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Set and setting

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Set and setting describes the context for psychoactive and particularly psychedelic drug experiences: one's mindset and the setting in which the user has the experience. This is especially relevant for psychedelic or hallucinogenic experiences; the term was coined by Timothy Leary.

The BasicsEdit

The set is the mental state a person brings to the experience, like thoughts, mood or expectations. The setting refers to the physical or social environment. Social support networks have shown to be particularly important in the outcome of the psychedelic experience [1]. They are able to control or guide the course of the experience, both consciously and subconsciously. Stress, fear or a disagreeable environment, may result in an unpleasant experience (bad trip). Conversely, a relaxed, curious person in a warm, comfortable and safe place is more likely to have a pleasant experience.


Of course, the drug dose does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key — it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical — the weather, the room's atmosphere; social — feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural — prevailing views as to what is real. It is for this reason that manuals or guide-books are necessary. Their purpose is to enable a person to understand the new realities of the expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps for new interior territories which modern science has made accessible.
(from: Psychedelic Experience)

Set and setting has also been investigated from a religious perspective [2].

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^  Shewan, D., Dalgarno, P. and Reith, G. (2000) "Perceived risk and risk reduction among ecstasy users: the role of drug, set, and setting" in International Journal of Drug Policy, Vol. 10, pp. 431–453
  2. ^  Rosegrant, J. (1976) "The Impact of Set and Setting on Religious Experience in Nature" in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 301-310

ReferencesEdit

  1. Leary, T., Metzner, R. and Alpert, R. (1969) The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (London: Academic Press)

Further readingEdit

  1. Zinberg, N. E. (1984) Drug, Set, and Setting (New Haven: Yale University Press) ISBN 0-300-03110-6


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