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Examine Your Set and Setting

The Framework of the Psychedelic Paradigm Shift

This refers to your mindset, narratives, and emotional state

This refers to your relational environment and context

What Is Your Mindset?

1. Narratives of Connection

Take a moment and reflect on narratives of sex and relationships that have impacted you:

For example:

Stories of romance taught me that I should fulfill all of my lover's sexual and romantic needs. If I cannot fulfill their needs, there is something wrong with me. 

No single relationship can fulfill all of our needs, desires, or fantasies in a lifetime. We easily understand how diverse platonic connections reflect different aspects of ourselves and bring more perspective into our lives. We do not presume something is wrong with ourselves or the relationship when our friends have other friendships. And yet, we struggle to understand how romantic and sexual diversity will also improve the quality of our relationships. Sexually, we all have our own erotic narratives, and it is impossible that any single person would have all of the exact same fantasies and desires. Diversity of experience allows us to explore the multifaceted aspects of ourselves and can bring us deeper gratitude for the unique connection of each relationship.

 

This can be so incredibly easy to feel as you build your own relationships with multiple people but much harder to remember when your partners build other relationships. We, of course, have a secure relationship with ourselves, but it can be difficult to feel secure in our relationship with others. Do your best to remember how you can still uniquely love all of your partners and apply that same frame to your partner's experience. 

2. Narratives of Self

Take a moment and reflect on your cultural narratives of self-worth that have impacted you:

What messages did you receive about your value and self-worth in relationships?​ Are you more threatened by your partner connecting with someone of your gender? What new narratives would you like to focus on moving forward?
 

For example:

Stories of romance taught me that the only way I can feel important, sacred, or special is through exclusivity of action. I no longer feel special because my partner is exploring sexual and romantic connections with others. 

How is it that we find importance and a sense of specialness in non-exclusive platonic relationships? We find security and sacredness through our friends' continued commitment of time and energy, remembering that no other relationship can provide the unique connection that you bring. There is no competition. You are important, sacred, and special through your own individuality and the relationship you have built. Both you and your partner have all of the freedom in the world to build expansive relationships and continue to choose one another. Can you feel how powerful that is?

3. Emotional State

Take a moment and reflect on how your current emotional state may be impacting your experience:

Are you already currently hungry, tired, or stressed out? Exploring altered states of consciousness through drugs? 
 

For example:

When I am stressed out or tired, my nervous system is already activated and tender to increased stressors. Low blood sugar from hunger impairs our ability to think clearly. In these states, hearing new details about a lover's exploration  can feel exceptionally overwhelming. It can often start a spiral of thoughts: "I can't do this. I am not good at non-monogamy. This will never get easier. My lover is not going to have enough time or energy for me. My partner is going to leave me." Notice the beginning of a slippery slope of negative all-or-nothing thinking. 

Before discussing new details with a partner that may be triggering, try checking in with them to see if both of you have enough time and emotional space to process. In that check-in, ensure both of you had ample sleep and food to create the most grounded somatic state and mindset possible.

 

Hearing that my partner had explored a new connection 30 minutes before a podcast recording was not an ideal time to drop that information (lived, learned, and had to reschedule that recording). Now, I ask for partners to share new information when we have ample space to discuss these changes. I also ask that we discuss these details when we are physically together and can hold hands for somatic grounding when possible. Drugs can also impact our ability to process jealousy. I ask that my partners not introduce new dynamics while we are in an altered state of consciousness from drugs without prior explicit and enthusiastic consent in our ordinary state of consciousness. 

What messages did you receive about secure relationships? Was there a specific relationship practice that was emphasized as the "right" way?​ 
 

For example:

I grew up in conservative Christian culture in America. This culture taught me that healthy relationships are only between a man and a woman and were specifically monogamous, maintaining your "virginity"  until you are married to one sexual partner for life. True love is therefore only monogamous and exclusive.

When my first polyamorous partner presented the idea of non-monogamy and expansive relating, I firmly exclaimed, "If you really loved me, you would only want to be with me." I completely misunderstood at that time how we all have multiple relationships and love multiple people, regardless of which relationship style you practice. That love often takes different forms of platonic, romantic, or sexual connection depending on your relationship style. I had to learn that you are not "less pure" by having sex with multiple people. Erotic and sexual connection is an art. And like any art, you learn and gain more skill with continued practice and diverse exploration. 

For example:

Stories of romance taught me that only monogamous relationships are secure and last. My lover's exploration with someone else means my life will be chaotic and unpredictable, and I will always struggle with jealousy.

Change is the only constant. All of our relationships are unpredictable and will change over the years (hopefully for the better). Monogamous marriages currently have a divorce rate of around 50%, although this changes drastically depending on someone's socioeconomic status. While relationship satisfaction may be strong, individuals in long term monogamous relationships often struggle to maintain erotic desire, with many monogamous relationships experiencing sexual or romantic infidelity.

 

People who practice non-monogamy and expansive relating often find security through direct conversation about these realities and designing unique commitments that are not predicated upon exclusivity of actions.  In fact, polyamorous relationships reported both higher levels of relationship satisfaction and sexual fulfillment than monogamous relationships. Long-term security in expansive relationships is possible through continued conversation and commitment of time and energy.

 

Even after finding security in your relationship and your partner's multiple partners, you may still feel fear and jealousy when they development a new dynamic. A new relationship, even after establishing multiple, does introduce change into the system and that can be scary. When our non-exclusive platonic relationships build new connections, there is the possibility that may change their time and energy for our relationship. Find security in trusting the unique and irreplaceable gift that is your connection and their freedom to continue choosing to share their life with you. Feelings of jealousy do get easier to navigate through continued practice and development of consistent security.

4. Parts

Take a moment and reflect on the various parts or aspects of your psyche that can impact jealousy:

What are your different parts saying? What are they craving for security and grounding? Can you mediate a conversation between your conflicting parts?
 

For example:

Our minds contain multitudes. Sometimes our thoughts and perspectives directly contradict each other. As I watched my partner explore erotic connections with others for the first time, there was a part of me that screamed, “they are going to leave you. Non-monogamy never works. You should just give up now and walk away.” There was also a part of me that said, “how exciting that my partner is enjoying the expansiveness of connection and pleasure. I know I am secure, and I am so happy for them.” In the moment, the terrified part of me was screaming much louder than the other, making it almost impossible to hear the more grounded and secure part of myself.

Consider your experiences of jealousy and identify which parts are present. Naming these parts can help to create some space of non-attachment to these thoughts. Maybe you have a monogamous part and a non-monogamous part. Maybe you have an inner child part that is tender and scared. Maybe you have a brave part that believes in the liberation of love. While you may feel a values based desire to align with certain parts, have compassion and curiosity as you honor the fears and needs of your seemingly less than ideal parts. They are speaking to something that is important to you. As you listen, consider what do these different parts need? What are they afraid of? What do they want? How old is this part? Why was it created? What would these parts say to each other? Remember that you are not your thoughts or the various parts that are speaking. You are able to curiously listen to all of these parts and then decided how you would like to proceed. 

What Is Your Setting?

1. The Relationship

Take a moment and reflect on how your relationship may be impacting  your experience:

2. Past Relationships

Take a moment and reflect on how your past relationships may be impacting your experience:

For example:

In my first polyamorous relationship, we had agreed to the commitment of informing each other if we had sex with someone else. I found out months later that my partner had been having sex with someone and failed to inform me. They also failed to inform the other person about our relationship (*sigh*). Breaking our relationship commitment was an act of cheating in non-monogamy, which ended our relationship shortly after.

After having a difficult psychedelic drug experience, naturally you will be afraid to try again. Our body and minds are always trying to keep us safe. Similarly, my experience created a level of paranoia and fear about a lack of communication in future non-monogamous experiences. This fear was healed through a series of extremely secure non-monogamous relationships that practiced high levels of clear communication. If we have had painful experiences in the past, we will try to anticipate and prevent getting hurt again in the future. Take time to examine how past experiences of non-monogamous or monogamous relationships may be impacting your experience of jealousy. 

For example:

If your parents or past relationships abandoned you or left your needs unmet, jealousy may trigger old wounds and relational patterns. Or, if your parents or past relationships failed to validate your emotions and co-regulate with you, you may feel like you have to hide your experience of jealousy.  This is particularly salient for anyone who has been socially conditioned to be hyper independent or to feel like expressing emotions is a weakness. 

Try practicing compassionate curiosity. Get curious about the root causes of these feelings. What feels familiar? What feels different? What values do you want to focus on moving forward? Remember that vulnerably expressing your needs for support and security in your community of relationships is a strength.

3. Community

Take a moment and reflect on how your community may be impacting  your experience:

How do you currently feel about your relationship? Has this person demonstrated that they are considering your experience and doing their best to communicate with you?
 

For example:

When you are only receiving breadcrumbs of affection, the idea of your lover sharing their time and energy with another person can feel incomprehensible. Or, if you ask your partner to demonstrate their affection and they continue to struggle to meet these requests, but you see them provide that affection to someone else, of course you are going to feel jealous. 

Love is abundant but time and energy are not. Examine how much of your experience of jealousy may be an indication of unmet desires for time and energy. After my mother gave birth to my younger sister, she tried to reassure me that there would still be time and energy for our relationship. The story goes that I screamed and yelled, "put that baby back in your belly. I don't want to share." Since then, I have learned to see the beautiful joy of multiple familial relationships and sharing time and space. And, we understand how parents can uniquely love multiple children. However there is a finite limit to this.. four... six... eight...ten children later? Our capacity to love is infinite, but our ability to share that love through time and energy is limited due to our finiteness as humans. What do you desire in terms of time and energy from your partners?

Learning to separate feelings of jealousy between perceived threats of narrative security and an actual loss of time and energy will make it easier to identify and express what you need in your relationships to feel secure. One helpful way to identify the difference is asking yourself: would I feel the same level of jealousy if they were spending that time with their friends, child, or other family members?

For example:

There is no amount of somatic regulation and grounded mindset that can compensate for poor communication and a lack of empathy or consideration in the relationship. If your partner withholds details or invalidates your experience of jealousy, it will be extremely difficult to feel security and compersion. 

Thriving in non-monogamy and expansive relating requires high levels of clear communication, significant empathy, and thorough consideration of how your actions impact others. Do take time to examine how much of your experience of jealousy may be due to poor foundational aspects of the relationship. Is it possible to ask your partner to improve in these areas? Can you trust your partner to  communicate and consider you in their actions? If so, take a deep breath and try to feel that security of trust in your body. If not, consider examining if there are poor foundational aspects of the relationship or past relational pains that are making it hard to trust your partner.

For example:

Who can you process your experience of jealousy with? What sort of content around relationships are you consuming? 

When processing feelings of jealousy, it is absolutely not helpful to be met with, "well, I could never do that either" or "that sounds impossible!" I found it best to process these experiences with other people who have also gone through it and have found tools to make the psychedelic paradigm shift easier. Reflect on who in your community can be a supportive companion in your navigation of jealousy. Finding content with similar values around expansive relating is crucial in creating a supportive environment to build secure expansive relationships. 

For example:

When I was practicing monogamy, my only deeply intimate relationship was my one romantic and sexual partner. I could not fathom my partner sharing their love with anyone else. Even in the beginnings of practicing non-monogamy, I noticed it felt impossible to again comprehend my partner sharing their love with others. As I built multiple secure and intimate relationships, I felt an abundance of love that suddenly made sharing feel less threatening.  

We all need love and connection. Love is an essential resource. When we do not have a full supportive community of deeply fulfilling and intimate relationships, we will tightly cling onto our limited sources for survival. If you only had one source of water in a dry desert, how could you ever comprehend sharing? Where can you expand your community of relationships to build more fulfilling experiences of love? How can you reach a full saturation of love?

For example:

How are you conceptualizing your metamour (your partner's partner)? Are you on the same team of creating more love and joy for your shared partner? Can you see them as part of your shared community?

Examine narratives of competition and scarcity that may be impacting your experience of jealousy. Often our mind can create scarier narratives than reality. For me, building a friendship with my first metamour helped to ease my fears of jealousy and insecurity. Together we navigated the nerves of a new type of relationship and moved with the intention of deep care for each other. To this day, they continue to be one of my closest friends and supporters in my community. 

My second metamour ended their relationship with our shared partner after learning that I practice relationship anarchy. This was an act of discrimination that left me feeling deeply hurt both by my metamour and our shared partner who sought to still continue their relationship with this individual. In a dynamic where you feel judged and discriminated against for your identity, practices, or value system, naturally feelings of jealousy and discomfort will be amplified due to a poor setting from the lack of emotional safety. Genuine respect and care for the well being of another individual is the bare minimum of platonic relationships in a community and is certainly necessary to navigate the added complexities of multiple romantic and sexual relationships. This same individual later asked our shared partner, "is it important to you that I like Nicole?" Learning about this question really struck me. Were a platonic friend to ask is it important that I like your partner, we would be baffled that a baseline of respect and care for one of your meaningful relationships needed to be questioned at all. Yet, in the world of romance and sexuality, there is a level of animosity, competition, and hostility for other partners that needs to be examined for its deeper roots of insecurity. 

Can you address these dynamics directly in your metamour relationship? How can your shared partner facilitate the establishment of safety and community care? Is your partner respecting you and your needs for emotional safety within the community when building new connections? Evaluating these two drastically different metamour relationships really helped to illuminate the significant impact of the setting for the experience of jealousy. Find the loving, expansive community that helps you shine.

You may also encounter metamours who are eager to grow in their practice of expansive relating but are struggling with feelings of insecurity and jealousy. How can you practice finding compassion and empathy for their journey? In that practice, you may encounter difficulties with hierarchy if your metamours' desires for security consistently restricts and prevents your ability to build a meaningful relationship with your shared partner (or hinge). While you can certainly contribute to creating a safe and supportive metamour relationship, your metamour's sense of security in their relationship with your shared partner is outside of your control. The speed at which they build that security is also outside of your control. What is within your control is how you respond to this dynamic.

 

Has your metamour demonstrated that they are taking steps towards growth and security? Has your shared partner demonstrated consideration of your desires in their support of your metamour? How can you contribute to your metamour's sense of safety? Is their pace of growth and expansion something you can accept? If not, what does changing your expectations for your relationship or reconfiguring your dynamic look like? If the sun were too close, it would scorch the earth. Were the sun to be too far away, the earth would be too cold to sustain life. Where is the life giving distance in your relationships?

Now that you have explored your set and setting, practice identifying and communicating your desires to build secure connections.

5. Relationship to Self

Take a moment and reflect on how your relationship with yourself can impact jealousy:

How do I talk to myself in my mind? Are my inner thoughts generally kind and empowering or critical and harsh? Can I identify both my strengths and growing edges without judgment?
 

For example:

During my first group play experience, I watched my partner lovingly caress the hands of another woman. In that moment a complex flood of negative thoughts came over me: "she is way prettier than I am. My partner is absolutely going to leave me for her because she is way more interesting and amazing than I am. She is the shiney new relationship, and I am just the old leftovers that are no longer exciting." 

Finding security in moments of jealousy can be exceptionally difficult if you have a negative relationship to yourself and your self worth. The psychedelic community often describes psychedelic drugs as "non-specific amplifiers." Expansive relationship styles can similarly amplify your feelings of relational dynamics, including your relationship to yourself. Rather than attaching or identifying with these first reactions, take a moment to ground in your body through a couple of deep breaths and remember that you are the author of your story. We get to practice curiously noticing and observing these thoughts. Remember that we are not defined by these initial reactions but rather by the way we respond to them moving forward. I had to remind myself, "I am beautiful. I am worthy. My partner is not going to abandon me." Notice if these grounding affirmations come from a space of competition. Rather than finding strength in being better than someone, instead focus on how you are both beautiful beings! You are incredibly unique and no one else can be you. There is no competition to be won. 

It is important that we are able to provide ourselves these affirmations, and we can ask for affirmations from our lovers in moments of doubt. It is all about finding that balance between internal self affirmation and external affirmation from others. In the balance of both, we find our interdependence rather than co-dependence or hyper-independence. How can you continue to practice loving yourself? What new narratives about yourself do you want to write as you continue to grow?

 

It can be helpful to share these initial reactions with a trusted lover or partner who can provide a non-judgemental space for you to process these thoughts. Often I will say, "I am noticing these initial thoughts are coming up. I am not attached to them and am trying to get curious about them. Can I share some of them with you?" Naming these thoughts without attachment to them often loosens their power over us.

5. Relationship to Challenges

Take a moment and reflect on how your relationship to challenges can impact jealousy:

What emotions do you experience when you are confronted with a difficult situation? How do you respond to these emotions? Can you recall a recent challenge you faced? How did you approach it?
 

For example:

The saying goes, "how you do one thing is how you do everything." Reflect on how your patterns when facing challenges could be present in your navigation of expansive relating. For me, I tend to oscillate between feeling like I am strong enough to take on any challenge: "sure, I can go to the play party and watch you build erotic connections with others. I am totally gonna be fine." (I cried that night for sure). While that is no longer a challenge today, it certainly was in the beginning. I often tried to push myself through it too quickly to "rip the band-aid off."  Or, I start feeling like I am too weak to keep going: "I should just quit this now. There is no way I am ever going to feel secure." Today, I am so deeply grateful that I continued to slowly explore and not attach to these thoughts.

 

When I am feeling confident, I might push myself to move faster than my body is prepared for and override my instincts to slow down to appear strong and resilient. When I am feeling weak, I often fall into all-or-nothing thinking that catastrophizes the story more than the actual reality.  I noticed that similar patterns of thought are present in my rock climbing practice: "of course, I can totally lead this complicated route even though I am exhausted at the end of the session. What is rest? Who needs that?" Or, I will experience negative thoughts while climbing: "there is no way you are going to reach that next hold. You should just stop climbing now. This is way too scary."  Do you notice any consistent patterns in your embrace of challenge? When climbing, I pause and take a deep breath to remember that I am not attached to these thoughts of fear. How can you bring more curiosity into your thought process and practice mindfulness to take some distance from these initial reactions? You are the narrative of your own story and can choose how you would like to respond. Also, remember that this is a challenge by choice.

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