Finding Meaning in States Some Call Mad

When we relate with each other, a key thing we long for is to have the other see meaning in our experience, while we notice and reflect on the meaning in theirs.

But when people are seen to be “mad” or “psychotic” or “crazy,” they are typically told that their experience makes no sense, and their best option is to take pills in an attempt to make that experience stop.

When people’s experience seems extreme, it may be difficult to find meaning in it even when people around the person do make an effort. One reason for that may be the shallowness of our culture, which has difficulty connecting to anything too far from the “norm.”

Spiritual traditions, though, do contain clues about how to understand extreme experiences and extreme states of consciousness.

That’s a subject Caroline Maze-Carlton explored in a webinar “Messages, Meaning and Ancestral Maps: Spiritual Frameworks for Extreme States.” A link to a recording of that talk is below.

Assimilation, genocide, and systems of oppression such as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have left many disconnected from ancestral traditions, spiritual tools and texts.  When encountering extreme states of being such as Voices and Visions, the pharmaceutical model of chemical imbalance often steps into claim space in this cultural vacuum.  However, for many, Western medicalized approaches are neither sufficient nor culturally competent.  This Webinar will explore ways in which we can re-claim spiritual tools and wisdom traditions and be in open dialogue with our ancestors as we navigate extreme states of being.  Caroline will draw on over a decade of direct experience supporting others with altered states of consciousness in diverse settings from peer respites to forensic psychiatric units, as well as her personal lived experience as both psychiatric patient and student of Abrahamic traditions and Buddhist sutras.

About the presenter:

Caroline Mazel-Carlton is a ritual-weaver and sacred space holder in the Jewish Renewal lineage of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.  She is a student of the ALEPH Jewish seminary and recently completed the Yad B’Yad program in Muslim-Jewish collaboration and leadership.  She has traveled the globe in her role of Director of Training for the Wildflower Alliance (home of the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community) supporting systems change and alternatives to the conventional mental health system.  Her passion for re-claiming Jewish identity and tradition through a feminist lens extends to the roller derby community where she is known as Mazel Tov Cocktail (#18).

About Ron Unger

I am a licensed clinical social worker and therapist who works with people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, using a respectful and skill building approach called cognitive therapy for psychosis. I also talk and teach seminars related to this approach. You can read more about me and about how I became interested in this field by going to my blog, recoveryfrompsychosis.org, and clicking on the tab "about Ron Unger."
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