Psychiatric drug withdrawal, kundalini and shamanic initiatory illness

This post is about one of the ways I’ve coped with the disability that I’ve had to deal with as a result of psychiatric drug withdrawal. The kundalini experience is one potentially helpful method of interpreting much of the psychiatric drug withdrawal experience. I’ve encountered quite a few people now who resonate with this interpretation in withdrawal circles. Below I’m sharing what Sheila Joshi, or “Healing” wrote about it at SurvivingAntidepressants.org. Sheila Joshi, a  clinical psychologist, is recovering from severe neurological damage from prescription antidepressants. She has a blog here.  She leads a site and forum on antidepressant withdrawal here.

I also work with a woman who is an expert in kundalini, having done extensive research, interviewing thousands, written a book and had her own personal experience with it many years ago now. She also happens to be a trained therapist with a PhD in psychology. She has proven to be, by far, the most helpful professional I’ve encountered throughout this journey, and indeed, in my lifetime. We work with my situation with a significant part of the work being her foundation in kundalini. She had not had previous experience with psychiatric drug withdrawal and yet shows an astonishing capacity to understand and empathize with my experience. I would say and I think she’d agree that the withdrawal syndrome acted as a catalyst to the kundalini process. In fact I had something of a kundalini process happening when psychiatry rudely interrupted many years ago. So now it’s also clear that the withdrawal syndrome complicates the kundalini process but this is normal for many people in that traumas of all sorts can trigger and accompany kundalini. Of note this woman with expertise in kundalini approaches me not as therapist but as mentor, teacher and friend. 

Shamanism is something I’ve mentioned on Beyond Meds many times.

*note: Kundalini experience, like psychiatric drug withdrawal and toxicity, exists on a spectrum, some having relatively light symptoms while others can be quite extreme. 


Psychiatric drug withdrawal, kundalini and shamanic initiatory illness

by Sheila Joshi

Shaking, vibration, altered states of consciousness ranging from comatose to euphoric, extremely long periods of insomnia or hypersomnia, inability to tolerate eating, food cravings, headaches, nausea and vomiting, nightmares, suicidality, pain, heart palpitations, fear of going crazy, feeling tormented, terror, being bed-ridden, agitation, weakness, cognitive confusion, seizures, muscular rigidity, tingling, impaired vision, hearing unusual sounds, seeing lights, other hallucinations or visions, obsessive or impulsive behavior, rages, crying jags, severe depression, vertigo, seeming drunk without taking any substance, exhaustion, chills, heat, sweating, tendency to withdrawal and agoraphobia.

What am I describing?

a) psych med withdrawal
b ) Kundalini awakening
c) shamanic initiatory illness
d) all of the above

The correct answer is d) all of the above!

Kundalini awakening and shamanic initiatory illness are both naturally occurring phenomena that were first observed and described many millenia ago. And they continue to be observed — in more and more cultures.

Kundalini is an ancient Indian model of neuro-psycho-spiritual evolutionary potential in humans. The ancient Indians really mapped this phenomenon, kind of the way the ancient Chinese mapped the chi health system. However, this phenomenon has been described in many different spiritual and philosohical traditions throughout history, including Christianity.

Shamanic initiatory illness is a phenomenon with roots even further back in the mists of time, when humans drew their inspiration directly from nature (celestial bodies, elements, animals, plants) and ancestors, before the advent of gods. Again, this phenomenon has been described in isolated, indigenous cultures around the globe, suggesting that it is a universal human potential.

The syndrome is unpredictable in how it is precipitated, but toxic exposure is one of the possible factors. It often lasts for years. The symptom set includes significant mental and physical symptoms, and doesn’t fit into any of the culture’s recognizable illnesses. The symptoms are intractable — that culture has no adequate treatment. The syndrome remits spontaneously and it is impossible to predict when it will happen. The syndrome does end.

What am I describing?

a) psych med withdrawal
b ) Kundalini awakening
c) shamanic initiatory illness
d) all of the above

The correct answer is, again, d) all of the above!

Kundalini is a neuro-psycho-spiritual developmental potential that traditionally resides latent at the base of the spine until it is activated. It can be activated on purpose by spiritual practice, or by accident through physical or psychological trauma. Once it is activated, it involves a deep cleanse or purge of the body, psyche, and spirit. Psycho-physiological traumas from throughout the lifespan are repaired. The grueling symptoms listed above are merely the side effects of this repair process.

The final result is a rewired neuro-endocrinological system. The person who goes through the process and comes out the other side takes a quantum leap in health, happiness, peace, wisdom, sense of mission, and, potentially, “extended human capacities,” or what we call psychic abilities. It’s like being born again into a second life without actually dying in between. And it’s supposed to result in a literally more evolved human being.

A shamanic initiatory illness is a transformative ordeal that either comes on unexpectedly with no known precipitating event or can be activated on purpose by spiritual practice. It shows up as an odd amalgam of mental and physical symptoms, as mentioned above; is typically very debilitating; and takes the individual to very odd and dark mental and physical places. Interestingly, the illness seems to create a field that affects family and friends around the sufferer, who sometimes go through their own tough times in parallel.

Most initiations seem to be involuntary and un-asked-for, and, consequently, resisted. Eventually, the resistance in broken down, and the sufferer agrees to be a shaman. Symptoms can remit quite dramatically once the initiate starts to “shamanize” in some way, such as performing healings (using herbal knowledge, psychic healing, or a combination) or divination, involving knowledge and abilities s/he did not have before the illness. Shamans are considered to be more advanced in their development or more evolved than people who have not gone through the initiation.

So, what does this have to do with us?!

Exposure to toxic 21st century psych meds, removal of the toxin, and recovery from the consequent neuro-endocrinological damage may be just the latest way that humans are being triggered into a transformative experience that re-wires them. It might be said that the transformation leads people back into who they were supposed to be before the oppressive influences of family and society pushed them off track. Or it might be said that the transformation leads people into what the collective unconscious or planet *needs* them to be right now for the commonwealth.

In the last several years of observing people recover from these meds, I have noticed that as people recover they often report significant changes in how they view the world, the purpose of their lives, what’s most important, etc. Many people become more interested in spiritual matters. Others become politically aware in a new way. Or environmentally aware. Some people become more intuitive or psychic. Almost everyone gets their eyes opened in some way, and becomes more of a critical thinker when it comes to accepting the word of the authorities.

So, horrendous as this experience is, it’s interesting to look at it as a transformative experience that may serve a broader purpose than we might have imagined and that fits into a very ancient framework about how rapid spurts of evolution may happen for individuals, societies, and civilization as a whole.

To view the very interesting discussion that took place on the forum where this was first posted, click here.

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