We interviewed Dr. Goldsmith at The Assemblage NoMad before his workshop Introduction to Psychedelic Integration and Integration Groups. Our biggest learning? Cut out the distraction, drama, and noise — then you can truly connect with the nature of the human experience.
The Assemblage: Can you tell us about your professional practice?
Neal Goldsmith: I’m a psychologist. I do psychotherapy, but I don’t do psychedelic psychotherapy. I would love to do that, but I don’t. I’m better at public speaking or hosting integration groups than I am at risking being an underground therapist.
My Ph.D. is actually in social psychology, where I did applied social policy research. My dissertation topic was the implementation of policy research and the resistance to change, which is incredibly relevant for psychedelics research, which has been resisted. Educating the public and information dissemination is my focus.
I wrote a book called Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development. It talks about a lot of the research in my own personal journey and is an overview to the field of psychedelic research. But my focus is on research and clinical work.
Research shows that psychedelics on their own aren’t really that helpful, and can actually be problematic if you go places that you’re not prepared to go without proper context or assistance. So, the idea of what happens to you after the psychedelic experience is really more important than the experience itself. That’s why psychedelic integration has come to be recognized as, in some ways, the most important part. If you don’t integrate, if you don’t change your life, why go through the hassle of having a potentially difficult, trying, draining experience? It’s very important for people to have a place to come and talk about it.
My book is about psychotherapy and spiritual development, and I don’t really distinguish between those too much. It’s important for people to be able to discuss their psycho-spiritual experiences in a very friendly place. The integration groups are confidential, so people can feel comfortable sharing.
TA: Do you have a mantra or motto?
NG: There’s a difference between using a mantra as an aid to meditation, especially when you’re first starting out, and mantra as a resonant frequency. Using mantra as an aid to meditation when you’re first starting out is something people do to be able to hold their mind empty.
The way they do that is by holding onto something else that’s got some distractive factor, like a mantra that’s repetitive. You can zone into a non-thinking state using something regular, like your breath or your heartbeat. By doing that, you’re not thinking, so it’s an aid to mediation.
In some cultures, such as in the Hebrew language or in Sanskrit, it’s said that saying a word is more than just a distraction. If you can translate the word “om” to the English word “peace,” and then you meditate by saying the word “peace,” it would not be the same as saying the word “om.” “Om” has a resonant frequency that is deep in the structure of the universe. That’s the place you want to align your consciousness to, which is the purpose of meditation when using it as an aid, only less consciously.
TA: Who are some of your teachers?
NG: I haven’t had any gurus, exactly, or mentors. The people I think of that way are authors. When you come into my home, there are books everywhere. And that’s sort of like being inside my brain, like Being John Malkovich, in a way.
The real mentor or influence is my soul. I’m pointing to the deepest part of me, to the first chakra and the ground of my being. My work is to help the field of psychology re-appropriate the word “soul” as a very useful term. “Psychedelic” really means “soul manifesting.” The way I’m using the term—the deepest part of you—is the part that we all share, and it’s perfect. It’s below psychology.
TA: What does your community look like?
NG: It’s nested in concentric circles. I’m at the core of it — my consciousness, my intimate relationships, my friendships, and my family are in my inner circle, so to speak; then there’s the psychedelic community, which comes from the Horizons conference and other work that I do. I’ve been doing this in New York for at least 20 years, so people know me in the community.
TA: How do you define your relationship to your work?
NG: I love my work. My work is my mind, in a way. I’m so lucky. The thing I like the most is thinking and talking with others about ideas. And that’s what I do, all day long, for a living. I get a lot of positive feedback, so it’s good for me psychologically, and it’s the best thing I do other than being a father.
My approach to my work is very personal. In other words, even though I have a social psychology Ph.D., I have clinical training at the master’s level and postdoctoral level, including yoga psychology. I’m very clinically oriented or trained, but I don’t use any methodology. The only time I use a technique is when I work with couples. It’s called Imago Relationship Therapy. In fact, I feel that professionals hide behind technique too much. My focus or approach is realignment with your deeper self. I couldn’t help people do that if I wasn’t oriented toward that myself.
I’m almost like a one-trick pony with therapy clients. They can come to me with the details of their life but I have to know how they got to be the person they are. I need to know the background. I spend a lot of time on that, but that’s not really curing anyone. It just makes me a more effective relationship person. My one trick is to always go to your inner perfection. If anything gets in your way — if you’re irritated or feeling hate — then figure out why. How did you get from perfect love to something else? There’s only one thing.
Like I said, all of these different gurus, poets, psychologists see the one same thing when they’ve gotten mature and clear. It’s the same thing with psychotherapy. The real cure, healing, or effective change is getting in touch with your soul. Re-aligning. Releasing your personality that you developed in collusion with your parents so long ago. Recognizing it’s not necessary anymore to hold onto because you’re not a baby and you’re not vulnerable like that anymore. Let that flower.
TA: Are there techniques you’d suggest to help people get there?
NG: Psychotherapy is wonderful, but not alone. You have to immerse yourself in reading or hanging out with people who have a similar worldview.
If you do psychedelics, fine, but don’t do them alone. I don’t mean, don’t do them by yourself; you can do that, take them alone if you’re so inclined. What I mean is, don’t do them out of context. Don’t do them without meditation.
When I talk about meditation, by the way, I’m not talking about Eastern-style meditation, where you have specific instructions, and the seven levels of this, five characteristics of that. I’m talking about spending time revisiting your soul. In between your psychedelic experiences. Because if you just have psychedelic experiences, however wonderful it may be, it will most likely fade when confronted with the onslaught of the rest of your life and conditioning and personality.
TA: You need integration or reflection.
NG: That’s right, so integration groups are wonderful too. Meditation is really the primary. But — meditation with a small “M.” Please — don’t do some special kind of meditation. This is simply about sitting down twice a day. That’s the kind of meditation I am suggesting.
TA: Or — if you’re not inclined to trip, then remembering your true spirit.
NG: You need to remember that your true spirit is there, and be in touch with yourself from that perspective. It’s difficult because everything about us, both psychologically and in the world we live in, brings us to a different idea of what we are.
The primary world is the underlying, quantum-mechanical, spiritual world. That’s the perfect world we all share. All this other stuff is distraction that comes in from our sensory organs, which evolved to keep the organism alive through natural selection. Don’t be distracted by the senses, because there something more important to existence than that.