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Mental Disorders and Illness: A Shamanic Viewpoint

At one point, there was more than one attorney I had never met who reached out to me insisting that I take down any mention of mental health from my website. One did, albeit kindly, tell me that this was a red flag for the DEA in my consideration for gaining legal access to Psilocybin Mushrooms as a Shamanic Church. He stated that talking about mental health was not appropriate and put me at legal risk, as well as making other churches like mine look bad. As if what I had to say was “ruining it for everyone”. I hastily removed all mention of mental health on the site due to the panic that this made me feel inside.


This was a good lesson for me in how easily I let people influence what I know to be true.


Later, I added many of these things back into the website. There is no separating my work from mental health, and it’s silly to believe that there is. My path has always included listening to my intuition on things, and one thing that I know well is that mental health and Shamanic healing are deeply linked. This is why I love working alongside therapists and psychiatrists.


I am not here to replace them.


Full disclosure: I see a therapist and so does everyone in my family. We all need these things at one point or another — no one can heal on their own or with a single modality. Shamanism isn’t a substitute for weekly mental health support in a structured environment if that is something you need at any point in your life. Keeping up with mental health is a complex and ongoing adventure that literally never ends. During at least three points in our life, we will certainly need a shaman, a therapist, a psychologist, a coach, and probably many others. It takes a team to support mental health and my work is part of that.


What I want to go into today is the Shamanic view, or spiritual view, of different mental afflictions, symptoms, diagnosis’, etc. Keep in mind that none of these things I discuss below are simple, they are multidimensional and interconnected. The spiritual diagnosis of a mental illness is not as cut and dry and the Western medical diagnosis, but instead a non-linear process that shifts and unfolds over time.


Every issue below can be viewed as something like an archetype. We all have these things come in and out of our life and they are experienced on a spectrum. None of them are bad. None of them are wrong. None of them are illnesses. These are just vibrational states. If you get stuck in one, there is a reason why you are stuck there.


Before I go through each category, there are a few points to consider:


  • If you are stuck in a vibrational state for a long period of time, there is often a message that is being overlooked. This is where you may want to seek help on a deeper level, such as EMDR or working with a Shaman. No one should be in a state of deep anxiety or depression for years unless they need to be for some reason. “Looping”, or repeating a situation on a loop, can also happen in this space in whatever cycle is sticking and the loop will continue until something snaps or full surrender has been achieved.

  • Every single emotion serves a purpose and is a signal of something else. If you are experiencing deep anxiety in a certain context or in the broader context, there is a reason for the anxiety. It is trying to tell you something. Sometimes we need help identifying this and feeling safe enough to see/feel whatever is trying to come through instead of making it go away. Safety is key to going to many of the deeper levels of mental health. Safety can be referring to your sense of safety with a practitioner or it can be having physical/monetary security.

  • Nothing is permanent and anything can be healed if it is meant to be healed. I don’t agree that there are certain mental health issues that are permanent. Sometimes we have an illness that serves a greater purpose for ourselves or people in our family, but that is a different conversation. You are not here to be severely depressed for the rest of your life. Period.

  • What is happening with your kids has little to do with your kids exclusively. Mental illness with children is a whole different topic. This is also the case with couples who struggle with extreme co-dependency (most couples have some level of it).

  • There is a potential to be influenced by Ancestral Trauma and other “spiritual phenomenon”, but it is a rare/small part in comparison to what I will discuss below. The ancestral stuff is often an accessory to a childhood occurrence, not the primary cause.

I will only cover things here that I am confident about. I will never speak about something I don’t have intimate experience with.


Oh, I also have yet to meet someone whose genetics were to blame. Is this a coincidence? You can decide lol.


Depression


Depression is about not following your path, purpose, and heart. We are depressed when we are not fully expressing ourselves as the person we are. The reasons for being in this space vary greatly, as you can imagine, but the theme remains.


Some examples:


  • Your parents told you it was ridiculous to be an artist when you were a kid or they downplayed your interest in creative things. You went to school to be an architect instead because it would gain the approval of your parents. It is likely that you are an artist at heart and you need to go back and explore this. There may be many layers of blocks present that prevent you from doing this, but exploring this is your first step. Once you do, you will see the depression shift and you will be provided with breadcrumbs that lead you to the next opportunity.

  • You are in a relationship that does not include a lot of intimate connection and you desire this deeply. Not having this connection will cause you to feel depressed and disconnected, but the key to resolving this involves facing the childhood trauma that caused you to marry the emotionally unavailable person you are now with. Once you go back to process that trauma and release the stored emotions, your blocks to the connection will lift and your partner’s will begin to lift in response or your relationship may end and you will be free to be with someone who has an open heart.

  • You deeply enjoy writing, but becoming a mother has left you feeling exhausted and entirely too busy. You will need to work through your belief that mothers are martyrs who must sacrifice themselves for their children, as well as some boundary issues that were established early in your relationship with your partner. Once you do this, you will work setting aside time for yourself to write. The depression will then lift.

Depression is one of those very complex ones that generally means “stuck” for one reason or another. In many cases, we need a good explosion or massive clearing to start moving things, uncovering truths, or identify sticking points that are contributing to the depressive episode.


The darkest depths of depression include a true desire for suicide and deep hopelessness. Once a person reaches this point, I can no longer help them on my own, a more structured approach is needed to first prop them up and then I come in to clear and do my shaman-y thing. This may not be the case for all shamanic practitioners, but my approach is very unstructured, at least the work I do in Medicine Ceremony. If a person cannot stand on their own two legs and they need the structural support of medication or something similar, the work I do in Ceremony will be too much for them. They will also likely need some kind of de-possession work in combination with a very specific type of therapy before they can go deep diving into Shamanic work. Suicide rarely comes from a purely internal space, there is typically energetic/spiritual components at play that need to be addressed.


An added note: I have yet to meet anyone who is destined to be depressed for the rest of their life. Treatment Resistant Depression is not a permanent state — it’s that we haven’t yet found the modality that will uncover the next layer OR it’s not time to uncover it yet and safety needs to be built. Safety can mean building rapport with a practitioner, establishing financial security, a steady support system or a stable home environment. I work with many people who have TRD and I have yet to meet one that didn’t resolve either immediately or eventually. I love TRD, it's what brings people to be open enough to work with Sacred Heart!


Anxiety


Anxiety is based on fear and the inability to live in the moment. Where the complication comes in, is uncovering the “why” that prevents a person from being in that space. Many times there is such great fear present, that it takes time and rapport building to get a person to the place where they feel safe enough to explore the underlying issue.


  • Do you have childhood trauma that included avoiding a parent or teacher’s criticism? You will have anxiety any time you do anything that can risk criticism from the people in your life. Shopping, cleaning, breathing too loudly, etc. You may even marry a spouse that enforces this for you and so you will basically have growing anxiety every day. This was your subconscious picking your partner so that it would force you to look at the unresolved childhood experience.

  • Do you struggle to trust that things will work out as they need to? This is tied to trusting yourself and the decisions you make in life. It is tied to your faith and belief about how the universe works. These are very big spiritual questions to be asking! What do your childhood experiences and exposures teach you about this? What kind of universe do you live in and it is a kind one? Is it one that sends you to hell if you don’t ______ or judges you as good and bad?

  • Are you unconsciously afraid that people are judging you or won’t like you when you are in social situations? This can be tied to your own judgments you make about yourself and others. Even if you aren’t aware of them, there may be a tape playing somewhere in the basement of your subconscious mind. It can also be tied to self-esteem, which is a much deeper issue of self-worth.

I think you see how deep these rabbit holes can go.


Some of these things can contribute to anxiety, but there are likely many layers of things at play here. When we live our life from a place of fear, we must go to the source of the fear. Just like with depression, this is another condition that will lead us straight back into childhood. All (most) things start there.


On the extreme side of this spectrum, we have OCD. From what I have seen in Shamanic work, OCD is when a person is stuck in a very short loop of anxiety. I see it happen a lot when there are issues within the family unit. For example, when a parent has a very strong attachment to a child and literally grips them energetically, OCD can result when anxiety is already present underneath that. When severe trauma is also in the picture, it can cause a person to get stuck in an attempt to maintain a very tightly confined space where they will be “safe”.


Personality and Other Severe Disorders


If I could spend 50% of all of my time working with personality disorders, I would. These are endlessly complicated and fascinating for me as a practitioner. This is when a person exhibits a certain designated set of symptoms that collectively make up a disorder. The same points apply, as mentioned above, only the complication is clear and present — making it on the surface! This makes it much easier to work with and sort out. It is also worth noting that many of us could be considered to have a personality disorder at least one time in our lives, if not more.


Always remember, pretty much everything stems from trauma. In most cases, people do actually need to change their definition of trauma bec