THIRD WAVE PODCAST
Encountering Your Shadow Side With Psychedelics
James W Jesso
James W. Jesso is a public speaker and author who is a world-leading psychedelic expert. In our interview with James, we discuss the ‘shadow side,’ and how psilocybin mushrooms could help us come into contact with it. James believes that encountering our deepest fears and unknowns will allow us to be more in control of our lives.
- What is the ‘shadow side,’ and why we should care about it.
- Why psychedelics could be highly effective facilitators of encountering our fears.
- How microdosing could help to bridge the gap between ourselves and our ‘enlightened witness.’
00:26 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners. Welcome back to the podcast. My name is Paul Austin, your host. And today I bring you an interview with James Jesso, a writer, entrepreneur, and podcast host himself who is really focused on the utility of Psilocybin mushrooms, to understand our shadow side, to then be able to integrate it. So James and I went really deep into shadow work, and how psychedelics can help to facilitate an opening so that we can then integrate that deep material in our subconscious and unconscious, work through specific destructive patterns, and then move on to live better and more meaningful lives. And so this was an excellent conversation. We chatted about a wide range of things and I’m really excited to bring this to you today. So without further ado, let’s get right to it. I bring you James W. Jesso.
01:31 James W. Jesso: Who is James Jesso? Wow. Where does this story start? With my grandparents or my great-grandparents? But I’d say that, in particular to my career as a psychedelic person on the public stage, dancing my little dance, it started when I was in my early 20s and got very wrapped up in some destructive drug use behaviors. And in that was in a culture of psychedelic use, and a culture of like party drug use, and my desire and curiosity around philosophy and spirituality eventually led me to all these intellectual justifications for my extremely destructive behavior. And then when that destructive behavior came to a head, and I needed to confront it, because of what I like to call that one time I had too much LSD which was exactly the amount I needed because it forced me to acknowledge some things I almost…
02:32 PA: How much LSD was it?
02:34 JJ: I don’t actually know but it was… Everyone listening who has ever taken LSD probably knows this story if not directly they’ve heard it, which is, “Take one. Well, it’s been a while it’s not really kicking in. I’ll just do one more. Man, this isn’t really kicking in. Let’s just smoke a joint.” And then it was, “Oh, my God, I need to be a safe place, take me into the car, [chuckle] put me in the car, lock the doors.” But anyway, I had to confront that and then I had all this baggage to deal with. And I reached back somehow thinking like, “Well, maybe the psychedelics could help me heal the problems that I’m facing right now.” And that’s when I ended up working with Psilocybin mushrooms. And this was in 2010. Over the course of about a year, I defined or cocreated a relationship between me and the mushrooms that the staple of which was once a month, every month on the full moon, I would go out by myself, I eat about four grams of mushrooms, and I would just ask them to show me how to heal, show me where the wounding is.
03:47 JJ: And I just took a lot of notes. I took a lot of time to integrate those things. In between those sessions, it was like, I would be integrating from the previous session and incubating into the next one. And it all just fed into itself and eventually I ended up being told by the mushrooms, I had some sort of like messianic delusion or something, but the mushrooms were telling me that I needed to write a book. And my friends were telling me that they’ve been really benefiting from what I was saying like, “This is how I work with the mushrooms,” which is based more in our psychoanalytic model, rather than what was present at the time for me, which was abstract metaphysical models, or purely scientific materialist models, or just say no as bad as heroin models, or the like, “Oh, it’s whatever, it’s nothing, it’s just you trip out some mushrooms in the woods, drink beers with your buddies kind of model.” Like what I had at the time wasn’t anything that anyone in my community had really encountered before, and I had a particular way of looking at it and way of working with it that led to this positive benefit.
04:54 JJ: So I wrote this book. And then, this story, it’s like you zoom in and you zoom out, it can be really short, it can be really in-depth all the way down to the finest, minute, inner subjective complexities of feeling that are present in a moment of epiphany about what direction a person could take in their life. But the general story is I decided to start writing Decomposing the Shadow and I just followed the signs on the path that eventually brought me to where I am now having written multiple books, articles. I run this podcast, Adventures of the Mind, which is exploring psychedelic culture, and have been all around the world telling my story and telling my theories.
05:37 PA: And I really wanna dig into this shadow side, this shadow element because I think myself at least, and maybe some of our listeners who have probably heard of this sense of the shadow side. I think Carl Jung was one of the first Western philosophers or psychotherapeutic people who really discussed this along with the collective unconscious and some of these other metaphorical or archetypal ideas or concepts. So just as a base to get us started before we really dig into that relationship between Psilocybin mushrooms and the shadow, let’s just talk about the shadow. What is the shadow side? What does that mean and how did it play out, and how has it played out in your own experience in your own life?
06:20 JJ: I wanna couch everything I say from here. I’m not a Jungian analyst, I’m not. So my perceptions of what Jung meant are based in mediocre reading compared to somebody who has dedicated their life to this. The shadow is the archetypal representation of all that we don’t know or fear about ourselves. An archetype is just to say, a large governing pattern present in consciousness that we can never see directly, but we see reflected symbolically in our art, or in our behavior or in our perceptions of things. The idea around Jung is that the shadow was essential in the sense that it was essential that we integrate it. I’m gonna paraphrase a quote that I don’t even remember the source quote, but to paraphrase is something like, “What we don’t bring into the conscious light of our awareness controls us from the shadows.” And so there’s a lot of these things that we’re carrying around with us and I’m not exactly sure how to go into the depth of this ’cause it’s so complex, but we’re carrying around a lot of uncomfortable feelings that are incomplete, still charged up inside of us from our childhood and from our more recent past, and then even our extended past back into previous generations and into our ancestry, as well as a series of compensational patterns that we have employed to protect ourselves from those feelings.
07:57 JJ: All of that, however, is a disconnection from who we truly are. And if we’re carrying around these emotions and we don’t see them, then we won’t realize that they are subconsciously manipulating the manner in which we interpret other people’s behaviors or our own behaviors to eventually lead to the result of projecting onto others issues that are actually ours or finding other people that we could play transference and counter-transference with where we can project onto them issues from our past that are from our shadow, and they can project back onto us and we can collectively make an externally congruent scenario or a scenario that is congruent with our internal perceptions of ourselves in the world. For example, “I’m not safe. I’ll be abandoned. I will be harmed.” Little boys who feel will be shamed, this kind of stuff. And if we don’t see those things then we can’t orient ourselves around them, they orient us around them.
09:06 JJ: The idea with Psilocybin shadow work or the idea with shadow work is to bring that stuff up. And then there are different ways. It’s possible you bring it up so you can discharge the emotions that are there, so that they are no longer present in the limbic memory, which is, unlike explicit memory, dates, places, times, things, people, names, nouns, whatever. Limbic memory isn’t always potential, it doesn’t have a place or time. If you’re remembering something in your limbic memory it’s not a recollection, it’s just a presence. So it’s possible to… Shadow work to be discharging pent-up, old, unfinished emotional processes.
09:52 JJ: But then it’s also possibly in the sense of allowing yourself to feel what’s there so that you can start to track how ubiquitous these feelings might be in the way that you perceive yourself in the world around you, and then start to maybe reorient like, “Okay, so I’m feeling lost and alone, but I know that lost and alone is actually a part of my shadow. And it’s not actually that I’m lost and alone, it’s that I felt lost and alone as a child because one of my parents abandoned me so I feel lost, and alone and abandoned. And I’ve never actually dealt with that because I wasn’t given the proper therapeutic support to do so. So I carry around lost, and alone and abandoned. And now I have this feeling with me. And so when other people even remotely represent something that could lead me to feeling lost, and alone and abandoned, which I’m already primed to do, I’ll have this tendency to interpret, “Oh, that’s what they’re doing.” And so I just perpetuate and continue these feelings forever, and then maybe even behave in a way because it’s very stressful to the ego to have a feeling that is incongruent. So I might even behave in a way that invites myself to be basically abandoned, or lost, and alone. Or I went so deep that I lost my place and where I was going.”
11:12 PA: But I like this and I’ll tie you back because I think what you’ve talked a lot about so far is a lot of the abstract terminology that we contextualize these experiences within. And what I’d really like to do is route this in a concrete example, and you brought up a couple here and there, but I think it’d be good to go deeper into what are ways that the shadow side then plays out maybe in your life? I can start with an example for me that I recognize and one of that is that as an introvert, I always had this story in my head that because I’m introverted, that I’m not as socially competent. And I don’t wanna connect with as many people or let many people in as a result of that, so because I have this story, then even when I go out in social situations, I will specifically put up walls to protect myself because of things that I know that happened when I was much younger.
12:02 PA: And it’s something that I’m aware of, and that I’m conscious of, but that still happens on a somewhat consistent basis. And so I’m aware of that shadow side, but I have yet to actually fully integrate it and do away with it so that I can be fully present. For example, when I’m in social situations or meeting new people, or just letting people in generally, and I have all these almost subconscious things that I do, like maybe not responding to certain Facebook messages, or taking too long to respond to emails or committing and saying, “Let’s hang out,” and then bailing the last second. These things happen but I’m still not active in approaching it. And it was brought, this thing was brought to my awareness largely through psychedelic use. And so I think, how was that playing out then in your own experience? What has your specific experience been with your shadow side, and how Psilocybin has helped you to understand that and to work with it in a way that’s productive, that facilitates maturation and development?
13:03 JJ: On a larger level, the most important things that I’ve been learning with Psilocybin is to have courage to feel what I’m feeling, regardless of how uncomfortable or painful it might be, and to have the courage to be transparent about the fact that I am in a vulnerable, painful place. And either with others and to be seen in that way, but also with myself to acknowledge like, “Yeah, I’m here, and I’m vulnerable, and I’m hurting and that’s okay.” And to trust that if I give the feelings space, if I give them, which is to give myself the love of my attention the way a parent, a good healthy parent would give the love of their attention onto a crying child, that I’m more likely to have those feelings complete inside of me, and my nervous system adapts to a functional adaptation to those feelings, which is, “I’m safe. No need to engage stress or threat response here. No need to push away. No need to dissociate. No need to save it up to act it out later. I can just be with it right now and not have to play out any other stories it’s telling me.”
14:18 JJ: So that’s one of the things that has really come up for me with shadow and Psilocybin. Personally, one of the things… ‘Cause there’s many. The thing is is like the shadow, it just gets deeper, and deeper and deeper. I went really deep into my own shadow, and then I started looking at how the shadow was coming out in my relationships. And then even beyond that, I started thinking about how the shadow recently, the intergenerational or the inherited family trauma that I roll around with and the extent of trauma, all of that being a part of the shadow. But one thing that came up as you were describing yours would be this experience that I had with my father as a child. My parents were under a fairly heavy economic stress load when I was a child, as they were struggling to get by in Southwestern Ontario. My dad was the so-called primary breadwinner. He worked every single day, still does, getting up sometimes as early as 4:00 AM to drive for two hours to go to a construction site to work all day, to come home, drive two hours, eat, sleep, do it again.
15:28 JJ: And when I was a child, my dad didn’t express. And he also came from a very troubled family. In fact, I am lucky that my father has been as good a father as he is ’cause he never had an example of what it meant to be a good, loving, healthy father. So when I was a child, he would have anger issues. It was never hitting or yelling. It was more like him expressing his frustrations about things. And he would get upset, say, if I didn’t put his tools away. And so if I didn’t put his tools away, he would get frustrated. He’d be at the breaking point, and then he would yell at me, be like, “You have to do this. If you’re gonna use my tools, you need to put them away.” He was never violent. But as a child, his anger frightened me. My mom has told me that he would get angry, and then he’d go to bed that night and he’d cry. And he’d be like, “I don’t wanna be this kind of father.” And he and I are in a great situation. He’s a loving, beautiful man and he sorted out a lot of his stuff as he’s gotten older. But as a child, all I could say was, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t know anything else. I’m 6 years old, maybe.
16:41 JJ: The very essence of my desire to be connected with him, to feel safe with him, to have his approval, came from me trying to say, “I’m sorry.” That was all of me. And he responded with, “Sorry isn’t good enough. You need to take action.” And as an adult, yeah, of course. That makes perfect sense. Just saying you’re sorry doesn’t really mean anything unless you commit action to it. But as a child, I don’t understand that. All I understand is I am offering you all of me, and you’re telling me in the word, I’m sorry. And I’m being told that’s not good enough. And since as a child, it’s all about me, it’s not that my sorry isn’t good enough. I’m not good enough. And thus, I carry with me all the time, if I don’t clean my dishes… I live by myself, so if I don’t clean my dishes, no one’s gonna get upset about it. But if I don’t clean my dishes, if I don’t clean my house, if I don’t stay on track with my work, if I don’t do all of this stuff, all of a sudden I’ll start to have this feeling. And this feeling is inadequacy, inadequacy and worthlessness.
17:53 JJ: And it’s these old patterns of perception that are telling me, “Oh, your best is not good enough. You’re inadequate.” And then once that catches on, it informs everything and then starts to degrade the quality of my focus even more so and I spiral out. And I spiral out in this cesspool of just, “I’m not good enough.” And my inner narratives, my stories, my interpretations just reinforce this over and over again. And the feelings get more and more intense until I have some sort of… Have to take a few mental health days or something to sort myself out, or in the past, I’d be like, “Oh, this is time. Time for a Psilocybin experience. Gotta sort myself out. Gotta get these feelings out, come to see the source of them.” Nowadays, it’s different because in having gone through the… All of this is very painful, obviously. The day that I had the revelation that this experience with my father has played such a huge impact, I was walking in the woods and I just had to sit down and cry because the impact of it was just so full.
19:00 JJ: And thanks to my Psilocybin experiences and what they taught me, I didn’t have to hide from it and maybe have an anxiety attack, trying to block this natural emotion. I was like, “Oh, it’s okay. I’m safe. This is real. This is emotionally honest.” And now, because I’ve brought it into the light of my awareness, over time, I’ve been able to see all the places that this feeds in. And it wasn’t just between me and my dad. There are other factors in my family that go back into the generation of my grandparents that contribute to this lineage of not good enough, as well. But now, I can catch it. And all of a sudden, I’ll be like… I’ll have a thought pattern that comes up and I’ll be like, “Wait a minute. That thought pattern is familiar. How am I feeling right now? Oh, I’m feeling inadequate. Okay, what are these feelings? Is this feeling actually congruent with the world around me? No. Okay. So this is a memory, not a recollection. This is a memory. I just didn’t know I wasn’t remembering. I’ll give love and credence to this memory. I’ll give this memory space. I’ll give this memory, which is the embodiment of childhood wounding, my inner child. I’ll give this inner child love for a moment. As long as it needs to feel cared for, to know that it is good enough, I am good enough, I am worthy.” And then it just dissolves away, and I can get back to being myself and not having to worry about having to prove my worth.
20:32 PA: Talking about this reminds me of a workshop that I did about a week and a half ago, with a few friends in an apartment in New York City. And it was doing something called, The Work, are you familiar with the work?
20:44 JJ: I don’t know. But I did see a miniseries called, The Work, which was pretty extreme, lots of high level emoting. So why don’t you describe that?
20:56 PA: Okay, so it’s this program that’s been created by someone called Byron Katie, and it’s basically about something you would do with a partner to understand these things that we’re projecting, what’s underlying them. And I won’t go too much into detail because I wanna talk about the specific example that the guy who was facilitating the workshop was talking about, which was the sense of okay, let’s say at some point in your past, you got punched in the face. And because you got punched in the face, you were holding on to that memory, which is then dictating your behavior in certain cases. And what he brought up is like, “How many times do you wanna get punched in the face?” In other words, do you want it to keep happening again, and again and again, or do you wanna forgive that and accept it with love and understand when that insecurity is coming up about safety or whatever it might be, address it, and then let it go so that this memory doesn’t keep happening consistently? That was one thing that I was a little confused on. What’s the difference between a memory and a recollection?
21:54 JJ: Right. In the context of what I’m talking about, we could break it down to two different types of memory, implicit memory and explicit memory. Implicit memory is just… It’s recorded in and it doesn’t interact with the conceptual domain in a way. It’s underneath the conceptual domain, it’s embedded in a part of the brain that is always existing in a timeless presence of now, rather than the conceptual brain which tracks continuity, future past, the idea of the past and the future is just a thought pattern, to some degree this is the case. The limbic memory is always in the present, always reacting to the present. And then the explicit memory is where you store dates, facts, places, narratives, information that has a place somewhere else, even might have a place right here right now, but it has a word, it has an abstract conceptual presence.
22:54 JJ: Thinking of it, if you, at some point in time in your life had a very painful experience of glass breaking and then cutting your hand on broken glass, say, as a child and you have to suffer like, “Whoa, that’s a lot of broken glass in my hand,” even if it’s just a piece. I had one in my foot when I was a child, a little sliver of broken glass after something dropped on the floor and it took my dad I think 15 minutes trying to dig it out with tweezers. And I was maybe 13 or something and it hurt, man. Holy fuck did it hurt. And so let’s just say you have this broken glass situation and now you’re an adult, you hear glass break behind you. The limbic memory goes, “Danger!” It remembers all the suffering and pain, and fear and danger from the glass breaking. And it immediately responds, “Danger now. Danger now, pain now.” And then the explicit memory comes in and goes, “Oh, okay. That pain and fear I’m feeling of cutting myself, that’s not happening right now. That’s okay, that’s because, yeah, of course, glass can hurt me in the future, and has hurt me in the past. I can recall the times that it hurt me in the past, but right now I’m okay. I’ll just take care of myself.”
24:27 JJ: That first moment, that’s the implicit memory. That’s what I mean. It’s a memory but you don’t know it’s a memory. You think it’s a lived experience of now. Where a recollection is like, “I can recall the date, the place, the time, the story, all the intellectual context that places that pain somewhere else.” Where a limbic memory without that explicit capacity, the intellectual or conceptual capacity isn’t able to place it anywhere but now. And so if I have this limbic memory of worthlessness, if I’m not able to look at it and go, “Oh, okay. Now I can put this in a place back then, or in a future place over there, then I will be experiencing it as right here, right now, and real and my mind will grasp onto whatever stories it needs to tell myself to make sure that the experience I’m having right now is congruent with the experience that’s happening right now in my life. So I’ll project these issues onto other people,” or like we talked about earlier. So that would be the difference between what I mean like a memory and a recollection.
25:46 PA: And so then when we dig into limbic memory, how do… Kind of transitioning now into the “practical side of things,” or even getting into the psychedelic Psilocybin side of things, how does an experience, maybe a transformative experience, high-dose experience with Psilocybin mushrooms or even microdosing help us to facilitate this understanding of how our limbic memory is dictating our current behaviors and then have that metacognition, or awareness to change and adjust so it doesn’t continue to happen. What’s been your experience in terms of healing that limbic memory or healing that past so that it doesn’t dictate your behavior in the here and now?
26:31 JJ: Well, with higher doses of mushrooms, what I have come to acknowledge the mushrooms can do is the normal patterns of defense and reaction that we have to our emotional experience are interpreting mechanisms of perception, reality, etcetera, become disrupted when we take mushrooms. It’s like all the defenses that we’ve built up our entire lives, defenses from feeling our painful past, defenses from acknowledging the deep suffering and pain that we carry with us or how impactful certain things are, because just emotions are so big, we can’t handle them, we have all these defensive mechanisms, we call it our personality. But it’s not who we really are. It’s a bunch of reactions to aspects of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge, our shadow, that when we take the mushrooms, those defenses are dismantled. I think when we go to therapy, we’re asking another person to create a container wherein we can feel secure that the therapist is there to help us, we can trust in the therapist to care for us like we would a parent. And that they’ll use certain tricks or techniques to hijack the ego and get it out of the way so this stuff can emerge and then once it’s emerged, support a processing.
28:01 PA: But with mushrooms, you don’t have to poke and prod to trick the ego into letting it out. Those defenses are down. It just wants to fly out of you. And what happens is when those defenses are down, we can start to feel how we actually feel. And on top of that, I think there’s an inherent intelligence in the mushroom, which is a larger thing to break down, but there’s this inherent intelligence, where it brings up in relationship with whatever your psyche needs, it brings up the most prevalent felt emotional content that is troubling you at the time, and brings it to the surface of the awareness and gives an opportunity for it to be felt. This is the idea of decomposing the shadow, the things that we don’t want to feel might… Not always… But might come up. And when it does come up, the mushrooms give us an opportunity to let it be.
28:56 JJ: It can give us the classical example of like, “I took mushrooms this one time. And I cried for the first time since I was a child because my father left me when I was young, and I just cried, and cried, and cried and now I feel free of it.” I believe that the nervous system naturally wants to discharge trauma, pain, suffering. It wants to discharge it but the only way it can discharge it is typically through feeling it out. The actual feeling is like a psychic metabolism. And so, when taking mushrooms when these things emerge and we surrender, we allow them to be, we trust, we let them pass through us, through feeling them. There’s a process where our shadow is decomposed and then nutrients are left over. We’re free. Imagine the energy of… A shadow is like undigested food in our stomach. That the nervous system is just like… It’s blocking the digestion of the rest of our food. We can’t take up nutrients, we can’t… Our stomach is always hurting, so we can’t think clearly. And then we go in and all of a sudden that clump of food that’s rotting inside of our stomach, it’s broken up and we shit it out.
30:11 JJ: Shitting is a healthy, beautiful natural thing. But we’re shitting it out through crying, through shaking, through laughing, through whatever. And then afterwards, it’s like, “Oh, okay, well, I can digest properly. My stomach isn’t hurting, my food is working, my brain is working.” The idea of decomposing the shadow is that the mushrooms can help let down these defense mechanisms, let in the emotional honesty of our being, and to allow us to feel it through in a way that leads to insight, leads to revelation, leads to an awareness of where these feelings come from and how they’ve been influencing our lives. And I’m sure anyone who’s taking mushrooms, and yourself included, it’s like something comes up, and you’re just feeling one thing and the next thing you know, you’re on a journey and you’re looking at all the different places in your life that this feeling has come up simultaneously, while also feeling like that little child being told that sorry isn’t good enough and the full fucking intensity of pain that was there all at once. And you’re just, whatever you’re doing, hopefully not holding on and creating anxiety but crying, or shaking or screaming, whatever. It’s like everything sort of defrags.
31:33 JJ: I’m mixing metaphors here. I’ll take that behind. And I think one of the primary things that’s important about the Psilocybin experience is that whether… I don’t know if this is for everyone. The vast majority of people I’ve talked to have agreed that there’s this sense of something greater than yourself that you’re there with. There’s this sense of like Roland Griffiths occasioning mystical-type experiences. There’s a sense of something you could call God, or magic, or nature or something bigger that seems to be holding you. And it’s almost as if we can, in a relationship to this higher power, a hallucination or not. In the midst of the Psilocybin experience, we can feel, and process and be safe in the midst of a higher power to let go of old emotional content, to let go of old emotional repression and free ourselves from its shadow hold on us in the same way that a child can feel safe to cry in the arms of its secure parent. Except now, the parent is not our parent anymore. The parent is an extension of ourselves.
32:50 JJ: And so we become self-contained, we become self-responsible. We become capable of trusting that, “Hey, we got this and everything’s gonna be okay.” There’s a safety and feeling. And then there’s an element of after having gone through that if we take the time, we really take the time to reflect on, “What happened there?” And in particular, not just what happened, what did I learn? Not just conceptually what did I learn but emotionally, what did I learn? What memory did I implant? Because there’s a symbolic memory that’s being implanted that, “I’ve let this go.” And on the other side of it was this, say, relief. And one of the integration practices that I commit to, is going back to that place like, “After all of that, how did I feel?” I felt free. I felt happy, I felt resolved. Maybe I just felt at least justified in all the pain. And that despite the fact that maybe I’m still feeling pain, there’s still a sense that it’s okay.
33:53 JJ: And I connect with that feeling. And I reinforce it. I bring that, I reinforced that memory. Now we’re getting into integration. But that’s what I mean when I say decomposing the shadow. And I personally believe that as… What it means to be an adult is to no longer be a child. That isn’t to say that we’re no longer playful, and imaginative, creative, like the social constructs that we have about an adult which is like, “I’m an adult.” But in the sense that we’re no longer perceiving the world as a child. We’re no longer holding on to issues that we had when we were a child. If I get wounded as a child, and I’m not safe in finishing and healing that wound, and I have to create a defensive reaction, compensation around it, which later gets seated into my identity where Gabor Mate calls trauma, then I’m just carrying around childhood wounds all the time. And whenever I’m triggered into that non-recollecting limbic memory, then I’m a child. I’m acting as a child. I’m behaving, perceiving as a child. And so the maturation process is a process of putting away childhood things. It’s a process of no longer being a child psychologically, but actually being an adult.
35:09 JJ: And I believe that with Psilocybin, we can go through this process of pulling up our old childishness and integrating it into the adult awareness of care, self-care, self-regulation, capacity to be responsible. And that’s all well and good in your normal life but it becomes especially well and good when life calls on us to adult which is something that one of my favorite speakers, Stephen Jenkinson has said, which is, “You never know when life’s gonna call on you to adult.” And that’s in my book what I call psychospiritual maturation. And there’s a longer discussion around that but ultimately, it’s what I just presented there.
35:56 PA: And this reminds me of I recently read this book, “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover” I believe.
36:05 JJ: Yeah.
36:05 PA: I believe that’s the…
36:06 JJ: It’s like Roger Moore or Robert Moore.
36:09 PA: Something like that. And he talks about this transition. And these are the four archetypes of a mature male psychology. And he talks about the hero archetype of the boy psychology. And so when you’re discussing this transition, this is obviously oriented towards a male gender. But I think it’s probably just as applicable for women as well from child to adult. It is this process of taking responsibility, and ownership, and autonomy and then stepping up to adult in situations where that’s required. And I think I speak for myself when I say, “I still find myself slipping back into these childlike, fear-based triggers and responses.” For me, at least, is something that requires upkeep, and maintenance and a continuous awareness so that I don’t slip back into those things. But that instead that I do my best to always embody this mature male psychology, and it’s difficult and it’s tricky, and I think it’s a transition that our culture at large hasn’t prepared as well for. In particular because we don’t have any initiation, rituals or ceremonies like we did in indigenous times. And so that’s…
37:34 JJ: That’s definitely something that Roger, Robert Moore talks about. And then also many other psycho Jungian and psychoanalysts or Jungian thinkers, especially going back like Jung talked about the loss of initiation. I think he was referencing in the odd day, and then later Joseph Campbell talked about it, as well. But even if we were to just let go the idea of the male ritual, male ritualistic wounding, and separation from the womb, the externalized womb of childhood into adulthood where you carry the wound in a way that’s like you are responsible for the wound. If we just let that ritualistic go and just look at the facts that our culture is very, very good at technology, at business, at a lot of things that are very intellectual in a lot of ways. But we’re terrible at emotions. We’re terrible at feeling. I do integration coaching with people and one of the most important things I help people learn is how to feel their feelings. It was intuitive to you as a child, but then you were given a whole lot of bad information about what that means. And then differentiating between feelings and interpretations. That’s again, a different thing. But we just look at our society.
39:06 JJ: One of my previous guests on the show, Douglas Tataryn, I don’t remember the number of the episode but it was called, The Crash Course in Emotional Intelligence. He presents something called the bio-motor framework and part of the foundation of it is to suggest that our emotional education stops at a certain age, which means we remain ourselves emotionally children for a long time. And that part of that is expressing… I think he calls it cultural alexithymia which is to say that our culture doesn’t have a capacity to make sense of feelings and to talk about feelings. We end up just talking about the stories in our head. “How are you feeling today?” “Oh, I’m feeling like yesterday. It wasn’t epic and today might be better.” Those aren’t feelings. “I’m feeling sort of low, like heavy today.” That’s a feeling. “I think it’s probably a continuation of yesterday.” Okay, that’s a story. That’s an interpretation. Our culture doesn’t encourage that.
40:12 JJ: And I think that Psilocybin, psychedelics in general, encourage us to confront the full-blown chaos of our being. But Psilocybin, in particular, I think is a very strong… If you let it, it has a very strong inclination towards educating us, comfortably or not, in adult emotional intelligence.
40:41 PA: Hey, listeners. Just a brief interruption, real brief. We’re gonna get to this week in psychedelics. I wanna bring you some relevant news in case you haven’t caught it on Twitter or Facebook. The first big piece of news is that in The Lancet, a well-known psychiatric journal, MAPS’s recent study on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD in military veterans, firefighters, and police officers was published. It was a randomized, double-bind dose-response, phase two, clinical trial. And in that trial there were 26 participants. And over 60% of them were able to cure their PTSD as a result of MDMA Therapy. Now, this is very similar to the phase two clinical trials that MAPS published, I believe about a year ago, that showed that 69% of people cured their PTSD after MDMA Therapy when looked at from a one-year follow-up. So this is obviously not surprising; however, what’s so big about this is that it was specific for military veterans, firefighters and police officers. And it was obviously extremely effective in facilitating that healing.
42:07 PA: The second thing is Ketamine, is really becoming quite popular now as an antidepressant. And there are a number of pharmaceutical companies that are starting to get involved in facilitating Ketamine development. Johnson and Johnson is one and there are a few others. So that’s one thing to look out for. As Ketamine becomes a more mainstream treatment, there will be pharmaceutical companies that get involved. And obviously Ketamine is a disassociative. It is not a classic psychedelic. So, the effects and impacts are different than Psilocybin and LSD, for example. It’ll be interesting to see what happens from them.
42:47 PA: And the third piece of news is Michael Pollan’s new book, “How to Change Your Mind” is coming out soon. His first major article was published on The Wall Street Journal about the new science of psychedelics. And he just had a podcast with Tim Ferriss, which will significantly amplify the message of psychedelics to a mainstream crowd. So we’re really excited at Third Wave to see what happens with that.
43:12 PA: Last piece of news, we’re hosting another retreat in Amsterdam at the end of July, early August. Our Synthesis retreats, where we use Psilocybin in a modern, western, safe, legal framework to facilitate self-awareness, self-understanding, creativity, general maturation and development. And you can check out details about that at synthesisretreat.com. Spots are filling up fast, so if this is something you’re interested in, make sure to check it out. Without further ado, we will now bring you back to the show.
43:52 PA: We’ve been talking a lot about these transformative doses because they put you into this very vulnerable, almost ego-dissolution state of being where, like you said, a lot of these things can come up, and they just come. And at many times, particularly with someone who has deep trauma, and they don’t have a therapist, or someone who can hold that space for them, it can be, at times, more traumatic than helpful.
44:16 JJ: Oh, yeah.
44:16 PA: So, which brings me into this topic of microdosing. And I know that you’ve been doing quite a bit of microdosing yourself and you’ve written about it. And obviously, I’m very interested in microdosing. And I’d be curious just to hear your thoughts about what role could… Or does microdosing play in this process, either of discharging it or the integration process of once it’s been discharged, integrating it so that it’s useful and helpful going forward.
44:46 JJ: Well, first, before I go there, I just wanna trackback for a second and say that everything I just talked about in regards to what Psilocybin can offer, I think exists inside of a specific dose window, that is not so much quantifiable but… Quantified but qualified, which is somewhere between enough that I’m completely in the mushroom experience, and there’s no effort on my part for things to arise. But between that and somewhere before, there’s so much that I am not identified with my normal human experience anymore. Because then there’s the ultra-high dose, that you talk… Like I had Kilindi Iyi on the show, and I’ve talked with him in person multiple times, and it’s just like, “Sorry, but I can’t find any personal relationship to my parents and to my wounding, when I’m in another dimension, interacting with the planet of information that exists on the subatomic level, with the microcivilizations from the transcendent future or something like that.” That doesn’t really connect. I mean, a very specific dose window.
45:54 JJ: So, then for microdosing. Most of my microdosing experiences and microdosing specifically, so for around 200 milligrams or less of dried mushrooms, or 10 micrograms or less of LSD, not like microdosing where it’s like, “Yeah, I took a half gram, or one gram, or something,” where it’s really just small dosing. Most of my experience has been with LSD. Although I have experimented fairly… Yeah, fairly substantially with Psilocybins. Speaking specifically of Psilocybin, I feel like I’m not entirely confident to say that because a certain dose provides this level of emotional processing, that a smaller dose would offer the same but to a smaller degree. I think it offers something totally different, but related. And it seems like there’s a greater capacity to be perceptive of my feeling experience and a greater capacity to give love to it. I know that sounds very woo woo, but there’s… It’s like the understanding is there more rather than, “Oh, I just gotta push through it. There’s a greater chance of feeling like, “Oh, I’m feeling this, and yeah it makes sense that I’m feeling that.””
47:20 JJ: One of the things that makes according to people like Darcia Narvaez, and Gabor Maté and Alice Miller. One of the things that prevents childhood violence to becoming severe trauma, the thing that makes the difference between a painful experience being a traumatic event or just a painful experience is whether or not the child has an enlightened witness. Somebody who can empathize with them but also somebody who that they can orient their own emotional experience to. Which is to say they can trust that this person is okay, and that they see that I’m gonna be okay. And so I can trust and orient towards my okay-ness while I can also feel my feelings, and know that I’m seen in my suffering. And I think that when I microdose mushrooms and even when I higher dose, I know I just said that we shouldn’t correlate those two, but there is that overlap, is there’s a sense of being able to be my own enlightened witness. And also there’s a little bit of an anxiolytic effect, typically. Sometimes it puts me into like, “Woah. I gotta work through some stuff right now. I didn’t realize I had to work through some stuff right now.” But other times it’s like, “Oh, I don’t have to work through any stuff right now. I’ve just been perpetuating something that has caused neurological nervous system stress. And now I’m at ease, and now I can just do my work and get it done.”
48:50 JJ: I’ve definitely seen that there’s a greater overall increase in my well-being if I use less of a microdose, I’m talking less than 100 milligrams or 200 milligrams. I’m like, “There’s just too much emotional content for me to be able to conceptualize my external world adequately right now.” And that there’s a greater increase in quality of life if it’s used consistently over time. So I get a lot more out of my quality of life if I’ve been doing it. I’ve tried two protocols, the Fadiman protocol, which I’m sure you’ve talked about on your show. And then I guess, the Stamets protocol, five days on two days off, and I get a lot more out of it. If I run through a few cycles of that protocol over the course of a few weeks than I would if I just did it once, typically.
49:43 PA: Alright. So that’s a really great way to wrap up in terms of that microdosing angle. What I’d love to do is just if you could just tell our listeners where they can find you. Maybe a little bit about your podcast and your website, just so that if they wanna find out more about your work that you’ve done with this relationship between Psilocybin and shadow work they can go and have, and dig into that.
50:03 JJ: Yeah. Right off the bat, everything that you could possibly wanna know about me is at jameswjesso.com, J-E-S-S-O, where you can find my written work, information about my books, this interview will be on that website. My interviews with other podcast, as well as my own podcast, Adventures Through The Mind, which is very focused on psychedelic culture, but not just psychedelic culture, like I’ve had Kilindi Iyi on, that kind of psychedelic culture. But I mentioned before, I had Douglas Tataryn on to talk about emotional intelligence and I have had Bernardo Castro on to talk about idealism and the metaphysics of consciousness. All of these things I think are related to psychedelic culture. You can find all my stuff there. The book that we spoke about primarily today is, “Decomposing The Shadow“. There’s a follow-up to that book called, “The True Light of Darkness“, which is less scholarly, and more experiential storytelling, so different strokes for different folks, I guess. But yeah, that’s it. I’m also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, @jameswjesso. And that’s where I put out the larger body of curated content so people can check me out there.
51:23 PA: Great. Well, that wraps it up. I just wanna thank you, James, for coming on the show. I know we’re gonna do another podcast here pretty soon for your show. Which I’m super…
51:31 JJ: Yeah, in five days.
51:32 PA: In five days. I’m super excited about that. So I know we’ll get to hop on the call again, on the phone again, and chat more. But I just wanna thank you for coming on our podcast, and sharing your knowledge and wisdom because it’s been enlightening for me, and I think extremely useful, and practical and helpful for our listeners as well. So thank you so much for taking the time, and making the effort and for all the work that you’ve done so far.
51:57 JJ: Excellent. Thank you very much, Paul. I appreciate those acknowledgments and the opportunity to have this conversation with you today.