Comments by Sean Blackwell

Showing 55 of 55 comments.

  • Hi Darryl,
    Just to clarify, my work focuses on helping people heal while in a non-ordinary, or “holotropic” STATES of consciousness. These states can be accessed by anyone using holotropic breathwork, or other means, like psychedelics or intensive meditation. Dr. Clare Graves work focused on STAGES of development, with the more developed stages having an increasingly spiritual component. Both are important aspects of human development, as deep work in the holotropic states helps people evolved through the stages that Graves talks about. I have different playlists on my YouTube channel. The stuff related to bipolar disorder is usually focused on the states, and the work of Dr. Stan Grof. The developmental, or stage part, focuses a lot on Spiral Dynamics, which was started by Graves and expanded upon by Don Beck, and Ken Wilber in different ways. Just thought you`d like to know.

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  • I was one of the lucky ones. I NEVER needed to take psychiatric medications, other than for a few nights in the psychiatric hospital. I never relapsed and never saw a psychiatrist or psychologist after my episode. That was 1996. I’ve had a few very blessed spiritual experiences since then, but none left me “delusional”. I was never hospitalized again.

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  • Thanks Emma!
    I’m somewhat familiar with Larry Dossey, as I read about called Transpersonal Medicine some years back. I think he had a chapter there. I do think Grof’s Transpersonal approach to healing mental disorders has lots of cross-over with this Era 3 approach you are talking about. I recall the supporter of a woman I was working with in Finland, who was a professor at a nursing college. She told me that among the nurses, they recognized that when cancer went into “total remission”, that is was always after some sort of emotional/spiritual catharsis. To me, that taps into the sort of transpersonal work that needs to be done regarding mental disorders.

    I also think we need to distinguish between strategies for Coping, Recovery and Healing. Like Russell, I know Dr. David Lukoff is a big fan of using Mindfullness Meditation to help people with disorders. But, to me, Mindfullness sounds a lot more like a strategy for coping or recovery than healing, as it is not designed to root out trauma. In fact, it creates a mental and emotional detachment from trauma, if I understand it correctly (I took one course on it). That’s why, on my healing retreats, I focus on Vipassana meditation along with a practice very similar to holotropic breathwork (I’m not certified yet). Both are known to bring truama to the surface and purge it from the system. In a nutshell, no truama, no disorder. Used in combination, for an extended period of time, the results are powerful and dramatic, for those who have the capacity to enter into the deeper process. But I’ll read Russell’s book and see what he has to say.

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  • Their responses rarely are, but that’s exactly what it was for me. I returned to my life with renewed energy and a lot more confidence. I worried a lot less and was never struck with debilitating depression again. My salary increased 300% in 3 years!
    I think the thing that bothers me the most about psychiatrists, as a whole, is not their reliance on medication, or even their professional coldness. It’s the lack of scientific curiosity! I mean, they are supposed to be scientists! I wish more of them would act like it.

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  • Thank you Someone Else!
    I think, near the end you touch on an important point related to Mad in America. There are no scientifically proven genetic roots to these disorders, and yet, in many cases, it’s obvious that something very serious is happening to the person in crisis. I think it’s a mistake to simply tell people, “There’s nothing wrong with you, go home.” There are deep traumatic patterns and existential issues to unravel. We need to take these “disorders” seriously, as an an opportunity for radical transformation – almost like a software upgrade.

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  • Hi Sandra,
    I know this is a late reply, but I saw your APA article and I had a few questions about your data here.
    First, of the 32 people that originally started tapering, it appears that only 5 continued or finished with that tapering process as of 2014. That would leave 27 (85%) of the original group who either were hospitalized (7), died (2), left your counseling (4), decided to stop abruptly (1), or stopped the tapering process (13). It that is the case, it certainly appears that even slow tapering is a very difficult process.

    Second, have any of the original 32 tapered to no medications as all, and stayed relapse free for over a year?

    I think this is important, because we know that roughly 80% of people will relapse if they come of meds abruptly, but maybe people with slow tapering are not hospitalized as often because (1) they are still medicated enough to hold their disorder intact, and (2) when they start to feel anomalous experiences coming, they are more likely to raise their medication level on their own – hence the 13 people who quit tapering.

    Thank you for your efforts!
    Sean Blackwell

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  • Thanks for the lengthy reply. I enjoy it!
    Of course, I completely agree that a supportive environment is essential and sorely lacking. The paradox is, how do you help people when an infinitely supportive environment is rarely there? For example, when I work with people, it’s for 2 weeks, then either they fly home, or I do. That’s not much time.
    Sometimes I think this movement is sort of stuck because its idealism is simply too lofty.

    On another note, if a 19 year old kid contacted me and said that he wanted help, but that he was also reading Alan Watts and RD Laing, my first thought would be, “I want to work with him!” Why?
    Because both are post-modern (trans-personal/ post-rational) writers. 😉

    I suspect you were more developed than you give yourself credit for!
    I could add lots more, but I’ll keep this one brief!

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  • Hi Ron, thanks for the article!
    I wanted to share a few insights related to what your wrote here.… I read that you were a little bothered by Larry Davidson’s comments regarding the pathology of “losing a sense of self”. Having lost that “sense of self” myself, I can understand where you are coming from. However, at the same time, I watched Larry’s presentation (thanks). It struck me that it appeared as if the people he was referring to found their loss of sense very frightening, confusing and disturbing. In Ken Wilber’s work and others in the field of consciousness studies, there is general agreement that there are three broad phases of personal development of the psyche. They could be described as pre-personal, personal, and transpersonal; or pre-rational, rational and post-rational. In my own research, I’ve found that when people are “highly developed” (ie: transpersonal/post-rational) they tend to have non-ordinary experiences like ours, where losing the sense of self feels like a blessing. However, when people are not particularly developed (pre-personal/pre-rational) the sense of self is already quite weak, and when they lose the little they have, it simply leaves them lost, as they don’t have the internal psychological structure to deal with their non-ordinary experience. Even Martin Harrow pointed to “internal structures” as the key point of differentiation between people who could get off meds and those who could not in his 20-year study that Whitaker cites so often. In my opinion, I think Larry was referring people with weak internal structure (although he was probably not conscious of doing so).
    It brings up a huge (and very controversial) issue, however, in that, I think we are deluding ourselves if we think that all people have similar internal structural development. They clearly do not. Some are more developed than others. I know my work will have much better results with people who have more developed internal structures than those who do not, and so I look for that development before I choose to work with someone. It doesn’t mean they have to be geniuses; however I am looking to work with adults who are at a minimum of a “personal” or “rational” level of development.
    This does not mean that someone with weak internal structures cannot heal, or cannot improve. However, I largely feel that these cases are more difficult, requiring more time, experience and luck.
    Sean Blackwell

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  • You’ve got a point, and I’m vocal outside of the “Mad Pride circles’. But until now, it’s felt a little too hostile within the them to take a stand. . I mean, what’s the point? I can invest my energy with a more receptive audience who is naturally attracted to my work. My YouTube channel does about 27,000 views a month. I guess I’ll make waves when I’m ready to make waves…
    Thanks again Noel!

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  • Very nice article Noel,
    It especially resonated with me when you wrote,
    “But, as a wise man recently said to me, perhaps lip-service is where we need to begin in order to get our foot in the door and start that change happening; I believe this to be true.”
    Although I understand how discussing “a wide variety of viewpoints” is the first step, it also seems to lead to a very politically correct approach which, in the end, silences people like myself. In my work, I have a specific approach, rooted in Transpersonal Psychology. I understand the trauma people carry with them in spiritual/emotional terms, and I use techniques that work on those human dimensions to root out that trauma. But, in the spirit of “diversity”, such an approach is considered “dogmatic” and shunned. Taking a quick glance at the British Journal of Psychology’s document, the values and general orientation of the document just felt outdated to me, like they are stuck in the R.D. Laing ’60’s.
    BUT, as you said…its a start.

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  • Very nice article Sera,
    I especially like the title. After talking with hundreds of people online, I’ve come to a similar conclusion. In fact, I would not be surprised, one day, if being ‘bipolar’ for example, held a sort of social status to it, as a sign of someone who had enhanced sensitivities. The trauma side of your equation is a no-brainer to anyone who takes the time to actually listen to the lives of people dealing with experiences in anomalous states. What’s the relationship between the two? I have a few ideas, but that’s all for now! – Sean Blackwell

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  • Happy Birthday Monica! Without you and your blog, I’m really not sure if I would have been able to get started on my path. You were the first person to confirm, without a doubt that bipolar disorder and spiritual emergency were, basically, the same thing, for a lot of people, including yourself. We’ve both made a lot of progress in 7 years. I hope we get to meet one day.

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  • Hi Natalie,
    I thought I would reply to your questions here…
    “How was your talk at Eurotas received? ”
    Very well! What was most exciting was that I had many experiences transpersonal psychologists coming to me afterwards (and prior) expressing great curiosity about my work and results in the field. It seems that some are intuiting similar conclusions, but they don’t have the leeway, either in their clinics or in academia, to explore the relationship. So it was a real thrill to find myself as the center of attention so often, especially among a group of people that I admire so much! I have a ton of respect for transpersonal psychology.

    To your question, “…but what else can I do?”
    I’d say, things are changing quickly, but this is a marathon we are running, not a sprint. So I put my energy into aspects of the work I enjoy. For years I made YouTube videos, month after month. Then I wrote a book. Now I’m focused on working with people to heal their disorders. Am I making money? Not enough to pay my bills, but the work has been wonderful, and I love being on the leading edge of such an important cultural shift.

    Thanks again!
    Sean Blackwell

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  • LOL, I completely agree B. Their utter lack of curiosity towards non-ordinary states is infuriating! They make themselves out to be scientists, always harping on about how they are based on ‘science’ while alternative therapies are not. They don’t have any sense of healthy scientific curiosity, and they just continue to believe the same old dogma, regardless of the evidence in front of them. Of course, I do know a few awesome psychiatrists, but the vast majority….yuck.

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  • Rossa,
    Only if you have the stomach for it….
    Google: BBC Carlos C Documentary 2006
    Based on your previous comments, I think this film will probably be very disappointing to you. But, from my own experience I can say that the more I allowed my own illusions to painfully die, the deeper my true spirituality became. And I’m sure I still have a few illusions floating around somewhere.
    Have Courage,
    Sean Blackwell

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  • The total impossibility of double-blind studies was a problem we kept bumping up against at the Hospital here in Sao Paulo. It’s fine for comparing one medication against a placebo, but most people try a bunch of things when it comes to holistic healing. So isolating one factor is tough. Also, for spiritual healing practices, having a cold “objective observer” in the room hampers the healing process. We are in sacred communion working through sensitive materials together. And a guy in a lab coat is going to take notes in the corner? Not easy.

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  • Rossa,
    According to anthropologist, Andrei A. Znamenski, author of The Beauty of the Primitive: Shamanism and the Western Imagination, Carlos Casteneda’s character of Don Juan is an entire work of fiction. Znamenski provides a very well documented chapter on this subject alone. The title is, Anthropology, Castaneda’s Healing Fiction and Neo-Shamanism in Print Culture (pp.205-231)

    I think when dealing with the subject of spiritual emergency, which is a sensitive one, we need to be careful not to treat post-modern mythology as fact. That’s the only way this subject will ever gain credibility.

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  • Hi Natalie,
    Great to hear that you are championing a cause that is so close to my heart in academic circles. My wife and I have done similar work in pioneering this cause both in our country of Brazil, and online, with my YouTube channel and website, In Brazil we have the social network, .
    In October, we gave a presentation at the Eurotas (European Association of Transpersonal Psychology) Conference in Crete, Greece, on the link between bipolar disorder and spiritual emergencies. Dr. David Lukoff (of was one of the attendees. Ironically, while it is not a challenge for transpersonal psychologists to grasp the concept of Spiritual Emergency, it can be difficult for them to accept that this idea is deeply related to what is normally considered mental illness. So our challenge there was to help bridge that gap.
    I would challenge you on one of your assumptions. When you wrote,
    “It is such a small step, to see the connection, and raise awareness of experiences that are being interpreted differently, in different disciplines, in different countries. It is such a small step to explore common ground, to normalise experiences.”
    It may be a small step, but for most people today, it is an extraordinarily difficult step to make, due to the vast implications of validating such experiences. Not only does the concept of spiritual emergency challenge the concept of “mental illness”, it also challenges the concept of simply being “normal”. In other words, when you introduce these ideas to academics, you are not only implying, “mental illness is not what you think it is”, you are also implying, “YOU are not who you think you are!”
    You are challenging worldviews, deeply held ego concepts that will block out any information that threaten their existence. You are trying to wake up the world, and the world is recoiling in fear.
    I would also encourage you to see your work, as well as the Grof concept of Spiritual Emergency, within the context of the Spiritual Evolution of Consciousness of humanity. Ken Wilber has done as good a job as anyone at sorting this out. I think that part of issue you are facing is what Wilber refers to as the “Pre-Trans” fallacy. Critics, like Dr. Lawhern conflate religious beliefs (which are often rooted in unscientific superstition and mythology treated as literal history), with authentic spiritual experience. To the atheist, Religion and Spirituality are treated as equally irrational – so there is a lot of confusion around this point.
    As for me, I am working outside of academic circles (outside the system entirely). I was recently in Europe, treating a few enthusiasts of my work for their disorders, with very encouraging results. I hope to be helping people heal from bipolar disorder and other related disorders, full-time, by 2016.
    Feel free to get in touch. My email is [email protected].
    Sean Blackwell

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  • Very important post Naas!
    In my experience, the Peer Support Movement is not particularly open to discussing the spiritual dimension of our experiences. And, in some cases, I’ve found people in the peer movement rather hostile towards ANY form of psychology. Often, they see it as just more ‘theorizing’…. more ‘labeling’. In addition, spirituality is often ‘conflated’ (confused) with religious belief. As a result, people tend to avoid the subject, as, ironically, they see speaking of spiritual experiences as pushing a belief system, which they feel goes against the highly held (and extremely silencing) value of ‘diversity’. At last years Alternatives conference, I was the only presenter referring to Spiritual Emergency and/or transpersonal theory. IMO, transpersonal psychology has a very important role to play in our understanding of mental disorders, yet it is rarely discussed in the peer movement, or here on Mad in America.

    In contrast, similar to your experience at CIIS, the transpersonal psychologists (and other people with a strong interest in spirituality) that I know are largely clueless about the link between spiritual experiences and mental disorders. I think, for people who have had powerful, life-changing, spiritual experiences (as I did), it can be difficult for them to imagine that someone who is medicated for life may have gone through something very similar. For many people, I think there is a feeling that a spiritual experience is somehow ‘superior’ to normal daily life, while the experience of a mental disorder is ‘inferior’. However, as you and I know, the reality is more complex than that.

    Next month, October, 2014, my wife and I will be giving a presentation at the EUROTAS Conference in Crete, Greece, for the Association of Transpersonal Psychology in Europe. Dr. David Lukoff will be the keynote speaker. My presentation will largely focus on how transpersonal psychology currently shows little interest in treating people labeled with mental disorders, even when spiritual aspects are part of the experience. I’ll be sure to cite your article here in my presentation!

    Sean Blackwell

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  • Toronto Police have a reputation for being quite tough, however, when I got arrested in 1996, for being naked in a hotel ballroom, they were actually quite nice to me. OK, except for the part where they took me to the ground and handcuffed me. But other than that, they were very polite. Much nicer than the psychiatrist and security staff at the hospital. I guess I got lucky!

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  • Shamanism has been a big help to me too! I spent the better part of 10 years quite involved a shamanic group, and met my wife on a shamanic tour in Brazil. I meditate more now, but I’m still a fan of shamanism. My ‘side note’ was just trying to open the perspective here at Mad in America. I think we need to look at tribal consciousness and shamanism with our eyes wide open, to see the helpful part, and the unhelpful – to embrace the whole thing.

    I made a video on the Dark Side of Tribal Consciousness (#18) in my video series. Boy, did I take a lot of heat for that. Many people accused me of being a racist. My reply was “Which race am I racist against? We all come from tribal ancestors. Do you think white people never lived in tribes?”

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  • Hi Jonathan!
    I think Will’s article is actually quite an important contribution to the Mad in America dialogue, which I think needs more input regarding spirituality, shamanism and alternative healing practices. I consider my own work with people with bipolar disorder to be inspired much more by shamanic practice than mainstream psychology.

    I spent some time in Peru myself, and actually met my wife there! I agree with your perception of the ‘psychic’ information the shamans down there pick up – they are very good at ‘reading people’. To put it bluntly, the Inca shaman I met, know stuff that I don’t! Their energy work was very impressive.

    I wanted to share a great example of what I was talking about regarding the dark side of shamanism which gets overlooked. You mentioned the belief that, in Ecuador, illnesses are thought to be caused by the darts of evil sorcerers. I did not know about this when I visited Peru. I found out about it in an incredible book by Andrei A. Znamenski called “The Beauty of the Primitive: Shamansim and the Western Imagination.” There, Znamenski tells us that in the original ritual of removing evil darts from the body of someone who is afflicted, that the second part of the ritual is for the shaman to then send the dart back in the direction of the evil sorcerer (whoever that may be) in an act of retaliation. However, as the Peruvian/Ecuadorian shaman have learned, the new-age type people who visit them from the United States and elsewhere don’t approve of the ‘revenge’ aspect of their ancient ritual. And, since they don’t want to piss of their best customers, the act of returning the dart in revenge has been quietly phased out of the ritual! Amazing stuff.

    In addition, I´ve come to learn that the idea of illness being caused by evil sorcerers (black magic) is a universal belief, found in all tribes around the world! It is also universal that when the evil sorcerer is identified within the tribe, he/she is killed, as the survival of the entire tribe feels threatened. I got that info from an older book that I´m reading right now called. The Primitive Mentality by Lucien Lévy-Bruhl . Written in the 1920’s long before the PC movement stopped us from referring to tribes as ‘primitive’, the book gives a remarkably thorough account of tribal beliefs and practices around the world. I was expecting the book to be wildly judgmental of tribal practices. Instead I found it to be objective, factual and all-encompassing. It compares and contrasts beliefs and practices from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Polynesia. In my opinion, it neither venerates tribes, nor insults them. Another great book.

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  • As a side note, after having done extensive research into the anthropology of shamanism and tribal cultures as a whole, I’m convinced that the way most post-modern people think of tribal societies today is pure new-age fantasy. Horrific aspects of tribal life, such as cannibalism (which still exists today), accusations of witchcraft, and infanticide are never discussed. We prefer to see tribal live as one big hippie love-fest. Nothing could be further from the truth. With that said, the shaman plays an important mythic role for post-modern people, and, as I described in the video, can help show people how to deal with their disorder in a radically refreshing way.

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  • Nice to see you bring this up, Daisy. Personally, I´ve found discussion of the spiritual dimension of mental disorders, in particular the work of transpersonal psychologists like Dr. Stan Grof, to be lacking not only on Mad in America, but also within the peer support movement as a whole. Ironically, it seems that, in the spirit of ‘diversity’, any sort of theoretical understanding of mental disorders, and/or any discussion of metaphysics gets quietly ignored.

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  • This is an email I sent to Dr Tanya Luhrmann, the author of this study. I thought the folks as Mad in America might find it interesting….

    My name is Sean Blackwell, I have a website,, which features a number of YouTube videos I have created which promote the spiritual dimension and healing potential of bipolar disorder. My work is primarily based on the theoretical ideas laid out by pioneering transpersonal psychologist, Dr. Stanislav Grof.
    Here is a video I did on the relationship between Hallucinations and Bipolar Disorder which I think you will enjoy.
    I was very excited to read about your research and see your presentation online. I think the work you are doing is very important. And, as I went through your work, I thought of a few points for you to consider as you move forward.
    1. It´s clear that your American group labeled as Schizophrenic had very disturbing hallucinations. However, in my own informal research online, speaking with thousands of people since 2007, I realized that if someone’s hallucinations during an acute psychosis are positive, benevolent, even spiritual, that they will, most likely, not be labeled with schizophrenia. Instead, they will be labeled with Bipolar One. In other words, it may not be the case that Americans have more disturbing hallucinations than people in other cultures. Rather, in America, it’s simply that those with positive feelings for their hallucinations are no longer labeled with schizophrenia, but with bipolar disorder.

    As a result, for future research, you may want to look at the type of hallucinations that people labeled with Bipolar One have. I would think that their hallucinations would be much more positive, as a whole.

    2. Your main point is that cultural context shapes the content of hallucinations, which I agree with completely, and is a very important insight. However, have you considered that the stage of consciousness of the culture (and the person) would also shape not only the nature of hallucinations, but whether or not we would even call it mental illness?

    As an example, as people (and cultures) evolve, they shift from pre-modern to modern to post-modern forms of consciousness. As that evolution in consciousness takes place, the way of thinking (or psychological structure) shifts from concrete, to rational, to symbolic. Regarding hallucinations, that would mean the following:

    – Pre-modern cultures (like those in India and Africa) tend to see hallucinations as they appear to be – i.e.: if you see the devil, then you saw the devil; you don’t have a mental illness. The culture validates your experience exactly as it appears, (and you may pay the price for that, by being judged as evil yourself).

    – In modern, rational culture (America), your experience must fit with scientific materialism – ie: if you see the devil, you are mentally ill because nobody can measure the devil you see. Your experience is totally invalidated.

    – In post-modern culture (like that of Transpersonal Psychology, The Hearing Voices Network and the entire Peer Support movement), if you see the devil, it may not be scientifically verifiable that this is true, however, your vision may be symbolically meaningful and important. For example, the vast majority of people with disturbing hallucinations that I’ve met were severely abused in childhood.

    For many years, I have studied the work of Ken Wilber and Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics regarding the evolution of consciousness. I have an entire video series on consciousness as well. I have come to believe that our inability to heal mental disorders as a whole is intimately related to our limited capacity for understanding experiences which are spiritual, but non-religious in nature.
    Of course, I could go on forever, but I’ll spare you!
    Thank you for your efforts, and I hope my comments are thought provoking!
    Sean Blackwell

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  • From the research…”…daily users of high-potency cannabis had an onset an average of 6 years earlier than that of non-cannabis users. Conclusions: Daily use, especially of high-potency cannabis, drives the earlier onset of psychosis in cannabis users.”

    The relationship between marijuana and psychosis is still not clearly understood. However,after all of the research that has come out this year, it’s obvious that a relationship exists. With the coming legalization of marijuana throughout the western world, I expect an unfortunate jump in ‘psychosis’ will follow.

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  • Larmac,
    Unfortunately on the Internet, The Belief in Marijuana is as close to a religion as many of these people have, so if anyone comes along and challenges their ideas, with either solid research or personal stories, it will not matter. People believe what they want to believe, until life shows them otherwise. Here`s a link to my video on the subject.

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  • The results of this study are a little tough to grasp and touch on something quite subtle. Other research reports also verify that sex abuse is a huge predictor of psychosis. AND, people who are more traumatized do tend to smoke more weed, and do more drugs. So, it is difficult to separate the trauma from the drugs, when both are present. If you have research indicating both marijuana and trauma cause psychosis, then it only makes sense that the combination of the two would lead to psychosis as well.

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  • Michael,
    Thank you for writing this terrific article. I have often wondered about the relationship between Szasz and Laing, and what you have described helps clarify what I´ve read elsewhere. Personally, I think this is one of the best articles I´ve read on Mad In America.

    I also think you touch on a few points which are still of issue within the ‘anti-psychiatry’ movement today. First, the question from Szasz to Laing…
    “Do you believe in psychopathology or not; and if you don’t, then what is it exactly you claim you are “relieving,” if not mental illness?”
    And the second…(I’m paraphrasing)…
    “As it seems quite obvious that there is a little insanity in most sane people, and some sanity in the insane, who is to say who is crazy and who is not?”
    I don’t think there is any trouble in asking these questions. The problem, in my opinion, is that most people in the anti-psychiatry movement seem to have arrived at some very simplistic and naive answers which really lead nowhere.
    That´s why, despite the negative commentary of others, I sincerely hope you continue to post on Mad In America. The dialogue here desperately needs to become less judgmental and more constructive.

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  • Thank you Mary, it means a lot to be mentioned in the same circle as Dr. Seikkula. In some ways though, I feel like an old comedian who steals all his jokes! 90% of what I share online was first written about by pioneers like Stan Grof and David Lukoff. I just take their stuff, make it more accessible, and put my little spin on it! If you are coming, please drop by and say hi!

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  • My proposal for a workshop was approved. Considering that I was rejected by TED Talks, I was quite suprised at being accepted. I mean, if SAMHSA is open to listening to what I’ve got to say, then things must be changing…I´ve pasted the details of my workshop proposal below. It would be a shame to see people from MadinAmerica turn their back on this conference simply because it’s sponsored by the government.

    Presentation Title: The bipolarORwakingUP Project: Using Transpersonal Psychology as a basis for Validation & Recovery.

    Presenter: Sean Blackwell

    Learning Objectives:
    1. To Introduce Sean Blackwell’s bipolarORwakingUP video series as a psycho-educational tool which helps people validate their own anomalous experiences.
    2. To introduce a series of techniques originating in transpersonal psychology that could be useful when working with people in anomalous experiences.
    3. To share key aspects of Sean Blackwell´s healing program, as well as insights gathered from six years of both live and online support.

    Session Description:
    Join Sean Blackwell as he shares his experience in providing psycho-educational support to thousands of people around the world with his online video project, bipolarORwakingUP, as well as his deeply personal experience of working with friends and family in his country of Brazil. Part of the workshop will introduce techniques which Sean has found to be helpful in supporting people through various anomalous experiences, along with his plans for a healing center.

    Since 2007, Sean Blackwell has been producing videos for his YouTube channel, bipolarORwakingUP. With over 6,000 subscribers and over one million views, Sean’s videos have found a truly enthusiastic audience. His book, “Am I Bipolar or Waking Up?” describes his own ‘bipolar awakening’, subsequent hospitalization and complete recovery, which happened in 1996.

    1. The Psycho-Educational Role of bipolarORwakingUP Videos :
    (Video, PowerPoint)

    The extremely positive online feedback Sean’s bipolarORwakingUP videos receive suggest that they can be very validating for those who are open to consider the transpersonal perspective. Because the videos are based on (1) thousands of conversations with people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, (2) direct personal experience and (3) the pioneering transpersonal theory of Dr. Stanislav Grof, Dr. David Lukoff and Dr. John Weir Perry, viewers are often astonished that certain videos may speak to their own experience of madness in a very precise manner.

    Along with presenting one of his 10-minute videos, Sean will touch on most of the major themes present in his work such as trauma, family issues, paranoia, and perhaps, most importantly, the need to be able to accept these anomalous experiences as being very beneficial, if they are approached with a positive frame of mind.

    2. The Healing Techniques of Transpersonal Psychology
    (Video, PowerPoint)

    From the perspective of Transpersonal Psychology, the apparent madness of what psychiatry labels as an ‘acute psychosis’ does not normally stem from a biological dysfunction of the brain, but from an overwhelming influx of ‘bio-energetic’ material which arises from the previously repressed subconscious.

    As a result, along with the very important concept of “being with” as opposed to “doing” something to the person in crisis, a number of unique therapeutic approaches can be useful in helping someone work through the bio-energies of anomalous experiences.

    These approaches are:
    • Short periods of Holotropic Breathwork
    • Short periods of Vipassana Meditation (when possible)
    • Mandala Drawing
    • The Sharing of Secrets, Perceived Sins, and Untold Truths

    Each of these techniques will be discussed during the workshop.

    3. The Healing Center Plan
    (PowerPoint – Q&A session)

    Now, six years into this project, Sean Blackwell and his wife, Ligia (a transpersonal psychologist) are working towards creating a Healing Center in Brazil. They have also begun to accept invitations from people in other countries who are interested in working towards healing their ‘disorder’. For the presentation, Sean will share how they plan on creating the healing center, and why they think it has a chance of being successful.

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  • I think Insel’s blog post here represents a HUGE shift. Obviously Robert Whittaker is largely to thank, as well as those of us who work in a similar direction. We may not win the battle in the hospitals, but we win EVERY battle on the Internet, and that’s a great start!

    Kudos need to go to Insel. I think his comments were entirely objective, honest and fair. I agree with him that medications were a sign of measurable progress 35 years ago. My wife worked as a therapist in Trieste at that time. People forget that many people who are medicated today, would have been permanently locked up just a few decades ago.

    His admission that psychiatry still has much to learn was remarkable.
    This is a real breakthrough – truly historic.
    Sean Blackwell

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  • Larmac,
    I´ve received hundreds of stories over my past 6 years on bipolarORwakingUP, but no story has left me feeling so completely helpless as yours. People think this debate over psychedelics is an intellectual one – the ‘bad’ closed minds vs. the ‘good’ open ones. It’s not. It’s a human one. It’s about people once full of promise now friendless, stuck on psych meds for life, unemployable, or, as in the case of your son, losing their life altogether – all because we live in a culture which now venerates psychedelics and weed.

    Unfortunately, the shiny people of today aren’t so interested in hearing your devestating story. They would rather tell themselves that yours is the exception, ‘anectodal’, the one in a million. They will say he had a ‘genetic predisposition’. People believe what they want to believe, and more often then not, they don’t want to be challenged.

    Life has put me in the unenviable position of being forced to confront a reality that is difficult to swallow. Your story is far more common than anyone realizes. The devestation of these so-called ‘mind-expanders’ reaches across America and most of the free world.

    My guess is that the devestation will only come when people realized that, by seeking drug induced ‘awakening’ they are settling for a cheap imitation of the real thing. Maybe then, this planet will truly start to wake up.

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  • Thank you Duane. I´ve seen much of the marijuana research.
    Here´s a link as well to a paper by Rick Strassmanm a huge advocate for LSD therapy, who mentions the link between LSD and psychosis in some cases, as well as date from older studies which validate my own informal findings.

    Rick Strassman (1984). “Adverse reactions to psychedelic drugs. A review of the literature”. J Nerv Ment Dis 172 (10): 577–95. doi:10.1097/00005053-198410000-00001. PMID 6384428.

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  • I’ll confess to being completely baffled by this research. I came into this world of mental disorders, as an informal researcher, in 2007, when I began speaking with hundreds, then thousands of people regarding their initual episodes of ‘acute psychosis’ which usually gets labeled as Bipolar One (and formerly as schizophrenia). I was shocked to discover that somewhere between 75% and 85% of people were using marijuana or some other mind-altering substance prior to their first episode. In my countless conversations with people, LSD and mushrooms are commonly referred to as initial triggers. Other drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy, meth, crack, heroine, etc… were also referred to, but much less so. So, based on my experience, I am dumbfounded by the conclusions presented in this paper.

    This paper also suggests that “hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder” (HPPD) is a rare occurence which is no more persistent among LSD users than the normal population. It also says that the famous ‘acid flashback’ doesn’t really exist! Again, troubling.

    Obvously, I’m not in a position to challenge the data in this research. In truth, I didn’t understand their data! But, I hope some more qualified researchers out there take a closer look at the validity of their methodology and conclusions. Considering the weight of what is suggested, a duplication of this study is in need.

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