A Different View of Mental Illness or What a Shaman Sees in a Mental Hospital

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What if I told you that mental illness is not what we think it is?

I’m sick. At least that’s what they tell me. My psychiatrist gives me the same speech while writing out a new prescription for a stronger medication. The pills I took the previous month just didn’t seem to curb the abnormal tendencies, and I was having meltdowns in public. I guess this time the dosage will make me act like everyone else… maybe.

I bet you’ve heard this before, whether it’s you or a friend, maybe it’s even a family member who struggles to adapt to being different. I’m talking about mental illness.

Illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia have all seemed like wild cards, transforming over time and always raging against the meds. That’s why the meds have to be adjusted, right?


I used to think this was rational, but I read something recently which made me angry at this so-called rational regimen. I discovered, by reading, that the Eastern culture thinks differently about mental illness as opposed to the Western World.

We in the Western culture view radical differences such as schizophrenia as illnesses, disabilities and diseases. Many Eastern cultures, on the other hand, view these states of mind as pathways to enlightenment. Now how about that!

Which one sounds more appealing to you?

Dagara People

Dr. Malidoma Patrice Some, a shaman of the Dagara people, believes that mental illness is the pathway to becoming a healer, or conduit of good news from the spirit world.

When we experience symptoms of mental illness, according to Some, we should not be medicated but rather guided and treated in a way to help the messenger come through. We are actually being used as vessels for spirits to speak through, but sometimes multiple spirits at one time. This opposing force is what causes the pain of mental illness.

Some says,

“Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field.”

In the Dagara tradition, the mentally ill are treated by reconciling spirits of opposing worlds – the world of the spirit and the village and people. When the connection is fortified, the person affected can then serve as a bridge to help others become healed by the spiritual energies.

When the healer is born, the crisis is over and the “mental illness”, as the Western culture calls it, is no more. It seems like the Dagara people have a firm hold on mental illness and see it as a gift rather than a curse. How fascinating.

I think we have it all wrong

While visiting the United States in 1980, Dr. Some was shocked by how doctors, at a mental ward, dealt with mental illness. He realized quickly that mental illness was treated like something that had to be stopped, subdued by medication. It was seen from a pathology standpoint.

Some also noticed there were many spiritual entities hovering around the patients causing discord. The screaming and chaos of the ward forced Dr. Some to leave. He was devastated by how the Western world treated, whom he felt, were special people with elevated gifts of sensitivity.

Looking again at the incompetency of medications, you can see that when spirits are trying to contact the living, and they are relentless, medications just cannot thwart the birth of the healer.

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By |2018-09-22T23:58:52+00:00September 18th, 2016|Categories: Food for thought, Psychology & Mental Health, Spirituality|Tags: , , , , , |5 Comments

About the Author:

Sherrie is a freelance writer and artist with over 10 years of experience. She spends most of her time giving life to the renegade thoughts. As the words erupt and form new life, she knows that she is yet again free from the nagging persistence of her muse. She is a mother of three and a lifetime fan of the thought-provoking and questionable aspects of the universe.


  1. Karen ferguson September 18, 2016 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Totally refreshing article.
    I realized a few years back that the ‘codes’ of the PDR lead the person w/ a diagnosis number to BIG PHARMA.

    How convenient!
    Nuff said.
    Thanks again. You’re on it.

  2. Kevin Williams September 18, 2016 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    Great article. I know from personal experience (bipolar disorder and psychosis) that mental illness can trigger religious revelations, visions and even out-of-body and near-death-like experiences. My psychiatrist once told me the difference between being psychic and psychotic: hearing voices and see things that aren’t there can be classified into two groups: (1) the “mentally ill” who cannot cope with it; (2) “psychics” who can cope with it. In other words, the mentally ill drown in the same waters in which psychics swim with delight. Historically, society in general has regarded people who talk to God as being holy; but if God talks to you, you’re considered insane.

    Bipolar disorder has been called a “brilliant madness” because of the expansive ideas psychosis can create. In days of old, people recognized how mental illness can even be a gift. Socrates once declared, “Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, provided the madness is given us by divine gift.” Plato referred to insanity as: “a divine gift and the source of the chief blessings granted to men.” Native American Indians believed that their voice hearers (shamans) revealed messages that had great spiritual significance. The archetype of the “mad scientist” can be traced to Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), the Serbian American scientific inventor-genius best known for his astounding contributions to modern science and over 700 patents. Yet he also suffered from mental illnesses – specifically bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention deficit disorder (ADD). He also suffered from numerous psychological phobias and philias; and an uncontrollable visual and auditory visions that often tormented him which could be described as bipolar hallucinations.

    Psychosis and religious visions have often been associated with each other since the earliest recorded history. Mental illness has traditionally been related to demon possession and prophetic ability as attributed to various personalities in the Bible. Saints such as Joan of Arc (1415 -1431 AD) and Francis of Assisi (1182 -1226 AD) heard multiple voices in their heads and the Church originally attacked them as being demon possessed. Of course, not all prophets were mentally disturbed people, many just practiced a kind of clairvoyance but remained balanced people, some even with a healthy critical intellect. So there is a very important note to make here: we must assume that people suffering from schizophrenia who are having religious hallucinations of God, may in fact be having real visions of a real God. The Talmud suggests that the prophet Hosea (8th century BC) in the Bible was besieged with delusions of being Moses, even though the Talmud also claims that he was also the greatest prophet of his generation (Pesachim 87a).

    Psychic intuition (or just “intuition”) is defined as “the ability to sense or know immediately without reasoning.” Carl Jung defined intuition as “perception via the unconscious”: using sense-perception only as a starting point, to bring forth ideas, images, possibilities, ways out of a blocked situation, by a process that is mostly unconscious. Some scientists, such as Dr. Yehuda Elkana and Dr. Gerald Holton, have contended that intuition is associated with innovation in scientific discovery. In the late 70s, Dr. Nancy Andreasen of the University of Iowa began investigating if there was a possible link between intuition and creativity. Her own intuition led her to begin investigating schizophrenic people. Schizophrenia ran in Albert Einstein’s family and a considerable number of experts today believe Einstein had Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism) and displayed schizophrenic tendencies. Speculation also exists that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity could have only come from a schizophrenic mind capable of viewing things from the outside. Dr. Andresen’s study found very high percentage of the writers in her investigation had bipolar disorder. With modern technical advances in neuroimaging, Dr. Andreasen discovered evidence of activity in the “association cortices” of the frontal lobes which plays a role is making connections between one part of the brain and another. Creative people such as writers and artists often describe their creative process as an unconscious phenomenon with ideas and insights seem to come out of nowhere.

    Researchers such as Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman are investigating the notion of “latent inhibition” (LI) which can be thought of as a fine line between novel productive thinking and pathological delusional thinking. LI is the brain’s ability to filter out information at the unconscious level thereby making available rational thoughts. In other words, LI is when the brain is biased in such a way that it ignores stimuli that has already happened in the past. For example, if somebody honks a horn every day outside of your home, it becomes less noticeable after a while, unless you really pay attention to it. People afflicted with schizophrenia have a very difficult time with LI. In such cases, the brain is overwhelmed by too many neurons competing for the attention of other neurons while the brain is bombarded with too much sensory and emotional input. LI also occurs with people who have bipolar disorder and are psychotic.

    Latent inhibition appears to also connected to intuition. Decreased LI may make a person more likely to see connections that other people may not see. Psychologists such as the late Dr. Colin Martindale and the late Dr. Hans Eysenck have made the case for the important role that disinhibition plays for creative thought. A study conducted by Dr. Shelley Carson discovered that among a sample of Harvard students with a high IQ and decreased LI tended to have increased creative achievement. This suggests that a reduced LI, in combination with adequate levels of the brain’s ability to sort out the cosmic input bombarding it, can lead to the very highest levels of creative achievement which also involves intuition.

    Those of above average intelligence are thought to be capable of processing LI effectively, enabling their creativity and increasing their awareness of their surroundings. Those with less than average intelligence, on the other hand, are less able to cope, and as a result are more likely to suffer from mental illness and sensory overload. It is hypothesized that a low level of latent inhibition can cause either psychosis or a high level of creative achievement or both, which is usually dependent on the individual’s intelligence. When they cannot develop the creative ideas, they become frustrated and/or depressive.

  3. Vid September 19, 2016 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    This article is wrong on so many levels

  4. Lisa Quiroz September 19, 2016 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Off top, you are on point!! I am one those the article speak of. Knowledge, life experiences and a new found level of undetstanding without medication has changed everything about ME. A GIFT INDEED!

  5. Cyclops Love October 7, 2016 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    Note that God is is a “westerner” thing. That might be related to your point about “mental illness”.

    It actually is a shortened form of “Gotan” that is more like “Allah”, in “eastern” culture.

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