What a Shaman Sees in A Mental Hospital

Malidoma Patrice Somé. Photo: Andrew Parodi (CC)

Malidoma Patrice Somé. Photo: Andrew Parodi (CC)

Unless you see “beings” hanging around mental hospital patients, let’s just say that “What a Shaman Sees in A Mental Hospital” isn’t the same as what you and I would see… From Earth. We Are One:

In the shamanic view, mental illness signals “the birth of a healer,” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.

What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.” The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field,” says Dr. Somé. These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.

One of the things Dr. Somé encountered when he first came to the United States in 1980 for graduate study was how this country deals with mental illness. When a fellow student was sent to a mental institute due to “nervous depression,” Dr. Somé went to visit him.

“I was so shocked. That was the first time I was brought face to face with what is done here to people exhibiting the same symptoms I’ve seen in my village.” What struck Dr. Somé was that the attention given to such symptoms was based on pathology, on the idea that the condition is something that needs to stop. This was in complete opposition to the way his culture views such a situation. As he looked around the stark ward at the patients, some in straitjackets, some zoned out on medications, others screaming, he observed to himself, “So this is how the healers who are attempting to be born are treated in this culture. What a loss! What a loss that a person who is finally being aligned with a power from the other world is just being wasted.”

Another way to say this, which may make more sense to the Western mind, is that we in the West are not trained in how to deal or even taught to acknowledge the existence of psychic phenomena, the spiritual world. In fact, psychic abilities are denigrated. When energies from the spiritual world emerge in a Western psyche, that individual is completely unequipped to integrate them or even recognize what is happening. The result can be terrifying. Without the proper context for and assistance in dealing with the breakthrough from another level of reality, for all practical purposes, the person is insane. Heavy dosing with anti-psychotic drugs compounds the problem and prevents the integration that could lead to soul development and growth in the individual who has received these energies.

On the mental ward, Dr Somé saw a lot of “beings” hanging around the patients, “entities” that are invisible to most people but that shamans and psychics are able to see. “They were causing the crisis in these people,” he says. It appeared to him that these beings were trying to get the medications and their effects out of the bodies of the people the beings were trying to merge with, and were increasing the patients’ pain in the process. “The beings were acting almost like some kind of excavator in the energy field of people. They were really fierce about that. The people they were doing that to were just screaming and yelling,” he said. He couldn’t stay in that environment and had to leave…

[continues at Earth. We Are One]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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28 Comments on "What a Shaman Sees in A Mental Hospital"

  1. Gjallarbru | Jun 15, 2014 at 4:54 pm |

    The concept is interesting, but I wonder what shamanism could do with pedophilia or pyromania for instance. If those with such “dispositions” could be made useful members of society, that would really mean something.

    • the drop is in the ocean, and the ocean is in the drop

    • Jin The Ninja | Jun 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm |

      i didn’t read the article as referring to all the various conditions as mediumship.
      he specifically referred to hallucinatory conditions and altered perceptions.
      i could see pyromania being a part of that grouping, but the latter i think is so much about domination, control, lack of control and self-validation- one is very much unlike the others.

      • Gjallarbru | Jun 15, 2014 at 9:27 pm |

        True, but the problems are entirely “mental”. The difference with the case mentionned was exactly the reason for my question. If they are all mental problems, could shamanistic healing techniques apply to such case. I do have shamanistic tendencies in me, but I’m nowhere near answering such a question.

    • emperorreagan | Jun 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm |

      There’s a disturbing lack of arsonists burning down Bryan Moynihan’s houses, so pyromaniacs could probably be put to excellent use.

    • i’m of the mind those aren’t mental illnesses, at least not in most cases, unless we start saying all murderers and rapists are mentally ill. i don’t hear a lot of people except child molesters themselves saying they are mentally ill.

      if you look at the statistics of childhood sexual abuse, it’s mostly family members and they just seem like shitty people. as someone that isn’t attracted to children i have a hard time believing it’s a real thing.

      it usually seems like they want power or control over a non threatening target. they often seem like weak, insecure and/or manipulative people and i suspect they try to sell it as “out of their control” to gain sympathy or get less harsh punishment.

      last i read about pyromania it had correlations to childhood abuse and bed wetting? but i dunno, flames are interesting, haha. maybe they would do well as physicists studying flames or something even bigger like weather patterns? i don’t know why they like lighting fires, but maybe there is an element of natural curiosity in physical phenomena that gets all mixed up when they have crappy parents and life circumstances.

      from what i understand when there is an overlap with mental illness (and these cases are a small minority) these people had terrible upbringings and we would probably have less of them if we as a society supported parents more.

      regardless, i think if your problem has manifested itself in an antisocial + criminal manner it’s too late. like a schizophrenic might have the potential to be a good healer, but one that’s murdered someone probably has largely closed that door.

      i think a lot of doctors are jack the ripper types that turned their impulses to what society deems good! just as a lot of scientists have psychopathic traits that they use for what society deems good. seriously animal testing? you have to be a little deranged. 🙂 but i wouldn’t want to attempt to train serial killers as doctors or scientists.

      • Gjallarbru | Jun 18, 2014 at 6:59 am |

        You make some good points. What I know is that a pederast will start off with child pornography first, perhaps then it isn’t too late for them…

        In any case, I think such people a permanently broken. I see no way to even come close to fixing them, at least not in the context of our society. So I was wondering what societies with shamans would do with people such as pedophiles.

        What I can tell you is that I had to deal with a pedophile as a grown man, and what I saw, incriminating proof from his damned computer, scarred me for life. And a pyromaniac drove my mother’s cousin to madness. I can tell you, they might not be mentally sick as other more know illnesses, but they are deeply, deeply sick. Hence my question…

  2. BuzzCoastin | Jun 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm |

    in many “uncivilized” civilisations
    deviation from the norm was often a sign of great medicine/mana
    a means of toleration & acceptence
    butt modernity’s psychic disorders are the norm
    and violent psychopathic behavior & unbridled lust
    are not a gateway to anything transcendent

    • TerriBackettnyt | Jun 15, 2014 at 9:19 pm |

      my Aunty Allison recently got a nice 6 month old Jaguar by
      working from a macbook.this website C­a­s­h­d­u­t­i­e­s­.­C­O­M­

      • Aunty Allison was selling meth out of her house–that’s really how she got that Jaguar.

  3. In the shamanic view

    A really unfortunate beginning to an otherwise insightful article.

    Makes me wonder how “Shamanic Healing Journey To West Africa” would play on Kickstarter?

  4. Kevin Leonard | Jun 15, 2014 at 6:37 pm |

    It is an altogether different mental illness that presides over our conventional medical practices.

  5. erte4wt4etrg | Jun 15, 2014 at 8:12 pm |

    well, thats lots of ‘lucky’ people than. I sure was a lucky suicidal 14 year old

  6. InfvoCuernos | Jun 15, 2014 at 9:02 pm |

    I can see this being plausible. All of those “paranoid schizophrenics” from the eighties that thought the government was watching their every move and out to exploit them were actually prophets.

    Meanwhile, we elevate the sociopaths-the real threat- to the highest realms of our civilization.

    • 1880’s?

    • According to Martha Stout in “The Sociopath Next Door,” the Eskimos dealt with sociopaths really well: they took them hunting and shoved them off the ice floe.
      Works for me.

      • InfvoCuernos | Jun 16, 2014 at 12:20 am |

        that book is on my reading list, I think I might bump it to the top.

        • Add two more: “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil” by Philip Zimbardo, and “Without Conscience:The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us” by Robert Hare.
          Stout also wrote “The Paranoid Switch” and that is also a good read.

  7. Ted Heistman | Jun 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm |

    I think this view has the makings of a better model of mental illness.

  8. Gordon Klock | Jun 16, 2014 at 6:56 pm |

    There are some who believe that ‘bi-polar’ folk are merely trying to evolve, & society, & the medical establishments are meddling, & attempting to put a stop to things they do not understand…
    (Science as a damaging, materialistic, religon…)

    • Ted Heistman | Jun 16, 2014 at 7:29 pm |

      I often wonder if seemingly “unbalanced people” are attempting to bring balance to an unbalanced situation?

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