The time I did MDMA assisted therapy with a shaman.

Steve Whiteley
6 min readNov 11, 2021
Picture source Getty Images

It had been suggested by a friend (a friend training as a psychotherapist I might add) that trying MDMA assisted therapy could be the breakthrough I was looking for. The breakthrough for what I hear you ask? Well the good stuff of course, you know healing my inner wounded child, basically THE TRAUMA.

So I did some research and the more I read, the more I warmed to the idea. This wouldn’t be the same eight hour psychological lock-in where I’d be puking and shitting THE TRAUMA away à la the ayahuasca experience. No, this would be a four hour fun time jaunt around the inner workings of my mind, on the drug of love. So I scheduled a zoom with person x who for legal reasons will remain person x. We discussed my background, why I felt compelled to go on this journey and then I fired a load of (neurotic) questions at them. ‘What happens if it doesn’t work?’ ‘What happens if it does work?’ ‘If it does work and I change for the worst, will I get a refund?’ Once I was satisfied that I was in capable hands we parted ways and I subsequently ignored their email for the next two weeks.

You see stepping into the unknown is a terrifying prospect. Going through the motions is fine, but actually doing it is something else all together. So I did what I usually do when faced with a difficult decision, I procrastinated*.

*Footnote. As a writer procrastination is part of my DNA, to the point where it’s considered a cliche to drop the word procrastination into any sentence related to writing written by…a writer. However in this instance my procrastination was justified, as person x confirmed that should I change for the worst, no refund would be given.

After much dilly-dallying (far better use of language) I decided it was time to reply. I gave them my standard response to a late email: ‘Apologies but work has been absolutely manic!’. And person x being far more spiritually advanced than I, replied graciously (read-through gritted teeth) ‘no problem at all’. I then confirmed that ‘I am ready to go ahead’ (read-I am terrified, but also ready to try anything thanks to THE TRAUMA).

Fast forward to three days before lift off and I am (supposed to be) following a strict regime of eating light meals of fruit and veg and NO SEXual activity. Ok so I may have broken rule two. You see I misread it as NO SEX and anyway what harm was bit of foreplay going to do.

Two days before and I travel to the location where person x inhabits, where I had been advised to spend quiet time alone. This included getting a massage from the old man who owned the Airbnb where I was staying. Ok that sounded weird, it was part of the service he offered. Again, weird. He was a qualified masseuse OK! And as if I was going to infringe on the NO SEXual activity again, particularly with an old man. Not that I’m ageist, it’s just that I’m straight and if I was to experiment, I’d like my first dalliance to be with a person of vitality and soft skin. Ok so someone younger, I admit it I am ageist!

Anyway the massage was not to my liking, I prefer a firm grip whereas his was more of a gentle rub, as if his life force was seeping out of him with every motion he made. Then he did what I can only describe as a tickle of sorts on my back and inner thigh. The combination of his lightness of touch and leathery skin, did not make for a relaxing experience. I should have of course spoken up to voice my displeasure, but I did not, thanks to THE TRAUMA. And also because we spoke different languages, for you see I had travelled overseas to do what had to be done; so I let him go about his business. Afterwards I thanked him with all the sincerity I could muster and went for a walk in the village where I stopped for lunch.

Speaking in a broken accent in the language of the country I was in, I ordered a salad with no meat or cheese. Five minutes later and my salad arrived, with bits of green leaves accosted by slabs of parma ham and mozzarella. I decided not to object, thanks to THE TRAUMA and went about neatly putting the parma hand to one side. I then had a difficult decision to make, to eat or not eat the delicious looking mozzarella. NO HEAVY MEALS, fruit and veg only were the rules. But I had already disobeyed my inner voice twice that day, a third time would surely be a crime against my own inner voice (?). So I listened to it and the inner voice said ‘go forth and eat the mozzarella’.

After lunch I went for a walk and thanks to THE TRAUMA spent the whole time berating myself for eating the mozzarella. ‘Two rules, that’s all you had to follow. You’ve come all this way, spent all this money (it turns out that healing the inner wounded child isn’t cheap) and now you’ve ruined it all, for what? A hand job and a slice of mozzarella!’

Once I felt I had chided myself enough, I began to notice my stunning surroundings. Pine trees stood to attention, birds hummed and a beautiful butterfly flew by (probably my inner wounded child saying ‘soon you will be free’). In that very moment I became present and it was pure joy. However my zen like nowness was soon to be disturbed, as my route towards a nearby canal had taken me to an industrial warehouse with a ‘no entry private property sign’, in the language of the country where person x lived. Unsure which way to go and not wanting to ruin my limited edition Stussy vs Nike huaraches on the muddy path, I decided to retreat.

However I was determined to find the canal, so I whatsapped person x. ‘Hi! Do you know what the best way is to walk to the canal? I think I’m close by but have reached a dead end’, sent with an accompanying location pin. Person x replied: ‘It’s the opposite way’. At first irritated by their response, I soon realised that this was in fact a genius and transcendental teaching, wrapped up as a brief and somewhat unhelpful reply. And that actually what they were saying was that my inability to remain present and the need to constantly think, had led me to a dead end both literally and figuratively and true contentment was ‘the opposite way’.

In that very moment it occurred to me that all the answers I had been searching for lied within. And that actually taking MDMA with a shaman was not necessary to heal my inner wounded child, because all this enfant terrible needed, was to be in the words of Fatboy Slim, ‘right here, right now’. And also did I really want a comedown at 40 years old? So I jumped on the next flight home.

Ok so that bits not entirely true, I did go through with it. But that story is for another time folks because I’ve really schlepped this one out and would like to leave you on a cliffhanger of sorts. So you can return for part two and afterwards leave lovely, generous and warmhearted comments. The kind of comments that my fragile ego craves to feel validated…thanks to THE TRAUMA.