The website Who Is Stephen Reid by the Seeds of Solidarity Collective (SSC) has gathered testimonies by 15 people on Stephen Reid’s conduct. I would like to issue a statement regarding the testimonies I am personally mentioned in as I was not contacted by the SSC for a comment. I would also like to share my reflections on the situation more generally. I feel like I am well-suited to contribute because I, like many of the people from the SSC, have at many points struggled with Stephen’s behaviour, and yet I find some aspects of the SSC’s approach concerning.
For the record: I chose to disengage romantically from Stephen after a few months as a result of what felt like repeatedly hurtful and disrespectful behaviour to me on his part; I spoke out against him facilitating any psychedelic retreats of the programme we co-founded as I felt he was unqualified to do so; I resigned from being a Co-Director of The Psychedelic Society after he significantly breached my trust; and I eventually left The Psychedelic Society & co-founded a new organisation to carry on the work of the retreats, one of the reasons being the desire to separate from Stephen. As I hope is clear from this list, I am certainly not blind to Stephen’s shadows. In fact, I think I know about their extent and sophistication more than most.
I understand the frustration with Stephen having a positive public profile, when there are so many problematic sides to him that the public is not aware of. It’s an endemic problem in a society lacking in nuance, honesty and integrity. I also understand (from personal experience) the frustration with Stephen seemingly not fully and genuinely understanding the nature of how his behaviour has been hurtful and problematic.
I honour the intention, courage and engagement of the SSC to speak out and take action to prevent further harm. I understand the exasperation that must have been experienced by the SSC at hurtful behaviour continuing to take place, and the desire to try a different approach, when previous attempts didn’t lead to the desired outcomes they had hoped for (although I do wonder to what extent this is an accurate representation of the current state of affairs given that all but one of the testimonies relate to the period up until 2018, with the only current testimony not even being directly about Stephen).
I want to remain humble in acknowledging that, having had my own difficulties with Stephen which ultimately led to my distancing myself from him, I have had my own questions as to what the most constructive and healing course of action is. So I merely venture to offer my reflections in the hope that it can inspire a joint inquiry into how we approach healing.
I believe that publishing a relatively one-sided portrayal of Stephen doesn’t just balance out the playing field but perpetuates another wrong. This is not to deny or downplay any of the hurt and harm caused by Stephen to those who testified. Many of the testimonials point to traits in Stephen that I have struggled with myself. Having witnessed several of the incidents mentioned in the testimonies, I can say that there is truth to them. And I can also say that I have a different perspective on a few of them, two of which I will elaborate on below as they mention me directly.
Everyone’s experience holds a valid and important kernel of truth, yet it is only one lens with which to view reality, and one that is coloured by our own wounding and conditioning. Reality is far more nuanced and complex than we often make it out to be and there is not one absolute truth but many sides to a story. This is not to absolve Stephen of responsibility. It is however also not to absolve the SSC of responsibility. For healing and growth to take place we need to develop an awareness of our own biases and projections, and to acknowledge and take responsibility for them.
I am also worried that the nature of this somewhat demonising approach of Stephen is counterproductive. Accountability is important, and the reflections from others are indispensable in shining a light and helping us see our own blind spots. Yet in my experience, when we feel attacked, without the foundation being understanding for the whole of our being – the light and the dark – and compassion for the wounding that lies underneath any wrongdoing, our defences go up and we struggle to let in the wisdom in the critique. Likewise, when we don't feel like the other side is willing to also own their projections, it's much easier for us to dismiss the mirror they are holding up for us entirely as "their own stuff" - much like Stephen did in the interventions mentioned by the SSC. Again, this is by no means a justification of Stephen's behaviour - rather it is a reflection on what can help us really hear and receive one another.
The most deeply and sincerely that I have witnessed Stephen change has not been as a result of the critiques, interventions and mediations that took place with various people during the time the SSC testimonials relate to, but rather in recent years, in the context of the Psychedelic Society team (now the Dandelion Collective) and especially his relationship with his partner, all of whom have repeatedly held Stephen accountable and pointed out his blind spots, while holding him in love and compassion.
I have been frustrated myself many times when Stephen hasn’t seemed to be able to fully face and own up to his hurtful, unconscious behaviour. And I also deeply believe that he is engaged, listens and has generally done the best he can. There is a reason we develop a psychological shadow: it’s for experiences that were too painful to feel. This does not just have to do with the enormity of the trauma, but also with the level of resources and support we had to be able to face it. The safer and more supported we feel, the more we are able to face these difficult parts of our psyche.
His healing work is far from done, and I am grateful that he has been making increasingly stronger and consistent efforts at addressing his deep-seated trauma. I sincerely hope that the events here will ultimately support that journey, rather than lead to more harm, trauma and corresponding defences.
I am convinced of Stephen’s genuine care and love for the world. I have rarely met someone as totally dedicated as he is. The extent of his positive impact on so many people’s lives (including my own) is testament to the goodness of his heart and the passion and generosity of his spirit. I have had many moments with Stephen when I experienced his shadows acting out, and I have had many moments with him when I felt his heart and integrity triumph.
I think it is unfair and harmful to post such charged content in a one-sided way. My request to the SSC is to post a link on their main website to the ThisIsStephenReid page (not just to his responses), so that anyone who stumbles on the SSC website has the chance to see many angles of this story and multi-faceted human being.
Written sincerely in the spirit of wanting to contribute to the greatest possible healing for all,
Elaborations on testimonies by the SSC
K’s testimony: “Whilst at the pilot Psychedelic Experience weekend in the Netherlands I heard that Steve, who was facilitating the weekend, had sex with one of the participants directly after she had tripped. Whilst I understood that the sex was consensual, it struck me that for a facilitator to sleep with a participant who had just gone through a very vulnerable experience, was crossing a line.”
My response: The pilot Psychedelic Experience weekend was in my experience nothing like a ‘held space’ as one would generally find in a formally facilitated psychedelic ceremony (and as the Experience Retreats went on to become). Rather it was like a weekend with friends taking psychedelics, just as we had done several times previously in the UK. The sole difference to me was that it happened to take place in the Netherlands (to test out the feasibility and logistics of both venue & travel, for what was to become the Experience Retreats) and that four friends offered to stay sober to “trip sit”. This staying sober was the only hint of facilitation – and not one that I personally took seriously.
I had ample experience with psychedelics and felt no sense of needing to be supported, not before, during or after the experience. I felt that Stephen wanted to try out what such a concept might look like, but none of the four sober sitters had any psychotherapeutic or shamanic experience and I didn’t view them as facilitators or in a position of authority. To me they were just my friends, who happened to be sober.
I understand that K had a different experience, and I do think the blurring of concepts and boundaries that happened at the gathering was problematic and unwise. Stephen had little awareness around the requirements of facilitation and space-holding, which certainly led to irresponsible behaviour on several occasions. Nonetheless, I strongly object to the characterisation of me as a “participant” (in the usual “facilitator-participant” connotation in such spaces) and as a victim of an abuse of power by Stephen regarding our sexual interaction. It is hugely significant that Stephen and I were friends before the event as it indicates a completely different dynamic, one which doesn’t allow for the same level of projections as with someone whom you only meet in a position of authority. Stephen’s and my relationship was horizontal, not hierarchical.
The portrayal in the testimony also does not credit me with the level of self-responsibility and agency I absolutely had. In a usual retreat setting, having sex with a vulnerable participant post-psychedelic journey would indeed be crossing a line. However, I was not a vulnerable participant. I find it upsetting that my personal experience is being used to allege such a significant charge, and that no effort was made by the SSC to request my testimony on the situation.
NB’s testimony: “In the Psychedelic Society, Steve replaced me with someone he had been sleeping with (who I will refer to as F.) … Steve started to freeze me out of the society's activities, including the Psychedelic Experience Weekends which he told me I wasn't the 'right energy' for. He started to organise these with F. and other members instead.)’
My response: I disagree with the implication in NB’s testimony that Stephen asked me to join The Psychedelic Society because I was sleeping with him. When he asked me to join The Psychedelic Society, Stephen knew that I had significant experience with psychedelics and several times he had witnessed first-hand that this relationship with psychedelics was a very natural, positive and deep one for me; he knew I had already attended several meditation retreats and psychotherapeutic group processes and that I was about to embark on a psychotherapeutic training, and I believe he had experienced me as someone who is warm, welcoming, grounded, empathic and easy to connect with, important basic qualities in a facilitator.
After co-founding the Experience Retreats programme with Stephen, I quickly went on to become Director of Experience and managed the retreats programme myself for several years. They became very successful, with consistently high ratings (97% gave the retreats a rating of 5/5). I believe this track record is testimony to the fact that I was very well suited for the role, and Stephen had an intuition about this. I have often witnessed him give people opportunities and empower them based on his intuition, many of whom he has not had sexual relations with.
— Stefana Bosse