Safety Guidelines for Guides, Psychedelic Integration Practitioners, and Other Leaders
This is a riff on the safety guidelines recently released by Chacruna. I have tons of respect for Chacruna, but I wanted to tweak the guidelines. I’m a white dude with plenty of power and privilege, and I know plenty of other people who fit the same description. What would safety guidelines look like for us, the people most statistically likely to create a lack of safety? How can men, who participate in psychedelic community as members or leaders hold themselves to a standard that promotes safety for the people that really need it? How can we model ethical behavior for the next generation of men who will enter this work in the future? This is what I’ve come up with, in one quick run through. I’m aware that there is some biting humor here, some of it’s brusque, but you’re men, you can take it.
Note: I’m happy to make this a living, collaborative document. I know that Chacruna spent a lot of time and worked with many experts to draft their document, and I created this one on the spur of the moment. I’m happy to have an evolving conversation. I probably won’t argue too much, as it’s not fun for me. I also probably won’t be super open to strangers who want to tell me what I should do, or should have done. I hope that everyone can appreciate and enjoy this in the spirit with which it is offered.
Psychedelic Safety Guidelines
- Treat everyone like friends and family. Better yet, treat everyone like a family member who has had a rough day. People often come to ceremony to heal. If one of your siblings recently had their heart broken by a lousy partner, how would you treat them? My guess is you wouldn’t sexually assault them. Don’t do that to anyone else in your community either
- Get Experienced. Do your work. Go to trainings, workshops, and yoga classes. Meditate, read good books. Learn at the feet of brilliant people of a variety of genders, sexual orientations, and belief systems. Challenge yourself.
- Be transparent about your skills and abilities. Don’t misrepresent your skills and abilities. That’s lying. Don’t lie.
- Don’t touch people without consent, on intimate areas of the body, or otherwise. You’re dealing with family, remember. You wouldn’t grope your mom, would you? Also, if touch is a consideration for some reason, best to discuss it clearly, transparently, in advance, and while everyone is sober. Also if you need to talk to someone alone, try to do it in such a way that it can’t be construed as menacing. Remember that you’re large and strong. Don’t block doorways with your body or insist that meetings take place in overly remote locations. Maybe just a bench in a quiet area of a public park would be nice.
- Keep your clothes on, everyone, please. If you’re not at Harbin Hot Springs, everyone stays dressed. And you aren’t at Harbin because it was lost in a fire a few years ago and hasn’t been rebuilt. It’s a tragedy. And you’re a tragedy if you think you’re clever because you conned someone to take their clothes off because of some weird fetish or power trip.
- If you have sexual intentions, just take them elsewhere. Look, I want you to have a happy, fulfilling sex life. But this isn’t the place. The gods have provided us with a plethora of online dating apps full of people who want to get down. Get your needs met on your own time.
- Sexual intercourse during ceremonies is vetoed in nearly all ayahuasca traditions. There is probably good reason for this. Don’t try to bang anyone. On the off chance that someone tries to bang you, just be flattered and decline.
- Sexual intercourse with a client does not make you cool. Sometimes, men with power and opportunity think it does. Usually men who are new to power and opportunity. It’s an immature, rookie move. See #2.
- Receive friendliness and compliments with generous appreciation of the spirit with which they are offered. If you are helpful to people they are often grateful. The healing that people receive in a psychedelic space can be profound, and so the gratitude is often profound. People might be projecting some paternal archetype onto you as well, and be in a space where they see you as their dad or Jesus or Santa Claus or Jeff Goldblum or whatever. Don’t abuse that. Be a good dad. Say thank you and tell them you appreciate what good work they did and send them home.
- Respect each person’s dignity and humanity. People dress in different ways. They talk in different ways, and they have different customs. Respect, however, is universal.
- Respect everyone’s personal space. Physically and spiritually – before, during, and after ceremony. Respect people’s boundaries. Do not suggest anyone feel obliged to engage in verbal or physical communication with you or anyone else during or following ceremony.
- Don’t give people shit they aren’t expecting. If you give people shit, make sure you only give them the best, cleanest, highest quality shit, and don’t give them more shit than necessary and don’t give them any surprise shit.
- You’re a Shaman, Not a Saint! And really, you probably aren’t even a shaman. So get off your high horse and quit taking yourself so seriously.
- If you screw up, or worry you might, get support. We are going to assume you aren’t a sociopath. We’re going to assume that you want to be a good man with good moral values, but that you struggle sometimes with the toxic ideas that you’ve been raised with. I know that I have. Find other healthy men. Work with them. Hold each other accountable. Root out the entitlement, anger, shame, and other issues that you take out on women. If you do hurt a woman, attempt to make amends quickly, learn from it, and don’t do it again. If she doesn’t want to hear it from you, you might just have to leave her alone.
- Beware of Consensual Sex. Don’t do this here. Go online. Also, for those of us with jobs in the field, we don’t really get to clock out. Being someone’s MDMA therapist during the day and then dating them at night is problematic. It might work, until it doesn’t any more. Acting innocent and surprised when is blows up in your face will make you look like a schmuck.
- Beware of Getting Romantically Involved. Sometimes we have a sex/love/friendliness synesthesia. Wires get crossed. You’ve seen the diagram. You feel a cosmic love for the universe and you look over and see a woman and just decide she’s the one. She’s not the one. You’re tripping. Chill out and leave her alone.