I co-led a day long Continuing Education Training with that title last month in Oakland. Almost 100 people attended this first ever in the United States, taxpayer funded CEU training that explored the spiritual dimensions of psychosis.
But it wasn’t preaching to the choir of those who are true believers in that possibility, because the majority in attendance were front line professional county mental health staff!
Beloved consumer/survivor and my friend of 35 years, Jay Mahler, was the force behind getting Alameda County Behavioral Health to co-sponsor such a training-along with the California Mental Health and Spirituality Initiative.
The Oakland training also grew out of an Esalen Institute workshop I put together that Jay and I, David Lukoff and Laura Mancuso did last year called- “An Integrative Approach to Psychosis and Other Transformative Spiritual Experiences.”
The statewide Spirituality and Mental Health Initiative led by Oakland co-leaders Laura Mancuso, David Lukoff and Jay, received the support of 52 county mental health directors who signed off on language that said that psychosis inherently has a spiritual dimension! That is pretty amazing.
We plan on taking this very enthusiastically received Oakland training on the road to some of those other receptive counties soon! Folks in Oregon have shown interest in us doing it there.
Those of you who may have read some of my blogs, may remember that I often ask – “If madness isn’t what psychiatry says it is, then what is it?”
Since I don’t believe in the pathologizing of my own or anyone’s human emotional suffering and madness that gets labeled mental illness, it seems that coming up with a clear understanding of, and succinct definition of our own, about what may land us in psych emergency- is vitally necessary.
If you listen to the Mental Health and Wellness Radio podcast interview of me after the Oakland workshop, I also say that believing that psychosis is only a spiritual crisis or emergency would be a similar mistake to believing what the DSM tells us.
Believing psychosis is only a spiritual experience would be an over
simplification that leaves out the dimensions of trauma, family history, dog eat dog cultural social Darwinism, issues of class, poverty, gender, race and our abiding tendency to foster shame, guilt and fear as our children’s daily bread.
So for me, as a neo-Jungian heretic, all madness has all of the above factors involved, is also a sacred mystery and by definition, whether in it’s first dramatic form or long term manifestations, is always also an archetypal, mythic inner powerful seizing of our ego and an immersion in depths of soul and spirit. Because those inner engines of emotion and soul/spirit are alive in us until our last breath, it is never too late, our emotional suffering and madness are always an opportunity for healing and growth.
In other words, like our lives themselves on this strange and wonderful planet- madness is complicated.