Abandoning Expectations in Healing: Uncut with Bruce Sanguin
Bruce Sanguin, BA, M.Div., RMFT, joins us to talk about disillusionment in healing, how expectations can obstruct truth and authenticity. Now, as a psychotherapist, he's putting that wisdom into practice.
Abandoning Expectations in Healing: Uncut with Bruce Sanguin
Sherry Walling - 0:00:09
Hello there, thanks for joining me for another episode of the MIND CURIOUS podcast. This is a podcast for those looking to explore the potential of psychedelic compounds. In this show, we dive deep and test our understanding of what consciousness is while talking to experts in the field who are no strangers to tapping into the curiosities of the mind. I'm your host, clinical psychologist, Dr. Sherry Walling. Let's dive in. Today, I'm bringing you a conversation with Bruce Sanguin.
Sherry Walling - 0:00:35
This conversation is largely uncut. You may have heard a segment, just a little snippet of this conversation in episode 3 when we talked about healing the mind and the body, but the conversation that I had with Bruce was so rich and so lovely that I wanted to re-release the whole thing. Bruce is a psychotherapist living in Victoria, British Columbia. He's the author of seven books, and his latest book is called Dismantled: How Love and Psychedelics Broke a Clergyman Apart and Put Him Back Together, and in this book, he describes his journey with psychedelic medicine. Bruce is an incredible human.
Sherry Walling - 0:01:19
You can feel the wisdom in our conversation and I'm so grateful that he was willing to share some of that with us and hope that you will enjoy this conversation. Before we roll on, I just want to add one common-sense reminder that this podcast does not constitute medical advice. The perspectives of the guests are theirs alone. They don't represent me, my opinions, or those of Mind Cure Health. So, I think I'd love to start by hearing a little bit about what you're currently doing.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:01:53
First of all, I'm delighted to be in this conversation with you, Sherry. So, happy to be here. What I'm currently doing is, I'm a psychotherapist in British Columbia on the West Coast of Canada. So, in the context of that psychotherapeutic practice, I will, on the clients' initiative do medicine journeys with them primarily using MDMA, LSD, mushrooms, or a combination thereof. So, that's what I'm doing and I used to do more guided journeys with people who just kind of wanted a one-off experience.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:02:23
But increasingly, I'm recognizing the importance of building the relationship and building trust so that those who are making the journey aren't contending with distrust 'cause that can constitute the whole journey if someone doesn't really feel connected or doesn't have a rapport with you.
Sherry Walling - 0:02:48
It's so interesting to hear you say that in making that shift because I think sometimes the enthusiasm around the healing power of psychedelics is perhaps misguided in the perception that they're faster, right? You don't have to do years of therapy, you don't have to worry about relationship, you can just sort of jump in, and do the work with surgical precision. And when I've heard people describe it that way, that's not really congruent with my experience of how healing happens. It sounds like you're having some similar thoughts?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:03:21
Yeah, I mean, because I wrote this book, people would read it, get inspired and go, "Hey, I want to come and make a journey with you." So, they'd come from all over the place, and at the time, I was transitioning out of, you know, my previous vocation. So, I said, "Okay," but, you know, 60% to 70% of those persons just wanted to have a kind of unique experience and/or they were hoping that this was the magic bullet and, you know, often brought those expectations with them. So, you know, I'd have to do a little talk with them beforehand about while these medicines can be profoundly transformational, they're one aspect of a healing process that can take a long-- takes the time that it takes, and that it's actually not a good idea to try to move too quickly, for example through trauma. So, yeah, you live and learn, and certainly in my own experience, when I started my own healing journey intensively with psychedelics, I realized there are layers upon layers, upon layers, upon layers, so it becomes as much a path of life as anything else.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:04:26
And I'd just add to that Sherry that, you know, I really want to emphasize that healing is, in the end, about relationship. Because our hearts were broken in a relationship, they're only healed in a relationship, in a corrective experience of an authentic relationship where somebody allows us to be without leaving us alone, and most traumatic experiences are nobody let us be who we are, and then we felt totally isolated. And so, it's the therapeutic relationship that heals it, and psychedelics can be a tool or an aide to transform that history of distrust into being able to relax in the presence of the other, which is my definition of healing.
Sherry Walling - 0:05:15
So, your book, Dismantled, I know you've written a few books, but Dismantled is the one that I came across in which you tell some of your journeys and how you've shifted vocationally, and psychedelics played a central role in your healing journey, and I think one of the things that I so appreciate about the way that you wrote the book is just the intimacy and the intensity with which you talk about your own healing experience and the relational experience that you had with your therapist going through some of this process.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:05:49
Yeah, thanks, yeah. You know, there are two kinds of streams that I took. One was with ayahuasca and, you know, 50 or 60 experiences with ayahuasca. And there, the emphasis is quite a bit on self-sufficiency. So, you're kind of left alone with everything and frankly, there were times when I needed more support. And then I went into psychotherapy, you know, with my therapist and mentor, Andrew Feldmar, whom I'm incredibly grateful for, using a combination of MDMA and LSD and there, I think, is where I experienced-- had the corrective experience of being with someone who is just with me with zero ambition for me, zero expectations.
Sherry Walling - 00:06:34
What do you mean by zero ambition? Does that mean hopeless? Does that mean not having a picture of what it means on the other side? What does that mean to you?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:06:42
Kind of yeah, I'm not hopeless but not having a picture of anything, of what healing looks like, of what the client is supposed to be doing, of what the medicine is supposed to be like, have any kind of ideal state. In other words, it's a radically phenomenological way of being with the other in which you discover what wants to emerge rather than having images of what should emerge or how this person should be behaving.
Sherry Walling - 0:07:08
Why was that so powerful for you?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:07:10
Yeah, it was powerful because the impact of childhood trauma is precisely that no one let us be who we are and so we lived into their expectations. In order to survive failures of love, we ask the question, "Who do you need me to be? I'll be nice, I'll be good. I'll be quiet, I'll be loud. I'll be entertaining, I'll be charming.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:07:30
I'll be less, I'll be more. Just give me the signals and I'll just tune right into that because I can't survive without your love." In the process, we build a survival self or a trauma
self or an ego or just our personality. But at some point, if we're lucky, we wake up to the truth that we haven't been living our own life. And like for me, it happened when I was 55, I think. I remember the ayahuasca experience where I really got, "For all this time, I haven't been living my own life," and it's very sobering, and there's grief, and it's like, "What the hell have I been doing?" It's like, "What kind of hypnotic trance inducted me into this other life," and then I saw how I structured my personality to be nice, to be good, to be pleasing, and to be smart, and I was like-- so, I saw how I was performing life rather than living it, and the healing process involves trading in the performance of life or the performance of good for the practice of true, just what's true in this moment.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:08:30
And so, if you go into a journey with a therapist who has ambition, by which I mean, thinks he knows how this should go and even inserts his ego, then you're going to deliver is just going to be a reenactment of the trauma of lovelessness because you're just going to figure out, "He wants me to say this, he wants me to cry, he wants me to breathe deeper, he wants me to have a transcendent vision, he wants me to experience archetypes," or she, and you'll deliver.
Sherry Walling - 0:09:05
And now that you are on the other side of the couch, so to speak, as a psychotherapist yourself, how do you walk in such a way that really is free of expectation when you think about your clients?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:09:20
Well, you show up for each session as if you don't even know the person. As if, it's a clean slate, you're starting over, and you're responding to what's arising moment by moment, by moment with your authentic presence. So, you leave all your maps of reality, all your diagnoses, all your sense of who you imagine these people to be or what the problem is, and you just tune in, just the practice of attunement, being in the moment, tracking, opening your heart, being tender. And thereby, teaching them the practice of tenderness and loving kindness toward themselves because the impact of trauma invariably is that unconsciously, we are caught in a matrix of self-loathing. It's unconscious but it's very deep and it's a little nut that it's hard to break and it's hard to get to.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:10:07
So, the transition or the transformation of that self loathing into self compassion or tenderness, just kindness towards the self is the preeminent signal that healing is happening.
Sherry Walling - 0:10:26
And why psychedelics? Why do you think it's so hard for us to get there purely in a relational way?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:10:35
I mean, you know, it's possible, right? Like you know that, and it takes a lot of time, but it takes a lot of time with psychedelics too. Like I'll just speak from my own experience, Sherry. I went to the jungles of Mexico to ostensibly be an integration therapist. So, I was going to show up, and during the day, people would come to me and I would help them do their integration of the experience.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:10:49
But I found out about an hour before the ceremony that the shaman said, "No, you'll be drinking every night with us, and then during the day, you'll be also doing the integration work." Well, I got slammed. Night after night after night, I was taken to the same place of profound sorrow that I've been living with unconsciously my whole life. And it took me back, the medicine took me back in all of its intelligence. Because of the power of denial, I had to break through the part of me that was defended against feelingness and defended against believing that this could be possible, that there was so much lovelessness, so much lack of kindness, lack of tenderness, so much hurt enacted that I repressed this so deeply that there was no getting at it.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:11:43
It's especially difficult if you're successful. I had written books. I've been this minister for 30, you know, like people came to me, I was the guy. I was put together, right? And ayahuasca's job was just to disassemble me.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:12:00
It was just taking me apart piece by piece
until I was just dropped into this state of I was a two-year old crawling around in the jungle, you know, uttering a mantra, "I'm a motherless child, I'm a motherless child." It was a terrible, terrible thing.
Sherry Walling - 00:12:20
I mean, at what point did you want to pack up and go home and be like forget this?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:12:25
Every single day, I said out.
Sherry Walling - 0:12:28
Okay, what kept you there?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:12:30
Yeah, that's a really good question. I think it's because, ultimately, I trusted that something was at work that was for me, and this gets into the conversation about spirituality, but there is some kind of intelligence that was working that was for me and not against me. And so, I kept surrendering into it, but just to loop back to finish your question, I think it's so difficult to get to these places of repressed feelings and memories because of the power of denial that we put in place a defense mechanism that was equal to the amount of heartbreak that we experienced, and we told ourselves, "Because it was true then, I won't survive this if I feel it." So, we carry that memory, of that belief, that core belief or conclusion we came to about realities, "I can't feel what's there and survive," with us into our psychotherapy, into our medicine work. And that's why, I think, it's so challenging. We put it in place to survive and the memory is that if we go back into this, we're going to be destroyed.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:13:36
It's not true but we don't know it's not true.
Sherry Walling - 0:13:42
And it's so deeply interwoven into ourselves that you almost can't look at it as a separate thought?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:13:48
Yeah, exactly right. It's a really important point to make sure is that when I was in the jungle crawling around, it's not like there was a self watching me. I was identified with it. The feelings had me. I didn't have the feelings.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:14:00
There was just me as the feeling and that's true as a child. You are your feelings. There's no separate I. So, to go back into it is like the fear that you're going to contract back into that place where you're of absolute abandonment.
Sherry Walling - 0:14:20
How did you begin to be reconstructed, if I could use that term?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:14:25
I think the pivotal moment was, to begin with during an ayahuasca experience, where I was in agony. Again, this seems to be my story.
The agony is the resistance to it, right? So, I was agonizing myself. The shaman worked it on me. He came up and he was doing the Shipibo chants.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:14:41
I went back to my mat and then there was this breakthrough, and what happened is I fell in love with myself, like I saw how truly beautiful I am. I mean, I don't mean to be narcissistic. Everyone in that room is beautiful, like we come into this world with sort of an original beauty and radiance that if it's not seen, it's heartbreaking. And unfortunately, very few people, it seems, are capable of actually seeing the radiance and amplifying it. If they've been traumatized themselves, they dim the wattage. They protect themselves.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:15:18
The anxiety is like if I let this radiance out, like it's too much for me. It's going to remind me of my own trauma and what happened to me when I was a child, so it's better yet to just level the playing field, keep the wattage down. And in that process, we break our children's hearts. It was the first time in my life, like I remember saying to myself, "Oh, this is what they mean by self-compassion." Oh, I didn't like-- I sort of got the concept and I was, "Yeah, yeah, get a self-compassion." But here I was, I was loving my shoulder where I was injured. I was loving my knees. I was speaking to my heart and giving thanks in my lungs and my bowels and the cells of my body. And I was just so grateful for despite how I had treated them, how they just kept going, and so it was a real pivot for me that I've never fallen back into self- loathing.
Sherry Walling - 0:16:27
It's so striking to me the way you described that as such an embodied process. I mean on one hand, you're talking about a way of feeling about yourself but it's so specific to shoulder, toes, cells, and it's such an embodied love as opposed to the, you know, the spiritual or the psychological, right? It really lands in your body.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:16:49
Yeah, thanks for picking that up 'cause it's like I shifted from sort of being a separate self to being in relationship with every part of me. So, it was a relational shift where I broke out of isolation into relationship with my hands, and to my toes that I had broken playing volleyball, and to my left knee that was, you know, destroyed from basketball. So, yeah, it was very much a survey of my entire body and bringing tenderness.
Sherry Walling - 0:17:22
Yeah, I feel like that's one of the really unique experiences about the medicine involved healing processes. That it seems to get at us on a cellular level a little bit differently than we can do even through really rich, wonderful, relationally oriented psychotherapy. That there's something that lands in our cells in a different way that creates an opening for healing and maybe that's kind of my observation or bias but...
Bruce Sanguin - 0:17:54
Yeah, I think it's profound what you're saying, like, you know, if you spend much time in ayahuasca ceremonies, you'll realize like one of the experiences that like I experienced that the shaman's chants, the Shipibo chants, the music, the notes were transformed to electrical signals, and that they were entering at the level of my DNA and repairing. It was like surgery was going on and looking for deficiencies and then hmm hmm hmm. But it was such an embodied experience at the level of DNA.
Sherry Walling - 0:18:29
How does the pastor part of you, the clergyman, play in these spaces? I know that's not your vocation anymore but how do you put those pieces together of chants-changed DNA with this new capacity for self-compassion?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:18:47
Well, it's interesting like post-psychedelic healing journey and I'm still in it, but one of the things I often realize is that I wish I had known this, you know, like while I was in the church because what happens is that because the teachings of Jesus and the teachings about Jesus are so ingrained in me, during the ceremonies what would happen was like, for example, the cross would come up as an image. And all of a sudden, I'd do a whole rift on it in the psychedelic space, and the meaning changed, and I meant like literally Jesus like...
Sherry Walling - 0:19:22
Having a different conversation with Jesus.
Bruce Sanguin - 00:19:24
Different conversation with Jesus where I realized-- well here's one example of like a rift. Take the Cross of Jesus, you know, Jesus died for our sins and you know all of that. What I got, whether it's true or not, I don't know, but what I got and the reason I got this is that I was in a kind of bliss state in a room with 25 other ayahuasca people that who were journeying and they were puking and they were screaming and they were like they're all-- and I realized these are all warriors, and they're participating in the redemption of the violence in their ancestral lineage, and so they're basically saying, "It stops here. I will do this work not just for myself but for my ancestors and for any future of our ancestors. It ends with me." So, I really got-- it's a profound act of social justice.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:20:15
It's not navel-gazing. It's not even primarily about the person who's undergoing the experience. So, then I said, "Well, this is maybe what Jesus was doing on the cross. He wasn't dying for everybody's sins. He was suffering that which was his to suffer to end the ancestral violence of his lineage." And if the gospel story is anything, it's not about believing anything, it's a story of initiation into a path.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:20:40
So, we have to undergo what Jesus underwent if we're true followers, and that means going to the cross, which means participating in the redemption of the violence in our ancestral lineage. Maybe it's for the whole universe, I don't know, but it certainly is for our own ancestral lineage.
Sherry Walling - 0:21:05
Like a commitment to undoing the intergenerational transmission of trauma?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:21:09
That's right and so, you know, I find myself playing with those ideas. I don't have anything to do with church anymore, you know, I haven't been for seven years since I left it. I have very little interest in institutional church, but Jesus and his teachings and some of the stuff that was taught about Him still interests me, and I think He or that Christ energy is a real energy in the universe. That still lives in me but it's not expressed in the context of community.
Sherry Walling - 0:21:41
Right, the corporate expression?
Bruce Sanguin - 00:21:42
Yeah. Do you have a sort of Christian background?
Sherry Walling - 0:21:47
I guess. I'm a seminary graduate as well. I went to Fuller Seminary in Pasadena.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:21:54
Oh, did you?
Sherry Walling - 00:21:54
Yup, so I grew up in a very, very traditional Southern Baptist family. My father was a minister. His father was a minister, so we've got multiple generations.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:22:05
So as part of your journey been about like sort of differentiating from that and seeing where you are in a relationship to it and where you were not in a relationship to it or?
Sherry Walling - 0:22:17
Well, I think at least for my context even going to seminary was sort of a great act of rebellion because I grew up in a setting where women weren't to teach from the front or speak really unless they were under the authority of a father or a husband. So, I've sort of had it inside out rebellion of how do I interact with these. I think about it as native language, right? It's the native story with which I came into the world and there are wonderful, very important parts of it. And then there are also parts that have done violence to me and to, you know, other generations. And so, I think similarly, there are lots of spaces where I continue to interact but it doesn't look the way that it did when I begin, yeah.
Bruce Sanguin - 00:23:06
Yeah, I actually had SYNTAC or ATMA that does conference I'm speaking at. They gave me a slot on the main stage at 9:00 AM and so I thought, "Well, wouldn't I be interested? It's Sunday morning, we still have a memory of the Christian thing." So, I'm calling it a psychedelic church and has reflections from a former clergyman on the life and teachings on or about Jesus post-psychedelic experiences.
Sherry Walling - 0:23:31
That sounds very interesting.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:23:33
Yeah, so, tune in.
Sherry Walling - 0:23:35
Okay. Are there elements of spirituality that shape your work now? I mean, I guess when we enter the psychedelic realm, we're playing between spaces. So, at least in my training as a psychologist was very scientist-practitioner.I took a lot of stats classes, wrote a lot of academic papers, there's an indoctrination into a way of thinking. And so the psychedelic realm although solidly within the world of science, as we are seeing according to the pursuit of FDA approval and things like that, but still falls in the spiritual realm, I think, for many people. So, I'm curious how you sort of weave together this formal training as a psychotherapist, the psychedelic world, your past spiritual, and current spiritual understandings?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:24:29
Yeah, I think what happens on psychedelics is that the membrane between the consciousness and unconscious thins or even there's an inversion, so all of a sudden, we can see or unconscious we're in it. It's like Carl Jung, you know, in his psychotic period where he's relating to all these archetypes, the shadow, the witch, the devil, and he still talks about them as in that psychic dimension, they're actual beings but they're living in the domain of psyche not in the domain of a gross physical realm. So, there is a spirituality that applies to the gross physical realm, there is a spirituality that applies to the psychic realm, there is a spirituality that applies to the subtle realms, to the causal realms, and then there's the non dual. So, it's like getting clear about which domain we're in, and on psychedelics, the first domain, I think, the first breakthrough is through the unconscious where you see for example, your shadow, you see your repressed emotions. You have memories of being treated poorly that you've repressed and then also the membrane between this conscious sort of material reality or the gross level of physical reality and other domains also thins. So, you can then tap into this domain where you might meet leprechauns, other little beings, aliens. All of whom I contend are actual beings but in that domain, then you can move into the domain of the subtle where there are angels and you could connect with light beings.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:26:02
So, I think that these medicines give us access to non-ordinary reality. One of my concerns, Sherry, is that with the corporate move into these spaces to the psychedelic space and the inevitable interest of big pharma who are into treating symptoms and have a physicalistic, materialistic world of the view where everything is matter and everything has happened in the brain and its chemistry. Just extract this molecule and take out a patent on it and then, you know, make your billions of dollars, but it still is part of that scientific materialist paradigm that reduces all reality to matter. And I think ATMA is one of these actually with David's own experience that is going to try not to do that, but it's a slippery slope. Once you go public, for example, you're accountable to the shareholder.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:27:07
You know, it's tricky to hold onto the integrity of a more that takes all these domains of reality seriously.
Sherry Walling - 0:27:18
Yeah, I think that is the rub of this. I don't know. I just think it's the problem that the psychedelic space finds itself in is that with more of that scientific, materialist conversation comes more access, right? It comes insurance companies. It comes big pharma. It comes all these evils but yet still do.
Sherry Walling - 0:27:36
That's how many people in the world will have access to these medicines and that's also how there's some sense of regulation for safety and protection for vulnerable people. So there are major, in my perspective, really benefits to this route but there's also so much risks to be lost in terms of retaining the spiritual, retaining the relational, retaining the soulfulness, this work.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:28:08
Yeah, it'll be at the cost of-- could be a reality in its fullness, in its complexity. Without reducing it, it's like being comfortable with the mystery, and I guess for me, in terms of sort of where I land on what this mystery is about, like I don't know, course it and who does? But I would use the language of-- there's some kind of creative intelligence that ontologically feels as a quality of love or relationality that is living in through and as this whole universe including me and you as the localized expressions of that. So, the spiritual path is in a sense awakening to that which is leaving us and I would say even cultivating deep gratitude for the mystery of being involved in this great mystery. It's like, "What the hell." It's staggering that there's something and not nothing.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:29:09
And then it's staggering that when you spend enough time in this healing modality is that something is working 24/7 towards our wholeness. If we can surrender to it and get out of the way, that something feels profoundly relational. So, that's something for me anyways. Now, we get into a bit wonky theology but isn't other to my otherness? I emerged out of that milieu of love manifested, so I am other to its otherness, and that otherness is bridged with deep respect, deep gratitude, with devotion, with wonder, and that same dynamic applies in the realm of my relationship with other humans, with all beings, that we are each others to the other.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:29:52
But we discover like at an ontological level of primordial level that we actually care like it could have been that we didn't give a (bleep) and psychopathy and sociopathy is the experience of people who-- the recognition of those who actually that caring has gone offline, but it's an aberration. Something happened to make that happen. We're born seemingly wanting to bridge the otherness with care, with attention, with curiosity, with love. And I think that applies, you know, as above, so below that ancient medic principle. So, for me, when I try to articulate, I don't even have a theology anymore.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:30:42
I don't think I accept it. I've just described some kind of theology, I guess, but it would be the ethics this business of there being others and bridging that otherness with care precedes metaphysics, precedes philosophy, precedes theology. All those are attempts at interpreting what's going on there. But the fundamental level, there are two others facing each other who bridged that with care and that's ethics. So, how we treat each other, it's the ultimate measure of the degree to which we're embodying this creative, loving intelligence that is living in through and as us.
Sherry Walling - 0:31:24
Sort of tapping into source.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:31:26
Yeah, tapping into source.
Sherry Walling - 0:31:28
Do you have caution around the deep intimacy of this work?
Bruce Sanguin - 00:31:35
In terms of boundaries?
Sherry Walling - 00:31:37
Yeah, I mean, I feel like boundaries are in some way, I don't know, lowest common denominator maybe but even reading your accounts of how therapy happened for you and the physical connection and touch between you and your therapist and the deep sense of love that existed between you and him, and probably exists between you and your clients in some capacity given our imperfect ability to wield or to interact with that loving-kindness. Of course, the vulnerability to abuse and confusion that I think we'll begin to hear more and more about.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:32:16
We are hearing a lot already, aren't we?
Sherry Walling - 0:32:19
Yeah. What is your thought about that?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:32:25
You know, life is inherently risky, like you can't avoid risks and all these ethics committees of various professional organizations that say don't touch or you can touch on a shoulder or you can, you know, it's like, "I'm sorry like life doesn't work like that." So, it's critical, like with my therapist, I had a relationship with him. He made a promise that he would never use me for his own benefit or for his own pleasure. I decided to advance trust and that's all you can do. Trust can't be earned. It's like I made a decision to advance trust to him and here we go. So, it becomes critical then that we know who we're getting involved with.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:33:04
We've had a long enough relationship with them that we haven't for one second felt manipulated, exploited, or that somehow we're meeting their needs. And then, you know, the best you can do is to advance trust and to enter into that. So, yeah, there are going to be abuses, but I would say it's not worth it to safeguard it by absolutely prohibiting touch for example, or there are occasions when, you know, a client wants to be held or I wanted to be held by my therapist, and experience what it's like to be able to relax in another person's arms that didn't want anything from me. And what happened was I started breathing again, that's what happens when you're relaxed. So, proceed with caution is the rule, but find the tribe that you can trust, and of course, one of the solutions is having two therapists in the room.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:34:06
But like it's so expensive. It's like who can afford one therapist, much less doubling up?
Sherry Walling - 0:34:18
Much less the two and I don't ask that question it to in any way pathologize your experience, I just think it's a really important question as...
Bruce Sanguin - 0:34:28
Yeah, I know I didn't take it as you sort of judging it as there was something wrong with it.
Sherry Walling - 0:34:35
In a way, it sounds like we'd all long and hope for that level of trust, connection, intimacy, and corrective relationship. But I worry about people who are looking for this deep-level healing and as a product of that brokenness, a product of not having been able to receive love before the complexity of really recognizing the difference between love that doesn't carry expectation that is purely for healing and support versus a sense of love that has an agenda that can be more dangerous.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:35:10
Yeah, you're absolutely right. It's tricky because people bring to the therapist their own trauma, which is of being exploited, and so there's a sense in which that feels like what you do, you make yourself available to the other, and then they'll love you. So, you know, it's up to the therapist to get this sorted out at a deep level, like get their own emotional from the depths of their own emotional deficits. Feel it, take responsibility for it because that's the only way that either you'll stop your clients from going there because of your anxiety or you will use them to take care of your own need for affirmation, validation, or to reenact your own trauma.
Sherry Walling - 0:35:56
Which is, I think, another cautionary tale of the scientific, materialistic worldview as it applies to psychotherapy in the sense that, again, I think a lot of our training is in diagnosis and writing treatment plans and things that are, I guess, kind of helpful. But also not so much conversation about the deeper things that lie within us and how that is going to make or break the healing experience for other people.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:36:24
Yeah, really well said and that's why I think the best training for psychedelic therapist, if you want to get into this space, is apprenticeship. Learn from someone who you consider to have deep integrity, go deep into the medicine with them again and again and again, and receive that person's blessing because he or she sees that they trust your readiness for this. And, you know, I don't care if it's a six-week program or a six-month or a year-long program and integration. You get your certificate and you know all about the molecular structure and obviously, you're learning a lot more, but I think there's no replacement for learning the intricacies of the human relationship and your own trauma signature, so that you can identify transference and countertransference very quickly. Name it and remove anything that is between me and you quickly then proceed.
Sherry Walling - 0:37:24
Anything else that feels important that we haven't covered? Anything you want to say to the world? I know that's a huge question, but...
Bruce Sanguin - 0:37:34
I think what I would leave people with if indeed we are leaving is circling back to our opening comments and conversation about-- it's about the relationship, it's not about psychedelic substances. We can come out of an ayahuasca experience or an LSD experience and we could have traveled to the stars and better star being family and experience unconditional love, and that's all wonderful, and it's all real. And then we go back into a relationship with our husband or a partner or wife, and that's where the rubber hits the road in terms of these interacting sensitivities that are born of trauma. So, it's the relation of peace that is key to healing, and so I would subsume psychedelics to the healing power of relationships, and invite people to really keep that in mind that you can have big experiences. You will have big, intense experiences unquestionably, but how does that translate into an increase in my capacity to connect with you, to be with you moment by moment? And if it doesn't, I would say that there's something about that failure of relationality, which would suggest that I'm still in trauma because it's the natural state.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:38:47
There's no separation anywhere in the universe. There's difference, there's differentiation, but there's no separation. So, if I can't enact connection with you, feel you, you feel me, there's something off about that.
Sherry Walling - 0:39:11
I think that's, yeah, that's beautifully put, that there's just quite simply something off about that.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:39:17
Yeah. It needs to be loved and included like you see it. You go, "Wow, there's something that's keeping me. There's some kind of film that's keeping me from really connecting with the trees, my partner." It's like, "That too needs to be loved." Always, always bring compassion to yourself and in that enactment of compassion, we are being in relationship whether it's with self or other. It's like a trick of keeping ourselves relational.
Sherry Walling - 0:39:50
Attuned to relationship, attuned to love.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:39:53
Yeah, attuned to love and include yourself in that so that you're not constantly holding yourself in judgment as if there's something wrong with me, so just be interested in it, notice it, and then try to understand, "Why is it that I don't want to connect so deeply?" And then you see how your own heartbreak and then allow your own suffering, like deep in your suffering, like that's always the direction of healing. Like the job of the therapist is not to alleviate suffering, it's to deepen it until there's a breakthrough, and the breakthrough is precisely that compassion can come online for yourself. It's got to be deep enough to elicit compassion.
Sherry Walling - 0:40:39
Well, beautiful. Thank you, Bruce.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:40:41
Yeah, it was really enjoyable to be with you and to have this conversation.
Sherry Walling - 0:40:46
Yeah, and if people are listening and they are curious about connecting with you or learning more about your work, is there a place for them to find you or what's your philosophy on that at this point?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:41:04
Yeah, go to brucesanguin.ca or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd be happy to connect.
Sherry Walling - 0:41:17
Whoa, what a treat. Thank you so much for joining me in this conversation. We are committed to putting out a podcast every week for this first season of MIND CURIOUS so please stay tuned, subscribe, give feedback, likes, stars, all the things, and if you'd like to know more about what Mind Cure Health is doing in the pursuit of healing, please check out the website at mindcure.com. You can also follow MINDCURE on all of the typical social media channels. Thanks so much for listening.