Just over a year ago, I wrote about the power of community to support psychedelic journeys. It’s well established that psychedelic experiences are characterized by a sense of connectedness, but sharing that journey with others can enhance those feelings. Community is fundamental to indigenous psychedelic healing, and it’s fundamental to the ACER integration program.
Two recent research articles move the discussion forward. The first, ‘(Dis)connectedness, Suicidality and Group Psychedelic Therapies‘ (McAlpine & Blackburne), notes that social disconnectedness is a significant risk factor for suicidal thoughts or behaviours. They consider the “potent synergy“ of psychedelic group therapy and suggest that “such a collective space … has the potential to not only awaken a renewed awareness of social support but also to establish a sturdy framework of communal care”.
The second one takes a different route but comes to the same conclusion. ‘Psychedelics and neonihilism – connectedness in a meaningless world’ (Plesa and Petranker) highlights the tension between the “contemporary neoliberal” context most of us live in and the connectedness at the heart of psychedelic healing. The predominant psychological model reinforces this neoliberal ideology because it’s “based on the individual as self-contained, as atomic – a self which fashions itself as separate from the other” (Bhatia, 2020). Plesa and Petranker suggest that psychedelic group psychotherapy could help us overcome modern experiences of meaninglessness. It may offer “a collective confrontation of meaninglessness as a radical departure from individualizing therapeutic practices that further reinforce neoliberal forms of individualization, responsibilization, competition and self-governance”.
I’ve focused on psychedelic experiences here, but any of the embodied pathways of connection can disrupt the alienation fostered by neoliberalism because they reveal that we are fundamentally interconnected.