There is no such thing as the term “mental illness” in many indigenous cultures. All illnesses have a spiritual foundation somewhere whether it be in the energetic body or related to positive and negative spiritual energies that are a part of our existence. In many cultures the ability to hear voices can be seen as a calling to spiritual work. It is important to distinguish between what is and what is not a calling. Being able to recall things from a separate reality can be a gift if the voices can be corralled into an appropriate place for understanding.
Many of the mystical symptoms of a schizophrenic are the same for someone who receives a shamanic calling. Joseph Campbell the author of “The power of myth” described it this way “The shaman is the person, male or female, who has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward. It’s a kind of schizophrenic crack-up. The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it. This shaman experience has been described many, many times. It occurs all the way from Siberia right through the Americas down to Tierra del Fuego.’Hence working with sufferers of schizophrenia from a shamanic angle can be helpful, since the shaman has in all likelihood experienced similar experiences to those of the schizophrenic.”
It is a lonely path to walk when the visions are only yours and therefore any understanding of what you are experiencing is not available from others. Mainstream medicine has deemed these symptoms as unacceptable because of the refusal to accept the reality of the outer and inner realities that exist for some people. The definition of normal and abnormal is greatly abused when the spiritual world is left out of the analysis. Instead of acknowledging that these states of being can exist and helping these people to organize their “gifts” into productive members of society, they are dealt with by numbing the mind and forcing them into cultural norms and putting them into the hands of psychiatrists to take away what may be a treasured existence and a powerful connection with the sacred. I do not try to minimize the profession of psychiatry, to the contrary I believe they play a vital role if they can detect when someone is having a spiritual experience. I was lucky that a psychiatrist believed that my psychotic break was a call to healing and he accepted that I would be better served by shamanic practitioners who could relate to what I was going through. His suggestion helped to save my life.
Could it be that the only difference between a shaman and a psychotic episode is that one person is trained to work in the spirit world while the psychotic person is simply lost in it? This was my own personal experience and the basis of my passion and study of this work today. I believe that with proper guidance through the awakening process into the potential of who one is becoming can positively transform someone to live a healthy and happy life in psychic balance. If these psychotic breaks take place in the right context, the person can return from the crisis not only healed but able to heal others.