MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS arising from ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
In many mental health crises, people are actually struggling with altered states of consciousness which when managed appropriately, offer profound opportunities for healing, inner transformation & personal growth.
Dr. Stanislav Grof is a Czech psychiatrist and a researcher who spent more than 60 years studying the use of these non-ordinary states of consciousness. He is one of the founders of Transpersonal Psychology, a sub-field of psychology which places a strong emphasis on the spiritual aspects of human development, in addition to the emotional, mental, physical and social aspects. These domains are deemed essential to the full understanding of the whole person.
Dr Grof's late wife, Christina Grof was an author, teacher, artist and psychotherapist who was also active in this field of work. Together, the Grofs coined the term Spiritual Emergency when they founded the first Spiritual Emergency Network in the United States in 1980.
What is Spiritual Emergency?
A spiritual emergency, is often triggered by an exceedingly stressful and often traumatic experience and it causes a person to behave in ways that are not typical of his character. These behaviours are often mistakenly seen as "going crazy".
What are the Signs of Spiritual Emergency?
Typical characteristics of spiritual emergency can include but are not limited to the following non-ordinary experiences:
Having visions, hearing voices or other sensorial perceptions not understood by others
Being bombarded with previously unknown and unusual inner experiences
Having difficulty distinguishing the inner world from the world of shared reality
Experiencing physical sensations of forceful energies through the body
Feeling like you have unusual or paranormal powers
Feeling like you are the only one in the world who knows ‘the truth’
Feeling like you are going to die
Telepathic experiences and communication from spirit
Feeling a strong urge to communicate these experiences
What are the Causes of Spiritual Emergency?
The non-ordinary experiences that lead to spiritual emergency are often related to issues of existential crisis, mystical or ecstatic states, paranormal, near-death or out-of-body experiences, and/or other experiences as a result of spiritual practices.
What are the Consequences of Spiritual Emergency?
A spiritual emergency affects a person's ability to function properly at work, school, at home or in relating with others.
Someone undergoing spiritual emergency often find it very challenging to cope with the demands of everyday life.
An episode of spiritual emergency can happen over time or very suddenly. When it occurs suddenly, a person feels overwhelmed and disoriented by inner world perceptions which are hard to understand or even communicated coherently to others.
Due to a lack of understanding of these altered states, the loved ones, co-workers or friends of such a person will more often than not bring him/her for medical/psychiatric intervention.
During a spiritual emergence process, an individual experiences drastic changes to their meaning system. He/she will find that his/her life purpose, goals, values, attitude and beliefs and identity are being challenged. As a result, he/she will seek to make drastic changes in his/her lifestyle or life in general.
How to help people in Spiritual Emergency?
Evidence shows that people in spiritual emergency need
education of their non-ordinary states
appropriate support from loved ones, co-workers and friends
support from other lived experiencers
the understanding of healthcare providers who have had similar lived experiences and advanced skills to assist them
and most importantly, the acknowledgement that these experiences are not indicative of mental illness
With informed choices, deep meaningful relationships and appropriate support, Persons-in-Emergence (PIEs) are able to
embrace and integrate their experiences,
create a meaningful & purposeful life for themselves, and
function at a higher level of consciousness than before their crisis.