The Shamanic View of Mental Health — Waking Times

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I thought this alternative view to mental health is worth sharing. I found some interesting views in here, food for thought and links to people whose work can possibly explain some of the things I have been dealing with. Hope you enjoy.

I am happy that I quit. The reasons I drank are still popping up and asking for attention, but I guess that comes with the territory of being sober; the need to deal. It has been difficult but Bach-remedies, looking for a psychiatrist in my living area has helped me to come, well, at least above zero. What has changed is that I found hope. 🙂 I am not lost, I have issues to solve. That is a big difference. 🙂 While on that path, somebody (Jonathan Davis) was so nice to put this on the interwebs.

Link: The Shamanic View of Mental Health — Waking Times

The Shamanic View of Mental Health — Waking Times

Jonathan Davis, Uplift
Waking Times

In November 2014 the peak psychology body in the UK, the British Psychological Association, released their new flagship report Understanding Psychosis and SchizophreniaIt was a watershed moment in the mainstream treatment of mental illness, containing statements such as this:

Hearing voices or feeling paranoid are common experiences which can often be a reaction to trauma, abuse or deprivation. Calling them symptoms of mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia is only one way of thinking about them, with advantages and disadvantages. ~The British Psychological Association: Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia

With mental health problems reaching epidemic proportions in the UK and throughout the western world, this document reads as no less than an admission that the current model of mental health treatment has failed; and a cry for help to anyone with an approach that may be useful. There are indeed a great many cultures who have had, and still carry, a deeper understanding of mental illness. While these perspectives don’t fit within the boundaries of rationalist reductionism, this has little relevance to their efficacy.

From American Indian shamanism* to esoteric judaism, this concept has dominated for millennia. As it has now become clear, western civilisation is unique in history in it’s failure to recognise each human being as a subtle energy system in constant relationship to a vast sea of energies in the surrounding cosmos.
– Dr Edward Mann, Sociologist

What Is The Shamanic View Of Mental Health?

Broadly speaking any form of awareness around mental health that includes spiritual, mystic and/or mythic considerations could be included in a shamanic view of mental health. This ranges from ancient indigenous shamanic practices to yogic methods involving kundalini awakening, through to Jungian and transpersonal psychology (which draw heavily from ancient cultures). Jung, for example, characterised schizophrenia and psychosis as a natural healing process.

When conscious life is characterised by one-sidedness and false attitudes, primordial healing images are activated – one might say instinctively – and come to light in the dreams of individuals and the visions of artists… Schizophrenia is a condition in which the dream takes the place of reality. – Carl Jung

Another foundation stone of this perspective is the phrase made famous by Joseph Campbell: ‘The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight’ (an idea borrowed from Jungian psychiatrist RD Laing).  There has been a long history throughout human culture of people having mystical experiences, and then becoming ‘weller than well’ as Dr John Weir Perry put it.  The key here is that in these instances the person completed a process that western medicine would have labelled as sickness and then medicated. They instead passed through it and went on to lead lives without relapse into ‘psychosis’, instead living a more fulfilled existence than if they had never gone though their temporary break with consensus reality. Throughout history there have been examples of people who have gone on to use their visionary insights, newly found drive and focus to create great social reform for the benefit of all.

Psychospiritual Crisis / Spiritual Emergence

Proponents of transpersonal psychotherapy, like one of its founders Prof. Stanislav Grof suggest that ‘spiritual emergence’ experiences are often misdiagnosed as psychosis and medicated unnecessarily. Grof sites 11 different types of spiritual emergencies, including the classic initiatory experience of the shaman, unitive experiences of oceanic oneness, kundalini awakening, the crisis of psychic opening, and the messianic experience common within what John Weir Perry called the ‘renewal process’.

Interpreted from this point of view, a schizophrenic breakdown is an inward and backward journey to recover something missed or lost, and to restore, thereby, a vital balance. So let the voyager go. He has tipped over and is sinking, perhaps drowning; yet, as in the old legend of Gilgamesh and his long, deep dive to the bottom of the cosmic sea to pluck the watercress of immortality, there is the one green value of his life down there. Don’t cut him off from it: help him through. – Joseph CampbellSchizophrenia: The Inward Journey

John Weir Perry, who put these ideas into practice in a medication free facility called Diabasis, suggests these experiences are a dramatic re-ordering of the person’s psyche from a distorted state to an more ordered one.  To me this is like cleaning a messy house, sometimes it needs to get messier in order to sort everything out. Perry also said that ‘it is justifiable to regard the term “sickness” as pertaining not to the acute turmoil but to the prepsychotic personality…  the renewal process occuring in the acute episode may be considered nature’s way of setting things right.’ This is echoed by Jiddu Krishnamurti‘s statement that ‘it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’

The Problems Of Pathology, Symptom Suppression, Stigma and Trauma

Pathology: A fundamental difference between the approach of calling these experiences mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia and ‘other ways of thinking about them’, is the very act of pathologising them. The labelling of something as a sickness, when working in the realms of the psychospiritual can have a dramatically negative effect on what happens next. Like a person experiencing an overwhelming psychedelic experience, a person in this kind of state is highly influenced by their surroundings including what they are told, for good or for ill. A suggestion that the experience is a sickness can become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Having been encouraged to see the voice, not as an experience, but as a symptom – my fear and resistance towards it intensified. Now essentially this represented taking an aggressive stance towards my own mind – a kind of psychic civil war, and in turn this caused the number of voices to increase and grow progressively hostile and menacing. – Eleanor Longden

Symptom Suppression: The next big challenge is symptom suppression. Critics of the current model of care (who now seem to include the British Psychological Association) argue that psychiatric medication merely suppresses symptoms.

Many people find that ‘antipsychotic’ medication helps to make the experiences less frequent, intense or distressing. However, there is no evidence that it corrects an underlying biological abnormality. Recent evidence also suggests that it carries significant risks, particularly if taken long term. – The British Psychological Association: Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Those of the shamanic or transpersonal persuasion go further in suggesting that medication tends to ultimately prevent the person from completing a natural experience such as the ‘process of renewal’ John Weir Perry describes. Instead this process keeps trying to complete itself and symptoms keep reappearing, and then drugs suppress it again in an endless 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 often heard by people experiencing psychosis.

Stigma:

They [shamanic cultures] have a cultural context. The physiological crisis, although it’s difficult, it’s believed to be… they put it in a positive light.  It’s something the person’s going to come out of and be stronger in the end, and have more abilities in the end.  The other thing that’s a big advantage is – it’s not stigmatized. – Phil Borges, maker of upcoming film CrazyWise

Trauma: Thankfully, even in the western model there is a strong surge of recognition occurring around the fact that trauma and neglect in childhood (and in adulthood) can lead to serious mental health crisis.

We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave. They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again.Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave. – A Rwandan talking to writer, Andrew Solomon

The Bridge Between Two Worlds – Sickness 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 someone presented with symptoms we would call psychosis, the people of their tribe or village would send them for training with someone who had learned a level of mastery over the sensitivity that once 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 around the world, before western civilisation the idea of schizophrenia as a disease was, quite simply, non-existent.  The assumption was that a person experiencing the challenges known in modern times as psychosis was in fact experiencing things that were actually real, but only able to perceived by those who were gifted.

They have a community that buys into what they’ve gone through, and not only that, they have an outlet for their talents – and many of these people have specific talents that the normal person doesn’t have. Phil Borges, maker of upcoming film CrazyWise

To me it is clear that we live in a culture that immediately labels these moments of crisis as sickness, and our culture has almost no level of acceptance for the people that go through it.  When face to face with a person experiencing involuntary states of non-ordinary consciousness, most of us – to put it bluntly – just want them away from us.  It’s almost as if we fear that ‘crazy’ is contagious and we want it quarantined.  It’s unfortunate that this approach may be compounding the problem, however another way forward is re-awakening.  When I look at a person in such a crisis, I see a future potential mentor for others.  The more we can assist people in passing through their dark night of the soul, the more guides we will have with lived experience to help others come through in the future. In an upcoming article I’ll be writing about how shamanic training can assist people going through ‘spiritual emergency’.

For peer support and further information of this kind you can join The Shamanic View Of Mental Illness on Facebook.

About the Author

Jonathan Davis is an Australian writer focusing on shamanism and alternate modes of healing.

This article (The Shamanic View of Mental Health) was originally posted at Uplift Connect, and is reposted here with permission.

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Reminder: online summit ‘Recovery 2.0’

Hi there,

Soon you will not know what to watch anymore! Summit overwhelm! Well, if you got to this page because you searched for ‘addiction’ or you notice you or somebody in your surroundings has a tendency to self-destruct in no matter what way… check out Recovery 2.0  

Also: if you happen to be depressed or experiencing other mental illnesses, quiting alcohol can greatly improve your life. The booze industry usually does not tell you that so I doing that here. 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

I for one am happy that I stopped drinking.

xx, Feeling

The land of no self-hate – episode 4

The book ‘There is nothing wrong with you’ by Cheri Huber advises the reader to ‘go one day without self hating’ and  ‘if the results of that day are not satisfying, you can double up on the self-hate the day after’. Well, not exactly her words but something along those lines. I tried. I had a wonderful day. And then life happened and I could not keep up the non-hating and I indeed doubled up on self-hate. But not because I wanted to.

It is funny in a not funny way: self-hating, or no matter what negative behaviour very much feels like and addiction. I wrote about that before and placed this vid of which I  strongly urge you to watch. It is a part of the movie ‘What the bleep do we know’ and it explains how emotions work through (natural) chemicals in the body. The physical part of emotions. And also they speak of addiction to emotions or certain emotions (like self-hating).

 

On top of doubling up on self-hating get signals from the hug-buddy that he wants to make changes to our dalliance. I thought I had protected myself well enough from heart-break but no. 🙂 Obviously I rush to conclusions thinking that ‘change’ means ‘shut down’. So I was all over the place yesterday and last night. Very painful feelings of loss, loneliness, heart-ache and ‘being good for nothing’. He has not even said a word apart from ‘we need to talk’. But then again, I don’t think he’s pregnant or wants to marry me. :-/ When a guy says ‘we need to talk’ that is pretty ominous.

I realise that when I want to change this personal hell of pain which I walk in lately, I need to dig some deeper than bringing on a mantra of ‘you are ok’. While in my bed thinking: ‘I might as well face this.’  and I went all in. Again and again, I run into what one could call survivor guilt. I did not come into this world innocent, I came into this world after having killed my twin brother. And even though this memory has not always been active in my life there have always been hints of me knowing, of me feeling guilty. Like the time I explicitly told my mother that I existed and this meant that somebody else did not exist. She reacted as if it was a futile and ludicrous attempt on philosophy by a 4-year-old. It was not. I have really said some bizarre things. Funny how nobody ever picked up on that. I remember being explained what the word ‘murder’ means and all the kids being shocked while I felt guilty and had no idea why. Everybody saying “I could never do that!” while I tried to say those words but I knew I was lying. I knew very well what it is to cause somebody to die. I know it was not ‘my fault’ – but ‘preferring the other to die in stead of me’ makes it feel as if I had a choice. I tried to help him. But I was too late.

This shadow hanging over me, this darkness I take with me all my life. It is fertile soil for  whatever accusation is coming my way.. On good days it is only there as a destructive notion of self-hatred, of self-destructive behaviour, of addiction. On bad days I wake up with hatred so big that I want to jump of the building. My ’emotional body’ feels like I am walking through a world on fire. Flames all around me scourging me.  I can look at this screen and see the screen and the letters forming words. When I turn my eyes inwards I see flames in the darkness and there is nothing else. It is real strange to be speaking with friends on the phone while inside I am burning with flames.

I don’t want this anymore. Last night in bed I realised that a few years ago I got sober and decided that I need to feel my way back into life if I want to un-addict. WELL F#CK! There is so much I do NOT want to feel, do NOT want to be present with, do NOT want to be. I do not understand how other people do this. How do you live? I can really feel into this shit for 5 to 10 minutes. Then it takes me at least 2 hours of zoning out over a computer game or Netflix to be able to, dunno, get up? Do the dishes.

But I have a cat so I have to live and maybe deal with being me. Days have been very dark and destructive. I am guessing when in the process of fo finding self-love the self-hate pops back up too. Both become more alive with a current emphasis on the hate 😦 No surprise there. It feels like ‘drinking extra because next week I will stop anyway’. Gosh… hmm, that still sounds logical. That is not good. Guess it was a myth that Jason Vale or I did not debunk. Hmmm, needs looking into.

If indeed self-hate is addictive behaviour, like I am now/have been convinced off, some part of me will feel threatened by letting it go. Bullocks, not parts. I feel threatened by letting it go. I would not know whom to be if I do not destroy myself. Now that…. hmmm…. straight from the heart. 😦

The social services offered help with my mental state. Then I got in such a bad state that I could not fill in the forms which are mandatory for getting help.

I wrote the above and took a break from writing. With an ef it all attitude I dove into the darkest darkness and ended up in front of my dying twin-brother.

I was addicted from birth onwards. My parents were surprised about how cuddly I was. My mother called me ‘a bottomless pit’ when it came to cuddling. They were also surprised on how demanding when it came to food. Seems like I screamed with rage, high and loud, till I got my food, several times the neighbours came to see if all was ok.

The memory of my brother’s death is a vivid one. It came back to me in half sleep while I myself had no clue of there even being such a thing as vanishing twins. Him being so close, no, that is not the word, we were each other:

You are me,
I am you,
We are you,
We are me.

Then,
you were not.

So who am I?

He died at tiny arms length of me. The disintegration of a soul, the destruction, the immensity of the very intricate, living structure of enormous intelligent power, of consciousness which holds together every atom in a person. All this fell apart in front of me. He fell apart. We fell apart. I fell apart. The insight it gave me in the imensity of the Universe, the quality of the substance of life, of consciousness, of what holds us together. Losing him, losing me, it broke my essence and threw me into the Universe with no protection what so ever. The purpose of the body is to experience separateness, time and death. These three things make up the human experience.

This is what it looked like. Well, not literally, but the energetic explosion had the same quality as this photo. Only this has no center, no axis and no direction.

gasphotouniverse

My brother and I were Mono Zygotic twins. And yes, everybody says that is not possible male – female monozygotic, but it is. First, because that is how I experienced it – which haha, has little scientific meaning but I searched literature till I found that indeed it is possible. Chemical wonders. Secondly, what happens is that hormone wise putting a guy and a girl in one sac is a chemical time bomb so one has to go. Which is the reason there are currently only 5 or so sets of living MZ twins. Google it. The stem of the scientific verb to describe the process of the one twin ‘killing’ the other is the stem of the verb of which my first name is derived. Amongst others it means alienate. I know, sounds all carnavalesque but it is true.

“Let’s have a baby and call it after an alien. Sure she’ll just fit in nicely in this world and feel so very welcome… ” Ok. Childish. I just very much dislike my name since I heard what it means.

I need to own this story. I still have difficulty believing it myself. Which I guess it keeps on coming back here in the blog.

I have been in contact with Vanishing Twin groups on the internet and I can not find what I am looking for which is the understanding from the inside out. Most people come to this conclusion of having had a (vanishing) twin from the outside in; they read something and it fits their profile.

I did it the other way around: I experienced something and went looking for medical and psychological theory to back me up. Well, these groups feel like talking about addiction to somebody who has not experienced it. Or worst: being ‘helped’ or in most of the cases actually being ‘talked down to’ by somebody who has ‘been through this because the book says so’ but really thinks others ‘should not make such a fuss because THEY themselves have done so well’. Haaaahahaha, sort of how I treat addiction: “I advise you to read the book. It will fix you.” OMG. OMG. Uncomfortably close to the truth that is.

Ok. Long story longer. I looked into the abyss. I feel better now. I hope it did not sicken you to have a peek into the abyss too. This is what happened to me. I looked into the Universe. I saw life and death. This changed me. It made it VERY HARD for me to walk in this world and feel normal. I do not feel normal. And any attempt at feeling normal is futile because I’m not made of the same stuff 9 out of 10 others are. When with the bookstore man I felt normal because he was like I. 1 Out of 10 people has a VT. People with VT syndrome have addiction issues. As a statistic 1 out of 10 people has issues with addiction. I think there is a big overlap between the VTS people and the addicted people. Double diagnoses is the favorite VTS thing: addiction and mental health issues, specifically bi-polar. Anything polar, anything extreme is very VTS. As it is addicty.

Even longer: things are unearthing. Self-hate and self-love are fighting. I need to delf into this because I do not want it to fester. It has festered several decades. I should put a stop to it. If it is true that it is an addiction, then I know how to deal. ‘Just’ don’t do it anymore. 😉

However dark my days I am grateful that I do not drink. I experience this as a sick world (for reference: Syria bombing) and if I want to change anything to it I need to not self-destruct by booze. Now looking to un-addict from the other self-destructive behaviours. Maybe, maybe, maybe I can enjoy life again. Maybe I can learn to like living again. Be happy without that crocodile under the bed, that presence of doom and damnation around the corner.

Wish me luck with the hug-buddy.

Wishing you a nice sober night or day now in Australasia! Say hi to the kiwi’s and the platypuses.

xx, Feeling