When we think of psychosis, we often picture the madman running through the streets screaming about an impending apocalypse and firing warnings to all who stroll pass. Having worked in mental health for over 8 years, I have been trained to see psychosis as a wide range of mental health issues that indicate a person is having challenges determining what is real or not. There are a variety of ways in which this can manifest in a person’s experience, such as hearing voices (clinically termed: auditory hallucination) or feeling of distrust where everyone is out to harm them (clinically termed: paranoid delusions). The approach that the medical model has taken over the centuries is to label these experiences as pathological, stating they require “fixing” (treatment) in an attempt to suppress them. Could we really be so naive to think we are all cookie-cutter human beings experiencing the same reality?
Over the last few years of my journey I have made it my goal to begin to shift the views of mental health amongst those with lived experiences, my colleagues and those outside of the health profession. I took the plunge in the spring of 2018 when I attended a practicum to become a Certified Spiritual Emergence Coach. This led me to truly see how I can begin to use my skills as a coach within the context of spirituality and psychiatry. In addition, I have become accustomed to questioning the terms we use to describe someone’s personal experience(s).
For instance, let's delve into the word psychosis. In most clinical circles, the word is used to describe a person's experience of hallucinations and delusions and whereby the person is to have no awareness (insight) that these changes in their perception are occurring. Stepping out of the clinical realm, we can see that the word, when broken down from its Ancient Greek is comprised of two parts [according to Wikipedia]: ψυχή (psyche), meaning “soul” and -ωσις (-osis) “abnormal condition.” So by that definition we can say that psychosis is related to the soul.
This is fascinating as we can begin to see how humanity has shifted from a once spiritually driven approach to life, to a more physically (medical) driven model. As humans that is one thing we have perfected, the pendulum swing from one extreme to the next, am I right? But I do believe we are shifting back towards the centre and this means we have the opportunity to pause in that balance, whether it be for eternity or a moment.
It is my opinion that the balance we seek has presented itself in the concept of Spiritual Emergence (SE). I wrote a previous article on this topic and you can find more details here. In short, according to two of the leading minds in transpersonal psychology, Dr. Stanislav Grof and Christina Grof, SE can be described as ”the movement of an individual to a more expanded way of being that involves enhanced emotional and psychosomatic health, greater freedom of personal choices, and a sense of deeper connection with other people, nature, and the cosmos. An important part of this development is an increasing awareness of the spiritual dimension in one’s life and in the universal scheme of things” (Grof & Grof, 1990). So if we take the definition of SE and see how the term psychosis refers to “an abnormal condition of the soul”, we can surmise that mental health is connected to our spirituality. It seems though, despite research showing it is a benefit in recovery, our Western model has tried to ignore the need for spirituality in mental health for some time.
The times are a-changin! This is why I am so excited to share my views in merging mental health with spirituality. When I say spirituality, I mean any way in which a person connects to the bigger picture in and around them. If this means through a specific religious dogma, then great! If it means going and walking in nature, that is great too! Or perhaps it is helping the little old lady cross the road. Whatever it is, my hope is to meet people where they are at and to normalize their experiences, which could include (but are not limited to) hearing voices or having other-worldly experiences or suffering overwhelming amounts of anxiety. I believe that once we can accept these experiences, look at them from a new perspective, and then integrate it, we can move forward with confidence and happiness. Now who does not want to live a life of empowerment!?
If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to sign up for my Free 5-day online course, Transurfing Spiritual Emergence. In it I will give some more details on Spiritual Emergence, integrating spirituality with mental health, and walk you through techniques you can shift your life into this power. This course is great if you have personally experienced mental health issues and felt there was something more to your diagnosis, if you are a family member of someone who has experienced a Spiritual Emergence, or if you are a mental health provider wanting to understand this topic further. I also encourage you to check out my website to see the services available and to contact me.