Published January 2012



Neal Goldsmith’s Psychedelic Healing provides an overview of what he terms Psycheology: a concise framework for personality development, interpersonal relationships, neurosis, and the role these aspects of our self-play in our natural psychospiritual development. He outlines the significance of psychedelics in this process of psychospiritual maturation while paralleling it to the process of healing and development he has gone through in his own life.

Though he goes into depth on many other aspects of psychology and psychedelics— including the history of psychedelic research, several different psychotherapy methods and the major psychologists and researchers affiliated to these points— for the purposes of this essay I have focused on the process of personality development, how it affects our relationships and the role of psychedelics in the process as far as I have understood it. At the conclusion, I also touch on how learning about psycheology has benefited my own life.

Psycheology: an overview of key points

Psycheology is a term Neal has made up to help revive the core meaning of the word psychology.

The word Psychology comes from the Greek psukhe, meaning “soul”, “spirit”, “mind”, “life”, and “breathe,” combined with the Greek logos, here used as “statement,” “expressions,” and “discourse,” more often thought of today in the form of “-ology,” as “the study of”.

Psycheology is a paradigm for psychology that redirects the focus back to this core concept the psyche: the source and ground of our being.

He presents that we have an essential core self that is deviated through the creation of personality in response to our relationships with our parents as children. When we are babies we openly express our core selves, but in an effort to continue to obtain love from our parents we alter the way we express ourselves to meet their demands, the result being our personality. This deviation happens when the parents do not respond to a child’s expression of core self with a calm conscious loving but instead provide a warm (getting angry) or cool (retracting love). We develop the personality to ensure love from our parents because Love equals safety, making it our fundamental concern during infancy.

These deviated aspects of our core self are not eliminated but suppressed and buried beneath our ego: a defensive psychological shell we create to ensure parental love as a child, which expresses itself as our personality. This suppression develops and informs our relationships throughout our adult life and gives us an inaccurate view of our world due to that view being informed and filtered by our defensive ego[1], which is a fallacy created in response to poor parenting.

This inaccurate view is often expressed in the form of neurosis. Which to Neal is not a pathology but a stage of psychospiritual development. Neurosis is a symptom of developmental challenges that arise naturally in our lives and can be understood through cultivating an understanding of its source. It is a sign of spiritual immaturity and a wonderful opportunity to grow. To pathologize it and make it a disease in the mind of the person going through its challenges effectively circumvents their ability to grow and learn from it.

I don’t believe in Neurosis as a pathology – to me, neurosis is the natural unfolding of human maturation. Since everyone is neurotic to some degree or another, it can’t be seen as a disease. If it was pathological, it would have been selected out of the human population by now, instead, it is ubiquitous. So what could be the adaptive value of neurosis? It is the overcoming of neurotic challenges that brings pleasure, effectiveness, and wisdom.
{Pg 84}

Neurosis is something that can be overcome and grown out of but its symptoms are not problems to be worked on. To work to fix yourself will only make the perceived problems worse. We can compare the process to trying to poke and prod at a flower bud in an effort to make it bloom.

We are naturally, biologically programmed to mature, but sometimes get derailed by our reaction to trauma or a severe deficit in childhood… Under safe, loving conditions, we will naturally realign towards the healthful.

The symptoms that arise in the form of neurosis are a good thing. They bring a person into a confrontation with the truth of himself or herself and provide an avenue to earn the “pleasure, effectiveness and wisdom” that comes with growing through these challenges.

Instigated by the actions of the parental figures, this process of a child learning to suppress aspects of their core self, wherein these suppressed aspects are considered to be “not good enough”, “wrong” or “bad”, causes the development of psychological dualities. These dualities between core self and cultivated personality are internalized as variations between “I am good enough” and “I am not good enough”. When these dualities are mild a person will seem more together, calm and constructive. When these dualities are extreme they are expressed in drastic and unpredictable mood swings. If too extreme they can be too much to be “contained within one personality and require two separate personalities (such as pushy and insecure) to accommodate”{pg69}

We naturally attempt to move towards a balance within ourselves and when our internal dualities are extreme, they can be very difficult to address within. So when we enter an intimate relationship we begin to project one of our developed subpersonalities[2] outside of ourselves and onto our partner in an effort to offset the deep psychological load of holding both extremes.

In a couple, each person will adopt one of these two subpersonalities: for example, the husband might project “I’m the tough guy!” when in reality the “tough guy” persona is a false, fear-based, defensive shell. He might likewise project his Other onto his spouse—“she’s so weak!” The weak/wimp/loser persona, although equally fear-based, is more submissive and so less reliably protecting and safe, and so our “inner wimp” is often projected onto the spouse so it can be the partner we criticize instead of ourselves.
{pg 69}

He goes on to talk about how this process of projection can be very beneficial for personal healing. Since our inner duality and neurosis is a response to our parent’s immature parenting and that the parent is no longer the same person who caused us to suppress our core self, we are unable to address these issues directly with them.

Where does the Twenty-four-year-old woman who screwed you up reside now? Not in the more mature sixty-, seventy-, or eighty-year-old woman she’s likely become.

That parent that screwed us up exists mostly within ourselves now and we will often find a spouse or partner that is similar to our opposite-sex parent because it enables us to project that parent onto our partner to help process and heal that parental relationship through the relationship with our partner. In a mature and conscious relationship, where we recognize that most of the problems we see in our partner are a projected latent frustration we have with our parent, we are able to help each other heal those relationships and grow into more spiritually mature people. Allowing us to break the cycle of contracting our children into the psychological wounds we received from our own parents.

Psychedelics and the Core self

In the early sections of Psychedelic Healing, Neal discusses his personal experience with psychedelics, the process of healing it helped guide him through and the potential benefit they can have in psychotherapy and personal development. His overview of personality development weighs heavily on the idea that the results of immature parenting are the creation of a personality that is a contorted expression of your core self — the ground of your being and that this contorted expression is the basis for neurosis — spiritual immaturity — and an inaccurate view on the relationships in your life. When we begin to understand this, we are able to potentially overcome the challenges that result from form this process and become more grounded in our core self, “the earliest, deepest and most authentic part of us”. {pg79}

The therapeutic role psychedelics play in this process of healing is that of facilitating an illumination of the core self we have lost sight of into our conscious experience. Bringing it to the surface of our awareness and allowing a direct connection to our true nature.

They do this by either helping us to transcend the psychological barriers we have set up as a defensive shell to protect us from the childhood experience of fearing the loss of parental love, the loss of safety, the loss of life, or by facilitating a direct experience of ego death, the perceived dying of our ego-based identity.

He claims the therapeutic effect of psychedelics exposing you to your core self as being similar to sympathetic resonance[3]. Describing the process, he states:

If our conscious attention or identity is brought into contact with our awareness of the deepest ground of our being, our conscious awareness elicits or comes into identity with—becomes—that same deepest sense of self. We are changed—transformed—back into identity with the true self we abandoned in our childhood quest for parental love.


 The paradigm of psychology that Neal outlines—psycheology—provides a solid framework for understanding our interpersonal relationships and ourselves, allowing for a more solid and confident understanding of the extent to which psychological mechanisms developed as a response to lacking parental love, work to create an inaccurate view of our lives and potentially destructive tendencies in our relationships. It opens our ability to grow by removing the pathology of neurosis and allowing our journey of psycho-spiritual maturation.

His description of the psychedelic experience as it relates to this theory of personality development is a keystone in the development of a western medical paradigm that incorporates their therapeutic value.

On a personal note, it has helped to show me that I project my inner frustrations onto others in an effort to avoid taking responsibility for them within myself. While simultaneously empowering me to understand that this recognition is a beautiful point along my psycho-spiritual development. His description of the therapeutic benefit of a mature relationship has brought me to a deeper appreciation of my best friend and caused me to feel more confident about my ability to build healthy relationships.

It has also opened me to a conceptual language by which I can understand how my own psychedelic spiritual practice has helped me to create a more honest expression of myself. Showing me how psychedelics’ have helped to dissolve the inaccurate views that hindered my ability to see my world and myself clearly. Bringing me back into connection with the ground of my being before I even realized it was this deep-seeded psychological distortion that was limiting my life’s true vibrancy.


[1] It is important to mention that he does not demonize the ego like many contemporary spiritual philosophers, but only points out the destructive function it carries out when we forfeit our core self out a fear cultivated by parental rejection. Identifying with it completely in an effort to utilize its effective safety bubble. “[The ego is] a natural, adaptive psychological structure that in a healthy individual is a powerful tool used by our [core] self – our true identity – to have an adaptive effect on the world and our survival”(pg67)

[2] Subpersonality is an aspect of psychologist Roberto Assagioli concept called psychosynthesis. Where within ourselves at any given time we have a variety of different subpersonalities operating and will rise to the surface in relation to specific contexts. Psychosynthesis is a process of recognizing these subpersonalities and integrating them into a holistic sense of self

[3] Where one vibratory body, like a tuning fork, responds to the vibration of an external stimulus by beginning to vibrate in response to that stimuli

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