Click on the title to follow the link to Mad in America, and therapist Jon Keyes at Hearthside Healing. We had a look around at Hearthside after yesterday’s post:-
We came up with this interesting article on approaches in other cultures to what we conceptualize as ‘mental illness’ in our culture.
Worth a read. Were you, for example, aware of this?
‘As noted by Robert Whitaker in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic, the World Health Organization reported that the prognosis for someone experiencing psychosis is far better in developing countries than in industrialized countries. Mr. Whitaker and others posit that this is due to the treatment models used in the developing world, as well as to debility and chronicity caused by psychiatric drugs themselves.’
Jon goes on to look at how the experiences we call ‘mental illness’ are received and held in tribal cultures. He comments:-
‘…one could look at it metaphorically. The elaborate rituals, the use of herbs and sacred objects, the incorporation of the community and tribe; all help in the process of bringing sense and coherence, as well as a deeply felt source of loving support to helping a person navigate the depths of confusion and distress found in psychosis.
At a core level, I think community-level care and support forms the basis for healing. Folk ceremonies and healing rituals help in the process of reintegration. They externalize the psychosis as something coming “from without” and not as an intrinsic defect or permanent biological abnormality. The process of ritual and intercession by a shaman or a healer creates the template for processing and giving meaning to altered states. The community helps to provide a context within which to reintegrate after a “healing”. Whether the experience is literal or metaphorical, the template for managing altered states and psychosis provides a level of care that is often lacking in our modern Western system.’
One word to summarize what community is offering here is ‘relationship’ – ‘a deeply felt source of loving support’. It is relationship in this sense that we seek to offer our clients at this service. It was the healing power of relationship that Carl Rogers noticed in his work half a century ago. And it is relationship we risk losing (with disconnective effect at a personal, relational and social level), when we place the emphasis on ‘expertise’, ‘diagnosis’ and ‘disorder’.
This article adds to the thread we began on 13 April, with Deena Metzger’s thoughts on sacred illness:-
‘A sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experiences and therefore knowledge that we could not possibly achieve in any other way, and aligns us with a life path that is, ultimately, of benefit to ourselves and those around us.’
Easy to fall into the trap in the ‘developed’ world of thinking we have all the answers – when the most casual look around us actually suggests we have a lot of learning to do, especially about how to relate to ourselves, each other and the rest of the natural world in enhancing, creative, loving ways.
Palace Gate Counselling Service