In a nutshell, I switched coasts and moved from Philadelphia to attend CIIS in San Francisco, because I couldn’t tell my story. In Philly I was known for my role as Storytelling Training Trainer, in which I facilitated a workshop to help people share their stories of mental health and substance abuse recovery. But I never felt I could tell my own real story, because the culture there wouldn’t allow it. The culture allowed me to be a person diagnosed with bipolar with psychotic episodes, who was living a meaningful life, but it did not allow me to be a person who is undergoing a very profound developmental process where my psyche was perceiving and processing my universe in ways that were shifting my paradigm of the potential of what reality can be, which for me, is a very spiritual process, and my true story.
I came to CIIS, which has the reputation for integrating spirituality and psychology, and found to my disappointment that, in my program, my story still was not completely validated. While spirituality was discussed in classes, pathology overshadowed. And while CIIS classes do acknowledge and even one class teaches about spiritual emergence, I believe the Board of Behavioral Sciences has had a limiting influence on our ICP curriculum. We don’t even learn any Jung! And spiritual emergence, in my experience, in most contexts seems to be brought up by students, only as an alternative perspective, without equal footing to diagnosis like bipolar and schizophrenia. Also other extraordinary spiritual experiences, sometimes are met with resistance and even hostility or they just can’t breathe in the stale air that chokes deep discussion of personal spirituality, not always, but sometimes, in the CIIS ICP classroom culture. Other students felt like me, and we started the student group “Spiritual Emergence and Other Extraordinary Experiences” to provide a space for another dialogue and inclusion of experiences that have been marginalized by the status quo reality. Some people communicate with angels. Some people are labeled as having a psychotic break when their personal narrative says they are experiencing oneness with the universe mixed in the intergenerational trauma. Some people hear voices. I could go on. All of these experiences are valid human experiences, not to be pathologized, marginalized, or stifled.
The group was founded in the Spring Semester of 2014, and has hosted four public events so far, with more talks planned in the fall, and a potential conference in Spring 2015. Therapist, trainer, and schizophrenia diagnosis survivor Will Hall, MA, DiplPW spoke on “New Visions of Psychosis: From Shamanism to Open Dialogue in a Multicultural World.” Therapist Ron Unger, LCSW, spoke on “Understanding Psychosis as an Attempt to Solve Problems: Integrating Perspectives on Trauma, Spirituality and Creativity.” CIIS professor Kirk Templeton, PhD, spoke on “The Academic Dissertation as a Process of Spiritual Emergence: A Case Study.” Therapist Lane Arye spoke on “A Processwork Approach to Spiritual Emergence and Extraordinary States.”
As future therapists at CIIS I feel we have the responsibility to never stifle our clients’ voices. I hope our group “Spiritual Emergence and Other Extraordinary Experiences” helps more people tell their true story and gives us the capacity as budding therapists to always encourage our clients to share their voice and narrative from a true place. I hope the group also shifts the culture at CIIS to be more inclusive, accepting, and truly value the breadth of human experience. Please visit our facebook page for more information and updates on events.
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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
glad you’re doing this work!
yes, you’re quite right, pathology overshadows much of what is taught in most of the more enlightened programs…I’ve found that true in my forays into numerous different professional circles. We have a lot of work to do to help people understand what is going on. I have met individuals everywhere that do get it…I do think that things are changing for the better…as you saw too, you found a group of students who got it…
One of my dreams and visions is to build bridges between folks who do understand about spiritual emergence (because they’ve actually managed their own and others but without having the misfortune of encountering psychiatry at it’s worst) and so they imagine that they are different from those with psych labels…there are a lot of people like that out there. Basically they simply lack experience with folks with labels who might be treated humanely rather than with the suppressive and oppressive measures of psychiatry.
They can much more easily be brought about to recognize their bothers and sisters in the ranks of those who’ve been labeled and injured by psychiatry, I’ve found.
If we can get these folks to recognize us then perhaps they’d be motivated to help others who’ve not been as fortunate as they were to avoid the dangers of psychiatry.
Glad to see you are doing this work too…very. Thank you again.
Thanks for your reply. yes, i agree with you, if i understand, having spiritual emergence or emergency within the context of the mainstream psychiatric system can cause oppression that people who have had the experience of spiritual emergence or emergency outside that system may have trouble comprehending or empathizing with. from my experience with my group, it has brought together people in both camps, and started to incite some dialogue. i definitely think a lot of work has to be done around this to avoid stigmatization and bad feelings. thanks for your insight. peace, naas
I, too, think this is an important subject, and am glad you’re talking about it. My personal experience with psychiatry, and subsequent research, leaves me thinking psychiatry is basically nothing but a state sponsored pseudo scientific religion, that (in my case) coerces and forces people onto drugs, for belief in the Holy Spirit and God. And this is not actually legal in the US.
After I’d gotten away from psychiatry, I had a likely drug withdrawal induced “psychosis” / awakening to my dreams. But it was absolutely amazing, and like many others who experience a “spiritual emergency,” it was about a collective unconscious. But it was a very hopeful story of people working together, in their dreams, for a better world. Is it true? I don’t know, I hope so. But psychiatry seems to be living within it’s little DSM box, and claiming all normal human emotions and mental states to be mental illnesses. And their psychotropic drugs are what cause altered mental states. I do hope psychiatry can change.
thank you! i agree wholeheartedly that psychiatry needs to change. i really liked and resonate with what you said about “psychosis”/awakening to my dream”. exactly!
I lost, 3 weeks ago, 10 years of writing.
Thousands of pages. Everything I had managed to put to words, through the maelstrom.
Out of 10 years that felt like 1,000,000
I managed to write down 2%
That 2% is gone now.
Into a digital black hole.
It doesn’t matter.
I still have memory.
The bitch of chaos rules us all.
I trust that beauty.
I learned a hard lesson.
Not to trust irreplaceable thoughts
To anything but paper.
That cannot disappear as easily.
Those writings are lost,
I cannot get them back,
Or retrace the states that created them.
I am still here.
Even in fragments,
I still remember.
Is for you
I fell to my knees,
A sudden grief,
That cannot be put into words
Washed me away
The ‘me’ that had been obliterated by years of ego defeat
I saw this dream waking
I had a vision
Of a millennia of buried
Raisins rotting in the sun
Stacked underneath myself
Like a ladder
DNA / RNA
That reached infinitely far down
We were all standing
Feet on each others’s shoulders
At their daughters
Who would come after
With blind trust
They stood on the back of a huge
That was also full of love
They reach for you
They stand for you
I have come to
As a child of incest
Keep bringing that stack of
Feminine Buried voices
Into the phenomenal world
What you are doing is
For those of us who
I know this is a burden
My life is a constant burden
Bear it gladly.
And raw, bloody,
NEVER FOR PROphet.
Or her bad sister
I’m so sorry you lost your writings, but glad you can share some of your words with us now.
i deeply touched by your words. thank you for the honor.
To feel the responsibility not to stifle the human voice and to be able to emerge spiritually naturally without being attacked. I need to rest awhile with these ideas. Thank You
yes, i think i do too. thanks for your comment.
What I wrote last night
might seem incoherent
All I was trying to say
Is that I researched your
Your previous articles
Your gut wrenching honesty
About your life experiences
Is so rare
Is so appreciated
Please continue to be
Exactly who you are!
So many of us need
People like you
With sterling integrity
Please, don’t let that
You give me so much hope
thank you so much for your words of encouragement. they push me forward into the vastness, and spring me into the wind like a blown dandelion seed with the potential to grow hopes and dreams. 😉 naas
My jaw dropped when I read that.
Thank you for this, Naas!
Thank you for your comment! yes, CIIS in our the Integral Counseling Psychology program does not teach any Jung, curiously enough though CIIS has many courses on Jung, but we’re only allowed 3 units of elective in our program, so Jung possibilities are very limited for us. 🙁
“Some people communicate with angels. Some people are labeled as having a psychotic break when their personal narrative says they are experiencing oneness with the universe mixed in the intergenerational trauma. Some people hear voices. I could go on.”
It is interesting how differently alternative/extreme states of mind are perceived by different individuals and how common patterns are present nonetheless (probably influenced by the culture closest to the individual). It reminds me of another type of alternative state (I have never experienced psychosis) – sleep paralysis. In the “old days” it was believed that these are deamons attacking people in the night and sitting on their chests and that was reflected in the subjective experiences. With the dawn of modern era deamons transformed into UFO and aliens (that was my first experience of sleep paralysis).
that’s really interesting. in my altered state, once, i encountered aliens, but they were also my parents in waking life. i’ve also encountered a vision of a demon. there’s so much out there. i’ve recently been learning about brazilian spiritism in my transpersonal class at CIIS. so many perspectives to learn from! thank you.
Very important post Naas!
In my experience, the Peer Support Movement is not particularly open to discussing the spiritual dimension of our experiences. And, in some cases, I’ve found people in the peer movement rather hostile towards ANY form of psychology. Often, they see it as just more ‘theorizing’…. more ‘labeling’. In addition, spirituality is often ‘conflated’ (confused) with religious belief. As a result, people tend to avoid the subject, as, ironically, they see speaking of spiritual experiences as pushing a belief system, which they feel goes against the highly held (and extremely silencing) value of ‘diversity’. At last years Alternatives conference, I was the only presenter referring to Spiritual Emergency and/or transpersonal theory. IMO, transpersonal psychology has a very important role to play in our understanding of mental disorders, yet it is rarely discussed in the peer movement, or here on Mad in America.
In contrast, similar to your experience at CIIS, the transpersonal psychologists (and other people with a strong interest in spirituality) that I know are largely clueless about the link between spiritual experiences and mental disorders. I think, for people who have had powerful, life-changing, spiritual experiences (as I did), it can be difficult for them to imagine that someone who is medicated for life may have gone through something very similar. For many people, I think there is a feeling that a spiritual experience is somehow ‘superior’ to normal daily life, while the experience of a mental disorder is ‘inferior’. However, as you and I know, the reality is more complex than that.
Next month, October, 2014, my wife and I will be giving a presentation at the EUROTAS Conference in Crete, Greece, for the Association of Transpersonal Psychology in Europe. Dr. David Lukoff will be the keynote speaker. My presentation will largely focus on how transpersonal psychology currently shows little interest in treating people labeled with mental disorders, even when spiritual aspects are part of the experience. I’ll be sure to cite your article here in my presentation!
Thanks so much for your insight! I hope the conference went well!
ps. i used to watch your youtube videos years ago! 🙂 loved ’em.
Thank you everyone for your insightful comments.
Please visit our facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SpiritualEmergenceCIIS
We also have a new, in progress, youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBgdbKPZIhNkze3V3uE7dYg.
Also for my personal blog on spiritual emergence please check out: nasimoonstone.wordpress.com. it’s a new blog, just a few entries so far, and addresses issues like intergenerational trauma and transcendent sex. 🙂
please do also visit our website!