Contemporary Shamanic Illness and Healing

The psychobiological basis of the shamanistic paradigm is revealed in its persistence in contemporary religious experiences (Stark, 1997) and psychological crises. Shamanic dynamics are reflected in the DSM-IV category "spiritual emergencies," which includes: spontaneous shamanic journeys; possession; the death and rebirth experience; mystical experiences with psychotic features; and experiences of psychic abilities (Walsh, 1990). The shamanic paradigm provides a useful framework for addressing these experiences as natural manifestations of human consciousness, and as developmental opportunities rather than pathologies. This reformulation permits addressing these powerful unconscious dynamics as opportunities for transformation to greater health, just as the shamanic initiatory crisis provides transformational potentials. Crisis experiences associated with shamanism—attacks by spirits, death and dismemberment, depersonalization, and out-of-body experiences— can be interpreted within the shamanic world view as growth opportunities. The shamanic paradigm re-interprets symptoms of acute psychosis, emotional disturbance, hallucinations, ASC, and interaction with spirits as symbolic communications for personal development. These can be managed by integrating shamanic healing principles into counseling and psychotherapy (Krippner & Welch, 1992). The psychobiological basis of these experiences within a model of evolutionary psychology permits treating these conditions as natural rather than aberrant. Shamanistic procedures elicit brain processes and structures that provide opportunities to develop control over these experiences, providing an alternative to traditional psychiatric treatment approaches with drugs that repress these experiences. Rituals and deliberate access to ASC allow for management of these distressing intrusions with experiences mediated by natural healing symbol systems. One aspect of contemporary shamanic healing involves "core shamanism" popularized by anthropologist Michael Harner (1990) and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. This system is based in common principles and practices of shamanism found worldwide. It acts upon the assumption that there is a non-ordinary reality that involves spirits and souls, and that compassionate spirits can be elicited to assist in human healing. Shamanic therapies are eclectic, taking a holistic approach in which they complement other approaches. They address soul loss, guardian spirit and power loss, spirit and object intrusion, and possesion (Harner & Harner, 2000); shamanic treatments are also considered particularly effective for the treatment of the consequences of trauma, drug dependence, and mental and emotional illness. Shamanic therapies involve restoring and maintaining personal power through an alliance between the shaman and client that requires the latter's self-discipline and dedication. Relationships with the spirit world, particularly animal powers, are central to maintaining personal well-being.

Central aspects of the classic shamanic vision quest involved processes for self-empowerment. A similar approach underlies contemporary shamanic counseling and the training of the client to make a shamanic journey on his own to acquire or restore his personal power. This active aspect of shamanic journeying induces a sense of mastery and control. Harner (1988) characterizes shamanic counseling as "a method of personal empowerment wherein one comes to acquire respect for one's own ability to obtain spiritual wisdom without relying on external mediators" (p. 181). The shamanic healing approaches encompass virtually all spiritual healing practices (Harner & Harner, 2001); their emphases include using soul journey to treat spiritual aspects of illness through the assistance of spirit allies while in an ASC. Shamanism's biopsychosocial approach to healing integrates emotional, mental, spiritual, and social dimensions within a physiological framework.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Health And Fitness 101

Health And Fitness 101

Self-improvement is a thing which you must practice throughout your life because once you started to believe that you are perfect then, things will start to become complex. You need to know that no one is perfect and no one can be perfect.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment