For many years now people everywhere have been and still are “… undergoing a profound personal transformation associated with spiritual opening. Under favourable circumstances, this process results in emotional healing, a radical shift in values, and a profound awareness of the mystical dimension of existence. For some, these changes are gradual and relatively smooth, but for others they can be so rapid and dramatic that they interfere with effective everyday functioning, creating tremendous inner turmoil. Unfortunately, many traditional health-care professionals do not recognise the potential of these crises; they often see them as manifestations of mental disease and respond with stigmatising labels, suppressive drugs and even institutionalisation.”
Personally, I see what is occurring for many as being part of our evolution as human beings. It is like we have all been sleep walking for a very long time and slowly, one by one, we are all starting to be shaken up in order to wake up.
In 1992 I faced life threatening illness and all medical professionals seen for a period of six months kept reiterating that there “is nothing wrong with you”. I was experiencing many physical symptoms that eventually led me to a diagnosis by a naturopath and acupuncturist of “a blocked small intestine and kidneys that were barely functioning”. What accompanied my many physical symptoms of migraines, shortness of breath, constant exhaustion, welts emerging like hives all over my legs, chronic lower back pain, menstrual cramping that put me to bed, fluid retention in my body that created so much pain it brought me to tears when I took my bra off at the end of the day and made walking difficult due to the swelling in my feet, insomnia, a total inability to eat more than one very small meal a day and chronic constipation, were nights and sometimes days full of the most bizarre lucid dreaming experiences and waking reality visions I had ever had.
I was also experiencing major depression, suicidal ideology, was very re-active and angry and I was experiencing waves of enormous grief for no particular reason. Further, I was also experiencing hearing voices. There were many days when I did actually think I was going “insane”.
Now…. for someone whose whole conditioning had been you go to a doctor when you are not well and they will help you it was a huge challenge for me to even consider there may be an alternative but after six months of just hearing from several doctors, most of whom treated me like a bored housewife with nothing better to do than waste their time, “there is nothing wrong with you, here have some Prozac” it was all pretty hard to swallow. It was out of pure desperation, knowing full well something was definitely not right and feeling like I was indeed dying, as my body was shutting down more and more each day that I chose to consider an alternative to western medicine in the form of acupuncture and naturopathy.
That then led me to a huge range of other natural healing modalities over time that worked brilliantly for me as I went through healing process after healing process. Some days during the six months it took for me to find someone who could and did actually help me though, it took all my will just to get up each morning and get my daughter to school, after which I would come home and return to bed as the effects of it all were so very debilitating.
It was also at this time, due to the visions, the voices and the bizarre dreaming experiences that I sought the assistance of a Psychologist. That too proved to be a costly useless exercise that lead me nowhere fast. Several folk claimed I was experiencing “hallucinations” or would ask “what drugs are you on?!”, and the whole deal for me from the western psychological and medical viewpoint was not only was there nothing wrong with me but that I needed anti-depressant medication to “fix” the nothing that was wrong with me. It all didn’t make much sense to me and so an alternative choice, if I was to survive all this, was my only choice. It was also an extremely lonely time as no-one I initially sought help from seemed to have the vaguest idea of what was happening to and for me.
What emerged from it all was what I can only describe as being the wildest ride of my life. The lucid dreaming increased in frequency, as did the waking visions and the voices and I became aware of a far greater and more profound reality than the one I had been conditioned to believe existed. Essentially whilst I had many physical symptoms I had to dig really deep within myself to find cause, not just treat symptoms, for true healing to occur, which did occur over time not just physically, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
It was at this time I came across the only book that shed any light whatsoever on what was truly going on for me, The Stormy Search for the Self – A guide to Personal Growth through Transformational Crisis (Understanding and Coping with Spiritual Emergency). This book has been described as “A valuable tool for therapists and an aid to explorers” by Brain/Mind Bulletin; “A brilliant and practical guide to inner transformation” by Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher, author of Seeking the Heart of Wisdom and “A fascinating account of transformational processes. Essential reading for anyone interested in creative personal and social change” by Frances Vaughan, Ph. D. co-editor of Beyond Ego. For me, the wealth of wisdom and knowledge it contains is so very valuable it still sits in my library today.
It was by reading this book that I discovered what I was actually experiencing was what is known as a Shamanic Crisis. It is a crisis indeed because it took every ounce of my will, determination, trust, faith, intellect and courage to come out the other side of it. ” Anthropologists refer to the dramatic episodes of non-ordinary states of consciousness that mark the beginning of the healing career of many shamans as the “shamanic illness”.
“This experience of total annihilation is typically followed by resurrection and rebirth….” “Also characteristic is a rich spectrum of transpersonal experiences that provide profound insights into realms and dimensions of reality that are ordinarily hidden to human perception and intellect. Some of them mediate profound connection with and attunement to the creative energies of the universe, the forces of nature, and the world of animals and plants. Others involve various deities, spirit guides, and particularly power animals – helpers and protectors in animal form.”
The death pull of the crisis and all the processes I was going through were almost overwhelming as I experienced many a “Dark Night of the Soul”. Death was so very real and also very necessary because I, as I had known me to be for 28 years of my life, was indeed dying. All that I had previously been told was real and true about myself and about life wasn’t. It is therefore, in my mind, quite understandable that someone experiencing such a profound transformational crisis as I was experiencing may indeed think that physical death is the only solution they have. For it took every ounce of strength and will I could muster not to succumb to and act on the pull of death physically.
Whilst it is our western mainstream conditioning to deal with depression, suicidal ideology, what we term as hallucinations, hearing voices and awareness of non-ordinary states of reality with drugs or by institutionalising those who are experiencing something like this, if you are experiencing anything like it, or you have a client who mentions any of these types of things to you I strongly urge you to read “The Stormy Search for the Self” if you are not already aware of it, purely because in my opinion and from my perspective of all that I have personally lived through and experienced, masking symptoms with drugs, which just makes these processes take longer and does not treat cause, or by shutting people away who are experiencing “Spiritual crisis” is doing them way more harm than it is good.
© Cheryl O’Connor – Holistic Counsellor 2014.
Quoted excerpts taken from
Christina & Stanislav Grof, M.D – The Stormy Search for the Self -1990
Published by J.P Putnam’s Sons
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New York, NY 100016
© Cheryl O’Connor 2014. #Cheoco
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