This is Part One of a Two Part Blog. If you are interested in an in-depth look at Spiritual Awakening, I suggest my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide.
This topic is a notoriously sticky one, as well as one that I have hesitated to write about in the past because I have some inherent biases. I am very conscious of them so I will discuss them, as they may be helpful for others to see clearly laid out.
The main bias that I have is that I have interacted with (or received emails/correspondence from, I should say) a disproportionate amount of people that would likely be diagnosed as either severely mentally ill or suffering from some sort of psychosis.
This can be quite wearying at times, and I have known many wonderful spiritual workers and spiritual teachers who have decided to step away from offering their services due to their experiences with this population.
It is hard after interfacing with this population for so long to not see clearly that a lot of people use spiritual work, and spiritual and shamanic communities, as well as concepts like “awakening” to foster and perpetuate delusions and unhealthy mental states that are not bringing the person to greater clarity, wholeness, health, or increased consciousness or spiritual connection.
I also have interacted with many people who are suffering due to the weight of trauma who may or may not have been diagnosed with mental illness. Trauma is separating: it causes the person to separate from themselves, to separate from the world, and to maintain harmful belief structures that they are alone, or the only person to experience something, and that the world, and the people in it, are in some capacity out to get them.
In my line of work this is commonly referred to as power loss and/or soul loss. The effect of having an event that is overwhelming, traumatizing, or too much to handle is that we “freeze” at that aspect of our timeline. Put simply, many of us are fifty with an unhealed six year old within us. That six year old, unless “unfrozen”, and integrated with the adult consciousness, will have the pain of the experience still continually reverberating through the consciousness of the fifty year old adult.
Additionally, that six year old will have specific likes, dislikes, and specific tools as well as emotional reactions, especially when the original wound is triggered.
Put in energetic terms, there is a held, stagnant vibration that the body no longer recognizes as its current consciousness.
So what does this really mean? This means that this six year old may have had divorcing parents. The six year old felt overwhelmed, like it was their fault that their father (obviously this happens in the world with both parents, this is just an example) left. This person is now fifty. Say this is a heterosexual female– every relationship she is in with men will now create the same “loop”: the repeated, unhealed and habitual behaviors we enact again and again based in our unhealed trauma.
Her inner six year old desires healing. Desires a way to complete and resolve this situation. So she continually puts people in the position of “father”, and when there is perceived abandonment, this six year old is triggered, and the adult fifty year old begins acting from the consciousness of a six year old and through the wounds and eyes of that six year old.
Out of these wounds come daydreams and opposing creations. For example, this fifty year old woman may daydream about a man coming to save her. If we are talking specifically about power loss, what this turns into in a quite unhealthy/unbalanced state are people talking about how they can do things like control the moon, or are being continually attacked by spirits and beings, or have an incredible amount of power in reaction to the subconscious realization that they are missing some of their power.
If they are willing to look at the power loss, the trauma experienced, they can move on from these harmful and isolating belief structures. But there is a certain “tipping point” at which people are in such a state of imbalance that the suggestion that someone could move on or heal from such beliefs triggers feelings of lack of safety as well as the original trauma to the extent that the person is not able to be open to such a suggestion.
The ability and openness to look at a spiritual situation first psychologically is an indicator of mental health, however. If there is rigidity, attacking of others for questioning beliefs, or immense pain that comes from questioning aspects of reality, that would be an indicator of mental patterns, fracturing and soul loss/power loss.
A healthy mind can question itself.
A mind that lacks consciousness may not want to, but that is something of a separate issue.
If we have parts of ourselves that are unhealed in terms of self-worth, we will constantly need to “prove” ourselves. This means that many spiritual communities are full of people telling each other how they are better than others, tearing down others, or trying to get someone engaged in a fight. If people who acted like this had the willingness to ask what part of them needs to feel superior, or even what age they were acting from when they were interacting, they would come across an aspect of themselves that feels (or was told it was) worthless, unimportant, or not special.
Repairing the power dynamics, healing the wounded aspects of self, the frozen aspects of self, would cause for the outer person (the adult) to stop needing these beliefs, and they would no longer act the way that they are currently.
Power is another tricky subject, and could likely use its own blog, but spiritual work always comes down to the topic of power. We can lose power by trauma, by it being taken by us (by being victimized, most commonly), or through “microtrauma”– basically, the experience of being worn down over time by the small things (which are still important and large, such as needing to pay bills, have enough food on the table, shelter, feel safe, get enough rest, and all of the hierarchy of needs type stuff).
Hopefully the woman in my example will heal her inner child, break through habitual patterns, and break the “loop” of relating so that she can find a suitable partner, as well as become more whole. But my purpose in providing this description is to suggest that it is incredibly rare for someone to spiritually be an adult in our society.
Just look online for many examples of this. How many people act like mature, thoughtful adults and have the capacity for a neutral (or reasonable, as in not acting like a teenager or like a wounded child) discussion?
Who can act respectfully, engage respectfully, at an adult level? Who is healed enough that they are not looking to tear everyone around them down? Who, even if in disagreement, can interact rationally, respectfully, and maturely?
Beyond even that:
- How many people have the adult capacity and consciousness to truly think for themselves?
- To move beyond the empty memes, the restrictive rules and logic created by others in their scrambling for control and constructs intended to pigeonhole spirit, awakening, shamanism, or any other topic?
- How many people can clearly assess where they are at on their path, and are willing to see how much more they have to learn?
- How many people actually look for opposing viewpoints, different viewpoints, or are willing to expand beyond their current bubble?
- How many have truly thought about the sayings and teachings that they have learned critically, so they know why their cosmology, or their identity, is the way it is?
- How willing would people be to put aside the labels, and think about what needs for healing would be there if that were taken away?
For example, “Okay, if I were not an Empath, what would I have to heal?” If I did not have Kundalini, or wasn’t a Shaman or Psychic, what would I have to work on?
What happens when you are an outlier and you realize that the world is filled with people in pain, believing that they are all outliers– separate, unheard, unloved– in the same manner that you do?
What happens when someone realizes that whatever it is that makes them an outlier– their intelligence, perceptiveness, beauty, strength, spiritual or artistic capacity– is not a weakness at all, but their greatest strength?
I am suggesting such things on a topic on mental illness and psychosis because we act as if there are members of society that are distinctly “mentally ill” and that they act a specific way, with a specific delineation of symptoms and experiences, and a segment of our society that is “mentally healthy”, with specific ways of being, but the topic is incredibly more nuanced than that. Even many of those who are solidly in the “diagnosed, mentally ill” category are fluid, with days in which they are more functional and capable of seeing themselves and the world with clarity, and days in which they are not.
Finding someone who has worked through enough of their own stuff to become a spiritual adult in our society is really incredibly rare.
Who no longer is reacting from their various frozen parts, who is willing and able to take responsibility for themselves, to look inward, and to continue working on themselves. As someone enters spiritual adulthood, they have the capacity and willingness to examine their beliefs, especially their unhealed emotions and beliefs that are creating significant restrictions for themselves, and has the capacity to consider if they are true or not.
The person that can do this is, again, rare, and should be talked about in terms of mental illness because if we pigeonhole the “mentally ill” to be a specific aspect of the population, we must contend with a few things:
- That spiritual adults or people that we would determine to be “mentally healthy” in our society are incredibly rare
- That people determined to be “mentally ill” may be in the midst of chaos and personal creation to the extent that they no longer know what is societally appropriate, they have lost functioning and capacity to interact appropriately in this world and to understand what consensual reality is
- That the “mentally ill” may be seeing reality more clearly than most people will ever have the capacity to see it
I am in no way romanticizing mental illness here, but if you work with people enough who have the capacity and willingness (and readiness and openness) to consider their reality, you begin to realize that many of those who have inherent difficulties fitting in with this world are actually quite sane… just not by communal or societal standard.
For example, if you consider Dabrowski’s Theory of Depression (which I will post on my Facebook page) there is the understanding that people looking for meaning are likely to experience disintegration of self and realizations that shift identity as a result of being more gifted– having more capacity to see and think deeply in a society that refuses to (and does not encourage this sort of process).
In our society there is a base understanding of how inward looking, how intelligent, how conscious, how perceptual or sensitive, and what sort of meaning one is intended to derive from their existences. Someone who has a 150 IQ (yes, there are more forms of intelligence than this, but this is utilized to highlight a point) is going to be immersed in a world filled with people who have a mean IQ of somewhere around 95. They are going to see and experience the world differently due to this. It is going to likely be traumatic for them.
Similarly, someone who has incredibly high perceptual capacities (is “psychic”) will notice more than just our physical world, and society (and the individuals within that society) will redirect the person to “ordinary reality”, sometimes quite harshly (creating trauma).
But if we consider such things, we have to talk about the experience of trauma and shock that comes from such experiences. Healing the trauma and shock of being someone who has high IQ, or higher perceptual qualities, or in some way is different than the “mean” of society doesn’t mean that people in the world are going to suddenly get smarter, or more perceptive. What it means is that you have let go of enough of your emotional reactions and have healed enough from being that “outlier” that you have moved into a place of clarity, understanding that you are still a part of the world, a part of the whole, and are not feeling traumatized, or feeling large parts of yourself “frozen” as a result of being said outlier.
Going through the spiritual awakening process, embarking on a spiritual path with depth, leads to disintegration and reforming of the identity again and again.
The question is what happens when this happens too quickly?
What happens when this occurs suddenly, or at a rate that is too much for the individual, especially one who is resistant, traumatized, or has not consciously learned what is going on yet, to be able to integrate?
What is more about learning tools (such as how to calibrate the nervous system or consciously create filters) and understanding and learning to discern clearly, and what would be helped by healing trauma?
What happens when you start releasing core aspects of your identity?
I am not talking about the outlying trauma here. I am talking about what happens when you realize that your life has been in reaction to a specific belief that has been created out of trauma, and then have released it. There is a shock that happens when core aspects of your identity are stripped away from you.
What happens when you realize that you do not need to repeat the loops of your parents, your ancestors, or continually live out the wounds of your early childhood?
What happens when you move beyond the quests, the struggle, the battles that we spend so much time enacting? When we move beyond being abusive and blocking ourselves and telling ourselves that only certain characteristics, certain perspectives, certain aspects of ourselves are okay?
Mental wellness is actually fairly rare, spiritual adulthood is exceedingly rare, and those of us who think differently or perceive differently have the opportunity and consciousness to move towards spiritual adulthood in the way that people who have never had a reason to think about their existence, or their habits, do.
But it also means that there can be more fracturing, trauma, inability to tether to reality (be functional), disembodiment, delusion, and/or a lack of congruence of the energy field of the mind (I will talk about this all in Part Two).
Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual healer, teacher, and author. Learn more about this topic in her books, Managing Psychic Abilities: A Real World Guide for the Highly Sensitive Person or The Spiritual Awakening Guide: Kundalini, Psychic Abilities, and the Conditioned Layers of Reality.