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Dabney Alix on Spirituality, Shamanism and Mental Health

cpuusage

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https://www.psychologytoday.com/blo...alix-spirituality-shamanism-and-mental-health

Interview with Dabney Alix

EM: Recently, you launched a project called, Shades of Awakening which looks at the transpersonal concept of spiritual emergency. What is spiritual emergency and why is it important to the future of mental health?

DA: Spiritual Emergency, a term coined by Stan & Christina Grof, describes a process of deep psych-spiritual transformation in which a person experiences drastic changes to their meaning system (i.e., their unique purposes, goals, values, attitude and beliefs, identity, and focus) typically because of a spontaneous spiritual experience. This may include experiences that would otherwise be perceived by the current mental health paradigm as hallucinatory or delusional.

Many who experience extreme spiritual states have been viewed through the lens of psychiatry as psychotic. In 2003, I was hospitalized and medicated after a 10-hour-long meditation that led to a series of ecstatic unity states of consciousness.

My personal path of healing from the stigma and trauma by the mental health “treatment” I received began when I started to see my experiences, not as indicators of a broken brain, but as opportunities to transform and heal my own psyche, step into greater purpose and achieve higher states of consciousness. I am lucky to say I have never needed any form of mental health treatment since.

I believe that the future of mental health lies in creating strength-based narratives that reinforce and empower an individual in their healing and personal growth, i.e. transpersonal psychology and a greater acknowledgement of spiritual emergence and spiritual emergency as valid non-pathological human experiences.

EM: Tell us a bit about Shamanism and how it relates to mental health?

DA: Shamanism is an ancient healing practice, actually the oldest form of indigenous medicine, practiced for thousands of years in every part of the globe. It is based in the understanding that there are layers of reality, including spirit realms, to which one can relate to for personal power and community healing.

In many traditional shamanic cultures, shamans were “initiated” through a process of sickness, which looks in many ways like what we in the west call to be Madness: delusions, hearing voices, fear and terror, extreme abnormal behavior, etc. It was understood that if an initiated Shaman were not trained and mentored they would become lost in the spirit realms, become sick or even die.

I believe that some of our most brilliant naturally born visionary healers and shamans are mis-labeled and medicated instead of being taught to master their abilities. The key here is not in creating a shamanic narrative for others, but simply in validating a variety of cross-cultural and spiritual perspectives on “psychosis” that welcomes people to find meaning that supports their own world-view and helps them heal and grow. In many ways, it’s not so different from the basic principle of freedom of religion.

EM: What are your thoughts on the current, dominant paradigm of diagnosing and treating mental disorders and the use of so-called psychiatric medication to treat mental disorders in children, teens and adults?

DA: While there are many truly caring people working within the current dominant paradigm, it is important to understand that it was founded on the assumption that those suffering from mental and emotional distress were inept, a danger to the gene pool, and needing to dominated and controlled. Any time you have a current system that operates with these historical roots, it’s important to question and rethink said system at every level or else face these unconscious historical assumptions repeating themselves.

The other noteworthy point is that western medicine as we know it developed from a reductionist, mechanistic world-view that basically said, “the world is made of independently moving parts and if you can identify and isolate the broken part, you can replace it and fix it.” Science has shown us that living systems do not work this way - and instead are a symphony of processes working together in an infinitely complex way. We still do not know much about the relationship between consciousness (mind) and matter (brain) when it comes to the human experience.

Therefore, taking a reductionist, mechanistic approach as is done in psychiatry (low serotonin = depression) to the set of complex human experiences leaves out a whole set of psycho-social factors. In many ways it is unethical to continue “treating” a human being as if he or she were a machine easily reduced to one or two neurotransmitters, when there is little empirical evidence showing that these “treatments” actually work beyond a placebo effect.

When we talk about shifting the current paradigm of mental health, we’re really talking about shifting our entire worldview from a reductionist-mechanistic one to a holistic-integrative one. Not an easy task, but thankfully, it is happening more and more on every level of society - across disciplines.

EM: What is the role of community in the healing and recovery process?

DA: Not that long ago, BELONGING was a survival issue. People who didn't have a tribe or who were asked to leave one were sentenced to either death or a lifetime of struggle. In the current dominant view of stigma related to mental illness, many are left feeling ostracized, misunderstood and alone. Often what I hear as one of the biggest challenges of those who have been given a mental health diagnosis is a sense of loneliness and disconnection from those closest to them. This can be especially exacerbated if an individual is looking to create spiritual meaning from their experiences and finds their point not only invalidated by the very authority figures they are entrusting with their care, but also by family members as well.

In my personal and professional experience, creating communities of mutual understanding, with a shared language is absolutely crucial. This is one reason why there has been such a rise in peer support. People are hungry to belong and I believe that this sense of social safety is crucial in the healing and recovery process.
 
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daydreambeliever39

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https://www.psychologytoday.com/blo...alix-spirituality-shamanism-and-mental-health


DA: Not that long ago, BELONGING was a survival issue. People who didn't have a tribe or who were asked to leave one were sentenced to either death or a lifetime of struggle. In the current dominant view of stigma related to mental illness, many are left feeling ostracized, misunderstood and alone. Often what I hear as one of the biggest challenges of those who have been given a mental health diagnosis is a sense of loneliness and disconnection from those closest to them. This can be especially exacerbated if an individual is looking to create spiritual meaning from their experiences and finds their point not only invalidated by the very authority figures they are entrusting with their care, but also by family members as well.

In my personal and professional experience, creating communities of mutual understanding, with a shared language is absolutely crucial. This is one reason why there has been such a rise in peer support. People are hungry to belong and I believe that this sense of social safety is crucial in the healing and recovery process.


I think that one of the worst aspects of mental illness is the feeling of social isolation and lack of personal confidence that results from a diagnosis. But this is something that psychiatrists never acknowledge. I think this is one area where doctors could be more humane and it is clear from their attitude that they fail to have empathy with patients and don't see the whole person. I don't think they even see you as a human being.

I can't see it changing in the NHS, as long as we have an NHS, for a very long time, if ever. But maybe people who can afford to go private may eventually be able to access this kind of humane support.
 

cpuusage

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I think that one of the worst aspects of mental illness is the feeling of social isolation and lack of personal confidence that results from a diagnosis. But this is something that psychiatrists never acknowledge. I think this is one area where doctors could be more humane and it is clear from their attitude that they fail to have empathy with patients and don't see the whole person. I don't think they even see you as a human being.

I can't see it changing in the NHS, as long as we have an NHS, for a very long time, if ever. But maybe people who can afford to go private may eventually be able to access this kind of humane support.

There is a lot of stigma & discrimination. It's very hard to access proper understanding & support.

i don't really see it all fundamentally changing either really. Some of us get dealt a bad hand, & that's all there is to it.

i do think that there is something very wrong on this planet - it's dark, backward & barbaric. We're a barbaric species. The great oddity that i find is that so many people appear to see it all as normal, they don't seem to see very much wrong with it all. The majority argue & fight to keep everything the way it is. i lose sympathy with it all.
 
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daydreambeliever39

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Yeah, there are times when I lose sympathy with humanity too. And sometimes I think the best thing would be if humans were wiped out and the rest of the species were left. They have not caused any harm to the planet (apart from those who expel methane en masse, but that's not their fault) but we are destroying it.

You can't put everyone in the same box though. There are some decent people out there and you just need to find and connect with them. There are plenty of people I admire and like on the forum including yourself and you shouldn't generalise about humanity. I am guilty of it but I have to remember that I am being pessimistic.

As for psychiatry, though, maybe in the future it will become an outdated concept and be replaced with something more informed and humane but not in the next hundred years, probably. We do not know enough or accept enough about the mind and soul of yet and most psychiatrists probably don't believe in the soul. I do think mental illness can be an disease of the soul, personally, or a spiritual emergency, or whatever, but it's not up to the likes of you or me to design mental health policy, although I see a thread about this on the forum just now. Maybe it should be and then real progress may be made.

I hope so..
 

cpuusage

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Yeah, there are times when I lose sympathy with humanity too. And sometimes I think the best thing would be if humans were wiped out and the rest of the species were left. They have not caused any harm to the planet (apart from those who expel methane en masse, but that's not their fault) but we are destroying it.

The destruction/exploitation of the natural World, & ways that we have/are treating animals is a great crime.

You can't put everyone in the same box though. There are some decent people out there and you just need to find and connect with them. There are plenty of people I admire and like on the forum including yourself and you shouldn't generalise about humanity. I am guilty of it but I have to remember that I am being pessimistic.

Thanks - i admire you too.

i get very pessimistic about everything at times, always have done, but then there is a lot to be pessimistic about.

Yes, there are some good people about. i come from a family dynamic/background that was dysfunctional in ways, have always been around addiction, & criminality & less savoury/deprived aspects of society. Have tried so hard to get away from it all & improve my life. Overall circumstances have been hard. But then how healthy is this society in general anyway? On average this society/population seems pretty fucked up.

As for psychiatry, though, maybe in the future it will become an outdated concept and be replaced with something more informed and humane but not in the next hundred years, probably. We do not know enough or accept enough about the mind and soul of yet and most psychiatrists probably don't believe in the soul. I do think mental illness can be an disease of the soul, personally, or a spiritual emergency, or whatever, but it's not up to the likes of you or me to design mental health policy, although I see a thread about this on the forum just now. Maybe it should be and then real progress may be made.

I hope so..

We're very backward as a species/culture, regardless of the widespread/mass delusion that we're advanced/civilised.

Would be good to see everything improve, especially in mental health areas. i think it will take another 200 years to see a shift - there's too much opposition to genuine change.
 
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Would be good to see everything improve, especially in mental health areas. i think it will take another 200 years to see a shift - there's too much opposition to genuine change.

Oh I don't know, if the trials that are currently underway go well we could see a wholesale shift from standard psychiatry to Open Dialogue within 20 years. That could be a massive sea change, acknowledging and incorporating social elements and a much less severe drugging regime for starters. It is not a fully integral or spiritually inclusive system, but it could be a big step in the right direction.

I agree the movements such as Dabney Alix's Shades of Awakening are just the seeds of what is necessary, but the fact that they are there at all means the climate is slowly shifting.
 

cpuusage

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Oh I don't know, if the trials that are currently underway go well we could see a wholesale shift from standard psychiatry to Open Dialogue within 20 years. That could be a massive sea change, acknowledging and incorporating social elements and a much less severe drugging regime for starters. It is not a fully integral or spiritually inclusive system, but it could be a big step in the right direction.

I agree the movements such as Dabney Alix's Shades of Awakening are just the seeds of what is necessary, but the fact that they are there at all means the climate is slowly shifting.

On a practical basis, i can't see any of it having an impact on me in my own lifetime.

We had a lot of people trying to bring in a shift in the 60's - 50 years ago! It was crushed. i can see the same kind of thing happening again with the current movements. Go back to the 18th century with moral treatment that was the biggest success psychiatry ever had & emptied the Asylums where it was properly implemented - what happened?

It won't all fundamentally change, Not until there is a genuinely fundamental collective shift to a less barbaric species/society.

There are very powerful forces in Industry, politics, society & the establishment moving against it all. Things on aggregate are worse & are set to get a lot worse. Will believe it when i see it - things won't change.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l123K2vooG4
 
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daydreambeliever39

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Completely agree. Like you say our society is not very civilised so more humane treatments are always going to be crushed. Everything is based around making a profit and looking after number one, not your wider society and other people in general.

Obviously people with money have more chance of more humane therapies. I know you are more likely to get talking therapies quicker if you go private. So once again making a profit is key to obtaining better help.

If our society was more humane then NHS care would be a priority and whatever is out there now would be available to all. But we will be lucky to even have an NHS in this country soon and many of us may be even worse off than we are now, if that's possible, although the current trend of giving you a coercive medical lobotomy is hardly that positive.

I can't see it changing very soon either and until we change our world view this will continue.

(Will not download your YouTube link until later as I am running out of data and it uses a lot up).
 

cpuusage

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Completely agree. Like you say our society is not very civilised so more humane treatments are always going to be crushed. Everything is based around making a profit and looking after number one, not your wider society and other people in general.

Obviously people with money have more chance of more humane therapies. I know you are more likely to get talking therapies quicker if you go private. So once again making a profit is key to obtaining better help.

If our society was more humane then NHS care would be a priority and whatever is out there now would be available to all. But we will be lucky to even have an NHS in this country soon and many of us may be even worse off than we are now, if that's possible, although the current trend of giving you a coercive medical lobotomy is hardly that positive.

I can't see it changing very soon either and until we change our world view this will continue.

(Will not download your YouTube link until later as I am running out of data and it uses a lot up).

Yea - At least your one of the few that sees & understands the problem - so few appear to - & it has to start with a genuine/full acknowledgement of what the problems are.

i think it's a very sad state of affairs - But that's this planet & humanity in it's current state for you.
 
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