Providing Loving Receptivity Can Help People in Extreme States

Michael Cornwall, PhD
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In this video I share about my lived experience of extreme states, and how that harrowing journey through madness almost fifty years ago sealed my fate. It set me on course for a vocation of being with others in their times of passage through madness, that has lasted for thirty five years now. I recount some of that journey as a therapist and in a brief tutorial, share a central lesson learned about risking to bring an open heart to those in need – to be present with loving receptivity.

Because I never did believe in the DSM paradigm of mental illness, or desired to look at myself or others through the lens of the medical model, a search for a better way to serve people was driving me all the time. It still is.

I know many very fine people and friends who operate from that medical perspective, but it never seemed to effectively account for the mysteries of human emotional suffering and madness that I know about personally and that I witness in others. The requisite clinical gaze of a detached medical, diagnostic based approach, diffuses the human warmth that I believe we all need when we are in emotional pain and distress.

Science in the form of psychiatric theory suffers from a failure of imagination it seems to me. The Psychiatric approach of applied neuroscience, boils down the  complexity and mystery of human existence into a pathologizing formulaic equation that leaves too many questions unanswered.

So in this video I call on the creative theories and ideas of Carl Jung to legitimize my belief that there are things that go bump in the night, and that love-infused grace sometimes comes unbidden.

But much more than Jungian theory informs my saying that love is the healing balm that can’t be prescribed or blocked by convention, if we dare to share it more openly. My own trauma laden life was saved and healed by the presence of love.

Some of the people I served during their hellish and wildly ecstatic mad days, were protected in intentional madness sanctuaries where tangibly available compassion was the standard of care we provided.

For years after the sanctuaries closed in the 1980’s, I also went as a therapist to be with people in extreme states on the streets of our urban wasteland. I had lived on the streets too when my life was torn apart with madness.

Some people in extreme states still come see me – or I go see them.

I hope I’ll still be spending time with people in extreme states when I’m ninety if I live that long. I also hope that others offer me their loving receptivity when I may need it.

* * * * *

23 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing this!

    One of many spot-on remarks from the video:

    There are different layers, I think, that go in to the mystery of madness, that, kind of, supply the conditions for it to happen. You know, we live in a culture that has been called a “Wasteland” – a spiritually devoid, corporate, dog-eat-dog world of Social Darwinism where people are “winners” or “losers” and so many people are isolated. I think that has a huge impact on the conditions that contribute to people and families floundering in this cultural milieu that we’re all in. I must say, too, that the mono-myth of our culture that says, “From birth we’re damaged goods” – that something happened at creation that created a “Fall,” where nature itself is corrupt and we as human beings are inherently bad – I’ve seen so many times in the last 35 years people I’ve worked with who have struggled with that sense of not being a sacred, innocent Being, but somehow a sinful “bad” person.

  2. This is a great video! I have been thinking of all the ways we might use it at Rutgers Integral Spiritual Nexus.

    At RISN House we have a children’s book which reframes the biblical myth of the Fall into an issue of ripeness and unripeness, not good and evil. From eating from the tree of consciousness, humans carry a special gift which will be “a blessing seed. It will leap from your hearts into the hearts of others.” Michael, you are manifesting the blessing seed in this video. It leaps from your heart into the hearts of others. Thank you.

  3. Great video, Michael, I enjoyed it thoroughly and felt good healing from it.

    In some of the training I did, I learned about ‘having a healing presence,’ that is, a neutral, grounded, heart-centered, and fluid perspective when present with anyone—whether it be a client, student, friend, boss, etc.–leading to a transcendent and blissful state of being. But it sure takes practice, given how enmeshed we’ve become with perpetual global chaos and being in what seems to be a chronic state of ungrounded-ness.

    I certainly feel your heart presence from your video, so grounded. I think when we tap into this non-ego state of being, we raise not only our own energy, but that of the collective. So, as a member of the collective, thank you very much!

  4. Excellent, excellent video. Already shared with the mother of a young man who used LSD and became psychotic.

    I’m sharing a rather lengthy narrative of my own spiritual ’emergency’ which went very, very wrong at the hands of psychiatry.

    Michael, we met in Toronto. I told you that I intended to start a website Psychics Against Psychiatry. I didn’t tell you that I was forced to have 25 rounds of ECT – electroconvulsive therapy. I have no memory of at least 20 years of my life, and live with neurological and cognitive problems – and clenched fists.

    There is no place for psychiatry in spiritually transformative or exceptional experiences.

    It all started with a ‘bump in the night’. A doctor recommended a naturopath because I had lingering adverse effects of a cluster of immunizations. Apparently he was ‘one of the best.’ He told me he would ‘clear my field.’ I had no idea what he was talking about.

    That night as I was dreaming about my closest friend, I had the sensation of being in the naturopath’s office and I could ‘hear’ what he was thinking/suggesting. Almost immediately his life-size spectral image was suspended above me. I felt as if I were in a sand storm and something egg-shaped lifted/pulled from my body. I knew it wasn’t a dream. I thought he had killed me. I was in awe, shock, horror and terror. I wanted to bash my head against the headboard to get rid of his image. When I told my husband, he told me not to tell any of our friends because they would think I was crazy. (Curiously, my elderly mother called in the morning and said she didn’t know what had happened to her during the night, but she felt drained of all energy.)

    I did not return to the office of the ‘low-flying naturopath’ although he continued to hound me and I was terrified. I could ‘hear’ him during the night suggesting I would feel better if I came back. Often I could sense his presence.

    I was introduced to a psychiatrist who had a support group for people who’d had Near Death Experiences and other spiritually transformative experiences. Some were also in great pain from car accidents.

    “No, you are not crazy. You didn’t believe in ghosts and then you saw one. Haven’t you thought about these things before?” He gave me a list of books to read – Near Death Experiences, out-of-body states, clairvoyance, shamanism, etc. He also prescribed an anti-psychotic which I didn’t tolerate and took for only a few days. He prescribed drugs to all his patients. I agreed to a benzodiazepine which I took from time to time to help with sleep. I didn’t stay in his practice for long.

    I started having precognitive dreams – sometimes about disasters – usually about death of acquaintances or their parents – people I had some connection with, even if very distant. My husband tired of being woken up to be told who was going to die next, would just roll over and go back to sleep. I would be up for the rest of the night – often I popped a benzo. I was 100% accurate. Death usually came 2-3 weeks later – most of these deaths were unexpected.

    I learned Therapeutic Touch and other energy healing modalities and helped many people. I often had dreams about my ‘clients.’ I’d know when they needed a bed pan and the nurses weren’t listening.

    About 10 years ago, on Dec 6, I had a dream of my mother’s funeral. I woke my husband and told him my mother was going to die. A few minutes later my mother called and said she had very bad pain in her arm. I called an intuitive friend and we went to see my mother. My friend ‘heard’ stroke. My mother’s doctor did not believe me and gave my mother an antidepressant off-label for pain. I spent the rest of the day supporting a hospitalized friend. In the evening I was hostess at a corporate Christmas party for 60 people. That night I took a benzo.

    My mother came to ‘visit’ me at night several times before her death of a stroke – a stroke which might have been averted. She spent a day in the hospital. I did Therapeutic Touch and held her hand until she died. Then I offered Therapeutic Touch to the distresssed lady in the next bed who was scheduled for surgery at 8 am. She fell asleep. I went home. It was midnight, Christmas Eve. I took a benzo.

    I took more low-dose benzos for a few months and quit when my hands started tremoring. I realized I was hooked. I had the shakes – that got me diagnosed with agitated depression.

    Here’s how the story continues – variations have previously appeared on Mad in America.

    Those who once took an oath to do no harm, were ignorant of drug effects/withdrawal effects/side-effects/adverse effects, recognized them as proof of escalating mental illness, medicated them, and expressed satisfaction at having ‘unmasked’ a long-hidden mental illness.

    I was treated aggressively with 35 drugs in an 8-month period – no wash outs allowed. Why did I continue to take drugs? I would have done anything to stop the horrendous agitation which I now know to be akathisa. Eventually, I was prescribed to insanity. I was afraid that I would kill myself and at the same time afraid that I wouldn’t kill myself. I was too much for my friends and they weren’t enough for me – and they all disappeared.

    I was considered a poor candidate for psychotherapy and described as ‘an excellent candidate for ECT.’ I was detained for 2½ months and forced to undergo 25 anesthetics and 25 bilateral electroconvulsive ‘treatments.’ I had gone to the psychiatric facility for help in withdrawing from drugs!!!!

    I was informed that I would require institutionalization; plus drugs and weekly maintenance ECT for the rest of my life. I defied my doctors. I withdrew from all pharmaceuticals. I refused further electroconvulsive therapy. And I miraculously recovered from all psychiatric diagnoses and labels. The remaining damage is profound.

    Viktor and Christine – both clairvoyants – the two most caring and helpful people in my life are both dead. What they had to say is significant:

    Viktor: “What the hell happened to you? You were a totally healthy person and doctors have turned you into a piece of shit. There are nine spaces in your energy field – all from pharmaceuticals. Your doctors should be jailed.” “You are in this mess because consciousness isn’t taught in schools. You are here to help people. You can help people by telling your story.”

    Christine: “This is tragic. The naturopath (with shamanic training) was able to get into your field because he could see the space caused by the immunizations. Had the immunizations not been given all at once, your field would not have been damaged.”

    Another clairvoyant: “You have a beautiful field – but you look as if you have been shocked. “

    Viktor worked out my tapering schedule. My book is in the works. I will publish my medical records and the words the doctors used to describe and ridicule me. Yes, ridicule. I still have precognitive dreams – half symbolic, half remote-viewing. And I still have whopping PTSD – and flashbacks of ECT.

    I suspect that if I could resolve the PTSD, the nature of my dreams would change. My dreams, however, alerted me to a medication error which was stopping my husband’s heart, and his life was saved.

    I have yet to meet a truly compassionate psychiatrist – not one. Actually there was one – Canadian orthomolecular psychiatrist Abram Hoffer (1917-2009) – we corresponded. He never knew I had psychiatric history. In his last recorded interview two weeks before his death he closed with the comment that “all psychiatrists should be transported to Mars – we’d be better off without them.”

    In Peter Breggin’s words: “Drugs don’t heal people; people heal people.”

    Energy sensitive people are often exquisitely sensitive to pharmaceuticals. Be careful!

    I am anti-psychiatry – I have no choice. I’ll be telling the stories of the women who were hospitalized with me. Most of them had no mental issues at all. Most of them had undiagnosed or misdiagnosed physical issues which had been treated with antidepressants and the adverse effects of those antidepressants were then treated with ECT.

    And that, readers, is psychiatry.

    • amnesia,
      I also have been drugged beyond belief and become the terrified electrified (15). Many times I start to talk loudly without being aware the volume of my voice is rising . I take supplements to help with my memory which otherwise seems at times for some seconds just to leave . I once took a remedy described in Homeopath Robbin Murphy’s Materia Medica called electricity (in the form of white pellets) for people who have been shocked . It seemed to help .
      I had a friend who was psychic once warn me after I mentioned my mother was ill that I might lose 2 or more people . I was dazed but she was right , within a year 3 family members my parents and a brother in law had passed . When she first told me I asked her if I could borrow her RV to drive to my family across country . She said she needed it and soon after herself died in a fire caused by an electrical problem in her RV .
      I’d say we must appreciate our being alive while we are . I am also anti- psychiatry. I’m sorry they made you suffer so. I agree send them to Mars on the earliest possible one way transport.
      Michael’s video is a very important presentation and should be watched studied and discussed by everyone on the planet before they reach the age of 12 and again and again by those wanting to go into any healing profession or wanting to help a friend in need .
      Best Wishes ,
      Fred

  5. Thank you Michael for your article and video. I am sharing and sharing. I have so much to say, but really haven’t said it until now – until I saw your post. I am retraumatizing myself somewhat by sharing but it needs to be done. What just flashed through my mind was that I was given sleeping pills three times a day and once at night to control the agitation caused by pharmaceuticals and then I was diagnosed with a psychotic stupor. Your video was wonderful – grounding and healing. I have no idea how or why I survived – perhaps it is to warn others. At times I feel truly sorry for the person – me- who went through all that psychiatric abuse.

  6. Michael,

    I have a br0ther who is a mechanic.
    One time, when I was young, he told me that when a piece of metal breaks, and is welded back together, the spot where it is welded is stronger than the original piece.

    I experienced a very traumatic event almost 35 years ago. After the event, his explanation of metal being welded was one that I told myself, for decades, literally. I was fortunate to have found a counselor, who in many ways reminds me of you. He cared – deeply, and showed it, as a fellow human being…. a warm, and caring soul, who listened.

    Other than that, I told only a couple of people about this, for years. I continue to call this major trauma (and other traumas in my life) ‘unspeakable’ because for me to talk about them at this point only brings them back into the present.

    I remember feeling uneasy reading or seeing anything related to the event – names of streets nearby, the city itself, anything remotely connected to what happened, where it happened, etc….
    In many ways, I still do.

    Mine is not an example of completely overcoming a trauma I suppose. But I wonder if maybe I’m suppose to just let it be where it is. Not try to touch it anymore. Leave the healing where it is, in hopes that the present moments crowd out the remaining injury. I’m not recommending this to anyone else, just talking about what’s worked for me…. not perfectly, but worked nonetheless.

    Duane

  7. Fred, Duane, Michael: http://hopehealing.org/ptsd-soul-loss/ Ken Hamilton MD and H.O.P.E.

    http://www.rhine.org/what-we-do/psychic-experiences-group.html. The Rhine has PEG groups in several cities in the US and helps people having exceptional experiences stay away from psychiatry. I was at a conference at the Rhine a few years ago, sitting next to a psychic medium who said she makes the sign of the cross whenever she sees a doctor coming. I would run in the opposite direction.