Thursday, September 19, 2019

Comments by Annette Allen

Showing 38 of 38 comments.

  • Kelly, I loved and savoured every deep and true word of your quest. Yes to lack of intiatiion! How we’ve lost the wisdom of ancestors while we’ve been taught to worship things, and power.

    My son is very much at the point of initiatiion. I’m trying to help him: he’s been through so much rejection, pain and trauma, yet he remains stuck, when he is so strong. He doesn’t believe his strength. I didn’t believe mine but when I had no option four years ago, I was re-birthed and came out the other side. (I had Open Dialogue therapy.)

    Earlier today, reminded by you, I asked a group of friends to pray for him, to uplift him. I know from my life that prayer works. Namaste to you. xxx

  • Thanks Larry. I think my sense of self was very deep, even at a young age, so I critiqued what was going on and how I was treated by my parents and teachers – and how they treated my siblings and other young kids. Also a belief in something greater and much more healing than the world around me (which I still have). Could you explain what IDB is, please? Not an acronym I’ve come across (I’m a Brit!)

  • Thanks Dan. I congratulate you for the work you and your partner are doing – it makes a huge difference, no doubt about it.

    I believe that my healing is now complete – I understand the trauma and feel that my life is meaningful now, (as opposed to disconnected, and dissociated (from my soul)) which is all I ever wanted. I do think, however, it’s time to write that book about my father and younger brother and my personal healing as I faced it all, head on, five decades after it all began in the hope it will help others. Namaste. xx

  • Thanks Ron, in fact, triple thanks as you were the one who reached out when I posted about OD over a year ago, and suggested I write my story. I needed to find the right time and also, compassion, to do so. Please continue with your work and I hope that some day we will meet. Anything is possible – our minds really ARE limitless when we allow ourselves to become our true selves. Namaste. xx

  • Thanks J, I often feel like one – and it helps that I’m tall too, with my Viking ancestry! Most of all, I’m overjoyed that I could write about my spiritual experiences in my book – and have them accepted by readers in many countries. Plus the UN book talk in September 2007 – noone can take that away from me. (check out

    I LOVE life, and I saw all of my pain as some deep, ancestral drama waiting to be explored and named. Named by me, not by anyone else of course, J! Namaste. xx

  • Thanks for your comment, Someone Else. I’m sorry for the way you’ve been treated. I agree that this is a time of both great darkness and light. I left the church (Anglican) in 2015, as I support same sex marriage and two priests told me that I’d better find somewhere more in tune with my views to worship (this was after 12 years reading lessons, writing prayers and many features for the monthly newsletter which many loved.) Was it jealousy? It hurt deeply at the time, but I’m so happy to be flying free, able to do what I can to help the marginalised without criticism (weirdly, Christians were always telling me either not to help, or how exactly I should help. Just so much bullshit!!!!)

    I really don’t worry about what people think of me and that’s TOTAL freedom. And I’ll always be brave enough to challenge what I see – I’m not here to win popularity contests. Namaste to you.

  • Many thanks Dan, and what fascinating and life-changing work you do. Four years ago, I bought Mark Wolynn’s book “It didn’t start with you” which really opened my eyes. I have listened to family stories from friends and many strangers (people seem to want to open up to me, which is one of my ‘gifts’) and I can see their grandparents patterns repeating in them. The trauma is like a psychic bloodstream.

    My father never spoke of his parents – sadly – and I only met my grandfather 3 times. I heard more about my father’s childhood and grandparents from my aunt (his last remaining sibling), and learnt that my father was the first child conceived after my grandfather returned from the Front Line in WW1. ( My grandfather served with the Gloucester Regiment and was one of the ‘war horse’ soldiers taking frightened horses and the shells to the front, and back again. He amazingly, wasn’t injured – one of the lucky ones!) My father’s moods often reminded me of bombs going off, and I think that’s where it came from – he wasn’t in charge of his moods, I knew that. But we had happy times too, and when he was ‘him’, he was very kind and jocular – as a little girl I found his mood swings very frightening, I just remember that.

    I thank dad and all my ancestors every morning, for giving me life and the courage to investigate all this deep pain. And Dan, I always trust my heart – my strong sense of self comes from there, it’s where I encounter the myriad and astonishing interconnections between us all. Namaste. xx

  • adikanda, I’m so sorry for all that has happened to you, your son and your family. To a slight degree, similar things have happened to me, with my son (and our only child.) His uncle Eric (my younger brother) suffered from paranoid schizophrenia too, and became a drug addict at 14 (cannabis) then moving onto heroin.

    What I’ve observed is this: my younger brother was the most beautiful of the 3 of us, and was born at a time when my father was experiencing professional grief (the De Havilland Comet – the world’s first jetliner – on which he worked as an engineer) crashed three times, and had to be withdrawn from service. This was the pinnacle of my dad’s career; my mother also suffered from postnatal depression after Eric was born, and then, 2 years later, she was diagnosed with cancer. My father (a widower when he met mum) couldn’t see this as unfortunate life events, rather he looked to BLAME someone for these events, and Eric, as the most vulnerable became the SCAPEGOAT. Eric was a very happy child, full of light, and I think my father couldn’t stand it – he was a ‘dark’ man, who would spill over with anger at the slightest thing. All 3 of us walked on eggshells in our early childhood and my mother tried to run away several times (I learnt from my two half-sisters who came home from boarding school, and who were also very relieved to return there – the family dysfunction was very tough to see.)

    Eric never escaped that role – I stood up to my father and blamed him for his aggressive and cruel behaviour and was told to “mind your business, you bossy child.” So, I became the observer/witness to it all. We were a really unhappy family, it must be said.

    Some of these events repeated themselves in my own family. I chose a husband similar to my father and my son was severely scapegoated for a while, about events over which he certainly didn’t cause (my husband’s escalating alcoholism when his father was dying from terminal cancer.) It was devastating – and Eric was then in the final years of his life (by then a registered methadone user, no longer working after my mother died) and he sectioned himself twice in that period.

    Eric took his life on Good Friday, 2009: an appropriate day for a scapegoat. (He did have several years of happiness with an older man – Eric was gay – who acted as the father Eric had never had. It was great to see him happy and out and about, enjoying himself being fully accepted for who he was – finally!)

    All of this was very tough for our lovely son to witness. He’s had many setbacks in his young life.

    So, the karmic theme I’ve seen emerge is Prodigal Sons. My father was a prodigal son (apple of my grandmother’s eye), my husband similarly. They have an unspoken belief that everything must go well for them – a huge sense of entitlement. When things don’t, they get very angry and look to blame. I see this in all institutions, by the way, which is one of the reasons we’re not evolving spiritually. We’re stuck in the continuous aggressor/scapegoat cycle, largely because the AGGRESSOR refuses to look at his/her darkness. and do the work required to change their mindset and thus the energy.

    I’m much more assertive at home these days, and many things have healed. This is because of the Open Dialogue therapy and my courage of immersing myself in the deep pain of dysfunctional family narratives. My husband and son now take more responsibility for their behaviour, because they’ve seen the damage it caused me psychically and emotionally. Progress, not perfection. (And my son and I speak of many spiritual things together, and the need not to repeat the drama – we’ve seen the terrible things repetition causes.)

    I don’t know enough about people doing work in this area, but what I am 100% confident in is that the Scapegoat is a universal symbol and is there in all tribes. The tribes form around an agreed view on who the scapegoat is (whether an individual, tribe, religion etc.) and then marshall to remove or destroy them. Look at the Rohingya Muslims, for instance. There is a bloodlust for destruction rather than the slower, deeper creation of changing our beliefs and becoming TOTALLY responsible for the ways we think, speak and live, which is how more evolved souls live. The Earth was created for all of us to walk on, enjoy and live peacefully with one another, is my belief. Sharing and Caring…..

    I hope that my words may give some hope, adikanda. Namaste. xxx

  • Thanks Michael, for this fascinating, honest and deep exploration of what it means to sit with others experiencing deep, extreme states. The places where there are no words, because healing is the imperative and we must touch, soul to soul.

    My father and younger brother both suffered with paranoid schizophrenia. Both highly medicated: my dad had ECT and medication (mid 70s), my brother injections and weekly outreach meetings: mid 2000’s – his team were fantastic though, I met them at the psych. ward where he had himself admitted, twice and then at his funeral. Later on, I descended into what mental health ‘professionals’ would call psychosis when some of my childhood trauma repeated itself in my own family.

    But, I saw the ghosts, visions and prophetic dreams as friends, that was the difference. I have an open and deep spirituality and practice, which is where I differed to my birth family. And in 2014, after 3 years of searching, I found Open Dialogue and was lucky enough to be one of the first treated via “Dialogue First” the non-crisis pathway in the UK – and it was free! I’m grateful that I instinctively distrusted the mental health profession, as far too many lack the courage to explore and be with the soul, which you and I and all patients who somehow make it through, know all about.

    We’re the wise ones! Keep on with your holy and much needed work. Childhood joy and peace is our natural state when all is said and done. Our toxic institutions (all kinds) don’t want us peaceful though: we’re much wiser and much tougher to manipulate and control. Namaste. xxx

  • A very deep and heartfelt story, Starr. Thank you for sharing. I resonated at every single level, except that I managed to avoid medication, pretty much, believing profoundly that my feeling ill and even “psychotic” had something to teach me. And I’m a Brit with the happy experience of living in Ethiopia as a kid, where diversity was the norm and VALUED!

    I recommend Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking down is waking up” and Mark Wolynn’s book “It didn’t start with you.”

    (When I was very ill, I found Open Dialogue therapy, which is also in the US, which helped me accept and heal my childhood trauma, without any medication.)

    Sensitivity and a deep spirituality appears both in light and dark ways, as we both know. Two sides of the same coin. I’m so very grateful that you are a Wounded Healer able to help many others. You clung to your dream and are now living it, and that’s amazing. What a hugely resilient woman you are. Not a survivor – a Thriver. Namaste sister…..

  • Lee, thanks for a really helpful blog, which helps me understand the state of play in the US, which of course flows across to the UK. Mental illness is in my genes: my father, although he held down a full-time job, developing paranoid schizophrenia in his 50s: he had ECT and strong medication, and gradually re-emerged as a humbler, softer man: a big relief. And then my younger brother, Eric. Eric became addicted to cannabis at 14, and then heroin at 18. (Eric had been my father’s scapegoat, as he denied his mental health problems and extreme anger.) It was a sad and very chaotic upbringing.

    Some of those events repeated in my family. How our young brains map and then unconsciously repeat warped patterns. (No blame, or shame, just observation.)

    When my mental illness popped up in 2012, I saw it for what it was. Deep and utter grief at the poor relationship between my husband and our only, much loved, son and 4 family deaths in 7 years: one a suicide (Eric.) I see it all as expressions of Grief. Grief makes sense to me.

    When I was really ill – what some would describe as ‘psychotic’, but I describe as grief-stricken, I found a counsellor who was somewhat smug; the next year I found a consultant psychologist who really didn’t help. I tried Sertraline – 50mg – but tapered off after 3 months, as it made me feel ‘whoo whoo.’ Both found it hard to accept the soulful me, who has prophetic dreams and a deep Christian faith (I no longer go to church – I was asked to leave after 12 years because I support same-sex marriage.)

    My soul knew it needed the right teacher and helper. Happily, I discovered Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking Down is Waking up” in 2014, and went to the first Open Dialogue conference in 2015. The dialogic, family systemic therapy made total sense to me: the listening and sitting with what emerges, not labelling or judging it. Just sitting with, and repeating the patient’s phrases: very life-affirming.

    I was lucky enough to be in the first pilot when it was rolled out across the UK, via GP recommendations. (Two stipulations: not being on any other therapy and being able to travel to their offices in Barking, east London.) Even more fortunate that Russell was my lead clinician! Slowly, slowly, he and his team helped me root down to and explore the real trauma in my childhood (not imagined) and gradually rebuild my shattered, grief-stricken psyche.

    I spoke about my experiences at the 2017 conference, along with 3 other patients. (I was the only one who wasn’t hospitalised.) Afterwards, two mental health professionals accused me of being mentally ill – for those few minutes, I saw the deep problem in the profession. The unwillingness to accept people’s vulnerability as part of being human. I challenged both, firmly telling one “you may consider me mentally ill, but I see myself as spiritually well.” He had no answer – he thought like a robot!

    Today, I’m part of a small group of OD Champions (most are parents with children in long-term institutions) helping to re-educate professionals and over time, society, to the need for a gentle approach to shattering times. I’ve read about RD Laing and Soteria. There are times when all humans are unwell, because they’re so grief stricken – naturally – about events, and sometimes people’s cruelty not of their making. This manifests in all kinds of ways. I don’t label it as I’m not a professional, but I am compassionate.

    Today, I’m retired and mentor people to quit drinking (alcohol misuse was one of my problems – now that’s well behind me thankfully). I also chat to and buy food for homeless people, both here and wherever I travel in the world (there are far too many in the US, too.) In other words, I have an abundant life and share my abundance with people cruelly stigmatised and marginalised. We are all frail and fragility is part of the human condition. Society is conditioning us to be robot-like, of that I am sure. In the months and years ahead, I look forward to sitting with and affirming those suffering distress. I’ve been there and know how dark it is. My darkness is also utterly me, and where my light also resides: the eternal Yin and Yang. No competition just collaborating with each other…..

    Namaste, Lee and everyone here……

  • Manuela, you are doing very important and vital work in a system that doesn’t support you, but that wants reports which get turned into more reports and stats for some government agency to report on. And mental illness is a true and valid reflection of the shattered, battered world we now inhabit…..

    I’ve never been in the system (I’m in the UK), but my dad and younger brother – both deceased – were. They found it helpful, but then things were better funded (mid 70s and early 2000s respectively). But, I’ve had psychotic episodes, and chose to avoid GPs and hospitals, because I found meaning in the psychosis. It was difficult for my husband and son though, I can see that now. (I found Open Dialogue therapy which pieced me back together again, thank God!)

    Perhaps a group of you could get together and plan a better system. Nothing changes without a small community. Look into Open Dialogue too – far more holistic, open and polyphonic. All the voices are important and resonant. Sending you warm wishes for the work you do. And Portugal is a wonderful country – your harm reduction strategy is so much wiser…..

  • Thanks for this wonderful, life and soul-affirming post. Aaah, it helped me understand so much about me, and about society.

    I had early childhood trauma, but what began clarifying things for me was spending two formative years in Ethiopia (1962 – 1964) where society was much more right-brained. Apart from my mother, I learnt about caring and community there, as well as the glories and gifts of multiculturalism. Wow!

    I’ve often felt out of step with this world, and I now know, through research and my own, persistent exploring (including Open Dialogue therapy), that I’m completely right brained and that my left brain most definitely serves it. That makes life spontaneous and amazing. It’s also easy for me to help others, because I don’t doubt the need to help (I feel that doubt, but ignore it.) This is a real blessing.

    From a conventional standpoint, I’ve had a lot of “failure” for 26 years, with a smattering of success, but boy, it’s been such a rich and meaningful life. I’m really happy to think like a 10,000 year old woman – it rocks (without any medication, or need for dulling substances e.g. alcohol.)

  • Thanks Will for your honest and raw unveiling of all the trauma. Both which you experienced, and which you then gave to a former client. Good on you for being honest about your cohorts’ reaction and your subsequent self-reflection. Your relationship will have hurt her, for sure. I speak as a woman here.

    It’s my reflection, after some very intense family trauma (grief and addiction related), now thankfully over, which was a repeat of my early childhood, but worse, that what we experience we then give to others. Usually unconsciously, because that’s human nature. Rarely intentionally, but when we see the damage WE have done (rather than scapegoating others) it rightly brings us up short, and can tip us into ‘madness’. (Although I don’t like that word!)

    I always challenged the wrong-doers, from when I was very young (4): my dad, teachers, bosses. I had to live with being unpopular, and respected in equal measure. It takes a fierceness and a willingness to sow your own furrow and accepting the loneliness which comes from speaking out. Never shouting though – all done quietly and with the “guy in charge” face to face. My complaints about sexism in the workplace DID help other women, of which I’m proud. I and a small team reported a director for his very drunken behaviour and 3 months later, he left the company. I hope he learnt a lesson. Because I’m gifted with a very powerful voice, I’ve stopped many fights, and calmed down very angry men.

    Would I trade it to fit in with the ‘status quo’ and keep shtum? To have been a more popular woman? No, a thousand times no! Gandhi, King, Mandela, Tutu and Sylvia Pankhurst are my icons, even with their flaws. There are no white men amongst my icons! Too much damage done – I see what you have to trade in order to be part of this incredibly corrupt system: inner integrity.

    I’m a big fan of Carl Jung and remain so, despite what I learnt from comments here. “Dreams and Memories” helped me when I was entering my slow fall into crisis (never medicated, btw, nor went to a ‘shrink’ because I instinctively distrusted them. I hung on until I discovered the Open Dialogue team in the UK, in 2016!!) I also enjoyed “Man and his Symbols.”

    You became yourself, Will, when you wrote this post, in being utterly honest about your faults. Thus, you are more raggedy and utterly human, which is, I believe, the path that anyone in the mental health profession needs to walk and help from: raggedy and utterly human. Or to quote Jung: “there is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

    Namaste, good man.

  • Hi Tim, thanks for your honest and raw story. I know nothing about medication, nor DSM categories, but I have struggled with my mental health for some decades, pretending all was well, when it patently wasn’t. I’m glad you escaped your overbearing parents, who believed they had a right to determine your future. They didn’t!

    My father had mental health issues too, became paranoid schizophrenic in his 50s, had ECT and powerful drugs. He was more mellow afterwards, but never really recovered his fighting spirit. He died, 8 years later. I see him in me: my mental health issues also got worse in my 50s. What we have most in common is a strong liking for sugar, and I find that I’m mentally so much better and brighter without it.

    I’ve been lucky enough to survive my “psychotic” episodes, (bad in 2012) because I believed that the pain was telling me something. I totally trust my soul on this (strong faith, rooted in compassion.) My mental health is all linked to my physical and social environments, which is NATURAL. And grief: 4 family deaths in 7 years, including a suicide 🙁

    What’s most important to me – and I think us – is how we love and value ourselves, despite it all. I love myself infinitely, because I know I’ve survived quite extreme trauma. A love based on compassion, not arrogance. I find that I can help others in small, quiet ways, because of this love. Open Dialogue therapy in the UK (for 2 years), definitely helped me piece me back together, but I’ve recognised that if I avoid sugar, I feel really well and grounded. Diet, exercise and doing something to help others creates a meaningful life, which is all I ever wanted!

    I do wonder, really (after a few conversations with rather arrogant psychiatrists and psychotherapists) the past decade, whether their mental model is all predicated on “success”, rather than meaning. If we’re struggling financially, have really tough life stuff to deal with and our family appears dysfunctional (often because of trauma and grief), they seem to reach for the pills. No real exploring – I’ve yet to meet any who have any real answers. Vulnerable people like us have sooooo much more to offer.

    Congratulations with your happiness and marriage – you were meant for each other! Namaste, Tim. xxx

  • Hi Ekaterina, there are a group of us who’ve just formed an “Open Dialogue Champions” group. We will be lobbying and campaigning for change in the system. Two of the members are leading people in Soteria Bradford and Soteria Brighton, which is wonderful. Safe places are vital…… <3

  • HH, a deeply thoughtful comment – thank you! As a former communications manager (now retired), I’d recommend using terms that the audience is familiar with and your own language. That modifies what can be a dismissive or threatened response from the audience. (We all switch off when we don’t like the language, don’t we?) Thank you for your contribution…..

  • Hi Ekaterina, I loved your post. I had to check where you live, as I thought you were a patient in the US. Wow, so some British psychiatrists are the same as in the US: very, very close minded.

    Scientifically, we share 99.99% of our DNA with each other. It’s very possible that you were Ann Frank in another life and especially possible that you were/are the Buddha. Buddhism teaches that we can obtain enlightenment, even At One Ment, through careful, diligent daily ritual and practice. These rituals change our neurons, making us deeply aware of the incredible humanity which exists in each and every one of us. And also, through this awareness, that we can overcome suffering and turn it into something which helps others.

    Medication stops this process. I remember my younger brother in rehab (just 16) and how drugged up he was; the same with my father when he developed paranoid schizophrenia and had ECT and medication. He was able to return to work though.

    So, throughout my visions, voices, prophetic dreams and being born again (2003), I avoided the medical profession, like a plague. I allowed it all to unfold and incubate within me and then, slowly, slowly released it into becoming the compassionate woman I yearned to be (healing childhood trauma.) Open Dialogue therapy here in the UK was fantastic and very instrumental in helping me gain this peace when my childhood trauma repeated itself again with my own family. (Thank you Dr. Razzaque and Cathy Thorley!)

    In 2017, I was one of four people talking about my experience of the therapy (and the only one not admitted to hospital, despite my ‘psychosis.’) I talked about the soul, that we each have one, and that working in mental health, people need to recognise that they are doing SACRED work, helping the soul emerge. Many nodded, but after I left the stage, a psychotherapist introduced himself and told me that I must have had a spiritual emergency. I replied: “You may consider me mentally ill, but I’m actually spiritually well.” He turned around and walked away. I had a similar insult from another guy – poor, deluded individuals…..

    This psychiatrist’s treatment of you is not about you: it IS about the very, very deep fear that many in the mental health profession have: that the visions and dreams and voices we hear do really exist, as we all know they do. They are utterly terrified of having a “spiritual emergency”, because who might THEY become when they are ‘awake’? They will be like us: utterly beautiful and vulnerable and totally ourselves…… <3

  • Dear Judy, thank you for your lovely son and wise soul, Dan. What an amazing, thoughtful and loving boy, teen and young man he was – and as a loving, soulful person, he would have been thought of as “odd,” or even “weird” in our hypercompetitive, cruel world. So very sorry to read of your loss, and I’m thankful for all you’re doing to keep his memory alive.

    I was similarly sensitive, saw ghosts, had visions and prophetic dreams since I was a young girl. Fortunately, I never told anyone after my parents didn’t respond positively to my stories! (This was 1950s Britain.) The dreams disappeared for a while and then reappeared when Eric, my younger brother became a drug addict, sadly.

    I tried to be normal, held down a good job for a while, but money and status were always meaningless to me. I cared for outsiders and the marginalised and longed for freedom. Once my mother died, I was able to be freer and express myself and the dreams and visions re-appeared once more.

    For 20 years, I trusted that these insights – including voices – were there to help guide me to my rightful path. I had major psychosis in 2003, when I was ‘born again’, but again, things settled down and all the insights were valuable. I became kinder and more considerate, caring for Eric who by then was paranoid schizophrenic (something my father was diagnosed with in his 50s and he had ECT and drugs to control them). My younger brother had drugs and injections for the rest of his life.

    Eric took his life on Good Friday 2009. I still talk to him most days – he was as sensitive as Dan, and totally aware of the huge damage we humans were doing to the environment.

    Addiction appeared in my family – alcoholism. It took a big fight between husband and son to start healing it, and today things are peaceful. My son is as gentle as Eric was, and so much misunderstood. He’s held down jobs and is a trained stonemason. His compassionate nature makes him very vulnerable – which is pretty disgusting, when I think about it. My husband would prefer him “normal”, but I know that he’s fine and super-sensitive like me and Eric.

    I’ve just completed 2 years of Open Dialogue treatment in the UK, and it helped put me back together again. I’m very, very fortunate that I understood, instinctively, that to talk to the medical profession about what I experienced (and continue to) would be considered insane, or psychotic. My view is that we are all innately divine, but we’ve forgotten it, and that we all have to wake up to this nature, to begin healing this fragile, shattered earth we live on.

    Recently, a group of parents of young adults (many still hospitalised) formed a group to lobby in the UK for more use of Open Dialogue. So far, I’m the only ex-patient, but we hope to grow and lobby for change. Our mental health profession doesn’t understand spiritual breakthroughs: in fact, I’d say that they’re terrified of it, hence the over-medication. (In 2012, I was on low dose Sertraline for 4 months, but tapered off it, because I’d rather experience the fluctuating moods and insights than be a zombie.)

    My spiritual transformation is complete. I am myself, raggedy and quiet: I am kind and listen to many, most days, and help people recover from alcohol misuse. Everything has its place and money is only the means, not the end. And peace is here now, in my heart.

    Doing good and bringing hope are what matters – just like you’re doing. I’m sure, beyond doubt, that Dan would be so very, very proud of you! I hope that he comes to you in your dreams? Eric often does in mine – at peace in ways he never was on earth. Blessings, Judy.

  • Thanks for sharing your incredible and uplifting story, Catherine. What a journey – and how wonderful that the REAL you has come through it, and that you’ve written about it for others.

    I have similar genes to you: mental illness from one parent, and alcoholism from another parent (actually a great grandparent). Also travelled a great deal as a young kid and similarly disconnected 🙁

    Whilst I read widely and have been to many spiritual workshops, nothing was better than investigating my genes to understand why there was so much addiction.

    In 2012, I had a breakdown, and many psychotic episodes. The nightmares were terrible and whilst I just about functioned at work, at home I was disembodied, disconnected and felt my mind biting on every single word I heard – conversations or on the TV. I went to two psychiatrists, but I didn’t trust them to help me. I wanted something deeper.

    In 2014, I discovered “Open Dialogue” (the Finnish therapy), with its emphasis on letting people and their family system speak their truths whilst minimising medication. Two years later, I was accepted onto their UK wide trial for therapy (this was with the proviso I wasn’t on medication) They helped me unpick my childhood trauma, name it and come to terms with it. It was very hard and I felt very vulnerable. At last I was able to cry and feel properly after many years of numbing.

    I love and appreciate my spiritual gifts, insights and the deep sense of connection I have with most people. Talking to many people on my travels, I’ve noticed that people from the global south: south America, Africa and Asia can accept and appreciate our innate spirituality, but it’s regarded with great suspicion if not cynicism by many in western Europe and the US. I see breaking down as really waking up – and those of us who have, can help others. Every blessing on your journey: may you inspire others!

  • A very raw and insightful post – aaaaah, so glad you made it out the other side and had the incredible insight and resilience to trust your psyche and embark on the physical wandering it so needed, Laren! Lots of very wise comments here too.

    My younger brother, Eric, was depressed and then became addicted (to cannabis, then heroin) in his early teens. He had two rehabs, but frequently tried to take his life. When on methadone (as a registered addict) in the UK, he was able to function and had happy times living with our mother after our father – who’d always scapegoated him – died. He developed paranoid schizophrenia in his late 40s and sectioned himself. I – out of 4 siblings – was the only one to stay in regular contact, partly because they were afraid of his symptoms. He took his life 9 years ago. It was his birthday on Monday, so I remembered him with a visit to Coventry where we were last happy as a family in the 1960s.

    Like Eric, I had visions and heard voices. All were incredibly meaningful to me, so I felt no need to seek medical help. (I suspected I would be labelled and given drugs if I’d opened up about my experiences!)

    I rejected the western view of life very early, as we were fortunate enough to live in Ethiopia for a time. That taught me about love, compassion and humility, not the ego-centric, fearful drama that goes on here in much of the west – and other countries who follow our “winner takes all” delusion.

    I’ve had “psychotic” episodes since, and dark prophetic dreams which although deeply upsetting at the time, have always prepared me for tough life events to come. Latterly, I had Open Dialogue therapy to help deal with deep trauma over the poor relationship that manifested between my husband and son for a time (a repeat of my father and younger brother.) A wonderful team and therapy who accept unusual episodes as real, and having value. I found that it’s our Darkness which heals us, not the light. Many can’t accept this – especially intensely religious and spiritual people. I welcome it…..

    Today, I’m very grounded and use my experiences to help others – addicts and family members – simply by sitting and listening. A great Truth begins to emerge where there is no judging, just sitting and listening. Peace to you and your family, Laren. May you continue to value these experiences as evidence of your soul emerging.

  • Kermit, thank you for sharing this profound wisdom and experiences. It moved me to tears. How Nature and open hearts can mesh together, bringing silence and a sense of liberation and deep acceptance.

    I’ve had OD therapy in the UK for two years now. Reading Jung, listening to my voices and accepting my visions as real and meaningful meant that I was never, ever going to share my distress (not mental illness) with someone who wanted to medicate me. Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking down is waking up” made so much sense. To be listened to, have spiritual and ancient ancestors accepted in therapy, to have a team mirroring my feelings in their feedback is like bathing in light. No water is needed, just light.

    I experienced the judgement of two mental health ‘professionals’ at an OD conference in London last year after I spoke of my experience at a patient, and that therapy is, in fact, soul work. And that we all have souls, whether we choose to recognise it not. Their bombastic comments made me feel quite ill, but I was able to rebut them, and informed one that while he may see me as “mentally ill”, I was in fact spiritually well. All I ever wanted to be! It left him open mouthed!

    Our ancestors knew what was needed: connection to the earth each day, families and people around us who accept and love us as we are, rather than judge us and enough work to use our skills and be of service, without exhaustion. In my heart, I hold a profound gratitude for all indigenous peoples – wisdom workers. Thank you!

  • A very thought provoking post and some great comments here! Out’s comments particularly resonated.

    18 months ago, I attended the annual Open Dialogue conference in London, as one of four patients reporting to the audience how OD had helped. I talked about becoming mentally healthy as real soul work, and that society has lost its connection to the sacred, and to one another. My OD team were open to the sacred, which was very helpful – they also helped me appreciate that my visions and dreams (what many would call psychosis) were very healthy.

    Some professionals seemed upset by what I said. When I left the stage, one approached me, introducing himself as a pychotherapist and asked whether I’d read Stanislav and Christina Grof’s book “Spiritual Emergency.” I was taken aback – where was this guy’s humanity? I told him: “you may consider me mentally ill, but I consider myself spiritually well” and left him open mouthed. As I went to sit down, another guy told me: “well, you’re very brave, a middle class woman admitting her mental health problems.”

    These two guys are an example of just how far the profession needs to go – such trite comments at a mental health conference, FFS. If you don’t have humanity, why are you practising? My humanity enables me to be compassionate and connect easily with others. Perhaps those in power are terrified of being human?

  • Hi Ron, I will definitely submit my story, and follow the guidelines (checking it out with my therapist first.)

    I was very lucky to have lived in Ethiopia in the 1960s, when my dad worked for Ethiopian Airlines. I observed ancient ways of community and sitting with. That has stayed with me through thick and thin all my life. (I wasn’t taught this by my modern, European parents, btw.) Any problems I have, I sit and allow ‘it’ to speak to me.

    I agree, for some (many?), it’s unwise, if we’re not rooted in ancient customs (which is also where my faith lies, not in religion!) No need for ayahuasca, just sitting with, as Setoria and Open Dialogue so eloquently demonstrate….

  • Hi Auntie, I found your story fascinating and very helpful. i’ll take a look at your book too, btw!

    Open Dialogue was rolled out to all NHS Trusts in April 2016. That means your GP CAN refer you to the team. The drawback is you must be able to travel to London (Barking, Essex, to be precise) to have the treatment. They are training many people in the therapy, throughout the year. As I had a 90 mile journey, each way, I’ve been able to Skype my appointments in the past year. I spoke to my main therapist who told me they’re full right now, but that may change later this year, as more are trained up.

    Might be worth calling their central number and see when/if new appointments are available, via your GP: 0300 555 1200

  • Hi Fiachra, are you a mental health professional? Just interested in your perspective.

    The whole of our NHS is in crisis, owing to successive governments the past 20 years NOT raising income tax to pay for a service which is still regarded by many as the best in the world. Incredible staff. There are private psychiatrists using the Open Dialogue methodology in the UK already, fyi.

    I will definitely draft an article for Mad in America. Not sure if it will be accepted, as I have a British perspective, but it’s worth a shot! Thanks for the suggestion. xx

  • Ron, I’m coming to this debate very late. I’m a Brit, who’s had psychotic episodes – and what I’ve experienced is how they’ve healed and transformed me. The me I thought I was, and instead, these events pushed me to be someone much more compassionate, leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.

    The psychosis also cured me of my addiction: alcohol.

    One thing I absolutely avoided, even when I was most terrified and ill (but still functioning enough to work part-time) was medication, as I knew (in a gnostic sense) that the pain was trying to teach me something, if only I would sit still and listen. Sitting with it all led to the transformation on many levels.

    Here in the UK, I discovered “Open Dialogue”, the therapy I’d been searching for, for 5 years. Dr. Russell Razzaque, who brought this wonderful therapy to the UK, authored a great book: “Breaking down is waking up.” That helped me see that what I’d experienced was natural and – over time – incredibly healing. I took part in their first tranche of the roll-out across the UK. One of the preconditions was that patients could not be using medication. Yes!

    I can’t express in words, how utterly restorative and healing it is to be listened to and heard by a team unbound by time (my first session took 3 hours) to unpick the early childhood trauma which had led to deep depression, anxiety, and addiction. They valued my prophetic dreams (which two other therapists were dismissive of) and insights into the sacred nature of our soul. I told them that what they’re doing is sacred work: helping people rebirth their real selves. The whole, spiritual, emotional and physical person they were meant to be.

    Interestingly, I spoke at their annual conference in 2017, shortly after I’d read Stanislav and Christina Grof’s book “Spiritual Emergency”. I talked about the sacred nature of our soul, and how paying attention to it, along with dreams and what appears to be synchronicity (the real way of the world, in my lived experience) heals us. Afterwards, two professionals approached me: one to tell me that I probably was mentally ill and had I read Stanislav’s book? I informed him that while he may view me as mentally ill, I’m in fact spiritually well. The other said: “well that was brave, middle class and owning up to mental illness.” I was totally stunned by these responses. There is HUGE work to be done in the profession, to put it mildly.

    I’m absolutely clear: my ‘psychosis’ healed me. No medication, just sitting with it all, because I knew that most practitioners wouldn’t get it, because many aren’t open to the reality within themselves waiting to be birthed. Does the profession prefer to medicate others, because they are frightened of who THEY could become? In the coming months, I hope to help Open Dialogue roll out across the UK, because to have such quiet, non-judgmental “sitting with” sessions is astounding in its ability to birth something and someone far richer and deeper.