Rethinking Madness: Psychosis and Spiritual Awakening

First posted at

Over the past 30 years, the broken brain and chemical imbalance theory of “mental illness” has had mixed results at best.   While sales of psychoactive pharmaceuticals have increased 8000%, suicide and mental health disability rates in the US have also shot up.

It’s time we rethink madness. Are there spiritual aspects to mental illness? Is psychosis related to spiritual enlightenment or shamanism? Is there a relationship between shamanism, spiritual enlightenment and psychosis? Are these just breakdowns, or can they be breakthroughs?

CRAZYWISE film in collaboration with Shades of Awakening invites you to a live discussion about how we can bring change to the current paradigm that governs the diagnosis and treatment of severe mental emotional distress.

It’s time to shift the conversation, in our homes, in our hospitals and in our communities. 

Join host Dabney Alix of Shades of Awakening for a live discussion and Q&A with panelists Gabor Mate, Robert Whitaker, Will Hall, Ekhaya Esima and CRAZYWISE director Phil Borges.

Your email used for registration will not be shared with anyone! 

Let’s come together to reframe the experience called ‘mental illness’

  • Discover ways you can use your influence, passion and voice to make real change.
  • Engage in live discussions with our panelists and Ekhaya Esima, a main subject in the film.

Panelists joining us include:

MODERATOR: DABNEY ALIX is the creator of Shades of Awakening, a online speaker series and global community that brings together both peers and professionals in rich discussion of how to integrate and claim the gifts from spiritual emergency. After her own profound spiritual crisis in 2003 she went on to train as a shamanic practitioner and energy healer and later as a spiritual business & purpose coach. /

Robert Whitaker, Pulitzer Prize nominated Journalist & Author: His most recent book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, challenges the chemical imbalance theory of ‘mental illness’ and takes a critical look at the effectiveness of our pharmaceutical approach that currently dominates our mental health care system.

Gabor Mate, MD, Author: Dr. Mate is a physician who specializes in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology, as well as the study and treatment of addiction. A renowned lecturer and best-selling author, Dr. Mate believes mental distress and pathology are largely a result of a materialist culture that “idealizes individualism and ignores our emotional needs”.


Will Hall, MA, DIPL.PW: Therapist & Mental Health Advocate: Will Hall is an articulate bright light in the survivor-led movement advocating for a change in the way mental illness is defined and treated. As a leader in the movement Will lectures and gives workshops worldwide. He has faced his own struggles with madness and speaks to us about the alternative treatment approaches that have worked for him.


Ekhaya Esima, Survivor, & Mental Health Counselor: Ekhaya’s story is highlighted in the film. After severe suicidal depression, her first ray of hope for recovery came when she found the peer-led mental health organization, Baltic Street, in New York. The second profound moment in her healing came when a South African healer, known as a Sangoma, redefined her ‘mental illness’, and began her initiation and training in an age-old Shamanic tradition.

Phil Borges, CRAZYWISE Director & Producer: Phil Borges has been documenting indigenous cultures and the human rights issues they face for over 25 years. His award winning books and exhibitions are known worldwide. He has produced several films in collaboration with organizations like Amnesty International, UN Women and CARE. Phil has given several TED talks; including TED in 2007, TEDxRainier in 2012 and TEDxUMKC in 2013 and hosted television documentaries for Discovery and National Geographic.

Info on topic:


Rethinking it all


About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

3 Responses

  1. Garth Amundson, Psy.D.

    I stumbled upon your blog purely by accident, and am happy that I did: your perspective on the nature and meaning of psychosis is identical to my own, in important respects. I am a clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst working in private practice in Chicago. Over the last two decades I have treated quite a few individuals in the throes of psychosis who sought me out themselves, or were referred to me by their families, insurance companies, and so on. Some time ago I became firmly convinced that this so-called “disorder” is NOT to be approached as a hostile foreign invader that has laid siege to the mind. Rather, the psychotic state is properly understood to be a potential source of psychic healing, if – and only if – I and the patient can listen to what the symptoms are trying to say to us.

    I have authored a chapter in the recently-released book “Outpatient Treatment of Psychosis” (Karnac, 2017) in which I bring my understanding of the unfolding of psychotic states as an expression of the mind’s last desperate attempt at self-repair. It is available for order on the publisher’s website – I think you will find this volume to be a pleasant surprise, in that it challenges the current popular notion that psychosis is a hereditary disease entity or “chemical imbalance” to be eradicated with drugs.

    My more general view of psychotherapy and the nature of the mind is available on my WordPress blog –

    Again, thanks for creating your most interesting blog. — Garth Amundson, Psy.D.


  2. The comments on are closed, but I identified so much with what Paul talked about, and a lot of other things that are discussed on this blog. I’ve been trying to find out more about spiritual explanations of psychosis, with not a little trepidation. Of course I want to believe in the meaning and validity of my spiritual experiences, but I cannot deny that horrible things have happened to me/my bodymind, and these things have produced negative outcomes in the way I treat others and the outer world. Mainstream American culture calls this mental illness. “Excessive sadness” is diagnosible and treatable, “excessive happiness” (“delusions of grandeur”) is diagnosible and treatable, but these are all mental illnesses… How to balance the real-life consequences of the outgrowths of trauma and mental and psycho-spiritual unwellness (e.g. hurting myself, hurting others) with the fact of my coming unstuck in this non-reality. Waking up is scary and painful and I have found very few conceptual tools to help me deal with this. Mostly people prescribe meds. Not helpful. I am coming off of mine soon, but yeah, I’m scared. I’m especially scared that I won’t find the human support I need– I put very little faith in humans. Yet I get a lot of people telling me “how it is,” trying to explain my spiritual path to me as if it is crystal clear to them– as it there is only one way up the mountain. I’m glad I found this blog, which has a diversity of perspectives. Some of them are already speaking to me. Thanks for this.



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