I wrote an article on coercion in care some years ago, here on MIA, and I wrote about my own experiences, of psychosis and catatonia. I was asked to write more about my journey to healing, but to tell you the truth, that first article sent me into a spin, and it has taken three years to feel ready to write this. That last article, where I dived so deep into my experience of isolation cells, forced injections and catatonic horror, opened up yet another layer of my hidden memories. It was, nevertheless, what pushed me over the last big threshold on my way to healing. A few months after writing the article, I was flooded by traumatic memories, that I now could experience and remember for the first time without going psychotic. Remembering them consciously healed something, it restored my memories that had been scattered and fragmented, and that had haunted me as irrational fears and hallucinations.
In short, my illness and recovery story is as follows: At age 17 I had an intense reactive psychosis, which nonetheless had a fairly positive prognosis. Doctors said it might be a one-off, and never repeat itself. At 25, I had an experience of psychosis after a trip to Amsterdam, and six months later I experienced psychosis in London, where I had just moved. I was hospitalized for a month, on both occasions. A few years after this, I ran out of my mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medication due to some unforeseen happenings on a longer trip abroad, and I quit the medication almost cold turkey. I didn’t get any withdrawal symptoms, and neither did I get any psychotic symptoms, so I never started the medication again. I was living a normal life, without any mental problems, medication or need for therapy, for almost ten years.
At 36, I gave birth to my son, and was hospitalised with a postpartum psychosis when he was six days old. From this postpartum psychosis started a six-year period of repeated psychosis and hospitalisations, while at the same time I was trying very hard to work on my healing and my own personal development. I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder, and doctors didn’t give me any hope of healing, but I was determined to find a cure. In the end I did. I tried a new healing modality that helped me remember and work through the trauma memories that had caused my psychoses. After my psychotic symptoms disappeared, I rested for one year. My head was pretty mush. After a year of rest I returned to part-time work. It took some time for my cognitive abilities and focus to improve, and for my body to get used to existing in a relaxed state. But time really heals.
In 2014 I was pretty much living in schizophrenic hell, a lot of the year. Somehow I managed to function in normal life anyway. I wrote to one of my mentors: “The trauma memory is in your face all the time, it gets reflected to you from everywhere, and it takes all your attention. Normal life is just like a distant place that you can barely see from behind the fog. All your energy goes to managing with the trauma memory, and it takes such incredible focus to be able to just find the same pair of socks for my son from the sock drawer, or to be able to pay bills. You have to go through every day pretending not to see the trauma memory, but it is there all the time, and it takes so much energy to handle it, and it makes you so endlessly tired.”
I could go to the shop and in the car some red light would start to blink. This would send me into panic, because I knew it was a message from the spirits that they were coming to get me. If I only managed to act normal, to fool them that I didn’t see them and wasn’t afraid… then maybe I would make it. While driving my car to the shop, and driving through fields with no houses or people, I was suddenly taken over by horror: everybody had died, the world didn’t really exist, I would be stuck in this place alone, forever. I tried to handle the situation by strictly focusing on where I was going, “just drive, just drive.” At the shop I saw some of my neighbours, and while talking with them, I wasn’t sure whether they were dead or alive, whether they were just some evil spirits trying to trick me. My life depended on being able to just act normal, to not show them I knew them. If only I could talk normally so that nobody noticed anything, I would survive. The shop was five minutes away from my home, but I would lose track of time. It would feel like it took a whole day to go to the shop and back. I later wrote to my mentor and meditation teacher: “To some people it is just that they pop to the shop and back, but for me, it’s like climbing Mount Everest. I should try to understand that people don’t know how hard it is. They’ve never had to climb that mountain. They don’t even know such a mountain exists.”
I had a pretty good intellectual understanding of my problem: I knew that some traumatizing events, that had happened during my first hospitalization at age 17, were what was haunting me. I knew how this was probably caused by some connection disturbance between my prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, which had prevented my emotionally charged memories from processing in a normal way. But this knowledge did not help me to solve my trauma. The trauma memory and the emotions connected to it would surface, and my mind would go into psychosis. It repeated itself so many times that my condition was becoming chronic. It felt like it was just getting worse, more intense and terrifying each time, and that there was no way out. Well, except for accepting my condition and staying on lifelong medication to prevent new episodes, which was the only solution my doctors saw for me. But I had read too many healing stories, I could not accept what the doctors said. I knew there had to be a way to heal, and I was going to find it.
I had read a lot of stuff about psychosis and healing on the internet, and pretty early on I found Sean Blackwell’s website and bipolarORwakingUP videos on YouTube, which gave me explanations that I had not found elsewhere. I emailed with Sean over the next few years, now and then. During my most difficult year, 2014, when my trauma memory had been “in my face” for months, I happened to see that Sean was coming to Europe, and that there was a possibility to book a healing retreat with him. With a 20-year history of recurring paranoia, I didn’t actually qualify for doing Sean’s healing program, as my problems appeared to be too difficult for his retreat format, but he agreed to take me on, because we had known each other for a long time and I was living mostly free of medication.
Ever since I had had my postpartum psychosis in 2008, I had read a lot on psychosis, schizophrenia and healing. What really resonated with me was the theory that a psychosis could be a healing crisis, an episode where some traumatic subconscious material has surfaced, and the psyche is trying to reorganize and heal past traumatic events and memories. Also, the view that a psychosis has spiritual aspects felt true to me. It was as if the postpartum psychosis had opened up a new level in me, opened up my senses and sensitivity, my ability to experience the world in a different way. It expanded my awareness of myself and the world.
After my postpartum psychosis I had started to meditate and do visualisation and relaxation practices. Even though I had several psychoses over the next six years, it felt like my quality of life improved, and that I was somehow getting stronger in myself. In 2013 I connected with a Finnish meditation teacher, and went on his meditation course that he held in my town that autumn. It really brought my trauma memory to the surface, and sent me into an extremely difficult period of massive anxiety and fears, as well as being half-psychotic for months on end. I did manage to function in everyday life though, to look after my child and our home. I was on sick leave for about eight months, and during this time I worked a lot on building myself stronger, through body relaxation practices, visualisations and meditations, and through doing art, music and dance. My meditation teacher was an invaluable support, and I leaned heavily on him during this time. I wrote a book full of emails, which he patiently received, and commented on when necessary, and we had long conversations on messenger. I was hospitalised twice, the year that followed, in spring and in autumn. The whole thing was quite a nightmare for my family, but my husband of that time and our friends supported me patiently, as they had done for many years already.
In November of 2014, Sean came to stay at my house for a ten-day retreat, and my childhood friend Britt-Marie, who had a calming presence and insight into the workings of the psyche, agreed to be my support person. I have to say that if I had known what I had to face, I am not sure I would have had the guts to do it. It is difficult to explain the fear you feel when you see the world disappearing from under your feet, when you have no reality to grasp. It is sheer terror. Maybe only those who have experienced it can fully understand.
I knew that the aim of the retreat would be to open up the suppressed trauma memories, to bring them into consciousness, so that they could be processed and through this turned into “normal” memories. My problem was that these traumatic memories were so deeply hidden in my subconscious that I could not access them. This was a natural protective mechanism of the brain, that I somehow had to override, to be able to heal. Prior to Sean coming to my house, I had tried to face my trauma many times, but each time that it would rise to the surface, my mind would go into a psychosis, and instead of healing, I ended up being retraumatised by yet another hospitalisation which included forceful injections and eight hours in an isolation cell. It felt like a right Catch-22. Mission Impossible! But I just couldn’t give up. I had a life, a family, a son. I had to find a way.
During the healing program that Sean did for me, we did one or two Bipolar Breathwork (his technique) sessions every day. Before my first session I told Sean I was scared… I was not sure I could do it. He did reassure me that I could trust myself and my own innate healing capacities, and that my body and mind held the knowledge of what I could and could not handle. The breathwork sessions proved to be very freeing although intense, and the first sessions immediately made me feel lighter, giving me confidence to trust the process.
In Bipolar Breathwork, with music in the background, the mind goes into an altered state, which allows subconscious material, memories and feelings, to surface. A lot of it is cellular in nature, and the body is doing what it needs to do, opening up blockages and releasing trapped trauma energy in order to rebalance the system. During my fifth breathwork session, I experienced a moment where I went out of control. For one second I entered the memory of the terrifying place I had been in, 25 years earlier — I was suddenly in the memory that I had sealed, to protect my own mind, and never wanted to reopen again. Throughout all the breathwork sessions I had freely allowed my body to move as it wanted, but still remained in control of my movements. Now, I wasn’t in control. I was in a place of bottomless horror, and my body jumped like at a heart restart, I shouted in panic. Sean rushed to hold me, and although the jolt only took a few seconds, it took me ten minutes to calm down, I was shaking and crying. The remaining breathworks were calmer, but this jolt in the fifth breathwork was really the breakthrough. It opened up the sealed box. I had not been getting actual memories during this incident, but those started to surface a few months later, during the integration of the healing retreat. And that was the really difficult bit.
Sean’s healing program was crucial for my healing, but I received mentoring and support from other talented healers too. My soul coach teacher James Twyman was always available for me to call, and through my Finnish blog I had connected with a psychiatrist called Jeremy Wallace, who I confided in a lot during this process. Jeremy told me that to heal from schizophrenia, you kind of have to “revisit hell.” Yeah. You do, that is an accurate description.
In the months after the retreat, I processed a lot of my trauma memories through writing emails to my meditation teacher, or Sean. It was the method that worked for me. I would sit down and write and have no idea where the words would take me. I just had to follow. They took me to places that felt too scary to go to, but I knew I had to go there anyway. One night, when I had massive anxiety, I started to write, and the core of my trauma memory appeared in the text. I was so scared to put down in words what I experienced, but something in me pushed me to do it anyway. I wrote about dying, about crossing over to the other side, about being surrounded by spirits. It was about my catatonia-experience, that I had had during my first hospitalisation at 17. I wrote, “OMG can I actually remember this, and not be psychotic!?” The feeling of experiencing all those things that I normally experienced during psychosis, without being psychotic, felt unreal!
I have to say it is much easier to experience fragmented trauma memories in a psychosis. I understand now why the mind throws you into another gear. The things that once traumatised you were so difficult, that to manage with them you need the superhuman powers that you feel you have when you are in a psychosis. You need to feel like the hero on the holy mission to conquer the dark forces, because that is what you are actually doing, within your psyche. You need a mode that somehow blocks at least some of the fear, because it is just too much for you to feel, otherwise. Our minds are well adapted. There is a clever mechanism that helps us manage the things that are too difficult for us to experience.
After my memory surfaced, I had severe anxiety for days, being on the brink of going psychotic again. I couldn’t stay at home, because of our child, so I checked myself into the hospital for a week. It felt therapeutic to check-in voluntarily, and there was not even an isolation cell on the ward I was on. In the hospital I was working on facing the difficult memories, the “hallucinations.” It was so, so difficult. I kept getting triggered by things constantly. In the morning, a nurse came in and wanted to take a blood test, which triggered the memories of the forced injections, and I nearly fainted. When I went to the bathroom, on my first morning in the hospital, I got a panic attack: the tiles reminded me of the isolation cell. I rushed out of the bathroom, heart racing, and I remember looking at the toilet door thinking, oh great, now I REALLY have a problem… Later, I went outside to go for a walk, and I entered the elevator to take me downstairs. As the elevator doors closed behind me, this suddenly triggered memories of having been brought to the hospital by police, believing that people wanted to kill me. I had to use all my mental relaxation tools to manage the 15-second ride down to the bottom floor.
I knew I should not try to escape these triggers and situations, but just face them. It was so very exhausting though. I never knew when a trigger would show up and completely overwhelm me. I remember asking the staff every half hour to let me go sit in the telephone room, where I could listen to meditation music for a while on my phone, to calm down a little. But the anxiety was a constant companion. At night I cried in terror, while someone from the staff sat holding my hand, helping me go to sleep. Once a conversation triggered me so much that I ran to the office to ask them to give me tranquilizers immediately — I thought I was going to die. I sat on the sofa shaking for ten minutes while again, someone was holding my hand.
I had a few breakdown moments, but most of the time I looked fine, on the outside. I had learned to control my anxiety, to not let it show. I spoke with staff about everyday things and walked around like there was nothing wrong with me. A schizophrenia patient learns to do this. We have to fool people that everything is okay, and that we are “normal,” because if people knew about the reality inside our head, they might do horrible things to us, tie us in belts, force-feed us drugs, inject us, or lock us up alone in isolation, which is the worst torture ever. So we learn to “act normal” as if our lives depend on it. It becomes automatic. It becomes normal to us. And over time we forget that there is another way to exist.
I had an intense week of facing trauma memories, and was still pretty wobbly when I came home. But something amazing started to happen. For the first time in 25 years, I could consciously remember what had happened to me, and along with this all of my so-called hallucinations and fears just faded away. There were those ‘Eureka!’ moments: “Oh THIS is what that experience of intense panic, that time when I had to open the front door and that time I played hide-and-seek with my son, referred to!” I could remember the original trauma, and understand how it had reflected itself back to me from everywhere. And with these realisations, those reflections disappeared. It was almost as if I could feel something clicking into place in my head, and healing.
After the reflections had disappeared, it still took a long time to recover. After having come out from the war-zone, from the hell of the daily battle against the monsters and demons inside my head, I was exhausted. I was planning on returning to work within a few months, but I needed a year to rest. The brain can recover, but it takes time. And for a long time I could not even think back at where I had been. I had some kind of after-shock, when I realized in what kind of horrific reality I had lived.
A year after my last hospitalization, I went back to part-time work at a children’s daycare. I had been away from working life for 2.5 years. I was still tired, and had occasional flashbacks. But with time, this improved. I did another healing retreat with Sean, in autumn of 2017, because although I was out from the schizophrenia-zone, I still had other issues to work on. Over the next year I got involved in projects that required the ability to work in a team, create new solutions under pressure, and handle a lot of responsibility and stress. For me, it was easy. So much of my brain capacity and energy had gone to handling my trauma memory, and now all that capacity was freed up for something else. I had so much energy I did not know what to do with it! My teammates told me that they admired my energy and my speed, but some people said that I spoke too fast, worked too intense, and that I needed to slow down.
The common view in mainstream psychiatry is that every psychosis harms the brain, and that over time cognitive functions get impaired. This might be the case if a psychosis becomes chronic, as in schizophrenia. But my experience is that living in a psychosis forces your brain to “stretch” — you develop extra capacity to handle things. I was pretty much living a normal life, even working some of the time, while having all of my psychotic problems. After the psychoses faded away, I no longer needed to fight monsters, but I still had that extra capacity left. It felt great. At the moment I feel that after 11 periods of psychosis (which includes one with three days of catatonia), my brain has never worked as well as it does now.
It was an ordeal to go through, but in retrospect I see that it gave me valuable gifts also. I learned so much, especially about mental healing. I connected with wonderful people and fantastic mentors that have made my life so much richer and helped me find my path. I learned about advanced tools for physical and mental well-being. I found balance and inner peace, as well as my life’s purpose. It gave more than it took.
I am so grateful for being where I am today. Sometimes I can get moved to tears from just feeling the sun on my skin, or enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend, or watching my son do tricks on his bike. Every day is a gift. Against all the odds, I got my life back.
It did require a lot of dedication though, hard work, seven years, and faith. Yes, I never doubted it was possible, and had I doubted it, I probably wouldn’t have healed. It was an extremely difficult process to go through, however. Keeping a difficult trauma memory in check with medication is the easier option than opening it up and living through it for a second time. I managed to do this because I found really talented mentors and healers with cutting-edge knowledge, and had good support from family and friends who believed in me.
Living with schizophrenia is torment, and my heart goes out to those who suffer from traumas and life experiences that have broken their minds. I hope that my story and experience can help others to find tools for healing as well. I think that if healing is possible for me, it should be possible for anyone.
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.
Thank you ☺
Thank you for sharing your story, Kerstin. You are brave, determined, and will no doubt help others in a very meaningful way because of your own knowledge and wisdom. I believe basically all “mental health symptoms” are the natural result of personal traumas. It’s scary to experience these symptoms, and it’s important to find the right supports for each person to properly heal. We all have the capacity for healing, and clearly the current model of psychiatry isn’t the answer.
Hi shaun f,
The current model of Psychiatry is very expensive, and in my experience can cause people to behave in a way that they wouldn’t behave in otherwise.
Yes, it is expensive. If we stopped drugging people up, we wouldn’t have to treat metabolic syndrome, movement disorders, and the like we currently do.
Genuine Longterm Recovery would save at least $2 million per person for the country.
(But this would also result in a loss of at least $2 million per person for the longterm illness industry).
Thanks shaun, I believe yes that the capacity to heal is in everyone.
No psychosis is worst than apollonian ego terror of fake mental health ideology which they represents with their NAGATION OF true PSYCHOLOGICAL REALITY, with drugs, needles, coffins, hate, secret murderers in the name of so called health. They CLAIM they represent mental health and diagnosis, they represent only hollow words, empty nominalism and do their sick rituals of dehumanising using their fetish like some kind of brainless psychopats without feelings/empathy.
If you have only “depression” that means you may survive, if you are beyond apollonian ego hegemony, you are the state enemy and they will kill you in the name of pseudo health (apollonian ego traits). I JUST WANT TO SAY THAT PSYCHIATRY KILLS PSYCHE, DESTROY THE HUMANE /PHENOMENOLOGICAL MEANING OF PSYCHOSIS, MENTAL HEALTH, DEPRESSION AND SO ON. THOSE DIAGNOSIS ARE SEEN ONLY AS THEOLOGICAL EVIL or medical pathology WITHOUT PSYCHOLOGICAL HUMANE BACKGROUND.
They are killing people for representing Hades traits. This is political truth, Hades – the heart of the psyche is destroyed and demonized in apolonian ego Imperium.
The problem with psychiatry is that they reject ALL OF THE human psyche and glorify only their own lack of psychological INSIGHT/ depth. Sometimes I wonder if this is not some kind of sick archetypal jealousy -‘You remind me how shallow I am, and that why psychosis is danger to my world, BECAUSE I and my egoic shortbread material life means nothing for the psyche.’
That is right, psychosis death, terrror, fear are the heart of the psyche and SO CALLED healthy apollonians are beyond this difficult world, so that means their life is extremely easy even if it is extremely hard in material meaning. Psychological life is hard, not those of ego apollonians with material problems.
They see it as an alien movie, which has nothing to do with their “PROPER” life, and they see psychological reality as a form od immaturity, impairement which is disaster. THEY TREAT THE GREATNESS OF THE psychological DEPTH AS AN INDOLENCE. This is misunderstanding of psychological reality.
But, still, they want to rule over this hard psychological territory to which they have no respect. Beware of the effects of your arrogance.
Using term of psychosis only as a form of disgrace and condemnation is not humane, it is not also a psychological attitude. It is attitude of cowards who feels their utopian reality is in danger.
I want hierarchization of psychological world, and sb should treat apollonians they sam way they treat psyche. TERRORIZE THEM, GIVE THEM A NUMBER IN PLACE OF THEIR IDENTITY, HOUND THEM. DO IT FOR POWER AND MONEY AND CALL IT MEDICINE OR JUSTICE.
Apollonians traits are not the merits, Hades reality it is not a sin. They are paraller points of view, but psychological is much more hard to endure.
James Hillman RE -Visioning Psychology. I have in my ass your priorities and your fetish, shallow apollonians with utopian claims towards psychological reality. You are not the rulers of the psychological world and you will never be. And you are not the owners of the psychological reality. Remember, you are doing your job only for money/economy/ego culture for those in power, not for humanity, not for the psyche. And the power of the psyche is independent of those in material power. Always will be.
Danzig 666: Hey I like shortbread! If someone compared my psyche to shortbread, I would be complimented!
Whats apollonians? And Hades reality? I think it is true that mental health care is “ruled” by thinking that doesn’t have deep understanding of the human psyche. Some psychiatrists see all human reactions and behaviours, and problems, as just brain chemistry.
Danzig666 – I’ve traditionally thought of the dichotomy as between Apollo / Dionysus. Order / Chaos, Rationality / Emotion, Service to Others / Service to Self. Or even Right hand / Left Hand.
It’s interesting that you use Hades – the Underworld – as opposition to the “world of light and order” (Apollo, the Sun).
New way of thinking of things. I do agree that “psych” in any form tends to idolise the Apollonian view, and demonises – ALL others – whether Hades, Demeter, Dionysus, Pan (panic), Artemis, Eris…
should you decide to have another child, I’d still suggest zinc and B6 for your last month of pregnancy and your first 6 months or so of motherhood- zinc should you begin to get white spots in your nails and B6 to help metabolize the zinc. The white spots may indicate the presence of high serum copper (cause of depression and likely perceptual distortions), while the B6 facilitates dreaming- no dream memory, not enough, and wild, technicolor dreams, too much- as well as helping control the distortions.
Also, I would recommend raspberry leaf tea to ease the labor pain!
Thanks for the tips, I hadn’t heard of those before. I have told my friends that I feel that I have passed the best before date regarding new pregnancies lol (I am 46). I loved the pregnancy and motherhood experience though, I am glad for having that.
Thanks for your story. It didn’t frighten me as some stories do. I knew you’d triumph in the end, but it took some doing! I’m a big supporter of meditation but I’ve never tried holotropic or other breathing techniques.
I experienced dreadful Anxiety myself, when I came off my “Injection”. No amount of logic could get me off the hook, but the “sitting with the feelings approach” with application provided me with an eventual route out.
Glad you found your route out Fiachra, “sitting with it” can be extremely hard, although that is what heals, the facing of the emotions. Thanks ☺
The emotions have a tendency to transfer themselves onto perfectly legitimate external situations, and it’s easy to get lost!
dear Kerstin—thank you so much..
from the littleturtle
thank you ☺
Glad you were smart enough to look beyond brain drugs for help, Kerstin. 🙂
Yes, me too…
Thanks for sharing your story, Kerstin. As someone in the process of tapering off medications it’s reassuring to know how much healing you achieved through meditation and other spiritual practices. I hope things continue to go well for you!
Way to go Amy! I’m glad to hear you are in charge of your meds and you aren’t subject to forced psychiatric treatment as my daughter was for so many years! Talk about disempowering and traumatic! I agree with your posts on other threads that sometimes it is better to get help with drug tapers from psychiatrists in lieu of going it alone (cold turkey can be a recipe for disaster) I think some people on Europe are working on a project to demand that drug companies produce tapering strips. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Amy. Yes meditation helped me to find inner stability and to connect with my body, and spirituality offered explanations to my “otherworldly” experiences during the psychoses. I hope it goes well for you, the tapering off! Have you heard of the Inner Compass initiative, by Laura Delano? She has great insights on how to quit psychiatric medication.
I kind of accidentally quit cold turkey, but yeah I wouldn’t recommend that, it can really be disastrous. It’s good to do it over a long time, rather too long than too short.
Kerstin – “Inner Compass initiative, by Laura Delano? She has great insights on how to quit psychiatric medication.”
It’s my understanding that much of her tapering techniques are available for free at http://www.survivingantidepressants.org
What a gift to wake up this morning, with my cup of coffee in hand and begin my day by reading your incredible story. Wow! I got so much hope and comfort by reading this, words can’t convey my gratitude. We are supporting our beautiful daughter through something similar. Like you, she experienced catatonia, jail cells, forced injections, isolation, restraints, more hospitalizations that I can remember. This is really a hope injection!
This site offers so much encouragement. When my finances improve I will definitely contribute to MadinAmerica!
Thank you so much for your words. Oh it must be hard, seeing your child in pain… It sounds like she might have been pretty traumatized by the “care”, also. It can be difficult for the close family to deal with the “psychoticness”, there is a lot of projecting going on, maybe mistrust and blaming also. I know it was very difficult for my family. But the support we get from our families means so so much though.
What a great article, and a moving story!
Those who want to learn more about the breathwork retreats that Sean Blackwell does may be interested in this youtube presentation about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO3_Odqq-7k
Nice interview, thanks, it covers it quite well. Moni was my support person in the second retreat I did with Sean btw. We had a good time and fun, despite the work we did.
Interesting promotional article for what are generally considered to be potentially very dangerous techniques.
“What is happening here is that the psyche is being opened to a stratum of existence that it would not otherwise have contacted, and which is anything but benevolent. Could it be that the deviant “archetypes” experienced are not part of the individual’s unconscious but rather a dangerous layer of existence best permanently avoided?
My primary concern in the foregoing is the damage done to the evolutionary (developmental) potential of literally thousands of trusting people, likewise to the physical health of far too many casualties in the form of serious after-effects following the use of certain techniques and practices and ranging from nervous breakdown to insanity. I am not using conjecture here; I have personally spoken with numerous damaged and disoriented individuals, a large number immediately following the Holotropic Breathwork sessions held at the Findhorn Foundation in Morayshire, Scotland in the early 1990s, some of which were initially presided over by Stanislav Grof himself. (These extreme hyperventilation sessions required the inclusion of buckets, bowls and plastic bags for the violent vomiting and loss of bladder and bowel control by the participants – and the screaming was such that the area surrounding the venue in which the sessions were held was placed out of bounds to community members and visitors alike.)
I have also spoken with local doctors at the Health Centre in nearby Forres, who were aware of the aftermath consequences, and whose concern was such that they placed a notice in the local press dissociating themselves from what was occurring. I spoke, too, with senior officials from the Scottish Charities Office (SCO), who had previously been informed of these matters by a deeply concerned retired GP and World Health Organisation consultant at that time living in Forres – incidentally, one of the early members of the SMN who had worked for five years with George Blaker. The SCO promptly sent an interviewer to investigate further, and as a consequence commissioned a report from a top [medical] forensics Professor at the University of Edinburgh, which (due to the legalities involved) led to the suspension of all Breathwork activities sponsored by the Findhorn Foundation (see S. Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, 1996, chapter six).”
from here: https://www.citizeninitiative.com/against_grof_therapy.htm
About 6 months before my first retreat with Sean, I had a 4 hour healing session with a guy who I connected with through my Finnish meditation teacher. It did open up some hidden layers in me, and about a week later I was psychotic and hospitalized. This guy did use a breathwork technique on me also. So yes there are certain risks involved, with opening up traumatic memories. Sean also certainly took a big risk in a way, when he agreed to work with me, but I am eternally grateful that he did ☺.
Sean is not actually doing holotrophic breathwork, and from what I have understood, people with mental disorders are not accepted or recommended to try the holotriphic breathwork techniques. Sean has developed his own technique, specially designed for people with psychotic problems.
In the end people have to decide for themselves whether they think it is a good therapy for them. It is not for everyone, of course.
“..dangerous layer of existance best permanently avoided.” That sounded interesting. Do you have any views on that?
Thanks for replying, Kerstin. I’m not wishing to comment directly on your personal experience. It’s good you feel good. Sincerely.
Kerstin wrote: “Sean is not actually doing holotrophic breathwork, and from what I have understood, people with mental disorders are not accepted or recommended to try the holotrophic breathwork techniques.”
I chanced upon Mr Blakewell some years ago, when he was uploading his BipolarOrWakingUp? to youtube. His bipolar story was different then. It was all about one of his young nieces going crazy and getting a bipolar diagnosis. Now the story is he was in hospital for four days because of a spiritual crisis.
please watch the video Mr Unger posted of an interview conducted by Mr Unger with Sean uploaded 6 March 2018.
At 19:13 Mr Blakewell says: “”Once we’re on this retreat, we’ve got the perfect space, the set and setting, what are we doing, what are we doing to liberate the trauma? First thing we-re doing — and the most important aspect — is holotropic breathwork.”
Kerstin wrote: “..dangerous layer of existance best permanently avoided.” That sounded interesting. Do you have any views on that?”
Yes, lots. I am very sceptical about the entire New Age/California dreaming movement. I am not sceptical about the power of hypnotism, rhythmic drumming, and altered states. Suggestibility is a powerful tool. Those put under hypnosis through techniques that starve the brain and body of oxygen become just as suggestible as people hypnotised with more mainstream methods… only the holotropic breathers are “invited” once hypnotised to lay themselves open to a deeper hypnotic state, in which they are now infiltrated by the will of an other. It is no wonder that many freak out in the feeling of being possessed by a demon or suchlike. They literally have been possessed. Their autonomy has been compromised.
Kerstin wrote: “and from what I have understood, people with mental disorders are not accepted or recommended to try the holotropic breathwork techniques.”
At 26:30 Mr Blakewell says:
“The majority of [holotropic breathing] facilitators will not work with people with diagnosed mental disorders because they feel they don’t have the safe setting and they’re afraid that they’ll be opening up a bigger psychological process that they’re not prepared to support and so generally it’s contrary indicated (sic) … to work with people with bipolar disorder… BUT!… y’know because we have a retreat, we have a safe environment, the Bipolar clients have our complete attention… […] and so we breathe with the client almost every day of our retreat process.”
The “safe setting” is a house in the middle of nowhere that has a medium sized swimming pool in the back. Mr Blakewell shows us a photo of this “safe setting” in his presentation.
He doesn’t say what makes it safe, beyond the fact that he’d like to buy it one day.
My question would be, given that holotropic breathing is conducted lying prostrate and with eyes closed, why exactly is one building considered more safe than any other?
All I can think is that the stomach-churning horrified screaming and yelling and gurning and orgasmic panting and gargling and the vomiting, shitting and pissing might upset the neighbours who might be concerned for the wellbeing of the people inside.
No concerned neighbours = safety?
And for whom?
Thanks for the skepticism. You watch my videos very carefully. Of course, only looking for something negative to pounce on, but still, you’re watching. Regarding your critiques, a few replies…First, my original story, where I talk about my 4 day hospitalization, has been on YouTube channel, bipolarORwakingUP for a decade now. I posted my story in 2007, so that’s hardly new.
I also wrote a book about it, “Am I Bipolar or Waking Up?”, which is on my website as a free PDF.
Back then, we also helped my neice in a more of a “Soteria” style approach (which has been widely advocated for here on MIA)
(See https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/02/soteria-israel-a-vision-from-the-past-is-a-blueprint-for-the-future/), as it was her first “psychosis”. She went crisis-free for 7 years after our work together, without medications. She has started to have episodes recently and I haven’t had the opportunity to work with her. She is entitled to her privacy, so I prefer to leave it at that.
Regarding “Holotropic Breathwork”, my presentation with Ron probably should be clearer that I use “Bipolar Breathwork”, which is an adaptation of Holotropic Breathwork. I say that at the 29:30 mark. Holotropic Breathwork is contraindicated because the typical format does not provide enough personal attention or time if a more difficult process opens up with a client. As our retreat process is usually 10 days, we have the time necessary to help people through more difficult processes. I’ve done about 40 retreats now and have never had to hospitalize anyone. I was certified by Grof Transpersonal Training in 2016 as a Holotropic Breathwork Facilitator, and they fully endorse my work.
Also, in the Ron Unger interview, two more of my clients tell their stories of healing. One of them, Moni Kettler, has also written her story here on MIA.
As I started doing retreats at the end of 2013, these initial three clients have all done two retreats, and have all been free of medications, symptoms and hospitalizations for three years now. So I got off to a very good start!
You are completely correct in assuming that my safe setting means protecting clients from, well, “normal” people (among other things). This healing process is no joke. We play very loud music, and the spontaneous screaming can be very alarming to others. In fact, I insist that people bring a family member, or close friend to the retreat so that I know I have the support of the family with regards to what we are doing together.
So, rest assured, if you ever want to stop me from working with someone that you know, I won’t go near them. I don’t need that kind of hassle. Of course, whoever you are trying to protect will never have an opportunity to do such deep, lasting healing like Kerstin, Moni and “Magdalena” did, but not everyone is as lucky as they were to have such supportive families. In truth, I know your problem is more with Dr. Stan Grof and transpersonal psychology as a whole. I’m just part of that camp. I could bring 100 healed clients to your home and you would still be skeptical. So, I’m not really writing you. I’m just backing up my work for people who are curious to what I’d have to say to your negative comments. If you have anything else to add, I’d be happy to reply.
rasselas.redux, from what I understood, you are worried that during breathwork, the therapist might “infiltrate” the mind of the client? Or you are concerned that the client is in a very vulnerable state during breathwork and that the therapist will act inappropriately?
It sounds to me that you have some personal grudge towards Sean… but could I ask you to please not use the comments on my article for personal attacks on anyone…
Sean does sincere work and is careful about the work ethics and guidelines, I have seen this for myself. It would be career suicide to fail to meet high ethical standards, and, well, Sean just genuinely cares about people. When doing groundbreaking work, and having success at it, it will normally always include getting pretty hefty critizism, sometimes from many directions. Maybe you have your doubts and fears about Seans work, and that’s ok… But it takes a lot of guts for a person to go into the hazardous area of even attempting to develop an alternative cure for schizophrenia, it involves taking a lot of risks and being prepared to get a lot of sh*t thrown at you as well. I am glad that Sean has been prepared to do that. His work saves lives.
Like I said before somewhere, this therapy is not for everyone, because opening up psychosis-level hidden traumas is extremely painful and frightening, and sometimes maybe too painful and frightening. If you feel that this therapy would be harmful for you, then follow your gut, don’t do it.
The safety aspect is, in my experience, that someone is present 24/7, to keep you safe, kind of hold your hand, when going through anxiety, fears and other difficult emotions that surface during the therapy. Creating safe and trusting connection is an important part of it. It is easier to face difficult things, when you feel that you are not alone but that someone is with you, seeing what you see, being a safe presence, helping you through it.
Kerstin — I really appreciate your story and the clarity with which you describe the reality that psychosis, and I believe all mental illness, is rooted in our story and experiences. I am writing a memoir and a book about an alternative paradigm for understanding mental health, and like you, have had psychoses, depression, complex trauma, and horrific experiences with the abusive psychiatric mental health care system. I really want there to be more stories like yours out there giving voice to the deeper truth about trauma, mental illness, and recovery.
I’d really love to share my story with you, wonder if there’s a way to connect by email? My memoir is in progress and I’m committed to writing 2000 pages before condensing and editing, so it’s not really a great way to summarize the story, but curious readers can find it at https://memoir.blinkandhum.com/ and I am [email protected]
Thanks for sharing and writing.
Yes I can email you, thanks. “There is great power in sharing out stories”.
sorry about your experience. As a Christian, I thought for a while that my path out of Schizophrenia would mean simply repent and push forward, allow God to put off the old, put on the new. While there is much more forward-focus in my faith than in, say, mainstream mental health, based on memories that have returned to me, years after heavy, involuntary shock ‘treatments,’ I’m beginning to think that God is at least blessing me with enough chunks of my past to string together a good narrative, possibly even enough to make sense of the so-called ‘symptoms’ that remain in my life.
Based on that–because for me to remember anything is a miracle, I was blasted into oblivion–I’ve come to see the value in seeing the past, if only to see the shadows lingering in the present, so I can see, understand, know how to pray, etc. I also find Orthomolecular quite helpful.
Seeing the past, if only to the shadows lingering in the present – yes that’s it! to become aware of our past traumatic experiences, to heal them. I hope it gets easier for you… it sounds like you’ve had it hard. Orthomolecular, I haven’t heard of that, what is it?
They single this one abuser out and wait until he is long dead. Very many more and
Yeah the drugging (now polypharmacy), MH labeling abuse and trashing of vulnerable people is still going on and the drug abuse lies/cover ups by the ‘health’ trusts, the GMC and others still going on. If you wish to really get at the truth speak to the carers groups. I have very clear written evidence of my own sustained 3.5 year drug abuse and the horrifc pain that caused, the lies by the trust and the GMC doing nothing.
BTW I do not hear voices, my decent into psychiatry abuse hell was from going to my GP with insomnia and anxiety as a result of the actions of a close relative .
Imagine you have been subject to polypharmacy, with me it was between three and five drugs at the same time and a total of 14 over 3.5 years including three atypical ‘antipsychotics’ and lithium (augmentation with an SSRI, BS) I have written evidence of this in the form of discharge letters listing the drugs to be taken and these are the actual words from the reply from the ‘Health’ Trust which was actually a reply from the doctors who drugged me. A trust director (nurse) who just signed her name to the lies and got away with it – the Nursing and Midwifery Council did nothing. Plus I was ripped off benzodiazepine and sleeping drugs, no weaning at all and what weaning there was, far far too short.
“I would like to assure you that you have never been on Polypharmacy and your medical records indicated that your medication was changed several times. You were weaned off one before commencing the other medications.
Dr ****** is of the view that in spite if trying many different psychotropic medications one after the other, you had achieved marginal benefit from symptoms of severe Anxiety, Insomnia, Suicidality and Hypochondriasis when he last assessed you.”
So you take that evidence (the discharge letters listing the polypharmacy + the trust reply) to the GMC and get no where. Now multiply that to many thousands subject to this abuse. People who have had their lives destroyed by this drugging. The only option (if not longer than three years since the abuse ) is to sue them. Well good luck with that, I certainly did not feel lucky.
I have seen so many people get very brutally treated within psychiatry, especially in closed ward hospital care. I was pretty badly treated myself.
It still can fill me with rage sometimes, like wanting to just scream out: this has to stop! you’re ruining peoples lives! But, not many doctors listen… they believe in their own paradigm.
I feel very lucky that I got away from the grip of psychiatric care. The “care”, in the years after my son waas born, did some harm, it made me feel like I am not a normal human being, it knocked my confidence kind of, and it took some time to heal from that as well.
I hope it gets better for you too.. Stay strong.
Kerstin, thanks a lot for this intensive report with deep insights.
In the East this process is called “Kundalini Rising”. Kundalini is an energy that becomes active in the body, often very suddenly. The Kundalini process is needed to reach the altered state of consciousness of enlightenment. Unfortunately it is still placed in a mystical/esoteric corner where it does not belong at all. It is time for the West to deal with this energy and use it as another model instead of the psychiatric one.
It is said that this energy “sleeps” at the end of the spine. When it wakes up, it flows up the spine to the brain. In this way, it burns all the impurities that have accumulated in the human body and mind. Of course this is a picture, the same one as the snake in paradise. Both pictures say nothing else than development happens. A deep psychic development purifying/processing/recognizing/integrating the old terrible experiences and an actual physical development because the nervous system and the brain are actually changed.
Kundalini is still considered a purely spiritual matter. It is often not said that not only the experienced trauma but a Kundalini rising itself is a traumatic process. It is common that a Kundalini process often runs in phases with different interruptions. It is very unknown that this process is difficult, exhausting, frightening and quite dangerous. What I have read in your report is, you always have developed a wonderful power to come back with your „feet on earth“. You could distinguish between your „psychotic“ phases and „real life“.
At some point, as you also wrote, there is change, a deep change in the emotions, in the view of this world and in the abilities of the brain, after you were able to “see” the trauma. That is not the enlightenment we usually think about but it is also a kind of enlightenment, that is a better stress resilience and better work of our brain.
We urgently need people like your supporters who are able to accompany “psychoses” or better said, these processes of tranformation.
You have done a hard work, my respects.
In my opinion, a “psychosis” is an extremely difficult Kundalini process. Today I think that the kind of this process has to do with the nature, the severity and the own ability of processing the traumas we are suffering from.
By the way, already in the 80th Dr. Lee Sannella, asked in his book: „Kundalini, Psychosis or Transcendence“?
Dr. Joe Dispenza seems to have a first scientific idea, what is happening in a human body, when this energy is working, „Becoming Supernatural“. The only problem we have to deal with, most of the people think, if you do meditation the „good“ Kundalini arises, if you are in „psychosis, you are metally ill. In my oppinion these are the two sides of the same coin.
I am familiar with kundalini. I actually have a friend who is a kundalini yoga teacher, and I have been to her classes. I think it is true that for some, this awakening of energy can cause psychosislike symptoms. It depends on the amount of trauma and “rubble” that needs to be cleared, for the energy to run freely, maybe.
This kind of “enlightment”, of better stress resilience and better work of our brain, that you said, I liked that thought.
Thank you so much for this.
Thank you Kerstin Ogard for sharing your experience. In my opinion breathworks and mind-body consciousness techniques are the key to success, but people must understand that is goes way beyond healing. In my experience, breathworks open spiritual consciousness with no closing it and may connect you to previous lifes. That is not what most people would look for. Most people do not want to become full-time psychics, instead they are looking for standard personalities, and socially integrated lifes. Breathworks induce trances and mind-body memories reviving and acceptance. I think this kind of help has to be offered with complete empathy for the person and very slowly and respectfully, with much feedback and with spiritual help too. Once you embark on this journey you have to complete it, because the flow is open, the devil is out of the box. And you may experience very deep, very traumatic memories, hellish states, too. I had 40+ sessions of what was called ‘rebirth’ and that was the most intelligent thing I did in my life. I regret nothing.
Hi Jules, what you said about “most people do not want to become full-time psychics”, that was funny ☺. It’s true, this work can “open you up” to psychicness, and many people maybe do not want that. Me personally, I have loved that part of it. In my experience, you can chose to “close psychic channels” if you want, it is a personal choice. I have done that too, in periods, just focused on “everyday normal life”. But I quite enjoy the enhanced sensing and “psychicness”. It has become a good tool in my work with children, and with other people.
My first psychotic episode, at age 17, actually started with me getting a feeling that I am a healer woman. I started sensing energies, and feeling I have an ability to see “deeper” into people and into what was causing their life and health problems. But I had no previous knowledge or experience about these things and no mentoring, and the process eventually became very anxietyfilled. When I was taken to the psychiatric hospital, I was told that my experiences were nonsense and I was told to shut up, when I talked about feeling “channels” opening up within my mind. So with a sense of shame I closed down.
The process that started after my son was born, of clearing the trauma from my first hospitalization, helped me to reopen these abilities of deeper sensing, that I had closed down. So it didn’t catapult me into such new scary territory, but was more of a process of reopening my sensitivity and returning to the person that I am.
This is great. <3
In my experience, breathing can provide answers to your questions, the feeling of existing more intensely, being connected, developing empathy, the sense of pleasure and life in every part of your body, and reveal a source of serenity flowing in you, soothing, giving confidence.
Jules, what kind of work did you do for the 40+ sessions?
and you said it was a slow process, how slow? what was the time in between your sessions?
@ sergioL, each session consisted of a prior exchange on the objectives pursued, an hour lying on a mattress accompanied by a therapist, practicing conscious deep breathing, with the placement of the consciousness in specific areas of the body, and accompanied trance, then feedback during half an hour and the maintenance of a descriptive diary of the sessions. The rhythm was one session a week. I did 20 sessions first and another 20 with an interval of 3 years. During the same period of my life and later, I had other mind-body breathing experiences in group and also specific practices in a swimming pool. I had others experiences in several kind of massages, what is called ‘eutony’ (Gerda Alexander), and martial arts, aïkitaïso, taïchi, for grounding.
@ Sean Blackwell
You are mistaken. I wasn’t looking for something negative to pounce on when I watched your video. I was curious to see what you were up to with regards my bipolar comrades. Kirsten asserted that you did not work with people with mental disorders using oxygen-depletion techniques. This misrepresented your presentation to Ron and another of your inner circle. So I skipped through the video again, found the relevant bits, transcribed them, and wrote them down here.
In that sense I was positively reinforcing you. Because — contrary to what Kirstin indicated — you do invite people with serious mental disorders to deplete their bodies and brains of oxygen for significant periods of time.
And you call that Holotropic Breathing. A term coined by Stanislav Grof who decided it would mean “moving in the direction of wholeness.” Of course, that is a rather biased definition. Although, the term is a registered trademark so may as well give it a superpositive spin, ja? Depriving the brain of oxygen for extended periods of time may just as well move a person in the direction of disintegration. And in fact, the practice was banned in Scotland precisely because the majority of people were being harmed by this quackery. Maybe many of them were being neither helped nor harmed. And it was just that Scotland wasn’t ready for its people to be screaming and writhing and shitting themselves in community halls in the name of curing severe and enduring mental illness.
” I could bring 100 healed clients to your home…”
No you couldn’t. That’s pure exaggeration, rhetoric.
“So, rest assured, if you ever want to stop me from working with someone that you know, I won’t go near them. I don’t need that kind of hassle. Of course, whoever you are trying to protect will never have an opportunity to do such deep, lasting healing like Kerstin, Moni and “Magdalena” did, but not everyone is as lucky as they were to have such supportive families.”
That’s the hook. And it suggests to me that you do have some awareness of advertising techniques, as you often claim advertising as your background.
It is the messianic hook. Only those that pass through you can enjoy the healings of your inner circle. Those that seek to deny you are unsupportive and against healing.
Nope. I am against quackery. I would advise anyone against committing their time, money or faith to anyone offering them 2 weeks in Brazil shitting themselves silly and writhing around in the screaming abdabs. Simple common sense.
For anyone whose curiosity is piqued, I’d recommend reading through these:
Vulnerability to Quackery
Spontaneous Remission and the Placebo Effect
Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem to Work
This last link harbours this incisive and pertinent observation:
“Even when no objective improvement occurs, people with a strong psychological investment in “alternative medicine” can convince themselves they have been helped. According to cognitive dissonance theory, when experiences contradict existing attitudes, feelings, or knowledge, mental distress is produced. People tend to alleviate this discord by reinterpreting (distorting) the offending information. If no relief occurs after committing time, money, and “face” to an alternate course of treatment (and perhaps to the worldview of which it is a part), internal disharmony can result. Rather than admit to themselves or to others that their efforts have been a waste, many people find some redeeming value in the treatment. Core beliefs tend to be vigorously defended by warping perception and memory. Fringe practitioners and their clients are prone to misinterpret cues and remember things as they wish they had happened. They may be selective in what they recall, overestimating their apparent successes while ignoring, downplaying, or explaining away their failures. The scientific method evolved in large part to reduce the impact of this human penchant for jumping to congenial conclusions. In addition, people normally feel obligated to reciprocate when someone does them a good turn. Since most “alternative” therapists sincerely believe they are helping, it is only natural that patients would want to please them in return. Without patients necessarily realizing it, such obligations are sufficient to inflate their perception of how much benefit they have received.”
rasselas.redux I appreciate your views and information, and understand you have your concerns regarding this therapy. It is a new approach, and very different and alternative.
It is always scary to embark on the journey to “meeting your inner monsters”. Clearly Seans therapy is not your option. I hope you find the help and therapies that can best help you on your journey to finding your inner balance and strength. It is possible for all of us to find these things, but there are many routes to take. It is good if we listen to our inner wisdom when deciding which help and assistance we chose for this journey. I wish you all the best.
I wish you all the best too. I’m sorry you had inner monsters and lacked strength and balance. I don’t believe that to be what is typically at the heart of mania or psychosis for most people.
I cannot comment on “Sean’s therapy” because I only know about the holotropic breathwork, as that is widely discussed, but this “new therapy” that heals schizophrenia is not available to discuss and as you’ve pointed out, does not involve holotropic breathwork.
What do you believe to be at the root or psychosis or mania?
Trauma. Crisis. Cognitive dissonance – when you cannot reconcile inner and outer worlds. When you cannot match your inner world to the society around you (what RD Laing called, “Sane in a Crazy World”). When wrongness needs balancing. When your habits or conditioning are taking you towards destructiveness and your brain/body tries to correct your path. Many many many causes of “dissociation” or “dissolution” or personality, or “spiritual emergency” or “crisis” or any of the names for it (which I refuse to call “psychosis” or “mania” because really, these are symptoms of a deeper emergence).
NOTE: where I say “you” or “your” above, I could as easily say, “me” or, “my.”
I don’t think there is oxygen depletion during careful deep breathing. But dissolved carbon dioxide levels probably change and the caliber of the cerebral blood vessels is probably affected too. No drugs involved in this kind of trance. I think the key is to go slowly at your own pace. My inner feeling was that previously inhibited territories, old memories were awakening to the consciousness.
I never shitted nor peed nor writhed during my sessions. I cried a lot, though. And I laughed.
I think it would be good to drop the derogatory, pseudo-scientific language like ‘psychosis’ or ‘schizophrenia’ and all the medical pretense when talking about personal development.
I think there is no need to frighten people nor pretend to make science when exploring what is personal and spiritual in nature.
I understand the promotion of mind-body breathing techniques would have the potential to reduce the sales of psychiatric drugs. I think there is no need to revile honest practitioners or their clients.
Pseudo would be saying “I don’t think there is oxygen depletion”. There is also “probably” and “I think the keys is”. Also “my inner feeling”. Starting every paragraph with “I think”, without anything to back it up, is pseudo.
I’m also stumped by the affirmation that “the caliber of cerebral blood vessels is probably affected too”. Is it, or isn’t it? And what does “caliber” mean in this context.
@ despondent Hyperventilation syndrome physiology has been well studied. Arterial blood oxygenation does not change much but hypocapnia occurs and also respiratory alkalosis. Hypocapnia may induce vasoconstriction.
It seems reasonable to assume that similar mechanisms come into play during a conscious breathing induced trance session.
You may find this interesting:
Breathwork: Exploring the Frontier of “Being” and “Doing”
by Diane Zimberoff and David Hartman, 1999
It’s an interesting read (Breathwork, Exploring the Frontier …). But it seems to me, the whole technique is only suited for people who are already naturally quite grounded. The title of the blog (healing from schizophrenia) made me question the whole comment section re. these breathing techniques and whether schizophrenia was really at play here.
Another aspect is that “breathwork” is highly personal (contrast that with shamanism where the shaman’s task is to share his insights with the clan) and it’s (I would guess) expensive.
@despondent Such prejudices protect psychiatric drug sales. Are they helpful? And what do you know about the shaman’s task?
Psychiatry and psychiatric drugs serve psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical drug companies. There is no incentive to heal.
I have a very superficial understanding of shamanism (I’m not a shaman). Aren’t they supposed to share insight?
What do you know about schizophrenia? That is what I’m trying to get at. The title says “healing from schizophrenia”. Maybe you can, if you wish, start by answering that.
Also, if I can’t afford the treatment, that doesn’t make me prejudiced.
despondent – as I practice it, the shaman helps you to find your own insights, as my insights might not be valid for you. The best shamanic work opens you to your own personal power and intuitive skill. Then the shaman can step aside, and let you choose your power.
a shaman who inserts their insights into your psyche might be practising a darker (or pushier) form of the art.
Could you also specify exactly which prejudices. It helps when you are more specific. Is it expensive? Is it personalized? Is it mostly meant for people who are already quite confident of themselves and are looking for a little extra? Before “breathwork”, Grof used LSD. He developed breathwork because LSD became illegal.
@janCarol Reminds me of meditation. The teacher gives you increasingly more impossible tasks, until you get the point.
@despondent I did not write this article. I simply wish to share my breathing sessions experience. I do not believe in ‘schizophrenia’ and I won’t discuss my own psycho-social difficulties here because it is private. I consider ‘schizophrenia’ a phony label, a psycho-social meme, a belief. Therefore in my perspective you do not ‘heal’ from ‘schizophrenia’, you simply stop believing in it.
To do that in a society where the psychiatric cult is a state religion, is a very difficult enterprise. It requires a very resilient personality. That is where personal development can help. Things may be easier in a shamanic society or a place where the Open Dialogue approach is available.
The prejudice I referred to is the notion that the physician should interfere in anything psychological or spiritual. Another is that the medical approach should always be appropriate in the psycho-social demands labeled ‘psychosis’. Either you do not understand yourself or the people around you do not understand you. The physician’s job is to exclude a cerebral condition iatrogenic, toxic, carential, infectious, immune, traumatic, tumoral, metabolic, hormonal in origin. There is a rigorous semeiology to follow in order to do that. In my experience, very few physician do their job properly in that regard, and they are blind to iatrogenic conditions. If these conditions have been excluded, the physician is no longer a therapist but a psychoactive drug provider.
The Open Dialog approach seems enough to amend the dysfunctional relationship between a person and the people around her. However I think it does not fully address the misunderstanding of yourself you may experience.
For example voice hearers offer several tricks to learn how to cope with inner perceptions the person do not understands or do not wishes. That is also where personal development techniques and martial arts may be helpful, especially the tricks that allow body consciousness, achieving peace of mind, conscious control of vegetative functions like biofeedback, shakras, meditation, yoga. Complete body massaging and a slow, gentle, complete scraping of the skin, inch by inch, are wonderful ways to establish dialog between yourself and your body and to receive the body’s knowledge and wisdom.
If you ask yourself questions, some shamans may help contact the spirits, establish dialog with the ancestors and spiritual guides of the person and heal many wounds. Michael Newton and others affirm that a spiritual hypnotist may help reconnect with previous lives, the live between lives before the womb, give purpose to life and restore strength. It is soul work and metaphysics.
Then there are past traumas. Mind-body breathing practices and probably also Peter Levine’s somatic experiencing and other practices may help reintegrate forgotten parts of the psyche inhibited in past traumas in this life and in previous lives.
These breathing techniques are many and very ancient in origin. In my experience the so-called ‘rebirth’ practice allowed me to heal past traumas, develop a more free breathing and enhanced focus. It may open spiritual consciousness.
I think the sessions should be personalized of course, unless the therapist be a robot. You are a person and a soul. You are important. You are unique and precious and the instant is unique and precious and will not come back the same again. You assert yourself. It’s not about your brain. It’s not a protocol. It’s all about you and what you do not understand about you. Your personality, your feelings, your emotions, your behavior, your dreams.
You are not the same person before and after: you are more yourself. You have to accept the therapist and the therapist has to accept you.
I don’t know the exact price of the sessions. I think it should be comparable to any psychotherapist’s consultation.
“The prejudice I referred to is the notion that the physician should interfere in anything psychological or spiritual. Another is that the medical approach should always be appropriate in the psycho-social demands labeled ‘psychosis’.”
I never implied that. Did I?
@despondent Sorry I misunderstood.
despondent – I am the shaman. I help myself. If I am called to help others (or they call to me) I don’t put anything into them. I offer them the space & the tools to develop personal insight. After all, I don’t know what insight it will take, and their inner process is really none of my business.
If you look at Moni K’s videos here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFk2GA4mnv5BVb4aA5nSB5csOYAMtFjgD
You will see that her insights are her own. Sean didn’t put any of these into her head – he did what shamans call “Holding Space” – creating the space, the environment, and the stimulus (breathing) for an individual to access their own inner space, conflicts, demons, talents, support (whether you call it Guides, Spirits, Ancestors, Medicine, whatever) – in order to develop their own plan for how to advance.
I’ve only ever used a drum to hold this space for people, and very simple techniques. I do not know how the breathwork works, and I am concerned about the vulnerability that may be inherent in that space. I’ve heard equally nightmarish stories like at Findhorn and rebirthing, and amazing transformative unfoldments as well. With the drum, the individual is completely in charge of their own experience. After my post-cultic experiences, I like to ensure that no programming comes from me to the individual during that suggestible time/space.
If I were to do such a thing for myself, I would have to establish a trusting relationship with the practitioner – like Sean (I have no reason not to trust him) to ensure that he would give me safety for my own Inner Space to develop a plan. Again, from Moni’s videos, it seems like he does this.
I actually have concerns about Gabor Mate’s Ayahuasca experiences, as I wonder if he may use them to “shape and mold” the people he takes to Costa Rica and other places to take this transformative Medicine. Can he step back, and let their Inner Experience unfold and Teach? Again, I would have to know him better before I would trust him with my Inner Truth. When I watch his videos, he does seem compassionate – but also very passionate about his structures around trauma and addiction, and I have concerns that he could not resist putting them into suggestion in order to “force” a healing. A rose cannot be forced open.
Jules Malleus, thank you for your post. I appreciate your insight into this kind of work, perhaps the breathwork / rebirthing did this for you?
@JanCarol Your words inspire me. I did the breathing sessions in cellars in Paris. The analogy was that of an uterus, and the mattresses a placenta. Perhaps the cavemen used the caves for initiations too, in the mother-earth uterus. There is a gestation, and an emergence. The therapist gives birth in a certain way, some are proud of it. This creates a connection. The important thing, it seems to me, is the assurance of not being judged, interrupted, censored, contradicted, rejected, despised, in this space, during the time of the session. Some people never give you that kind of freedom. To be yourself. Religion forbids it. In the caves I had the freedom to express my anger loudly.
Jules and JanCarol, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. And Jules I like it that you do not sound like you “know it all” ☺. Is that pseudo..? Ok (I didn’t know what that meant). I understand that you are looking for “hard evidence”, despodent, and questioning is good. If something is valid, it will withsrand the questioning.
Myself I don’t believe so much in any absolute truths. We people just have very different ways to view reality, through our own individual lenses. But each to their own. If we can share our views without too bad arguements I am happy. ☺
Just curious, in the comments here, I’ve cited my first three clients, all of whom have gone public with their stories. All three are free of psychiatric medication, “psychotic” symptoms and hospitalizations for three years. And to this you say that I’m nothing but a quack, and these brave women are my deluded inner circle? If that’s the case, there is really nothing more to say.
@Sean Blackwell: This Blog post, from the title, says “healing from schizophrenia”, not bipolar disorder. What has she healed from, in your opinion?
I take it, from your interest in this article, that she made us of your services. That’s why I’m asking.
Thanks guys, Jules, despodent, JanCarol, Sean, this was very good conversation. So good to share views, and I think critizism and questions are good too, it helps us to think further.
And I’m just glad if you all speak “nice” to each other, despite differentiating views. In Finland we say “things argue, not people”. So thanks.
I called the article “healing from schizophrenia” because that’s the label I would get by psychiatry.
Open Dialogue was developed here in Finland yeah, and I actually met Jaakko Seikkula, we arranged a seminaar in my home town a few years ago, to promote it. Open dialogue was not used where I live, but I hope they would start use it more widespread, in other parts of Finland too.
I am myself from a doctor-family and believed in mainstream psychiatrys explanations and definitions for a long time. When I started to read into psychosis and healing, I learned about shamanistic and other alternative views. I think there is a lot of experience-based wisdom in them.
I try not to get too attached to the labels, but as Kerstin was dealing with persistent paranoia (as you can see from the article), I’d say that most psychiatrists would have labeled her condition either schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. My work is intended primarily for people labeled with Bipolar Disorder, but it can be effective for people with more serious conditions, provided that the trust is there. Moni Kettler was a “rapid-cycling” bipolar disorder. Magdalena was more of a classic Bipolar 1, with repeated episodes into “acute psychosis”. I see them all as basically the same condition, just with a different character, severity and/or intensity. All of these conditions have the potential to heal, provded that the client is prepared to put in the work.
Her persistent paranoia: “I knew how this was probably caused by some connection disturbance between my prefrontal cortex and the amygdala”. “Knowing” something is different than “probably knowing something”.
I don’t understand what “trying not to get too attached” means. Are you on the fence? See how it goes? I’ll use it if it suits me?
The psychology of persuasion is a very interesting area. Suggestibility, hypnotism, power, various confirmational and affirmational biases… you can learn a lot about how the mind deceives itself through exploring these areas.
@despondent. I don’t get too attached because these disorders are simply a group of symptoms that, when they show up in a particular pattern or sequence, get a label. In Kerstin’s case, one psychiatrist may label her with schizophrenia, another shizoaffective. Many people receive multiple diagnoses from different psychiatrists. Instead, what I see is a person in pain who wants my help. I give them my own personal evaluation, based on criteria I’ve developed over the past decade, to help determine if I think my approach could he helpful to them.
Thanks for your replies, it’s appreciated. I hope you do continue to succeed in helping people. It’s a step up from psychiatry, to say the least. Boa sorte.
You’re welcome! De nada!
Thank you for your honest description of hell!
I was a psychotherapist for 50 years and discovered, the hard way, that when you help someone escape from psychosis you shouldn’t abandon them, but should follow through with them to find what caused the condition.
The cause, in the people I treated, dated back to trauma in very early life. Therapy required a simulation of what had been lacking: in 2 cases it actually was helped by 2 years with a baby’s bottle of milk during sessions.
Integrating one’s mind requires a patient parental figure- something good enough mothers do virtually every day, and need help with.
Yes I believe also that much of the traumas are from our childhood and we can need some “parent figure” to heal. I had a pretty safe childhood myself but had an operation at age 4, had to stay in hospital alone, and it’s interesting how my worst traumas in later life are connected to hospital stays also.
Thank for sharing your story, Kerstin!
I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and, lastly, with schizoaffective disorder. I’m taking a low dose of antipsychotic but I fear a lot having psychosis again. I feel I have many emotional stuff (childhood traumas) to work on as you did. I don’t know any healer that may help me here in Brazil (maybe I need to do some research).
Thank you. Sean actually lives in Brazil! I hope it gets better for you, wishing you all the best.
You really hit the nail on the head with this one. Your description of the disease makes perfect sense. After my last episode I felt like I’ve gotten closer to uncovering the trauma behind it but it’s like the meds they give me patched it up and I lose my chance at understanding it. Still I feel like a relapse it just around the corner some days. Meditation helps though. Just reading your description of it gave me flashbacks of everything and kinda helped me understand it better. Thanks.
Hello my namn is Christian. And I suffer from a schizoffectiv psychos like you did. I have meditated nerly 8 years. Iam on medication now antipsycotics and mood stablisiser. Is there any problem to get cured when eating these medicin. I was hopping to get rid of them when i get cured. Please answere if you like too