Why Storytelling

The ‘change agent’ is a universally agreed-upon archetype in psychedelic circles. The aiding of evolution in the most positive manner – those of us who are in it for the long haul don’t aspire to a whole heckofalotmore than that. A reasonable consensus of us agree that psychedelic states enable change. Several hours can have lasting effects, reaching weeks, months, even years.

I never thought I’d see any change-agent as potent as a psychedelic trip. Then I participated in an expertly-facilitated dialogue, and watched people get changed and then got changed a bit, myself, a few times. And it stayed with me. New perspectives, new approaches, for weeks. Things I thought I had all figured out, on lock, became malleable. And this thing – hearing somebody else’s story, speaking own story – transformed me. I actually felt fortunate for my history with psychedelics, since that meant I had practice in unforeseeable twists & turns that offered to leave me changed. Unexpected growth experiences. Each week this group would gather for a mere 90 minutes of minimally-guided dialogue. Voicing thoughts & ideas were alright, but the real currency was when people told stories they had experienced firsthand, explained what they took from them, and then we all sat with that. One of my favorite aspects of storytelling is that there is no arguing over right and wrong. There can be only one expert in how something effects you.

And it is important that your story get told. History is written by the victors, which is a generous way of saying the oppressors. In our case, the history that has been written is, to put it curtly – bad. Chased down by fear and spite in equal measure, our worst was publicized (not to mention what was completely made-up) and our best was suppressed. There is a wealth of information that has been systematically withheld from the public. Therefore, true stories told by the people who lived them, is the primary vehicle for the historical rewriting going on right now, in this Psychedelic Renaissance.

If you’re into systems theory or quantum mechanics, you can see this renaissance as the chaos that unfolds during a transformation (in our case, from taboo to acceptance) – which subsequently makes it the ripest moment for influence over the outcome, as the component parts reorganize. Everything is in flux and up for grabs – including the prevailing attitudes about who takes psychedelics, what they do, and how to treat them. This is the time voices need to be heard. Telling your story is the easiest way to engage with this process.

Another cool thing about storytelling is that it can ride the larger wave of destigmatizing psychedelics. Documentaries are great, and clinical research is important, but transformation lies in exposure to stories, especially the ones that challenge widely-held beliefs. A once-taboo behavior is on it’s way toward being sanctioned with its own above-ground place in society. What will that look like? That’s up to us. To share what has worked, and what hasn’t. What to encourage, and what to look out for. How to best manifest harm reduction, instead of zero tolerance.

And as so many deep psychedelic dives go, telling our stories turns inward. The stories, themselves, also become subject to re-invention. I’ve talked about things that have happened to me, which I always took to mean one thing, only to have them interpreted through another perspective to also mean something completely different. I’ve revisited formative experiences, only to see the limitations of an interpretation I gave it at the time, an interpretation I arrived at from a far more limited worldview than I have now. So telling that story helped me move on from something that was holding me back.

So we gather. We set foot in shared physical space, share our stories and enter into a worldview or a way of life that is not our own. Face-to-face, clearly, is best. You don’t need me to tell you how easy it is to misread something somebody has typed. So IRL is where it’s at. Granted, we do live in a time where there is plenty of access to great trip manuals. But ask anybody whose done it – talked about a specific aspect of your trip around people sharing their similar-yet-different stories – and they’ll tell you the experience of that story-sharing is transformative. All you have to do is follow the only rule – agree to be changed by what you hear.

And with that – you launch into the unknown.

About Author

Chris in Portland
42 year-old semi-practicing head; weightlifting, urban yogi who works in a special education classroom and has been watching a lot of Kevin Hart and Gabriel Iglesias stand-up with my son, lately. BA in Psychology (English Composition minor), MA candidate in Conflict Resolution, focusing on dialogue facilitation. Concentrating on drug policy reform and cultural competence (equity) in the workplace, primarily utilizing the narrative methodology of storytelling.

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