31 Aug 2023

Making the Invisible Visible
Intersecting Psychedelics, Intergenerational Trauma, and Critical Consciousness

Making the Invisible Visible: Intersecting Psychedelics, Intergenerational Trauma, and Critical Consciousness

By Grace Cepe

MAPS Bulletin: Volume XXXIII Number 2 • 2023

“The role of the artist is exactly the same as the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.”
–James Baldwin

Being the first to do anything is hard. When I decided to write my first original article for the MAPS Bulletin, my initial strategy was to write a literature review about Filipino intergenerational trauma and the medical uses of psychedelics. “Filipinos, Intergenerational Trauma, and Psychedelics: How These Journeys Might Help Us Return to Our Roots” was a behemoth: 15 pages, 5000 words, 30 citations, and a lot of overcompensating for my impostor syndrome.

As a first-generation Filipina American in the United States and the first Filipina to sit at the table at MAPS, I felt this enormous pressure to represent my view about Filipino cultural considerations in a quasi-academic way. Initially, I intended to present evidence about the impacts of colonization on Filipino psychology and present a hypothesis on how psychedelic-assisted therapy might intervene in breaking the cycle. As of right now, there is yet to exist any literature in psychedelic research that directly mentions Filipino cultural considerations—and we’re one of many minoritized group that have been excluded, intentionally or unintentionally, from the field.

But as the publishing deadline approached, I felt this gnawing discomfort about the almost complete product. I thought it was my usual perfectionistic tendencies at first, but after reading bell hooks “theory as liberatory practice” (1991) I realized that my initial essay’s implicit purpose was to receive a stamp of approval from the professionals in the ivory towers instead of being driven by my values to platform marginalized perspectives—including my own. I centered the white patriarchal gaze(1) in my writing pursuits even though I commit so much time and energy to center an anticolonial, feminist, social justice praxis in my daily life.

So, I’ve decided to change course and speak plainly about some observations I have about the psychedelic ecosystem. But first, I’ll tell you a bit about who I am and how I found my way to MAPS.

Grace Cepe advocating for the decriminalization measure in front of Santa Cruz City Council (January 28, 2020)

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When people ask me where I’m from, I proudly represent the Bay Area—specifically the east side of San Jose, California. The east side is made up of a majority-minority enclave of immigrant families, including my own. Some of my oldest friends are children of Filipino, Vietnamese, and Latino immigrants. I am lucky to grow up in such a diverse melting pot.

The Bay Area has a rich history of social justice activism and psychedelic counterculture that weaves itself into today’s social fabric. But my friends and family never talked about psychedelics. We only knew about cannabis. When we did talk about these compounds, the conversations were laden with drug war rhetoric, e.g. “Just Say No,” or scientific misinformation, e.g., “MDMA creates holes in your brain” (retracted Ricaurte et al., 2002). During my youth, I believed the moralistic drug war propaganda—except for weed—so I chose not to experiment with any substances. In the 2010s, I went to college and majored in psychology (my first love), so I enrolled in an Introduction to Psychobiology course. One day, my professor was lecturing on the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder on the brain when he introduced the class to MAPS-sponsored MDMA-assisted therapy research. That single lecture significantly impacted my understanding of drugs, politics, mental health, and my career trajectory. Since then, I sought out more education about psychedelic research—which went 0 to 100 real quick when I attended MAPS’ Psychedelic Science conference in Oakland in 2017.

Rudy Maldonado and Grace Cepe’s first time tabling together for MAPS, Santa Cruz, CA (2020)

Psychedelic Science 2017 exposed me to the multidisciplinary perspectives of the whole field, from clinical research to drug policy reform to Indigenous ceremonies to harm reduction and peer support. The amount of evidence about the healing potential of these substances in adjunct to psychotherapy and the potential public health benefits of drug policy reform was absolutely impossible to ignore. Since then, I dedicated years to deepening my knowledge of the psychedelic field.

Fast forward a few years, I joined UC Santa Cruz’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) chapter to advocate for decriminalizing entheogenic plants and fungi for responsible adult use—which the Santa Cruz City Council passed with no opposition. I met members of the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI), and Dawn Davis, an Indigenous researcher studying the endangerment of peyote (Virdi, 2022), who educated me and the group about the historical, spiritual, cultural, and political significance of peyote to the Native American Church. In solidarity, we advocated for removing any mention of “peyote” from the decriminalization measure. During this period, I also got involved with the Chacruna Institute and San Francisco Psychedelic Society (SFPS) by volunteering to help with social media and community events. Chacruna and SFPS showed me the importance of community building, grassroots leadership, and the necessity of accessible events and peer support groups for responsibly educating adults about psychedelics (2). Finally, after a few years of waiting for an opportunity to get involved, I was selected to volunteer for an event hosted by MAPS: Stanislav Grof’s book launch of The Way of the Psychonaut. There, I met Rudy Maldonado, MAPS’ Community Engagement Officer, and Jenni Vierra, the former Manager of Events, who saw my commitment to the mission of psychedelic healing. They offered more opportunities for me to volunteer for MAPS. After a long time of persistent volunteering, I was hired with the title of Community Engagement Associate, then I transitioned into the Communications and Marketing department to support media relations, public education, and other communications needs of the organization.

These critical theoretical frameworks show up in my psychedelic experiences when I’m working on healing the trauma within my body as a woman of color and as a member of a colonized people.

When I started exploring the psychedelic ecosystem, I wanted to understand how these non-ordinary states of consciousness could elicit profound healing experiences for people suffering from psychological, emotional, and spiritual anguish. My commitment to the field lies in the healing potential of psychedelics, not the substances themselves. As I’ve expanded my experience and studied the critical theories mentioned above, I’ve also learned thevalue of making the invisible visible. Stanislav Grof famously denotes that psychedelics are nonspecific amplifiers of the unconscious. As a woman of color, my worldview is shaped by what bell hooks (2015) theorizes as the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy—the intersecting systems of oppression that structure Western society. As a Filipina-American, my biopsychosocial experience has been influenced, in part, by the intergenerational trauma of Spanish and American colonialism in my lineage, or what E.J.R. David (2013), a Filipino community-clinical psychologist and researcher, references as “colonial mentality.” These theoretical frameworks show up in my psychedelic experiences when I’m working on healing the trauma within my body as a woman of color and as a member of a colonized people.

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Making the invisible visible is a central tenet of my healing journey. It’s why I pay attention to marginalized perspectives, sciences, theories, and groups. I understand how painful it is to feel invisible–to feel like your voice, ideas, or experience does not or will not matter to the people around you. And I understand how liberating it feels when your pain is seen, held, and attended to. Knowing that the pain of invisibility is a shared experience among the historically oppressed–people of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ people–I felt a deeper connection to the mission of collective liberation. None of us are free until we’re all free.

As I continue to heal and engage in more critical consciousness praxis, I uncover a deeper layer of my unrelenting love for humanity and collective liberation.

My pain of invisibility gets particularly sharp when Filipino or Asian-American history, existence, or perspectives within critical conversations are relegated to the margins, or just straight up ignored. As part of the Asian-American umbrella, Filipinos must contend with the pervasive model minority myth created by the oppressors to enact an unnecessary and false social hierarchy within racial and ethnic groups. The homogenization of the Asian-American experience predicated by the model minority myth stifles the potential realization of intersectional, interracial solidarity within the psychedelic ecosystem. It’s important to remember the other racial and ethnic groups that are not explicitly named in BIPOC terminology. Be curious about which group you’re leaving out of critical conversations. Again, none of us are free until we’re all free.

Left to Right: Oriana Mayorga, Preeti Simran Sethi, Grace Cepe, and Malek Asfeer presenting on “Psychedelics & Migration: Healing Intergenerational Trauma Across Cultures” at Psychedelic Science 2023 in Denver, Colorado (July 2023)

Because psychedelics are instruments of amplifying unconscious material, these compounds are perfectly predisposed to manifesting the invisible visible. When the veil between the ego and the world falls, we can investigate our internal psychological processes deeply, recognize the amorphous social systems permeating our political reality, and reconnect with the mystical experience of interconnectedness with humanity and the universe.

Psychedelics have allowed me the spiritual space to excavate the traumas of my immediate and ancestral past. In these nonordinary states of consciousness, I could viscerally feel the epigenetic effects of the brutal history of colonialism my ancestors survived. I realized the anxiety, unexpressed rage, and depression I’ve experienced are rooted in generations before me. These compounds helped me reclaim my spiritual sovereignty from the effects of intergenerational trauma and historical oppression. A woman of color who reclaims her agency, autonomy, and authority over her life commits a revolutionary act in a patriarchal world that benefits from her obsequity, silence, and invisibility. As I continue to heal and engage in more critical consciousness praxis, I uncover a deeper layer of my unrelenting love for humanity and collective liberation.

Personal healing and self-recovery is a powerful first step in engaging in struggle, but it’s not enough. Experiencing interconnectedness with humanity or the profundity of agapé love is also not enough. We also need to have value-driven programs and initiatives that will integrate these critical consciousness theories into this niche field and the broader society. Social systems and people are inherently imperfect, so it’s incredibly important for the community to have critical conversations about power, accountability, justice, and systems of oppression. Now that we’re entering a breakthrough generational era of psychedelics, I see that the field is in a precarious position. Psychedelics alone are not a panacea to ending systemic oppression. We need more people, especially younger generations, to keep advocating for a better society. I choose to remain hopeful about the future of psychedelic ecosystem because I’m surrounded by people who are committed to social justice, health equity, and public benefit. Even though I’m still early in my career path, I’m incredibly grateful to have had the privilege to serve the psychedelic ecosystem thus far. I’m excited to see how the futurity of the psychedelic ecosystem unfolds, especially as we continue to make the invisible visible.


(1) By white patriarchal gaze, I’m not necessarily referring to any individual—male or female—directly, but rather, I’m referring to the dominant Western philosophical ideology that permeates American society. To me, “patriarchy” refers to a political system of oppression that perpetuates notions of sexism, domination, supremacy, rugged individualism, and control. As bell hooks notes, “Patriarchy has no gender.”

(2) I also met some of the coolest, kindest, most down to earth people during my time at SFPS. Presently, many of these community members, who I’m lucky to call my friends, are spearheading a new project called the Global Psychedelic Society, which ”supports psychedelic societies across the world helping advocate for the responsible use of psychedelic substances for personal and collective growth, healing, and spiritual exploration” (GPS, 2023). I highly recommend plugging into their network if you’re looking to get involved with your local psychedelic society.


David, E. J. R., & Okazaki, S. (2006). The Colonial Mentality Scale (CMS) for Filipino Americans: Scale construction and psychological implications. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 241–252. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.53.2.241

hooks, bell. (1991). Theory as Liberatory Practice. Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, 4(1), 1–12.

hooks, bell. (2015). Feminist theory: From margin to center. Routledge.

Ricaurte, G. A., Yuan, J., Hatzidimitriou, G., Cord, B. J., & McCann, U. D. (2002). RETRACTED: Severe dopaminergic neurotoxicity in primates after a common recreational dose regimen of MDMA (“ecstasy”). Science (New York, N.Y.), 297(5590), Article 5590. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1074501

Virdi, J. (2022, October 4). Indigenous voices in peyote conservation: Preserving medicine for future generations. Psychedelics Today. https://psychedelicstoday.com/2020/09/16/indigenous-voices-in-peyote-conservation/

Grace Cepe

Grace Cepe (she/her) serves as the Communications Officer for MAPS. Broadly, her responsibilities include supporting public education strategies about psychedelic-assisted therapies, health equity, and drug policy reform. She earned her B.A. in psychology cum laude from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). At UCSC, Grace was a research assistant for the social psychology department’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Laboratory, an instructor’s assistant for an introductory psychology course, and a residential counselor intern for at-risk foster youth. Before joining MAPS as Communications Officer, Grace volunteered with MAPS, San Francisco Psychedelic Society, and the Chacruna Institute, and she was an activist with Decriminalize Santa Cruz.

As of 2023, Grace is pursuing an M.P.H. in Health Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.  She seeks to integrate critical consciousness theories, social justice praxis, cultural competency, and mental health equity in her professional career. Since attending MAPS’ Psychedelic Science Conference in 2017, she has deepened her interests in culturally-informed psychedelic-assisted therapy, Indigenous ceremonial uses, and inclusivity and diversity within psychedelic storytelling.  Outside of MAPS, Grace loves reading books in cafés, hiking in woodsy petrichor, and grooving to R&B, hip-hop, and Latin music.