Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Assistance in Spiritual Emergency

The following is a brief excerpt from the book Spiritual Emergency, edited by Stanislav and Christina Grof.

There are many forms of spiritual emergency involving various degrees of intensity. The extent of assistance required thus depends upon the situation. In some instances, treatment can be limited to specific support for the person in crisis; at other times it can be extended to involve relatives and friends, and supportive groups. However, if the process is especially dramatic, professional therapeutic help might be necessary around the clock.

The most important task is to give the people in crisis a positive context for their experiences and sufficient information about the process they are going through. It is essential that they move away from the concept of disease and recognize the healing nature of their crisis. Good literature and the opportunity to talk to people who understand, particularly those who have successfully overcome a similar crisis can be invaluable.

Being surrounded by people who have at least a general understanding of the basic dynamics of spiritual emergency is of great help to a person in a psychospiritual crisis. Whether the attitudes or interactions in the narrow circle of close relatives and friends are nourishing and supportive or fearful, judgemental and manipulative makes a considerable difference in terms of the course and outcome of the episode.

Ideally, family, partners, and important friends should be included in the support network from the beginning and offered as much information about the situation as possible. Exactly who should be included, at what time, and how depends on individual circumstances. The quality of the relationship with the person in crisis, the general compatability of the personality characteristics of the potential helpers, and their attitude toward the process are among the most important criteria to base the decision. Besides books and discussions of the subject of spiritual emergency, experiential therapy groups can be an important source of understanding.

In many instances, a good spiritual teacher who knows the inner territories from his or her experiences or a local spiritual group can be very helpful. Such individuals might be able to provide an opportunity to discuss some unusual experiences and offer understanding and support for someone in spiritual emergency. Guided individual or group spiritual practice can provide a good context for work with the emerging experiences, if the process is not too overwhelming.

For spiritual crisis that are not too extreme, the above resources might be sufficient. Many people who have unusual experiences are puzzled and bewildered by them, but they can manage to function adequately in everyday life. Access to the right information, occasionally supportive discussion, and a good context for spiritual practice are all they need.

Under favorable circumstances it is possible to handle even more challenging experiences that the person in crisis would not be able to confront without assistance. However, if the process becomes overwhelming and seriously interferes with everyday functioning, more therapeutic measures may have to be taken.

Source: Spiritual Emergency