The following is a wonderful article from Dr. Isa Gucciardi, Phd.
Isa Gucciardi is the Founding Director and lead teacher of the Foundation of the Sacred Stream. The workshops and training programs of the Foundation are part of her larger vision for helping people who are interested in stepping into greater consciousness and leading happier lives. Her primary focus is on teaching, writing, and curriculum development. Isa is also the creator of the groundbreaking therapeutic model, Depth Hypnosis, which is born from her studies in transpersonal psychology, cultural and linguistic anthropology, comparative religion, hypnotherapy, and transformational healing. Isa has lived in eleven countries and she speaks five languages. The mother of two children, she is a master potter and gardener, a stained glass artist, a piano enthusiast, and an expert herbalist. In addition to her busy teaching schedule, she has an active Depth Hypnosis counseling and consulting practice in San Francisco, CA.
OPENING THE DOORS TO THE SELF – SPIRIT INVOLVEMENT
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
Editors’ Note: In the field of Western psychology, the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder are all subjects of controversy; perspectives continue to evolve. Shamanic understanding around these phenomena is ancient, and is well articulated in some Shamanic cultures. Yet, that doesn’t mean they are right, either. Like the eight blindfolded men and the elephant, everyone arrives at a theory based on their very limited and specific perspective.
Summary: Sometimes spirit involvement can play a role in what Western psychologists call Dissociative Disorders (DD), and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) in particular. Two cases where spirit depossession relieves imbalance are presented.
As we have seen, there are many paths to self-knowledge. Understanding the self is a complex process because the self is so complex. There are many facets to our being that our conscious-mind awareness generally blocks out. It must do this in order to deal with the very complicated external world we must negotiate in our daily life. The creation of a vehicle from which to explore the external world is one of the primary tasks we have to accomplish as part of our development. For many of us, this development is not as linear or logical as we would like to believe.
Chaos is around every corner if we cannot find a “home base” in the conscious mind from which to experience the world. And many of us do find ourselves in chaos in pursuit of this center from which to understand the world. Generally speaking, this chaos is due to the amount of trauma we experience at any point in our development. One of the results of repeated exposure to trauma in the development of a sense of self is the appearance of what the Western psychotherapeutic community calls Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and Dissociative Disorders (DD) more generally.
These manifestations of multiplicity or disassociation can be disconcerting to those around us as well as to ourselves. They interfere with our ability to develop a stable base to begin to understand ourselves at a soul level. In this chapter, we will look at different paradigms that can help us understand this multiplicity. We will see how we can actually use these manifestations to understand ourselves at soul level once integration of experience takes place.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) has only recently been re-recognized within the field of modern Western psychology. When Freud’s theories reigned supreme in this field, most cases of dissociative disorders were misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. In 1980, the American Psychological Association (APA) officially re-established the legitimacy of multiple personality disorders and defined a separate diagnostic category for dissociative disorders. Since that time, there has been increasing research and clarification of the major differences between schizophrenia and dissociative disorders, including multiple personality disorders. The association’s diagnostic manual, DSM-IV recognizes dissociative disorders as mental disorders, originating from psychological reactions to trauma and the stressors of life. Schizophrenia is considered an organically originated mental disorder due to brain/nervous system/ chemical abnormalities.
However, the phenomenon of vastly divergent “personalities” or behaviors contained within one physical body is not a new concept. It has been described and understood in different ways in healing communities throughout time and throughout different parts of the world. We have seen how multiplicity manifests in our different experiences of ourselves at different ages within one time frame.
One of the ways multiplicity has been most commonly understood is by shamanic practitioners who view the phenomenon as a type of soul loss or spirit possession. One of the essential aspects of shamanic healing across all cultures is the shaman’s journey in search of these lost soul parts. The shaman seeks help in getting the spirit or soul part to move to where it will best serve his patient. Michael Harner, in The Way of the Shaman, reports that it has been understood in almost all pre-industrial societies that a person’s physical illness or erratic behavior often has its roots in loss of an essential part of oneself. The illness can sometimes be aggravated by the subsequent use of that lost life energy by non-corporal spirits. This loss can be compounded by the fact that trauma, which is often the triggering event for soul loss, can also allow the entry of spirits into a person’s psychic space. This can then play havoc with the individual’s mental and physical health. It is generally recognized that soul loss takes place due to some kind of mental, physical, or spiritual trauma. It is the shaman’s duty to find the lost soul parts and restore them to the individual. He then performs the specific type of healing, such as depossession or extraction, which will supplant the occupying spirits that might be present.
This idea seems preposterous to the typical Western mind. Some anthropologists reporting on the healing powers of shamans in pre-industrial societies have described the ceremonies associated with the restoration of soul and depossession of spirits as a child’s game. Some of them describe these rituals in terms that give the impression that the participants in such rituals take part in a silly mass delusion. In any case, these phenomena have always been associated with things religious or spiritual from the Western point of view. Until recently, they have found no place of observation from within the realm of science or medicine from which Western schools of psychology and psychiatry have grown.
Indeed, the manifestation of the miracles (e.g., a return to sanity or wholeness as a result of interaction with spirits) associated with this type of healing has been branded as quackery. Some members of the Western scientific community have rejected it outright. This has left a void in dealing with spirits in the West, even though no lesser a personage than Jesus was a practitioner of this type of miracle healing. The church has tried to fill this void by charging priests with spirit exorcism or depossession work. Yet by and large, they are ill-equipped to understand the nature of the reality the shamans or traditional healers operate in, because their core belief systems do not include the maps of healing used by traditional healers.
The divorce of healing from the realm of the spirit occurred as the advance of Christian missionaries supplanted pagan and other spiritual practices. The services provided by the shaman or witch doctor in retrieving souls and convincing spirits to leave are barely addressed by Western cultural structures. Over time, Christian exorcisms have degenerated into little more than the ordering of demons. The type of filibustering behavior displayed by those who do not understand the true nature of exorcisms is an unfortunate and ineffective form of communication. Any healing effect manifests almost accidentally. This is because pagan gods or spirits that might have assisted traditional healers in such practices as depossession are perceived as the work of the devil in many theologies. Indeed, the idea of spirits of all classes is sometimes viewed in this light by some religious authorities. This view precludes the assistance available from a shamanic perspective. The shamanic view understands spirits as denizens of a world that can be known and understood. Their powers are considered to have an effect on our own world. Shamans, on the other hand, are comfortable working with the elements of the other worlds to effect lasting and permanent change for the better.
It has been easy to discount the sometimes ineffectual interaction with the spirit world by those who do not understand what powers they are summoning. In this context, it has been easy for scientific Westerners witnessing poorly understood exorcisms to classify them by putting them in the rubbish bin. The understanding of these rituals has been cast aside along with myths and stories whose powers are equally poorly understood by the western mind. William James, in his famous Lowell Lectures of 1896, spoke about the nature of possession and its perception by various cultures throughout the ages. He underlines the negative prejudice surrounding it in the scientific circles of his time, which persist to this day:
“India, China, Egypt, Africa, Polynesia, Greece, Rome and all medieval Europe believed that certain nervous disorders were of supernatural origin. When the pagan gods became demons, all possession became diabolic and we have the medieval condition. The refusal of modern ‘enlightenment’ to treat possession as a hypothesis to be spoken of as even possible, in spite of massive human tradition based on concrete experience in its favor has always seemed to me a curious example of the poor of fashion in things scientific. One has to be ‘scientific’ indeed to be blind and ignorant enough to suspect no such possibility.”
The refusal to include the idea of spirits in a scientific worldview is, as Michael Harner points out, highly unscientific. A scientist does not reject any possibility out of hand without careful observation and experimentation. Yet this is just what the Western scientific community has done to the idea of spirits playing any role in mental health dysfunction. It is possible that the practitioners working in the field of DID may never suspect that they are working with an entity or spirit possession. And if this were pointed out to them, they would probably ridicule the idea. Unfortunately, I suspect that this is why some people suffering from the symptoms of DID, which so strongly resembles spirit possession, are not always helped in any lasting way.
It is a pity that modern psychotherapeutic practices do not include the study of spirit involvement in its approach to DID. The model of spirit involvement has been well defined and used to great effect in healing in shamanic communities for thousands of years. Along with the failure to recognize or attempt to understand the nature of spirits within Western healing methodology is the failure to recognize the existence of the soul. Because this point of view does not recognize the soul, it has no map or possibility of being shown a map that includes the entire nature of the individual’s experience. This map includes most of which is hidden to the conscious mind. It consists primarily of memories and experiences, some of which have been intentionally forgotten because they are too painful to remember.
These memories may arise from one’s own current life experience, including the experience of the womb. Or, they may arise from past life memories or even experiences between lives in other realities. In any case, most memories and experiences contained within the knowledge of the soul from other times or realities are rekindled as an issue in this lifetime. However, the entry point into the process of resolving these issues may occur at any point in the soul’s constellation of the issues.
The entry point may even be found through a spirit that has become attached to any of the events within the constellation of the self. This attachment often occurs during the process of rendering these memories or experiences unconscious. Or, it can occur in the process of traumatization, which leads to the blotting out of these memories. The entities or spirits known to shamans throughout time, and well described in modern terms by William Baldwin, can take hold and create havoc within the individual psyche. It is often the effects of the trauma they are creating that bring a person to seek help. Access to the issues they are “medicating” can often occur through the gateway of the spirit itself, especially in cases of DID.
Shamanic healers and psychologists working in the field of DID, whether they call it DID or not, do agree on one important element. The imbalance that presents itself and is called DD or MPD or spirit possession has its roots in some type of trauma. Most Western psychologists only look for these roots within the waking consciousness of the patient. The more successful actually use the tools of hypnosis to search for the roots of the traumatizing event beyond the reach of the conscious mind’s defenses. The most effective healers within the Western context are those who look for the roots of the trauma in both the conscious and subconscious mind; and if its source is not readily available in the surface areas of either the subconscious or the conscious mind, they look further. They can trace the pathways provided by the subconscious mind through dreams or other non-ordinary states of consciousness. They track the trauma’s roots to perinatal experiences, past life experiences, and encounters with different types of spirit entities.
William Baldwin, whose work has centered on spirit depossession, defines three sets of entities in his work: human entities, dark force entities, and extraterrestrial beings. Shamans practicing the core, trans-cultural shamanism that Michael Harner has defined, outline three worlds: the Upper World, the Middle World, and the Lower World. These worlds are populated by an almost uncountable number of entities. Some are helpers and archetypal figures, for which Jung is the best translator in Western psychology. According to this model, most of the spirits that are causing problems in a person’s psyche inhabit only the Middle World. These are the spirits defined by William Baldwin. The spirits of the Upper or Lower Worlds are understood to be more helpful and powerful. The shamanic practitioner can call upon Upper and Lower World spirits with whom he has established a relationship for help. They can help with the depossession of troubling spirits and help the client begin the process back to integration and wholeness.
Western psychology has very few interventions that address the issue of spirit possession. It does have a set of exhaustive descriptions of the external phenomena associated with DID type states, which, as we have seen, are very similar to those associated with spirit possession. And it does use some mind-altering drugs to some effect. Neither of these approaches allows access to the internal functioning of the client or his relationship to the spirit that is caught within his psyche.
The American Psychiatric Association states: “the essential feature of the dissociative disorders is a disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment.” The APA further defines dissociative disorders as an adaptive response to acute trauma because they provide:
* Containment of traumatic memories and affects (amnesia barriers)
* Separation of normal conscious awareness (splitting off)
* Escape from the constraints of reality
* Alteration/detachment of self
* Analgesia (numbness).
Other schools of thought, including shamanism and past life therapies would agree with this assessment. These are all good reasons for the individual to opt for the alternate reality that can manifest in spirit possession, DD or other types of imbalances. The symptoms of DD and spirit possession (although not commonly defined as such in Western psychological circles) are defined by the APA as:
“Depression, low self esteem, crying spells, flat affect, feelings of being overwhelmed or fatigued or mood-swings, difficulty in concentrating (fading out, detached, distanced), phobic, panic or anxiety symptoms, palpitations, sensations of choking or smothers, faintness, trembling, numbness, tingling, visual disturbances, headaches not relieved by standard analgesics, feelings of unreality, sleep disturbances or nightmare, misuse or abuse of sedatives, analgesic, alcohol, stimulants, gaps in memory, disappearance of objects, forgetfulness, periods of time loss, out of body experiences, sexual difficulties, fear of making mistakes, difficulty in making decision, extreme internal conflict between parts with different ‘needs’ or ‘needs’ v. ‘shoulds,’ self-mutilation, suicidal ideation, negative outlook on life, and suicide attempts.”
These definitions are helpful for as far as they go in, again, describing external manifestations of internal states. However, when helping a client resolve these symptoms, one almost has to forget the definitions. One must remain totally present with the presentation of the symptoms in order to enter the internal processes of the problem. True resolution can occur only from within the internal processes. Hypnosis is a very valuable tool in helping the client arrive at the moment these symptoms took root in his psyche. It can aid in finding an internal “beachhead” where resolution of the problem can take place. Only by staying with the symptoms and guiding the client on his own journey through the psyche can the hypnotherapist cross the boundaries of Western psychology and traditional healing methods. When he can remain present with the client’s experience, he can find the tools to assist in the retrieval of the lost soul parts or dissociated areas of the psyche.
Practitioners with the most detailed maps of the psyche and with the least prejudice to the presenting symptoms are best prepared. They are the most able to help people come into an integrated sense of wholeness within themselves through this journey. The best way to use the maps defined by any school of thought is to put them aside or in the back of one’s mind. The task is then to ask the client to guide the practitioner through the landscape of his mind. This is done through a process of non-leading questions, which incorporate the mental, spiritual, and physical reporting on the part of the client while in an altered state.
The background information I use in forming my own personal map to help clients with symptoms similar to those of DID and spirit possession is expanding all the time. But the questions I ask to help resolve the issue have remained surprisingly stable and sparse over time. After hypnotic induction, my goal is to find out: 1). What is the source of this particular presenting symptom? 2). What are the decisions or assumptions the client made about himself as a result of this situation? 3). How are those assumptions active in his present life? 4). What needs to be done for a shift to occur in his relationship to the source situation? 5). How will that internal shift affect his internal life? 6). Provide suggestions based on the client’s own solutions to create the engine to effect those changes.
We may have to repeat these questions and the processes they engender for many separate issues. This depends on the degree, severity, and complexity of the imbalance. And we may have to delve into past lives, and alternate realities of all types, including extraterrestrial realities (as defined by the client). We may have to dialogue and converse with spirits to get the answers, but the answers and the resolution they bring with them do emerge.
The tools I use in helping the client uncover the answers to these questions vary depending on the client’s own needs. I don’t really care if a person has been diagnosed with a DD by a psychiatrist or if a priest has referred someone to me for depossession work. The label is irrelevant. All that matters is the process and the process is defined by the client. Schools of thought that state the client is incapable of identifying the paths the journey should take denigrate the integrity of the client. Everyone knows what he or she needs to become whole. They just need guidance and support to have the courage to take the path to wholeness. Granted, I do not work with severely so-called schizoid or psychotic clients, so I cannot make that statement in reference to them, but I would not rule this possibility out.
When most people come to me it is because they have a habit that is the presenting dysfunction. Sometimes, the habit can even belong to an attached spirit. This usually becomes evident in following the course of symptoms as described above. All habit formation is really a development of a new coping mechanism for the base personality. Most people are dissociating from themselves in order to indulge their habits. Developing a habit can indeed facilitate the same type of “altered” behavior and fulfill the same need that developing a new personality does. Both cope with unacceptable external elements in the environment. Both serve the same purpose: the release from the unacceptable or the untenable. Within this framework, it could be argued that habit disorder and full-blown DID or DD symptoms are just different points along the psyche’s continuum in dealing with what the conscious mind perceives as unacceptable. And spirit intrusion can happen anywhere along this continuum.
Indulging in a habit becomes the trigger for behavior to emerge that is unacceptable outside the realm of the habit. Alters, as defined by APA texts, function the same way. Alters are divergent personalities contained within one body. When an alter emerges, the person can indulge in all types of behavior which is unacceptable outside the realm of the usual personality. And my guess is that alters defined in this way may well be attached spirits.
For instance, a normally mild-mannered person who allows himself the habit of drinking alcohol can use the alcohol as a trigger for the release of rage. An outside observer might remark, “He is just a different person when he drinks.” Indeed, he may well be. This is especially true because parapsychologists have documented the usurpation of the body by bodiless spirits during drug-induced stupors.
The symptoms of spirit possession and DID strongly resemble each other and have much in common in their presentation with other psychic phenomenon. For this reason it is important to remain open-minded when traveling through the client’s psyche, seeking understanding and resolution. These similar symptoms can also present as subpersonalities developed in response to an imprint of negative parental messages such as “you are stupid.” Or, they might present in strong, dogmatic belief systems about oneself based on decisions or statements received in moments of trauma, in an altered state or at the moment of death in a previous life. Similarly, identification or introjection of an abusive adult role model, usually a parent, can develop to the point where a true introject of the parent is present and actively using the client’s life energy.
All of these presenting symptoms can strongly resemble full-blown DID symptoms depending, in large part, on the degree and repetition of trauma associated with such imprinting. They also depend on the age or place in time the imprinting occurred and the degree to which spirit involvement is present. The degree of trauma is the main determining influence on how much the dynamics of these types of dissociative processes subsume the individual’s energy. It is also the degree of trauma that often influences a person’s susceptibility to possession by other entities. It also determines how much of the person’s life energy becomes available to spirits to use for their own devices.
One might well ask, what are the motivations of spirits or disembodied energies in taking up residence in a person’s psychic or physical space. In my clinical experience, I have found that spirits have many different motivations for seeking access to a person’s life energy. Many times, it is just the fix of life energy they are seeking. Sometimes they are lost or confused and simply find entry into a person’s psychic space when that person is also lost or confused. Sometimes they have very good intentions; they are drawn to situations where people are so afraid that they have withdrawn their life energy from their body. The spirit or disembodied energy may fill the vacuum, trying to rescue or protect the person. Spirits which try to rescue inappropriately in this way may be operating under the same set of misunderstandings people in bodies do when they try to rescue or “fix” a loved one’s problem by offering up parts of their life energy for that person’s use. They enter into symbiotic agreements that cement the continuance of the relationship.
Interestingly, I have rarely encountered the type of angry or demonic spirits that are so avidly depicted in Hollywood renditions of spirit depossessions. Almost always, if a spirit is operating out of revenge or intent to harm, they regret it and are anxiously seeking a way out of the negative place these emotions have put them in. If they do not regret it, it is only necessary to trace their intent for harm to the source of pain at the root of it, and help resolve their relationship to that pain. So, in a depossession, it is not uncommon to effect a healing for the occupying entity as well as a healing for the host. In many ways, this work is extremely gratifying because of the tremendous amount of healing that can take place on so many levels at once.