Research

My Doctoral Research question was ‘How Does the Phenomenology of Madness and Spirituality Compare and What are the Implications for Psychotherapy Practice?’ Phenomenology is the totality of experience. The ‘seed’ of this research came from a workshop in my training called ‘Mental Illness-Mystery or Missed-Story’ where we explored how in other cultures hearing voices or seeing things can be accepted as prophecies, visions or shamanic crisis.

Here’s the abstract:

There are perhaps three major biases at work in the study of madness: 1.Misunderstandings about genetics and brain abnormality. 2. The idea that psychoses are medical diseases, sustained by pharmaceutical companies, the medical profession and some patient-relative groups seeking to deny possible family and developmental factors. 3. Continued misunderstanding of the relationship between biological and psychological facts through adopting the dualistic perspective that mind and body are totally separate entities (after Bentall, 2004).

Since, arguably diagnosis rests on observation, the perspectives adopted can have profound consequences for those having anomalous experiences (Cardenas, Lynn & Krippner eds. 2004) whether deemed mad or a spiritual emergence(y) (Grof & Grof, 1989).

This thesis explores the complexity of madness and spiritual experience through a ‘bricolage’ of qualitative, transpersonal, phenomenological and heuristic enquiry. Participants included the author and seven other mental health professionals who each brought their personal and professional perspectives to their biography of madness/spiritual experience.

Participant experience was compared and contrasted with the context and perspectives of literature including neuroscience, developmental research, hallucinogenic drugs, religious rituals, psychiatry and spiritual process.

Thematic analysis revealed considerable overlap in participant phenomenology. Validity came from the iterative process of returning data to participants for confirmation and thus retaining the voice of the Other (Fine, 1998) i.e. to avoid the participant’s ‘voice’ being replaced by that of the researcher.

This Research offers a metanarrative where Loss/Stress/Trauma (LST) from early development may lead to Anomalous Experience, after LST at the important later developmental stage of adolescence to 20’s. Recovery takes place through Sanctuary/Affect-management and Relationship (SAR).

Your comments are welcome.