Set and setting

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Set and setting describes the physical, mental, social and environmental context than an individual brings into a psychedelic experience. The phrase is credited to Timothy Leary, who popularized psychedelic use in the 1960's.[1]

Set (a shortened form of "mindset") refers to the mental state a person brings to the experience, like thoughts, desires, feelings, general mood, and any preconceived notions or expectations about what they are about to experience. The current physical state of the body is also an important part of one's "set"; if one feels sick, injured, or generally unhealthy these sensations may get amplified during the trip.

Setting refers to the physical and social environment that the trip takes place in. It is able to guide or influence the course of the experience on both conscious and subconscious levels. Since psychedelics often enhance the emotions or mood one is currently feeling, stress, fear, or anxiety due to an unfamiliar, uncontrollable or otherwise disagreeable environment may result in an unpleasant or dangerous experience (i.e. a bad trip) that may be inconsistent with the experiences one may have had in the past (even with the same dose of the same substance). Conversely, an environment that provides a sense of safety, familiarity, control, and comfort is more likely to result in a pleasant experience.


Mental state

One of the most important factors to consider as a user (especially an inexperienced one) is one's current state of mind. Many substances exponentially enhance a person's current state of mind, emotions and general perception of the world which is a process that can go in either a positive and euphoric direction or a negative, terrifying, and anxiety-ridden direction.

It is because of this that many substances should not be used (especially by the inexperienced) during stressful or negative periods of life and users should be fully aware of the ways in which drugs, particularly psychedelics, are known to consistently force a person to face and directly deal with their deepest personal problems and existential anxieties (including any past trauma) that is shared among all human beings.

It is advised that those with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder should not ingest these substances due to the way they strongly amplify one's current state of mind and emotions as well as exacerbate latent delusions and trigger hallucinations.

Throughout the experience itself, the user should try to let go and allow the effects to take charge. One should be taking the metaphorical passenger seat and not try to control or dictate any part of the experience. It is extremely important that people simply relax and let things arise or disappear on their own accord (i.e. "going with the flow"). The user should understand that the act of tripping is often ineffable and incomprehensible, particularly at high dosages, meaning that a total acceptance of not being able to understand the full scope of what is happening should be present at all times.

It is recommended that one face the fact that their thought processes, although more insightful in places, will be inherently impaired along with motor control, conversational skills and general psychosocial functioning. The user should be sure to view these effects as normal and not feel self-conscious or insecure about them within the presence of others.

Physical state

The current condition that one's body is in is as important as one's mood when going into a trip. If one feels tired, sick or injured, these sensations will manifest as amplified versions of the same conditions during the trip which, when combined with the possible body load of the drug, may easily ruin one's mood and therefore the rest of the experience.

Tactile enhancement, which occurs on many psychedelics, can be described as an overall enhancement in the intensity of tactile input alongside of an increase in one's overall awareness of the nerve endings throughout one's body. This effect in particular can make physical injuries more painful while tripping, including any pre-existing back pain. Instead of tripping during a stressful, tired, sick or injured time in your life, one should wait for a more suitable opportunity in order to drastically lower one's chances of having a negative experience.


Choosing an appropriate and safe place to undergo the effects of a psychedelic is extremely important and plays a key factor in determining the outcome of a psychedelic experience. The best place for an inexperienced user is a familiar, safe, and indoor environment that is completely devoid of certain factors which can elicit negative thought patterns in the mind of the user.

  • Ensure that one is completely free of responsibilities during the experience and the day after as the simplest of tasks will become incredibly difficult and sometimes stressful under the influence of certain intoxicating substances. One should be relaxing and remaining comfortable, not performing chores or fulfilling their everyday obligations. This includes driving and operating heavy machinery for obvious reasons.
  • Avoid people who are irrelevant as they should not be present throughout the duration of the experience. This includes parents who are sleeping in the same house and close friends who are anything but extremely trustworthy and understanding. The mere presence of people (especially if they are sober) can be very anxiety-inducing for many individuals.
  • A sober, responsible, and trustworthy trip sitter is strongly recommended to be present if one is inexperienced with psychedelics or looking to push the boundaries of their experience.
  • Avoid potentially dangerous, loud, unfamiliar, cluttered, and/or public environments. The more cluttered and messy one's environment is the more disorganized and negative one's state of mind can become.
  • Avoid general bad vibes of any sort. This may seem obvious, but do not watch scary or unpleasant films and do not listen to unpleasant music. If bad vibes are encompassing the experience, they can easily be escaped by quickly changing one's environment. For example, if one is sitting down with the lights off, stand up and put the lights on, change the music, or move to a different area and any negative thought loops can immediately reset to base level.

Once a person has become familiar with their substance of choice and aware of their own limits, it becomes entirely down to them as an individual when it comes to whether or not they would be comfortable tripping in a more recreational environment such as out in nature, social gatherings, parties, raves, parks, museums, etc. The inexperienced, however, should always seek out a safe, comfortable room at home or a friend's house or apartment. This should be with privacy, relaxing music, comfortable seating/bedding, a vomit bucket (in case of nausea) and readily available food/water.

See also