Spirit Relations as Role Taking

Shamanism provides therapeutic processes through role-taking (Peters & Price-Williams, 1981). Role-taking is exemplified in spirit world interaction where shamans adopt the personalities of the spirits. Spirit world dynamics are representations of personal and social psychody-namics (emotions, attachments, complexes, and social forces), permitting ritual affects on the psychodynamics of the patient. Manipulation of spirit constructs is therapeutic because they represent fundamental aspects of self and others. Dramatic enactments of interactions with spirit "others" provide mechanisms for personal self-development and roles for individual re-socialization in the spirit symbolic systems. Identity modification occurs through internalization of social expectations, exemplified in animal allies and powers. These self-development activities are exemplified in the vision quest (or guardian spirit quest), which involves seeking a personal relationship with the spiritual world. These personal relations with spirit allies, powers, and guardians were central to the development of adult skills and competencies, providing personal powers, strength, and assistance in personal and social choices for adult life (Swanson, 1973). Animism, totemism, and guardian spirits are natural symbolic systems that differentiate and constitute the self in relation to others. Incorporating animal spirits as part of identity and powers reflects self-representation through "sacred other" (Pandian, 1997). Attribution enables reciprocal internalization of the other's superior qualities, enhancing one's self-esteem. These provide cultural processes for production of the symbolic self and self models for the resolution of social contradictions in the representation of the self. Shamanic dynamics produce alternate forms of self for problem-solving and psychosocial adaptation. Spirit allies and identities provide variable agents to mediate conflict among social and personal goals.

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