10 Steps for Integrating Transformative Experiences

10 Steps for Integrating Transformative Experiences

Whether you’ve been through a larp, a work of magic, a psychedelic experience, or all of the above, they all have a huge transformative potential. For all of them, integration roughly works the same way. This list is partly inspired by a course about integrating psychedelic experiences that I followed in 2019.

What is integration? Integration is the process of absorbing the experience you had and its consequences as a part of your life and yourself. Making it not a separate element but a part of a whole, and acting towards the changes that might be needed for that.

A lot of what follows might sound like common sense – and well, it kind of is. It’s not done that frequently though. I myself more often than not didn’t follow all of these bits of advice (and not knowing them played a part in that). Read it not as a set of rules, but as guidance. The chronological order is supposed to make sense, but it could also be relevant to go back to some of the tips several times or to explore them in a different order. It doesn’t have to be linear.

1. Create some archives.

Write a report of what you’ve been through. Focus on what’s been important for you rather than on getting every detail right. If writing’s not your thing, draw, take pictures, dance or talk and record it.

Don’t get analytical for now. Just gather material to go back to later.

This should be done within two days after the experience, and as soon as possible. We forget and/or transform our memories very quickly. It’s like remembering a dream when you get out of bed: if you don’t catch it quick enough, it’ll dissolve into your day – maybe you’ll remember parts of it later, but maybe not. Do not be too afraid to forget things though: you will and it will be okay.

2. Rest.

For real. Take time to recover. Get some days off if you can. Eat as healthy as possible for you. Sleep enough.

If you can, spend some time in nature, move your body in ways that are enjoyable for you.

If you’ve been shaken, take time to assess if you might have been through a traumatic experience. Seek help if needed.

Resting also means not getting involved in other things with a transformative potential for a while. If you just keep going, you risk, first, fatigue, second, encountering the same kind of experience and its potential difficulties again, because you didn’t integrate them the first time. As Alan Watts wrote: “When you get the message, hang up the phone”.

3. Avoid making any big decisions.

Avoid making big decisions for several weeks or even months, depending on the impact of the experience. Take the time to integrate. If it’s deeply true now, it will still be in two or six months.

This might include: change of relationship status, moving to another city or country, deciding to become a parent, leaving your job…
If you’ve been stuck in a situation for a long time and the experience gives you the impulse to get out, it’s understandable if you decide to use it. Still, strive to avoid brutality.

4. Pay attention to your dreams.

Pay attention to your dreams in the following days and even weeks. Write them down in the morning, draw them or record yourself telling them. Do you notice any change in patterns, themes, characters or elements that appear? Do you see any links with what you recently experienced? You could find interesting clues there about the ongoing transformations.

5. Go back to what you experienced physically.

Were there specific emotions or sensations? Where were they located in your body?

How did you react to them then? How do you react to them now when you think about them? And if you try to recall, recreate them? Do these sensations trigger or evoke specific memories, or other sensations? Do they call for specific movements or physical practices? If yes, can you try it out? You might need someone else to help you with the physical work, maybe to push or massage some parts of your body. It could also just be a need to be held or hugged. Please ask people close to you or if it’s not an option for you, think about asking a professional.

6. Meaning’s weaving.

What were the messages you were given? The themes present during the experience? It’s time to go back to the raw data you collected, to create links, meaning, hypothesis. How can you connect what you experienced with other parts of your life?

If you have tools you feel at ease with for creating meaning, use them. For example, you could do a tarot spread about what was conveyed by the experience, what you need to learn, and so on.

If this was a shared experience – and I guess it will often be the case, especially for larps – it’s a good time to exchange with people who lived it with you. Do you have something specific you wanna tell them? What was different and what was similar for them? How do you all feel about what you shared? Does it have a specific meaning for you? Is it the same for the others, or not? Do you need or want to make any change in your relationships after that?

Creating meaning often leads to creating a story. You will probably tell stories about what you experienced in the future, often in the same way. You might want to stay open to new angles, new ways to approach the experience over time. It’s also important to acknowledge and accept that people who shared the experience with you will all have their stories: expect that they might be quite different from yours, don’t project what you experienced onto others’ experiences.

7. Look out for parts of you that might want to resist transformation.

It’s extremely normal to be, at least on some levels, afraid of change. We know what’s there now but not what is to come. There’s safety in knowing, even in uncomfortable situations. Treat the parts of you that could be afraid or want to block the process with respect. You can try to identify them through, to name a few, feelings of uneasiness, closing of the body, or procrastination, and give them a shape in your mind. Try to bring understanding, compassion, rather than brute force to bear on them. What would they need to accept the change you want to bring (or the change that’s already there)? You could try inner dialogues, symbolic acts or emotional reassurance in imagination.

8. Picture yourself in one year.

Set a time to do this, maybe 30 minutes, maybe more, dedicated to the question. How do you want this experience to have affected your life in one year? How are you different? What did you do during the year to reach that place? What bodily sensations are present? Which emotions? Express it through your preferred medium. If you record it in one way or another, go back to it from time to time during the year.

9. Which voices do you need at the moment?

Find out which artists, writers, thinkers, influencers et cetera could help you move forward, could bring more food for thoughts, or could echo your experience. Get inspired. See how you’re – hopefully – not alone.

10. Time for action.

What can you do to go in the direction of the transformation that the experience pointed towards?

Pick one action you can do in the two following weeks.

Is there one small promise to yourself you could follow every day from now on?

This could also be the time to express yourself, whether by creating art, writing a testimony to share, and so on. If you didn’t find any echo in the step #9, this might be especially important. You could be the voice some other people need.

Cover photo: Image by Activedia on Pixabay.

This article is published in the companion book Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices and is published here with permission. Please cite this text as:

Teteau-Surel, Leïla. “10 Steps for Integrating Transformative Experiences.” In Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices, edited by Kari Kvittingen Djukastein, Marcus Irgens, Nadja Lipsyc, and Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde. Oslo, Norway: Knutepunkt, 2021.

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Leïla Teteau-Surel is a French larp designer, translator, and player, and a queer feminist therapist with interests in magic, psychedelics, and other ways to shift consciousness.