by Richard Boyd, Body Mind Psychotherapist, Energetics Institute, Perth, West Australia
One of the interesting and potentially destabilising dynamics a therapist may need to deal with in the therapy room is the client who relies on the advice of a psychic, clairvoyant or whom themselves “channels” their own line of information from a supernatural source. Society is full of people advertising their services in the capacity of divination, clairvoyance, seers, mediums and channelling
All of these type of services invoke what I call the “God Complex” which is basically the relationship in a person’s life with an entity or a stream of information and disclosure which is from a higher authority than a human being. As a consequence of this special relationship there is a tendency on the part of the person receiving this information to either feel privileged, special, informed and whom tends to rely on this source of consciousness or information as the truth, even when it is not supported by any other information, or when their own senses, or logic, would challenge or question such information.
Some persons whom are deeply attached to their religion, spirituality or guru will tend to act in the same way, and this is often where cult behaviours can originate. It is surprising to what degree some adults are inclined to suspend their own adult critical thinking faculties and give their power away to their supernatural source of information, religious dogma, angel or person who channels or embodies this source of supreme information.
As a therapist I come across people who are deeply or at least dabbling in this dynamic in its many forms, or whom are deeply dependent on religion to guide their every thought, action, association or relationship in life. Sadly it is not always for the better of their psychology or spiritual development that they hold such a view or belief based on their special source of guiding truth.
I am not dismissive of spirituality or even the concept of non-embodied spirit consciousness as myself am a Buddhist and have been raised in a Catholic household. However there are clearly healthy and unhealthy forms of religion, spirituality and the immersion of oneself into various streams of information and how to discriminate that information as fact as part of having a moderate reality.
Take for example the dynamic whereby a person comes into therapy or counselling already attached to seeing and being guided by a clairvoyant or psychic or channels supernatural information themselves. The dynamic here is a reliance of that person on either a physical person who has access to hidden supernatural information, or they themselves have some direct communication to a spirit type of entity.
The problem the therapist has here is that whatever advice they give may be countered or overturned by the “truth” as communicated by the god-entity who by definition is assumed to be operating with clairvoyant powers. What this means is that this information which cannot be independently verified is a trump card in therapy and can shape the beliefs, opinions and reality of the client in such a way as to prevent rational adult critical thinking being applied to the consequence of that “truth”.
Take for instance a common dynamic I see in this sort of setting. I have encountered numerous instances where a client approaches myself and claims their partner is having an affair, or that they or their client is going to die soon.
When I ask how they came to possess this information they inform me they have it from their medium or whatever clairvoyant entity or process they rely on. When I ask if there is any other confirming or countering evidence or facts that exist which support or deny this claim, there is a tendency to dismiss many other forms of contrary evidence, hypothesis, faith, or sensibility.
There is often a blind faith, a form of black and white rigidity that develops in the mind of people who flirt with supernatural sources of information or suggestion that can seriously impact their lives and the lives of those around them. The same can be said for many forms of dogmatic religions where there may be a reliance on rules rather than common sense, and so the permission to use adult free will critical thinking seems to vanish.
The distress in therapy of clients who believe they or their partner is doomed to die, or that their partner is having affairs, can wreak havoc, and lead to life altering decisions that can include divorces, job resignations, lifestyle upheavals, and a breakdown in trust and the mental, emotional and physical health of the person who blindly adopts the supernatural form of “truth”. The affected innocent parties around them are often unable to prove a non-event such as not having an affair and so are judged and condemned by an invisible hand or presence that robs them of their right to be innocent until proven guilty.
More insidiously I find that some clients become addicted to these clairvoyant purveyors who usually run a business around their gift of clairvoyance or channelling, and who may charge expensive rates for a session. This unregulated industry has its share of charlatans who knowingly con their clients, but it also includes genuine people who profess to have a real gift and themselves conduct themselves with a belief in what happens in the dynamic of a channelled session.
This process which is often approached by people who seek to resolve anxiety generated from needing to know the truth about a past, current or future event. The new problem is that due to their adoption of that channelled information which while it may appear to remove uncertainty from their life, can create an unforeseen new anxiety when that new information is negative in nature.
Knowing the “truth” may bring a nasty “reality” that the person may struggle to live with, and where ignorance would have been a better option after all. When that “truth” or “reality” is untested then the person who then adopts that information as true is certainly creating their own suffering.
What is worse is that many therapists will struggle to use reasoning, logic, intellect to overturn any of this sort of information now affecting the client. Beliefs run deep and the spiritual dimension runs even deeper inside people even when it is not acknowledged or embraced in the conscious person.
God based information will tend to trump the arguments of therapists so the client is caught in their own divinely inspired trap. Getting out of trap is tricky as the person once they possess such information will often carry doubt and suspicion even when they drop that supernatural information as their concrete reality or conclusion about events and other people.
For instance supernatural sources of information may break the trust in a relationship. At any stage in an argument or rational discussion the informed party may play their God trump card and use it as a truth rather than an opinion and so the other person is left unfairly floundering to argue against the word of God.
Another related issue is that for some people the act of entertaining the clairvoyant, seer, channeller, or DIY via an Ouija board or séance, leads to an impression or feeling that somehow the supernatural presence has attached itself to them, or followed them home and now haunts them. The mind is a tricky thing and auditory or image hallucinations spurred from fear and anxiety of this nature are not unknown.
Depending on your beliefs in supernatural and occultist phenomena then you may believe that this sort of attachment or possession or infestation is possible. Occult lore and some of the world’s oldest religions warn us that contact with the unseen occult realm is full of dangers and is not for humans to dabble in.
I retain an open mind in general around occultist phenomena and the realm these things are said to emanate from, as my own experience in life has exposed myself to a couple of encounters that do not fit the ordinary laws and understanding of reality. Regardless of whether the impression of having a supernatural presence around oneself is true or not in objective reality, in the subjective mind of that person it can certainly be experienced as true.
I have had clients come to me due to the belief that they are possessed or have an unseen presence or entity following them, affecting them, or habituating their home or personal space. This again is a tough space for therapists to work in for dismissing the client with an explanation that the experiences are figments of their imagination, is not likely to reduce their apprehension or cause cessation of projected hallucinations, or imaginations.
If there is either a subjective or objective experience of an entity as such being present then again the therapist is not equipped nor able to help with a psychological treatment if you entertain that the problem is spiritual in nature. Again I note from the Exorcists in the Catholic Church who note that about 95% of all claimed possessions are psychological imaginations, personality disorder symptoms and other delusions in nature, but the remaining 5% appear to have some element of what is not ordinary reality (supernatural).
Whatever is the background reality in all this the fact remains that 100% of clients are in distress and need some form of help. Therapists that dismiss clients with spiritual problems are certainly not helping the problem.
I find that having a deep grounding in both the key world religions and their explanation for supernatural matters, as well as the explanations from the various occult and New Age traditions assists clients in having a more fully informed context for what they are experiencing or appear to be experiencing. I have had great success with clients suffering in this way and being able to present a hypothesis from different perspectives that normally points out that real occult phenomena that if it does exist, is quite rare to manifest, and that most clients are unlikely to be the vessels for experiencing or unlocking permission for something supernatural to occur.
The one area I warn any person not to dabble in are séances and Ouija board sessions. It is these processes that appear to create the greatest mental, emotional and spiritual damage in clients, and if in fact possible, expose them to some form of actual supernatural risk.
These sort of rituals appear to have the ability to create real mental harm in attendees, and often it is the mysterious moving of objects of communication, or the spelling out of sentences that attendees report to actually occur, that traumatises them and leaves them with a real deep seated sense of fear and vulnerability. Who knows what may cause this moving object phenomena to manifest, but what it does is spook people into deep belief that something real occurred.
Some people really degrade after having those experiences which maybe are just too confronting and too real for them to handle. Often they may require a spiritual ritual process to start to feel safe again.
Another problem are the religious zealots in all their black and white, rigid, rule based thinking. I have had numerous clients who have been “exorcised” by extremist churches, groups or gurus who have only served to traumatise and create new issues for the rescued soul.
The deep psychological trauma of being made to feel powerless, vulnerable and maybe damned at the hand of some evil spirit, as confirmed by some church elder, or some religious zealot, can be crippling. Some of those victims have been told they must attend multiple exorcism sessions, throw out all sorts of symbols, objects, decorations, and enjoyments, and perhaps pay money to be saved.
The religious zealot is typically immature in their spiritual development. They rely solely on a black and white interpretation of their religion which they try to impose on everyone else. Think of ISIS and how that is an organised system of zealotry.
However do not think that Christians or Catholics or other religious systems do not harbour their own zealots as certainly they do, and they are no more palatable than ISIS or any other form of extremism. The zealot will be very critical, demanding and judgemental of you if you happen to transgress their view of what is right and what is wrong as they are intolerant of others.
Zealots often have a conditioned world view through which anything not of their faith must be viewed with suspicion. They often do not have any resilience or depth to their spiritual identity to see foreign objects, symbols and people who offend them as harmless.
The zealot will attack you verbally and then typically withdraw but some may attack and become aggressive and punitive. Religion in its shadow self can be persecutory of non-believers and commit heinous crimes in the name of God.
In my therapy rooms for instance I carry an assortment of symbols and artefacts from many different cultures of the world. Carl Jung always said that the therapy experience should invoke the collective and personal unconscious via symbols and mandalas as these give rise from the unconscious deep truths and issues to be made conscious and worked with.
The problem is with religious zealots is that what often surfaces is the Persecutor archetype which condemns from fear and anger. I have seen zealots in my therapy room demand I destroy, burn or remove artefacts and symbols, or have suspicion that I am “one of them”, and so quit therapy.
In the embodiment of a zealot we have those persecutors who conduct purges, crusades, ethnic cleansing, and all sorts of outrage which is justified by the religious or collective belief system they adhere to. They are right and everyone one else is wrong as it’s a black and white defence that is rigid and simple minded yet it runs the lives of adults in our community.
In therapy Jung pointed out that symbols bring alive that summary judgement and condemnation that lurk within such people. It is an interesting dynamic to observe and witness as it shows how righteous people have the shadow in them of the persecutor who be those same persons in the past who burnt witches at the stake, or who stood by in the Holocaust as their Jewish neighbours were dragged out of houses and sent off on trains to Concentration camps.
As the Rolling Stones sang about in “Sympathy For The Devil”, we all have the Sinner and the Saint, and every Cop is a Criminal, for every one of us has a shadow self that can act out heinous deeds. Zealots disown their shadow and so tend to act it out unconsciously on others, while also projecting it onto all outside objects, peoples and environments that challenge their worldview.
This is often demonstrated by survivors of ethnic cleansing who point out that they may have co-existed peacefully and friendly with neighbours for 20 years until ethnic conflict gets stirred up in their country or community. The person next door who used to share wine and food with them, or chatted with them in the front yard, is now trying to kill, rape or dispossess them of their home and family.
Getting back to the supernatural theme I began with I stress that the whole psychic realm is problematic for humans to dabble in. For those who do and then become attached to this form of information and clarity in their lives, they may find that if they need therapy or counselling that the dynamic will be one that the therapist must navigate with clear boundaries and sensitivity to the God-effect.
There are some forms of therapy and some therapists who co-mingle psychology or psychological precepts with psychic tools, practices and interventions as a way of working with their clients. This is often a New Age driven model of therapy but some older modalities such as Path Work and even A Course In Miracles claim to use such tools, or claim that their body of knowledge was divinely channelled.
When this occurs the God-Effect now becomes centred on the therapist which is a spiritual red flag for all traditions warn that when men assume the mantle of Gods that the power corrupts us. Normally that manifests as Spiritual Narcissism where the channeller who may be a therapist is at risk of becoming a Guru and maybe a spiritual narcissist who starts to believe they have divine powers and loses their grounded reality as a mere mortal.
It’s a risky path to walk in my opinion and supernatural processes is one area best left out of therapy in terms of it being embedded into the core body of any modality of therapy. I fully believe that having a spiritual identity based on sound principles increases one’s psychological health but I do not believe that God should be ever-present in the therapy process or the client-therapist relationship as an active and constant dynamic facilitated by the therapist.
Mainstream psychology generally denounces all forms of religious faith and belief but yet embraces secular forms of Mindfulness and meditation which originates from within the spiritual framework of Buddhism and makes no apology for doing so. This is because these aspects relate more to bodymind science and psychology within that system that underpins spiritual practice.
For those affected and traumatised by dabbling in the psychic realm a therapist with a good grounding in religious, spiritual and even occultist concepts, can often assist in untangling clients from their trauma simply because they can understand the experience and concepts behind the experience and how the trauma formation may have arisen.
Sometimes a spiritual problem may require a spiritual solution but again if the therapist has a large toolbox of techniques, processes and concepts on which to draw, then only in the right context would they call upon such a tool. A truly spiritual person appreciates the role of psychology and the ego in the spiritual path and knows that psychology/psychotherapy has its place in the evolution of human consciousness.
Most of us are fascinated by the subject of ghosts, spirits and the supernatural as reflected in the fact it’s one of the biggest genres in Hollywood movies. I notice that people are very curious when someone says they had just visited a fortune teller or psychic. But as the old saying goes curiosity can kill the cat!!