The term spiritual emergency (sometimes called a psychospiritual crisis), was coined by psychotherapist Christina Grov and her husband and psychiatrist Stanilov Grov and typically occurs after, or is triggered by, a physical or emotional life-enhancing or awe-inspiring experience. It may also be triggered by a lack of sleep or matters related to childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion. Extreme sexual experiences can also result in a spiritual emergency. Sometimes the trigger may be connected to a deep spiritual practice or meditation. Another interesting fact is that often those experiencing spiritual emergencies seem to seek self-expression in the arts through painting, music, or writing—all languages of the soul.
Spiritual emergencies may be classified as peak experiences, past-life experiences, channeling with spirit guides, Kundalini experiences, dark and night possessions, near-death experiences, UFO encounters, or drug and alcohol addictions.
It seems that a cultural basis might determine whether an experience is labeled psychotic or spiritual. For example, individuals such as shamans, prophets, spiritual teachers, saints, or luminaries may be considered brilliant because they transcend the human experience; yet others having similar experiences might be labeled psychotic even though both groups might benefit from, or become transformed by, the experience.
Both psychotic and spiritual experiences involve escaping the limiting boundaries of the self, which leads to immense elation and freedom as the outlines of the confining selfhood melt down. Anthropologists have documented how such experiences sometimes lead to a revitalization within a culture (Wallace, 1956). Transpersonal psychologists believe that the spiritual emergency can be quite powerful because the experience tends to transcend the ego, and may be a natural developmental process that has psychological and spiritual elements.
For instance, Stanislav and Christina Grof have described the spiritual emergency as a crisis often resulting in intense emotions, unusual thoughts and behaviors, and perceptual changes. This crisis often involves a spiritual component—such as experiences of death and rebirth, unity with the universe, and encounters with powerful beings. Such crises bring about the potential for profound psychological and spiritual change (Grof & Grof, 1989), but often appear to be similar to psychotic disorders.
The experience of a spiritual emergency—if managed and treated under supervision—can, therefore, be life-changing and offer the individual a deeper sense of passion, wisdom, love, and zest for life; and an expanded worldview and overall psychosomatic health. Whatever the chosen method of treatment, chronicling by both the patient, via journaling and the therapist via notes will definately prove to be beneficial, always keeping in mind that dating the event is crucial. It might also be interesting for the client to review and compare journal entries in case there are subsequent events.
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If one believes in the tenet that all experiences are transformative, then it can be said that there’s something to learn from each one of them, either at the time or after comparing journal entries. But, chances are there’s more to learn from a spiritual emergency than from a psychotic episode because it might be a more profound experience. As Socrates once said: “Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, provided that madness is given us by divine gift” (Dodds, 1951).
Buddhist leaders such as Jack Kornfield (1989) suggest that it’s best to label this type of experience without fully identifying with it. He also recommends maintaining a sense of balance and grounding oneself by bringing attention to the body and the earth.
In the ideal scenario, the therapist should, as much as possible, normalize the experience and express it in an educational and transformative way. This is preferable to making the client feel abnormal. It’s also beneficial to accentuate what may be learned from the situation. The experience should be viewed as a container or opportunity for healing, transformation, and/or growth, rather than something that is detrimental. In summary, the primary difference between psychosis and spiritual emergency has more to do with the diagnostician and the suggested treatment than anything else.
Therapy: Spiritual therapy is a form of counseling that attempts to treat a person's soul as well as mind and body by accessing individual belief systems and using that faith in a higher power to explore areas of conflict in life. People who believe in a guiding higher power may find spiritual therapy helps them achieve a deeper connection with this power.
Spiritual crisis (sometimes called "spiritual emergency") is a form of identity crisis where an individual experiences drastic changes to their meaning system (i.e., their unique purposes, goals, values, attitude and beliefs, identity, and focus) typically because of a spontaneous spiritual experience sometimes referred to as a Kundalini awakening.
The focus of an individual in counseling , for the most part, will be looking at the past. It will focus on childhood issues, family of origin and abuse issues. These will be worked with and tied into how these issues are affecting the individual in their current life experiences. Through release of old pains and the integration of new skills and awareness into their adult life, the individual will be able to move on with their life with a greater sense of self.
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The soul that is alone and without a master and has virtue is like the burning coal that is alone, it will grow colder rather than hotter. He that falls alone remains on the ground alone and holds his soul of small account, since he trusts it to himself alone. ~ St. John of the Cross
If you’ve ever traveled to a new and unknown country or city, you’ve most likely felt the excitement of wanting to experience as much as you can but not knowing where to start. You ask locals, seek information boxes and read maps.
In essence, you’re looking for guidance; someone who has already traveled the paths, knows the byroads, and is able to point out the dangers and problems along the way.
The journey of reconnecting with your Soul is much the same. Without any map, we need a guide who can give us the right directions, the necessary encouragement, and someone who can help us avoid the clutches of the ego.
The inner journey is the most difficult and challenging undertaking that we can ever make. When most people start the spiritual journey, they make the mistake of using the ego’s voice and limitations to guide themselves. But using the ego to seek transcendence is like asking a fish to describe what water is: it can’t possibly know what it’s really looking for.
Without mature spiritual guidance, we easily get lost, deluded, confused and discouraged.
One thing that stood out in my period of intense learning was how my own teacher never used the word “teach.” He would always call it “learning” instead. Now, reflecting back, I realize that he saw his role more as an “opener of doors”: he never told me what to do or how to think. The learning I did was always through my own efforts.
In the realm of spirituality, true teachers never really teach you anything in the conventional way. They don’t want to provide new beliefs, rules or information for you to cling to. Instead, they help you to remove that which is in the way, that which separates you from the truth of who you already are and what you already know in the depth of your being.
In other words, a true teacher’s job is to serve as a mirror, until we’re able to realize that the light within them is also the light within us.
True spiritual teachers are like empty vessels that are filled with nothing. Through them, we experience the limitless, untouched ocean of love that can be found in all things. Through them, we also become conscious of whatever is blocking our ability to experience light. Whether it be past wounds, mental attachments or egotistical desires, these blocks become the next part of your inner work.
I can say from personal experience that many spiritual seekers begin with the craving to find stimulating ideas, theories, beliefs, and intellectual discussions. But under a true spiritual teacher, they eventually end up becoming disappointed.
Seekers who are looking for novel or glittery ideas become disillusioned because such ideas are only signposts towards the Truth – they are not the Truth itself. And in many cases, these novel ideas actually become distractions that mislead us into the labyrinths of the mind again.
In the end, it’s true that the best Teacher is within us, that our ultimate guide is our own Souls. But how can those of us who have no idea what the Soul looks or feels like possibly guide ourselves when we are stumbling through the dark?
For the vast majority of people, a teacher, guru, guide, mentor, spiritually knowledgeable therapist, or even a wise soul friend, is invaluable on the path toward a more awakened state.-words by Mateo sol loner wolf
The concept of "spiritual crisis" has mainly sprung from the work of transpersonal psychologists and psychiatrists whose view of the psyche stretches beyond that of Western psychology. Transpersonalists tend to focus less on psychopathology and more unidirectionally toward enlightenment and ideal mental health (Walsh & Vaughan, 1993). However, this emphasis on spirituality's potentials and health benefits has been criticized. According to James (1902), a spiritual orientation focusing only on positive themes is incomplete, as it fails to address evil and suffering (Pargament et al., 2004). Scholarly attention to spiritual struggle is therefore timely as it can provide greater balance to the empirical literature and increase understanding of everyday spirituality. Another reason for the study of spiritual crisis is that growth often occurs through suffering (e.g., Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun, 1998). As such, neglecting problems of suffering might result in neglecting vital sources of spiritual transformation and development (Paloutzian, 2005).Both the terms "spiritual crisis" and "spiritual emergency" (Grof, 1989) share in the common recognition that:
Kundalini awakening can create experiences that mimic psychiatric and somatic disorders. There are many accounts of misdiagnosis and mistreatment of what is essentially a Divinely inspired process. She works on all levels of human experience; nothing remains untouched by Kundalini!
The awakened Kundalini can stir up everything from latent diseases of the body to emotional or psychological disturbances. Some people feel like chaos has descended upon them, not grace, as Kundalini renovates body, mind and relationships.
A question that is closely related to the problem of differential diagnosis of psychospiritual crises is their classification. Is it possible to distinguish and define among them certain specific types or categories in the way it is attempted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-revised) and its predecessors used by traditional psychiatrists?There is general disagreement about diagnostic categories among individual psychiatrists and also among psychiatric societies of different countries. Although DSM has been revised and changed a number of times, clinicians complain that they have difficulties matching the symptoms of their clients with the official diagnostic categories.
Symptoms of Kundalini arousal include: sweating, trembling, sensations of heat and cold, rushes of energy through the body or up and down the spine, fear, anxiety, weight loss or gain, food cravings, dissociation, visions, out-of-body experiences, body movements and hatha yoga postures happening spontaneously during meditation, retention of breath and other changes in breathing patterns, mantras and sounds arising from within, distortions of time and space, profound stillness and peace, healings, habits or addictions dropping away, inspired creativity, and states of boundless ecstasy and love arising for no apparent reason. This is just a partial list of what may be experienced.
These signs of Kundalini process may be confused with or misdiagnosed as anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, dissociative disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other diseases
In other cases, the psychospiritual crisis begins shortly after a traumatic emotional experience. This can be loss of an important relationship, such as death of a child or another close relative, divorce, or the end of a love affair. Similarly, a series of failures or loss of a job or property can immediatel precede the onset of spiritual emergency.
One of the most important catalysts of psychospiritual crisis seems to be deep involvement in various forms of meditation and spiritual practice. The wide range of triggers of spiritual crises clearly suggests that the individual's readiness for inner transformation plays far more important role than the external stimuli.
When we look for a common denominator or final common pathway of the situations described above, we find that they all involve radical shift in the balance between the unconscious and conscious processes. Weakening of psychological defenses or, conversely, increase of the energetic charge of the unconscious dynamics, makes it possible for the unconscious (and superconscious) material to emerge into conscious
These signs of Kundalini process may be confused with or misdiagnosed as anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, dissociative disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other diseases.
While initial experiences may focus on physical, emotional and mental purification and transformation, shifts in values, attitudes and behaviours will also occur and have a major impact on relationships. Changes in appetites for food and sex along with attitude and value changes are the most stressful areas of transformation.
List of the most important varieties of psychospiritual crises
1. Shamanic crisis
2. Awakening of Kundalini
3. Episodes of unitive consciousness (Maslow's "peak experiences")
4.Psychological renewal through return to the center
5. Crisis of psychic opening
6. Past-life experiences
7. Communication with spirit guides and "channeling"
8. Near-death experiences (NDEs)
9. Close encounters with UFOs and alien abduction exp
10. Possession states
11. Alcoholism and drug addiction