In the shamanic view, mental illness signals ‘the birth of a healer,’ explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.
Mental Illness: Breakdown or breakthrough?
A friend recently posted this article, What a Shaman See’s [sic] In a Mental Hospital, published on Spirit Science. The article explores the subject of mental illness and sensitivity as seen through the different cultural lenses of “breakdown” or “breakthrough” [of a spiritual awakening]. Dagara elder, Dr. Malidoma Patrice Somé (PhD), shares his thoughts and experience in seeing these different treatment of mental illness in West Africa and in the the US.
Empowerment in the face(s) of schizophrenia
The first time I was introduced to this idea that schizophrenia is just the unmitigated experience of the spiritual in the physical realm was during graduate school in my patient counseling class. Lucky for me, my instructor was both a counselor and an energy worker/intuitive; she had plenty of first-hand experience seeing the many ‘unseen’ beings that came in with clients. She talked boldly of a time when she shared this knowledge with a client, letting him know he was not alone in his experience. Most importantly, she was the first person to teach this client about boundaries; and doing so empowered him to manage the situation from a place of strength and support.
Many of my Reiki students start off considering themselves to be ‘insensitive’ to subtle energy. I, myself, started off thinking I was a “dull” type — unable to sense energy at all. Interestingly enough, however, many of these people (myself included) would say they are more sensitive than others when it comes to feeling overstimulated by sound, conversation, information, etc in daily life. Coincidence? Not really.
Sensitive is sensitive; it’s a gift. It’s the gift of caring, noticing, listening. Managing it is a skill — the skill of saying when to listen, when to say “I can’t” or “No, thank you”, and/or when the most caring thing you can do for someone else is to take care of yourself before responding to a person or situation. In my opinion this is the big difference between what we call mental illness and what we call energy work: A sense of boundary and autonomy.
All the more reason to study with a teacher!
Your Practice This Week
Reflect on your commute to work or around town — have you ever passed someone you wrote off as “crazy”? Would your attitude towards them change if you believed they were communicating with an actual entity? How might you feel if in talking to everyone you know around you, no one experienced a shared reality with you? (Intense!)