Stories to Awaken the Inner hero

We have completed our series of workshops, Stories to Awaken your Inner Hero in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland with Dr Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy. What a great workshop it was. We discovered the healing power of story, the emotional power of using metaphor. The gift it was to be able to listen to someones life challenges, and turn it into a Heros story, using metaphor. The story of Pack rat and First mother, told by Lewis, reminding us all, just like the Heros, not to give up. That by creating a metaphorical story we we become the hero and succeeds, our brains, and spirits began to start searching for a way to create that success on a deeper level.

Uplifting, and engaging.

Here is an interview with Lewis and Barbara before the workshops, talking about it.

Heroes story interview Lewis Mehl Madrona & Barbara Mainguy

Connecting with Ceremony Ancestors

We had a fabulous workshop today, in Auckland, the last of a series of worskhops in New Zealand with Lewis Mehl Madrona and Barbara Mainguy. We made prayer ties, and heard stories of how the Native American Lakota and Cherokee saw the creation of the world and the communication with spirit and the ancestors. We performed a fire ceremony, and partook in a  chanunpa  ceremony.

the  peace and connection everyone felt from the day was beautiful. I must say that they are two fabulous and genuine people. Their teachings touched all our hearts.

Here is an interview with them, before we held the workshop, talking a little about the ancestors

Ceremony & Ancestors Lewis & Barbara

 

A series of Workshops with Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy in New Zealand

We are excited to announce we have organised a series of workshops with Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy for March 2015. Thanks to funding from the Lotteries Board and also the ASB Community trust find.

We will also be offering four free places in Auckland and Whangarei workshops for people with cultural knowledge/ expertise. Those who know the stories of our people and the land in each area. Email me to apply for these places.

The workshops we are offering are

1) Narrative Medicine- Storytelling in West Auckland and in Russell Bay of Islands

2) Remapping your Mind & Sacred Drama in Manakau and Whangarei

3) Cherokee Bodywork in Russell, Bay of Islands.

You can also see all the info on our website here and download registration forms and PDFS of the fliers, http://www.hearingvoices.org.nz/index.php/events-and-workshops/104-a-series-of-workshops-with-lewis-mehl-madrona-barbara-mainguy-march-2015

Lewis Mehl Madrona: Definining Coyote Psychotherapy

Lewis Mehl Madrona and Barbara Mainguy are coming to NZ. The HVNANZ has received finding from the ASB community trust and Lotteries Commission to help with this. Yay. So I am going to bombard you with some of the great articles he has written in the meantime.

We are collating the workshop info and will get the fliers out in the next few weeks.

Here is an article on Coyote Psychotherapy

http://www.futurehealth.org/populum/page.php?f=Defining-Coyote-Psychother-by-Lewis-Mehl-Madrona-Body_Community_Healing_Health-141102-270.html

We are just completing three presentations at the Institute for Psychiatric Services, which is the community and public psychiatry meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. We had the opportunity to present our approach to the psychotherapy of psychosis, and had realization that we could own the name, Coyote Psychotherapy, which is, as we playfully told people, indigenous inspired, body-oriented, narrative and social psychotherapy, and still a little more, because Coyote can never be completely contained.

In relation to my indigenous origins and to our active practice of Native American spirituality, whatever we do is indigenous inspired. The concepts are powerful and important. All healing is spiritual. To thrive we need the help of the spirits. Community is everything. Healing is energetic. Faith and the power of belief matter enormously. Relationship is everything. These are the core concepts of our work. Beyond this, traditional elders have inspired everything we do. I think of Vern Harper, an elder we love in Toronto. Vern is well past 80 years old. Every week he ventures into the worse part of Toronto to sit and listen to the homeless, the alcoholics, the drug addicts, to anyone who wants to talk. Vern has a profound respect for the humanity and the value of all these people. He doesn’t need them to change for him to love them. He just does. Vern is our hero. We strive to achieve the radical acceptance that Vern demonstrates.

Immediately that calls into mind John Charles. While I lived in Saskatchewan, John Charles was my hero. I’ve written about John before. For years he was an Anglican priest. Then, he was discovered to have brain cancer, so severe that the conventional doctors gave him 30 days to live (how they figure these things out is beyond me). John realized that Christian spirituality was not going to heal him. He went to see a woman who practiced the traditional Cree medicine and did everything she said. Within the 30 days in which he was supposed to do, he recovered and the tumors disappeared. That put John into a quandary of faith. He had been Anglican for most of his life, but he was Cree, and the Cree spirituality had healed him. One night he had a vision. He saw four elders smoking pipes around Christ on the Cross in each of the four directions. He was told distinctly that it was all one. He could be traditional and Christian all at the same time.

I spent many a Sunday at John’s house on Sturgeon Lake Reserve, being doctored, taking people to being doctored, sitting in ceremony with him, and feasting of fresh caught sturgeon. I also inspire to be as loving and as accepting as John. When someone missed ceremony because they had been drunk the night before, John sent his helpers to go get them. That’s when they really need to be in ceremony, John said. All were welcome at John’s. For John and Vern, and all the other elders I have known, nothing could shock them. Whatever people had done, they were welcome. So we aspire to put these principles into practice in our work with people who suffer emotionally.

Psychotherapy has always been a problematic word for me. What indigenous elders do is healing. I’d like to use the term healing, but it has such a New Age connotation, that it alienates many people. In this strategic move to be somewhat mainstream, the term is psychotherapy for the work we do with people with psychosis, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and the like. Yet, what we do is not just mental. We involve the body — sometimes directly through touch therapies, as with Cherokee bodywork, which I have learned, or in conjunction with colleagues who do osteopathic manual medicine. In preparing for our talks, we learned that a French psychoanalyst, Janet, preceded Freud by three years, and was very much involved in including the body in the healing of emotional pain (psychotherapy). Freud made the decision to reject the body for the “talking cure” and his followers went along, though at least one scholar points to the split with Wilhelm Reich (a good Mainer) as Freud’s impetus to abandon the body entirely.

In the apprenticeship I undertook to learn Cherokee bodywork from traditional practitioners, I learned that life is energy. When energy moves, health follows. When energy is blocked, disease ensues. Our osteopathic colleague, Magili Chapman-Quinn, described how opiate use makes people’s tissues feel as if they are stuck in concrete or think glue. These insights are important for healing.

I believe that psychiatry must reclaim the body. We should all be doing our own physical examinations on patients. We must overthrow the Victorian notion that all touch is sexual. The physical examination is a special moment of intimacy with patients. In examining their bodies, they often reveal concerns that would otherwise go unnoticed. I have found cancers on physical examinations that were being concealed by the patient. I have found skin diseases, the evidence of abuse in the form of bruises and other injuries, and, in the process of interacting through the exam, people have told me what is really bothering them. I believe psychiatrists must be doctors, too. We must stop hiding behind the Cartesian mind-body split and take control of the body.

When I present this idea at meetings, the inevitable response comes that we will be sued and charged with sexual assault. I note that it is we who have taught patients to think this way. Of course, every branch of medicine has doctors who abuse patients, and we are no exception, but the functions of the mind are manifest in and through the body, and we must examine the body to truly understand them. So, this is the sense through which our work is embodied. We understand that life is embodied and physical and that we have bodies so that we can be easily found (David Granger). Our bodies dutifully record the effects of the events of our lives. To recover from the effects of the events of our lives, we must address the body. We can do that through direct, hands on massage and manipulation, as in Cherokee bodywork, osteopathy, or tui nan. We can do it through embodied movement and dance therapies. We can do it through energy medicine, as in Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, or joh rei. We can do it through acupuncture or acupressure. But, however we do it, we must acknowledge the effect of a difficult life on the body (as well as the mind) and we are served if we liberate the body from the effects of these stressors and traumas even as we free the mind.

Our therapy is decidedly narrative in the sense that we understand that humans and stories are interchangeable. We are the stories that live through us. We live through the stories we enact. Stories are the default mode of the human brain. We evolved to make story about the many people in our lives. Stories help us keep track of our many social relationships. They inform us about how to seek the good life and how to interpret the events of our life. Stories help us construct meaning in our lives and find a purpose to occupy our time. Stories are very important.

We also recognize the healing power of community. I have written before about the power of being with others when having an experience. Gene induction is so much more powerful when we are in the presence of others than when we are alone. This seems to cut across the animal kingdom, and is called the audience effect in biology. Other people give us our sense of meaning and purpose. They help us create shared stories, which we feel are greater than us (transpersonal). They give us opportunities to be altruistic, to share, to demonstrate caring for others, and to learn and be supported from others. Our preferred hypothesis about brain development is the social brain hypothesis in which social experience is required to connect the circuitry from its rudimentary origins.

But there’s more. Coyote has a thing or two to say. Coyote teaches us the value of humor and fun. We want to enjoy each client. We want to have something positive to say about them, and to them. Coyote teaches us to find the humor in each encounter and to have fun in our work. Over time I will write more about narrative work, but it is decidedly fun. When we can represent each of the voices inside a person’s head with a puppet, and when we can get the puppets talking to each, it’s inevitably lots of fun, and also very helpful. We are breaking the conventional psychoanalytic mold (as it was taught when I trained in the 1870’s) and are finding the humor in life and its vicissitudes.

At the psychiatry conference, we presented outcome data. If people can stick it out with us for at least six months, they usually improve (over 90%). That was much better than I experienced in community mental health work. When I worked there, I tracked my patients, and, on average, no one improved (of course, some did, and some got worse, but the net impact was zero). So, we are arguing that we appreciate and enjoy our clients, we have fun with them, and they get better. However, it takes more than six months for serious problems, and sometimes years. Nevertheless, the joy is there.

Hearing Voices and Visions by Lewis Mehl-Madrona.

I found this excellent article on hearing voices and visions on the internet. Written by Lewis Mehl Madrona he reminds us all that hearing voices was not always considered universally as mental illness and was sometimes dealt eith more efficiently by healers than the medication now used.

See the full article here on the Futurehealth website 

He has his own website here www.mehl-madrona.com

Here is an extract.

In our contemporary world of North America, hearing voices is the only “symptom” that immediately and single-handedly qualifies one for the DSM (Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association) diagnosis of psychosis.   We could qualify this as more correctly referring to the acknowledgement of hearing voices to a professional empowered by the State to make diagnoses in a context in which diagnosing occurs.   Thus, Moses could not have been psychotic, for no psychologists or relevant State laws existed to diagnose him.   A famous quote says, “When we talk to God, it’s called prayer; when God talks to us, it’s called hallucinations.”

Throughout recorded history, people have seen visions and have heard the voices of Angels, Gods, or others.   Only recently have these experiences (or the reporting of them) become pathological.   With the emergency of modern science and the ascendency of materialism, anything smacking of spirits or of the supernatural is suspicious or pathological. In Arizona, a recent archbishop for the Roman Catholic Church definitively declared that the Virgin Mary is no longer seen.   Hundreds of Mexicans didn’t read enough English to disagree with him.   Divine communication and contact was sought, cultivated, and treasured until very recently, and is still desired within many indigenous communities.

However, today, many people live on the shadow side of hearing voices and having visions.   These people constantly hear berating, deprecatory voices, who won’t leave them alone.   These people suffer tremendously.   They become unable to function, so much so that relatives or well-meaning friends take them to the emergency department or to the mental health center for help.   In another time and place, a traditional healer might be asked to cast out a demon or remove a curse or retrieve the soul that has wandered away, causing the soul to be stuck in spirit world and the body to express its urgent cries for help.   Today, the contemporary interpretation centers around people with defective brains that need medication.

In his book, Crazy Like Us: The Americanization of Mental Health,” Ethan Watters writes about the damage to people in Zimbabwe when hearing voices and having visions became medicalized.   Prior to that, people were taken to healers who had a consistent explanatory story about spirit contact.   Participation of all parties in this story and its prescriptions for enactment often resulted in resolution of the problem, with greater honor coming to the hearer of voices and the deliverer of visions.   With the replacement of this idea by the defective brain story, the quality of people’s lives deteriorated and recovery became much less possible.   The traditional Zimbabwean explanations included the possibility of recovery and wellness.   They also included dignity and respect for the person brought to the healer.   The new biomedical stories did not include recovery from defective brain conditions; nor did they fail to stigmatize those whom they described.   People were not better off following the Americanization of mind and mental health in Zimbabwe.

The voices that my diagnosed clients hear are not kind, for the most part.   They are not uplifting or transformative.   They convey no positive messages.   What do they say?   One client related some of the continual litany chanted by her voices:

“You’re going to hell.”

“I’m not going to stop tormenting you until you’re a corpse.”

“You’re fat and ugly.”

“You should kill yourself so you can stop taking up space.”

“You don’t even deserve the air that you breathe.”

“Why don’t you just hold your breath until you die.”

The list goes on and on.   Her voices were always female (Later, over weeks, we would discover that they were the voices of her female relatives which she had internalized.)

What differentiates my “patient” population from the rest of us who hear voices?   Is it the uniform inclusion of negative, mean, unkind voices?   The exception to this occurs with people who are diagnosed as manic, some of whom only hear joyful, celebratory, elated voices.   That would be fine, except that they often lose judgment about how to report their elation and what to do about.   A well known movie shows a man in a state of elation, going to a symphony concern, and getting up onto the stage to take over conducting, because he was guided to do so to produce more spiritual music.   Admirable, but not condoned.

I suspect that the people who are diagnosed begin with the gift to tune into other dimensions and to be extra sensitive to other states of consciousness, but that trauma causes their reception to get stuck on the negative.   One of my clients hears the voices of racism.   These voices are social stories that she has internalized due to her great sensitivity, but it would be better for her if she were to leave combating racism to those who are stronger than she is. The stories overburden her and cause her to collapse.   She ends up believing that everyone is making negative, racist comments about her, which is actually not happening, at least as far as I can determine.   Nevertheless, if we bracket for the moment the materialist paradigm in which their voices are the product of deranged brains, we arrive upon some very interesting ontological questions about the dimensions from which these voices arrive and the ontological status of the beings behind these voices.   These questions become practical when we begin the work of reducing the influence of the voices upon people or the suffering that they experience from these voices.

Elders have told me that the suffering of modern people from voices and visions exist because modern people have lost the stories needed to manage such experiences.   Two Huichol elders told me they would not give a modern person peyote for at least a year and only after that person had learned all the stories and songs deemed necessary by the elders to manage the visions that might be offered by the Spirit of Peyote.

Stories work that way.   They tell us how to interpret experience.   Without such stories, we could be overcome by the power and intensity of the peyote experience.   Then we could really get into trouble if we fell back into our own American cultural stories of heaven and hell, angels and demons, and we might either require extensive babysitting until we came out of it, or we might get noticed by the authorities and taken to hospital or jail.

So we need stories about how to manage voices and visions in order to manage them.   These stories create a normalizing context for voices and visions within which their messages and meanings can be interpreted and understood.  

Telling people that their voices are not real is not a good story.   It doesn’t work.   Patients tell me over and over how very real the voices are -” as clear as mine.   They don’t accept the story that their voices are hallucinations.   They sound too real, too genuine.   While we can speculate about the realms from which these voices originate, the key concept in helping people to manage voices is the understanding that, wherever these voices originate, they have no physical power in ordinary reality.   They can’t kill you.   They can’t harm you.   They can’t harm anyone else.   They actually can’t do anything at all.   Their only power is to convince you to do harmful things to yourself or others. They are like the Lakota Iktomi character who is the evil spirit of that culture, and who has no direct power to intervene in human affairs, only the power of trickery and flattery.   Voices are like that, and this realization is of major importance in helping people to reduce the suffering related to their voices.   It’s easier to ignore negative voices once we know that they don’t actually have any power in this dimension, no matter how real they sound.

Another group of clients, however, acknowledge a tonal difference between my voice and their voices, a qualitative difference.     They know the difference between the voices of ordinary reality and these other voices.   They may still suffer enormously from these other voices, but can distinguish them as different.   In some ways, they are easier to help.   The awareness of difference can more quickly lead to the awareness of the impotence of the voices.

In some respects, I do envy the position of my clients as being more solidly in other realities than our consensual one.   I have to work much harder to hear voices.   I have to use mindfulness meditation techniques to empty my mind so that I can detect others in the stillness.   I have to work at turning off my own chatter.   I usually feel   moderately confident that I hear the voice of an “Other” when what the voice says is startling or novel, something unexpected that I hadn’t previously considered.   Another clue to the presence of an “Other” for me is when I have deep physiological responses to the voice -” a sense of deep inner peace, a sense of compassionate wisdom, a deep feeling of relaxation.   Unfortunately, my patients don’t have these marvelous feelings or wise communications.   Most of their voices are negative and only productive of suffering.   Their voices are intrusive.

Like everyone, I have what could be called intrusive thoughts at times.   Standing on a balcony, I have had the thought to jump.   Who hasn’t?   Unlike my clients, however, I have techniques to stop these thoughts and to turn my awareness elsewhere.   The balcony is an interesting example.   I suspect we have these thoughts because we can fly in our dreams.   We can jump off tall buildings and survive.   Part of being “sane” is being able to maintain an awareness of which coordinate system currently constrains us and to act accordingly.   I know better than to jump off a building when I’m awake (and I know when I’m awake and when I’m not).   I have a client who didn’t have this awareness and who fell five stories.   Luckily he survived, but not without some permanent disability.   People who get diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders have minimally good means of managing intrusive thoughts or intrusive voices.   They have to learn, and rarely does anyone want to teach them.   The conventional biomedical position is that medications will solve this, but, rarely does this happen.   Patients continue to suffer from their voices but learn to tell their doctors that they’re fine lest the dosages be raised high enough to turn them into zombies.

There is more of this excellent article on the website