 years?
0:48:34.4 KW: It’s been 15 years.
0:48:36.2 PA: So, the whole time you sort of have been on this journey, you’ve also been writing about it and tracking it and building it. And I’m just curious, if we look more forward-thinking, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re a pioneer, you’ve been a visionary in many ways in the wellness space, what do you see as the sort of intersecting points between the adoption of wellness as a broader practice and the use of psychedelics?
0:48:57.5 KW: I think and I hope that in the future these things are going to continue to go hand-in-hand more and more. Like I said, my personal lesson was realizing we can have all of the book knowledge in the world about the science of wellness and the physical execution of that, but I think science agrees with this, we’re learning more and more the vast importance of mindset and how that overrides almost everything else when it comes to health. Like, I used to say, you can’t out-supplement a bad diet, you can’t out-supplement lack of sleep, and I would hone in on those being like the most important factors for health, and now I realize it’s you can’t out-diet supplement sleep or anything else, a poor mindset, and that mindset really is the trump card when it comes to all of that.
0:49:40.4 KW: And we see this at the extreme degree with people who are told they have a terminal diagnosis and then they die, and then the autopsy reveals they never actually had the diagnosis, but they believed they were gonna die, so they did. And on the flip side of that, people who have miraculous recoveries is due to a shift in mindset, and so I think science is starting to barely scratch the surface of just understanding how important that connection is. And it’s funny because while I used to get into the details of health… To the degree that I had spreadsheets, I built out entire algorithms for analyzing genes with conditional logic to figure out what supplements you should take. Like, I have a 500,000 line spreadsheet on my computer that does this, and now I would say that is so minimally important compared to your inner voice, your inner questions, and your mindset because day-to-day that’s gonna have a bigger influence on physical health.
0:50:28.6 KW: And I’m now almost to 500 episodes of my podcast as well, and that’s been a recurring theme with guests too, even the most brilliant scientists and doctors in the world will quote meditation or their inner experience as being the most important factor in their health. And so I think psychedelics are gonna be a great puzzle piece in the understanding and uniting of those factors and them working together, because that’s not to say at all that what we eat isn’t important, or that getting enough sleep isn’t important, those are all well studied, and I think… I’m yet to find any health expert who would say sleep is not important or you don’t need to eat a good diet, but I think the mindset piece has been overlooked for a long time, especially in the over…
0:51:08.6 KW: Or the last 100 years especially of really being focused on the science of things, and I’m hopeful that this new era of science is gonna be able to take all of those pieces into account in a holistic way that actually addresses the whole person because if you’re just addressing a body and you’re ignoring the mind, and you’re ignoring the psyche, and you’re ignoring the spirit, you’re gonna miss huge pieces that are directly impacting the body, which was my personal experience for a decade. So, I’m really hopeful I think psychedelics will be hopefully a very big piece of that, and we’re already seeing that in anecdotal experience, and in the people who are already using this to do that kind of work, and I’m hopeful that over the next few years we’re gonna see that even coming top-down as well through the research and through clinical experience.
0:51:51.1 PA: So, there’s one final question that I wanna dive into, which is this distinction between wellness and let’s say clinical healing, and your own journey is representative of this, you’ve been talking about wellness, and yeah, a lot of your wellness journey has been about healing trauma in many ways. And there’s obviously no boundary, there is no distinction between the two, it’s all in a continuum, but I’m just generally curious to hear your thoughts about sort of the clinical model, the medical model, versus the sort of wellness performance creative model, what do you see as some of the distinguishing features between those two approaches? And how have you done your best to support the sort of wellness or personalized or innovative approaches through the wellness model, what have you done to support that?
0:52:53.8 KW: Something I realized very slowly, I was a slow learner at this one was that while there’s something to be learned from every expert and guru out there and every method and interaction, and that’s one of my governing principles of life, is an innate curiosity about everything. I think we can learn something from every conversation, every interaction, everything we read. I think often, we approach those experiences, especially when it comes to reading and learning, as in this thing that I’m reading is fact, and it will work for me in the same way that it has worked for this person, and the lesson I had to learn was that each of these people they’re amazing and they have so much knowledge, and they have figured out what works for them. And each of us our journey is to figure out and apply that in a way that works for us. And so while I was looking for, kind of in a metaphorical sense, answers on the outside to fill that black hole, I was also looking for health answers from another expert, I wanted somebody to just give me a prescription that I could follow that would lead to these results. And what I realized is that those answers in both realms have to come from the inside. And while…
0:53:57.7 KW: So, people ask me, “Nagual, what did you do? How did you lose weight? How did you get rid of Hashimoto’s?” And I wish I could just give them a checklist blueprint that they could follow that would do that, but the lesson is that we have to figure out, based on our individuality, both mentally, internally, and also physically, we have to figure out the system that is sustainable and that works for each of us. And so to me, the conversation about wellness is moving more into that personalized individualized space, and I think this is an area where, again, psychedelics can be a really beneficial tool. When it comes to the medical bottle of that, I do have a little bit of concern about just how involved the pharmaceutical companies will be, for instance, and how availability will look, and if… It will actually, in some ways, make it harder for the people who need it most to be able to have access to these things, and I hope that’s not the case, but I also know even now, pre-approval of any of that, there is access to these things both in certain countries of the world and even within the US in certain ways.
0:54:53.9 KW: And so, I’m glad to see that and I’m glad to see people taking advantage of that. But I think, to more directly answer your question, I think the wellness model has to stem from a personal responsibility aspect, and I think this applies to mental health as well as physical health, so I often say you are your primary health care provider. I think often people look to their doctor and they wanna outsource their health or their mental health. And I think in both areas, we have to start from the position of extreme responsibility that I am completely responsible for what happens to me and for my experience of life, and that while I can work with amazing partners and practitioners in, whether it be psychedelic therapy, whether it be physical health, and there’s a time and a place for that, at the end of the day, the responsibility starts and stops with me, and I am my primary healthcare provider, I’m the one who is making the daily choices and putting things in my body or not putting things in my body. And so I think that mindset shift needs to be part of the continuing conversation going forward in both realms, and I think that’ll be a piece in uniting the two.
0:55:53.5 PA: I love that because the tie-in for me for psychedelics is when we have this sort of ego dissolving experience that these macro doses or higher doses of psychedelics, oftentimes the message that comes through is that you are fully 100% responsible for everything in your life, and that the only way to heal, let’s say, trauma that you’ve experienced is to take ownership of it and do the work necessary to heal it, and that the only way to actually make changes is to shift your mindset in such a way where you’re making very intentional choices, and, of course, that’s what psychedelics help to do, is they help to cultivate intention and help us become more intentional about those choices that we’re making, and so oftentimes, personal responsibility is central to the, I would say, evolution of that model, where instead of giving our power to, like you said, a primary care provider or a nurse or even an influencer, we actually say, “Hey, I can work with these people or learn from these people, but ultimately I’m still responsible for my health and well-being because I am a unique self, so to say, and what works for someone else might not work for me.”
0:57:03.5 PA: I can use context or models or examples, but ultimately I have to figure it out, and that’s both… It can be a burden or where people can take it on as a burden sometimes, but I think ultimately it’s true freedom, and true freedom is not necessarily all rainbows and butterflies, sometimes there are difficult things that come up in that path.
0:57:25.5 KW: That’s such a great point. Yeah, I think it’s… To me, the two things I go back to are, like you said, that complete responsibility, and also that idea of questioning everything. And I tell people that are on the Internet, too, they don’t believe everything I say just ’cause I said it, question everything, always do your own research. I tell my kids that as well. My oldest… From the day they’re born, I say, “Question everything.” At two, he looked at me in the eyes and said, “Even you?” And I said, “Even, and especially me, I always question everything.” And so I think that’s another key piece for people.
0:57:54.2 PA: I love it. Well, Katie, it’s been so lovely to sit down with you. I was on your podcast a few days ago, so we got a chance today to turn the mic around and hear all the about your stories, so I just appreciate your vulnerability and your intelligence and the platform you’ve built through Wellness Mama, and the fact that you’re now helping to educate and teach a lot of people about this important topic, so thank you so much for taking the time today to join us. And just as the last sort of final thing for our listeners, if they wanna find out more information about you, about your work, what would be the best next step for them?
0:58:32.4 PA: That’s pretty easy. No. Well, thank you.
0:58:35.1 KW: Thank you so much for having me.
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