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On my third MDMA journey, I had a comedown that was dangerously gnarly. I spent three days mostly in the fetal position because the psychic pain was so intense. I was thrown, and I was a mess. Luckily, those first three days were the worst of it, but I was dissociated for another six weeks after that. That was my first experience of The Rebound. Because I didn't have a word for it at the time, what I assumed was that I had messed everything up. Because I thought I had messed everything up, I was spinning out, trying to fix what I thought I had broken. That confusion is what drew out my experience for so much longer than it needed. Many years later into the work, I now know you can't fix it, you can't break it, and a hangover should cure up about 3 to 5 days.


Though this piece is about more than psychedelic medicine, in this paragraph, I want to give special attention to folks healing through that modality because it can be so specifically extreme. When we take up our courage and decide to interact with psychedelic medicine, there can be so many voices coming at us from all angles. There are the traditional stigmas of psychedelics floating around in the culture; there are the opinionated voices of your friends and family, and there is the voice in your own head that is probably battling you from both sides of the line. Then there is the amount of heart one needs to be willing to trust a guide, trust the medicine, and trust themselves for turning in this direction. There is the courage of the leap, and the pressure that so many people feel, especially if they are coming to this medicine after several attempts with other modalities. So if someone feels worse when they come out than when they went in, it can cause a MAJOR internal shitstorm.


That storm is what this piece is trying to highlight. That storm is unavoidable if we are breaking new ground, medicine or not. But it doesn't have to be so scary, and it doesn't have to throw us off our game. 


As I've started to explore this phenomena, I have recognized other teachers talking about it, too. I've heard Brené Brown use the phrase "Vulnerability Hangover" and Kasia Urbaniak use the phrase "Victory Hangover". We are all talking about the same thing: An Ego Rebound - a reflexive contraction after a major (to YOU) stretch. The rebound is the late-stage insecurity that encompasses us after the thrill dies down. It is the ice in the veins after we do something unbelievable and survive. Holy shit, now we have to keep living?!! During this phase, we might just want to crawl under a rock, or heavily distract, or numb ourselves out.


Sometimes I talk about the rebound as "coming to" from a state of flow. When we are in flow, we are married in response to the environment. We are so tuned in. We aren't in our minds; that's what makes flow so enjoyable. But because we're not in our minds, when we do "come to," we can get a little shook. It's like our minds think we live in a war zone, and we went outside without our bulletproof vests and helmets on. It starts yelling and screaming because it thinks we could have died. This tantrum is often accompanied by a feeling of insecurity that seems like it emanates from everywhere. There can be major cravings for safety and objects of comfort. There is usually a pull to put things back the way things were, to settle back into the worn-in grooves that are knowable and familiar. This can feel desperate; it can feel urgent and it can feel incredibly uncomfortable. That's the bad news.


The good news is the rebound is a phase, and it is a really good sign. A rebound, or a hangover, means you've done some very good work. It means you stretched past a former limit, that you're growing, and turning toward your compass. It means you're gaining courage and getting stronger. It means you're listening to your deeper intentions. The rebound is a necessary phase of growth for most of us, and this phase too will eventually become less compelling over time. Just like with alcohol, you don't see the hangover as something scary. It's uncomfortable, and many of us want to avoid it, but we’re not afraid of it because we understand the concept of a hangover. We feel bad for a couple of days, and then we're fine again. Alcohol itself is a bad metaphor, but the concept of the hangover is what we're exploring here: A late-stage reaction to a former stimulus that will end on its own as we come back to homeostasis... which we always will if we let ourselves. This is the whole point of explaining the phenomena - to make it easier to allow ourselves to settle into homeostasis.  


Problematically, of course, homeostasis can be hard to even remember during the rebound, because the mind has no shame. It will do whatever it needs to in order to shake us up, to keep us hyper-vigilant, or apathetic. Either too busy and distracted or too frozen and isolated. It will absolutely pull out all the stops to scare us back into our old armor, and our familiar grooves. It will lob thoughts and images of our goriest nightmares at us without a second thought. Savage. The body then reacts to those nightmare scenes, et voilà, you are stuck in the fetal position for three days, and "homeostasis" is seemingly wiped from your lexicon.


The only way out is by not feeding those thoughts, images and feelings with our sacred life force: Attention. (Note, this is NOT repression. We aren’t avoiding the feelings, that’s why it’s so hard. We have to let the mind tantrum, the body feel it, AND not get sucked into it with our primary focus.) If we can break our attention away from that just slightly (and toward the part that is truly here) then we will find ourselves settling into homeostasis. We will also find ourselves getting stronger. The insecurity of the rebound is a wave, like any other experience. It comes in, it comes up, at the peak you may be very sure you aren't going to make it through this one, then it goes down, it goes out, and you're ok again. That process is called "growth." Every peak from which you break your attention makes you that much stronger and more confident moving forward.


If you can't actively find homeostasis, that's ok. We live in a universe that settles on its own, and you will too. In the same way that you prepare for an alcoholic hangover, you can prepare for an ego rebound. What helps you get through a gut-wrenching period of insecurity? Is it the hot tub, a massage, a weekend in a tent? Is it chocolate milk? (If it's not, it should be!) Is it spending more time with pals? Is it cuddles with your partner or pup? Is it re-reading your favorite novel? Or, if you're like me, is it finding new memoirs of people who have made big leaps, or taking yourself on very long walks, or listening to your cherished, anchoring audiobooks for (not kidding) the hundredth time? Whatever it is for you, do that until you can start to understand that this phase not only isn’t going to kill you, but it also doesn’t mean anything about your present or future. It just means you have a hangover. It just means you stretched. Truly, it means that you should be damn proud of yourself. You know for sure I am. 

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