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The Shamanic View of Mental Health

shamanic journeying


Jonathan Davis, Uplift
Waking Occasions

In November 2014 the height psychology physique within the UK, the British Psychological Affiliation, launched their new flagship report Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia. It was a watershed second within the mainstream remedy of psychological sickness, containing statements comparable to this:

Listening to voices or feeling paranoid are widespread experiences which may typically be a response to trauma, abuse or deprivation. Calling them signs of psychological sickness, psychosis or schizophrenia is just one approach of occupied with them, with benefits and drawbacks. ~The British Psychological Affiliation: Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia

With psychological well being issues reaching epidemic proportions within the UK and all through the western world, this doc reads as a minimum of an admission that the present mannequin of psychological well being remedy has failed; and a cry for assist to anybody with an strategy that could be helpful. There are certainly an ideal many cultures who’ve had, and nonetheless carry, a deeper understanding of psychological sickness. Whereas these views don’t match inside the boundaries of rationalist reductionism, this has little relevance to their efficacy.

From American Indian shamanism* to esoteric judaism, this idea has dominated for millennia. Because it has now grow to be clear, western civilisation is exclusive in historical past in it’s failure to recognise every human being as a delicate power system in fixed relationship to an enormous sea of energies within the surrounding cosmos.
– Dr Edward Mann, Sociologist

What Is The Shamanic View Of Mental Health?

Broadly talking any type of consciousness round psychological well being that features religious, mystic and/or mythic issues might be included in a shamanic view of psychological well being. This ranges from historic indigenous shamanic practices to yogic strategies involving kundalini awakening, by way of to Jungian and transpersonal psychology (which draw closely from historic cultures). Jung, for instance, characterised schizophrenia and psychosis as a pure therapeutic course of.

When acutely aware life is characterised by one-sidedness and false attitudes, primordial therapeutic pictures are activated – one may say instinctively – and are available to mild within the goals of people and the visions of artists… Schizophrenia is a situation by which the dream takes the place of actuality. – Carl Jung

One other basis stone of this attitude is the phrase made well-known by Joseph Campbell: ‘The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight’ (an concept borrowed from Jungian psychiatrist RD Laing).  There was an extended historical past all through human tradition of individuals having mystical experiences, after which turning into ‘weller than well’ as Dr John Weir Perry put it.  The key right here is that in these situations the individual accomplished a course of that western drugs would have labelled as illness after which medicated. They as an alternative handed by way of it and went on to steer lives with out relapse into ‘psychosis’, as an alternative dwelling a extra fulfilled existence than if that they had by no means gone although their momentary break with consensus actuality. All through historical past there have been examples of individuals who have gone on to make use of their visionary insights, newly discovered drive and focus to create nice social reform for the profit of all.

Psychospiritual Disaster / Religious Emergence

Proponents of transpersonal psychotherapy, like one of its founders Prof. Stanislav Grof recommend that ‘spiritual emergence’ experiences are sometimes misdiagnosed as psychosis and medicated unnecessarily. Grof websites 11 differing types of religious emergencies, together with the basic initiatory expertise of the shaman, unitive experiences of oceanic oneness, kundalini awakening, the disaster of psychic opening, and the messianic expertise widespread inside what John Weir Perry referred to as the ‘renewal process’.

Interpreted from this level of view, a schizophrenic breakdown is an inward and backward journey to recuperate one thing missed or misplaced, and to revive, thereby, an important stability. So let the voyager go. He has tipped over and is sinking, maybe drowning; but, as within the previous legend of Gilgamesh and his lengthy, deep dive to the underside of the cosmic sea to pluck the watercress of immortality, there’s the one inexperienced worth of his life down there. Don’t minimize him off from it: assist him by means of. – Joseph Campbell, Schizophrenia: The Inward Journey

John Weir Perry, who put these concepts into apply in a medicine free facility referred to as Diabasis, suggests these experiences are a dramatic re-ordering of the individual’s psyche from a distorted state to an extra ordered one.  To me that is like cleansing a messy home, typically it must get messier to be able to type all the things out. Perry additionally stated that ‘it’s justifiable to treat the time period “sickness” as pertaining to not the acute turmoil however to the prepsychotic character…  the renewal course of occuring within the acute episode could also be thought-about nature’s method of setting issues proper.’ That is echoed by Jiddu Krishnamurti‘s statement that ‘it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’

The Issues Of Pathology, Symptom Suppression, Stigma and Trauma

Pathology: A elementary distinction between the strategy of calling these experiences psychological sickness, psychosis or schizophrenia and ‘other ways of thinking about them’, is the very act of pathologising them. The labelling of one thing as a illness, when working within the realms of the psychospiritual can have a dramatically adverse impact on what occurs subsequent. Like an individual experiencing an awesome psychedelic expertise, an individual on this sort of state is very influenced by their environment together with what they’re informed, for good or for ailing. A suggestion that the expertise is a illness can turn into a self fulfilling prophecy.

Having been inspired to see the voice, not as an expertise, however as a symptom – my worry and resistance in the direction of it intensified. Now primarily this represented taking an aggressive stance in the direction of my very own thoughts – a sort of psychic civil struggle, and in flip this prompted the quantity of voices to extend and develop progressively hostile and menacing. – Eleanor Longden

Symptom Suppression: The subsequent huge problem is symptom suppression. Critics of the present mannequin of care (who now appear to incorporate the British Psychological Affiliation) argue that psychiatric treatment merely suppresses signs.

Many individuals discover that ‘antipsychotic’ treatment helps to make the experiences much less frequent, intense or distressing. Nevertheless, there isn’t a proof that it corrects an underlying organic abnormality. Current proof additionally means that it carries vital dangers, notably if taken long run. – The British Psychological Affiliation: Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia

These of the shamanic or transpersonal persuasion go additional in suggesting that medicine tends to finally forestall the individual from finishing a pure expertise such because the ‘process of renewal’ John Weir Perry describes. As an alternative this course of retains making an attempt to finish itself and signs maintain reappearing, after which medicine suppress it once more in an countless cycle.  It’s unsurprising that the phrase ‘you have a mental illness, and you will have it for the rest of your life’ is so typically heard by individuals experiencing psychosis.


They [shamanic cultures] have a cultural context. The physiological disaster, though it’s troublesome, it’s believed to be… they put it in a constructive mild.  It’s one thing the individual’s going to return out of and be stronger in the long run, and have extra talents in the long run.  The different factor that’s an enormous benefit is – it’s not stigmatized. – Phil Borges, maker of upcoming movie CrazyWise

Trauma: Fortunately, even within the western mannequin there’s a robust surge of recognition occurring round the truth that trauma and neglect in childhood (and in maturity) can result in critical psychological well being disaster.

We had rather a lot of hassle with western psychological well being staff who got here right here instantly after the genocide and we needed to ask some of them to go away. They got here and their apply didn’t contain being outdoors within the solar the place you start to really feel higher. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing once more. There was no sense that everybody had taken the day without work in order that the whole group might come collectively to attempt to carry you up and convey you again to pleasure. There was no acknowledgement of the melancholy as one thing invasive and exterior that would truly be forged out once more.As an alternative they might take individuals separately into these dingy little rooms and have them sit round for an hour or so and speak about dangerous issues that had occurred to them. We needed to ask them to go away. – A Rwandan speaking to author, Andrew Solomon

The Bridge Between Two Worlds – Illness or Acute Sensitivity?

Dr Joseph Polimeni states that ‘In most traditional societies those persons who were overcome by hallucinations in young adulthood were more often than not destined to become shamans’. If somebody introduced with signs we might name psychosis, the individuals of their tribe or village would ship them for coaching with somebody who had discovered a degree of mastery over the sensitivity that when overwhelmed them. Phil Borges states that ‘they have a mentor; they have somebody who has been through this process that can take and hold their hand and say listen, I know what this is all about and this is how you manage it’. In cultures all over the world, earlier than western civilisation the thought of schizophrenia as a illness was, fairly merely, non-existent.  The assumption was that an individual experiencing the challenges recognized in trendy occasions as psychosis was in reality experiencing issues that have been truly actual, however solely capable of perceived by those that have been gifted.

They’ve a group that buys into what they’ve gone by means of, and never solely that, they’ve an outlet for his or her skills – and lots of of these individuals have particular skills that the traditional individual doesn’t have. – Phil Borges, maker of upcoming movie CrazyWise

To me it’s clear that we stay in a tradition that instantly labels these moments of disaster as illness, and our tradition has virtually no degree of acceptance for the those that undergo it.  When nose to nose with an individual experiencing involuntary states of non-ordinary consciousness, most of us – to place it bluntly – simply need them away from us.  It’s virtually as if we worry that ‘crazy’ is contagious and we would like it quarantined.  It’s unlucky that this strategy could also be compounding the issue, nevertheless one other method ahead is re-awakening.  Once I take a look at an individual in such a disaster, I see a future potential mentor for others.  The extra we will help individuals in passing by means of their darkish night time of the soul, the extra guides we could have with lived expertise to assist others come by means of sooner or later. In an upcoming article I’ll be writing about how shamanic coaching can help individuals going via ‘spiritual emergency’.

For peer help and additional info of this type you’ll be able to be a part of The Shamanic View Of Mental Sickness on Fb.

Concerning the Writer

Jonathan Davis is an Australian author specializing in shamanism and alternate modes of therapeutic.

This text (The Shamanic View of Mental Health) was initially posted at Uplift Join, and is reposted right here with permission.

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The Shamanic View of Mental Health was final modified: September 22nd, 2018 by WakingTimes

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