Mental Health · schizophrenia · Shamanism · Spirituality

From schizophrenia to shamanism

My main piece or ‘masterpiece’ of my sequel (2nd book in the making). This has been the introductory painting in my exhibition Visions and Voices, depicting the day I ran away from home on a bicycle.


11060028_1119211018093403_6300534624245409536_n (1)

Why do they not love?
They do. They just don’t know how anymore.
Why do they choose pain?
They are in defence all the time. Pain is a shield for future anticipation.
That is stupid.
That is illusion.
Why then are they overwhelmed by love that needs no pain to exist?
They believe they are not worth of it.
What then must I do?
You already have been.
‪#‎mothersinmyhead‬ ‪#‎voices‬ ‪#‎reshism‬

What the voices had to teach years later was something I needed to be tested on. For those of us with schizophrenia who make sense of our experiences as something profound and spiritual – the need to first believe in the voices is the first step in recognizing the shaman within.

Conventional everythings’ in society do not allow us to embrace that there is a shaman within each one of us.

That the path is only meant for those who are clad in robes, who live in the jungles, who have left everything and settled for the minimal needs in life. This is how the world has boxed even the idea of a shaman. But shamanism is for all and is in all and so is schizophrenia. It exist all around us – not in any one particular human person or in our brain.

Like there is madness in all of us but only a matter of different intensity, there is a shaman / healer within all of us. It has nothing to do with the feathers on your head, the intoxicant you smoke up, the place you are living in, the material wants you have and wish to have. It is really more than all of this. Going beyond every illusion and challenging yourself in your own chosen life.

Knowing that difference takes years to unfold and different paths to walk and stumble upon only because we have been laid down by so many constructions. The easiest route I would say is actually schizophrenia to the conventional regular world! Call me crazy but hey I am, and there’s nothing left for anyone to do about it. 🙂

There aren’t more stories of people having schizophrenia because there is some chemical imbalance, some underlying issue, or a sudden rise in whatever it is.

It is because the world needs more healers. And the only way Mother nature can make human adults into healers, turn them inside out, churn everything about them and their families, remove their worldly constructions that no doctor or pill can do, regenerate their way of thinking, behaving, feeling, ideas of justice and morality, of love and divine, of care and hunger, of thirst and lust, of desires and respect, of unity and equality…is to make them schizophrenic. To make them experience schizophrenia and to make others around them a part of the same experience only so they too turn into shamans and healers through association! (Like guilty by association) When family and friends decide to care and support the said schizophrenic, they in turn are forced to confront newer choices and rebirths opening their own pandora boxes. Because they love the schizophrenic dearly they can’t simply abandon this mad one, and so they too have unconsciously chosen to heal and be healed.

As said before, healing is never a comforting experience. Healing requires us to feel pain and confront unwanted shit in our life. This forced healing of a community needs to be embraced. The schizophrenic and this co-existing schizophrenia needs to be seen in a completely new perspective. A new light. That of each one being a healer and shaman. Maintaining a balance in the universe through our own madness and differences but led by one purpose that every life on this planet needs – universal healing.

Start looking at the so called schizophrenic differently. If you are one of those who is going to question this or think it’s some newly found idea to disarm psychiatry and psychology then please stop reading. You are free to have your own believes as it is with any of us. However, if there are certain paths that seem to have worked quite harmlessly then it does suggest something more. I do not wish to reject the part of society that has rejected me already. It serves no purpose.

The hearing of voices has always been something that society has long believed needs to be cured. That it is wrong to hear voices. That if heard there must be something wrong with you. Imagine if no one could hear YOUR voice, how would you feel? So try and empathize with my imaginary friends and the voices we have. Some of us have a job to do you know, cause no one else can do it right. So it takes a little bit of madness to get it done. Give them the voices and us the voice hearers a world of existence too cause we’ve got some important things to bring from the other side which most need intoxicants to tap into.

Most of us do hear voices but we are not aware of it. As a ‘schizophrenic’ the choice of not hearing does not exist. Therefore, the choice of being aware does not exist. A friend whom I call a shaman who is also my intuitive reminded me ‘Once you are aware there is no going back to not being aware’.

Likewise is the nature of schizophrenia. Where those of us living with these said symptoms cannot go back to not being aware of hearing them or in some case no going back to not hearing them. Throughout my recovery people have asked me if I still hear voices. I’ve said that these voices have constantly changed as time and existence does. It has nothing to do with the metaphors of life around me. It has nothing to do with a Jungian based understanding anymore. Understanding the Jungian analysis (or any other alternate school of psychology) of these voices is only the first step ‘psychologically’.

The next is to go beyond this psychological language and tune in to the voices. That is the step towards embracing the shaman within where you surrender to the universal sound of nature where these voices can be heard all the time. You can’t give it words and theories. Upon recognizing this part of nature’s true existence – the shaman and the schizophrenic become the same thing. Where giving words and using language isn’t the priority for a shaman. These are all worldly desires and needs to be understood at intellectual levels to form arguments and conversations that do not really serve any more purpose than reading a good book.

Now whether you believe that your schizophrenia or bipolar or depression or anxiety is that of being the same as a step towards recognizing the shaman within…it’s not for me to label or prove. The latter has to arrive on its own accord, in time, in an aloneness with the learnings to be decoded and understood only by you. No one else can do it…not even a hundred other spiritual people or other shamans. The journey of schizophrenia towards shamanism is one that has to bloom on the person’s own terms. One that only he or she can make if at all they recognize and accept it to be their reality of a higher consciousness.

It is the duty of the family and community who has chosen to care for this schizophrenic to encourage and honour their instinctual nature which are often compared to that of being as an animal. You’ve wanted to learn to talk to animals and wish an animal can speak to you in English. But when a schizophrenic does that it becomes something they should not be doing?

If you have a ‘mad one’ in your home and life, consider it a gift of forced healing. One that you can throw away in the asylum or one that you can choose to walk beside. I first said it was like a boon and curse at the same time. That was my first book cause it reflected everything about how society saw me and understood life experiences. But now this society of care and love have themselves evolved and they have reflected the same as I write.

A colleague reminded me of something I once said at an Ashoka school induction. I was asked ‘…how have you made your peace with this same society that has rejected you so often?’

I replied ‘Because all they can do is reject me. After a point there is no more rejection. So I accept them. And then they have no choice but to accept me too.’

in short…accept that schizophrenia has no cure simply because the cure has got to do with what you are willing to reflect.

The Schizophrenist © Reshma Valliappan, 2016

7 thoughts on “From schizophrenia to shamanism

  1. I want to share this story with you, too. I read it in Sun magazine years ago:

    A young anthropologist was on her way to study a tribe of indigenous people in Central America. One of the leaders had come to pick her up at the airport and they were driving through the jungle on their way to the village when all of a sudden, a naked man ran out from the among the trees, stopped in front of their jeep, stared hard at the young woman, then ran off into the trees again. She was quite shaken by the experience, and asked who the man was. Her guide told her the man was of the village, that he communicated with the trees and nature spirits and helped to guide the community. She replied that in America, someone like him would be medicated and imprisoned. Her guide looked at her with deep and uncomprehending sadness and alarm, “You have terrifying customs in your country.”

    1. Bonnie thank you for this story! It reminds me Andrew Solomon’s Tedx talk where he mentioned something similar while he was visiting Africa. And I am glad there are so many others experiencing the strangers in customs.

      Take a half naked man from our streets who talks to himself and put him in Manhattan. He would surely be picked up by the cops and be thrown in. Over here, the roads have become his home and people tend to ignore him as they ignore the beggars and other wandering stray animals including our cows. 🙂 Although, such existence isn’t allowed amongst those who come from a background with the monies and family name to lose. That’s another struggle all together in the same consumerist market of evolution we are dictated by.

  2. Dear Val –

    It’s very healing to read your work–you’re confirming some things I’ve long believed, and you’re doing it from inside your experience : ) You are powerful medicine!

    Somewhere years ago I learned that in many indigenous societies, those who would become shamans ‘selected themselves’ by having psychotic breaks. Their families would then take them to a shaman who would teach them to ‘walk in both worlds’ – so they could bring teachings and healing from the Unseen world to help their communities.

    Later I worked with homeless people, and met some folks experiencing schizophrenia. I could see that their insight and intelligence were often greater than that of most of us who were ‘helping them.’ I could sometimes see with them into their metaphors and understand a bit of what they were trying to bring. I wished for them that we had a culture that honored and supported their seeing. I feel what you are doing here is bringing the seeds of such a culture. Thank you.

    I also appreciate, as I read through your comments, how much of a support and guide you are for others who are finding their way. Just beautiful.

    On a personal note, there are two people near my life, brilliant and wild, and I would like to have them closer, as friends. I can handle a LOT of emotional intensity, but I hesitate to move closer because I don’t want to be yet another person who lets them down if things get too intense. If you have any thoughts that might guide me, that would be great.

    I wish you every good thing, Val.

    1. Hi Bonnie!
      You write as a sign to me too. I am just on my way for a talk tomorrow to present my art work and the meaning of shamanism I have derived out of them. Your words have confirmed my path most certainly, that we’re all on the same one just in different balances.

      My art therapist ‘mother’ mentioned holding space being an important bit on helping those of us wild ones. I guess holding space is necessary for all of us really wild or not wild. Often at time, when one is experiencing something intense is when the other needs to be at a distance. You could hold space even by not being around physically or emotionally but intellectually. It’s quite a skill to shuffle between all ‘holding spaces’ – but there’s a shaman in all of us. If you would see yourself as one, you would know what to do. 🙂 However, I do understand there are kinds of relationships that demand a different type of intimacy where holding space cannot be done the same as a parent or sibling does for one. The nature of those intimate relationships require a different holding space and one that might come across as being cold and distant, or with only an objective call until the person is able to find a circle of others who can hold different spaces. It’s what I’ve done and still do.

      In other word, all my different alter egos/selves/psychosis/needs cannot be given by one person in one human vessel. So they each seek different people who in their own vessel and spaces can offer me the little. It is okay for us to jump from one person to the other – with a fair balance in maintaining all. My dad realized my traits were no different than that of a cat. In order to survive they will go to my neighbour’s house in search of food and to sleep there because they would feel lonely when I am not home. But the minute I am back, they’re constantly around me. We are no different.

      p/s: I think you know this deep inside already 😀

      Peace & Colour,

      1. Yay Val! 😀

        It’s so awesome that we’re sharing signs for each other!! Just laughing over here with a singing heart at the beauty of it All.

        I am coming to see myself as a shaman–just new yet, and my confidence and faith in myself are young. Suddenly I’m laughing because I remember it’s always going to feel like this: new and young. Always at the beginning. Always feeling my way 🙂

        Your guiding thoughts are rich and deep. We are all, the wilds and the not (yet) wilds, always naturally seeking the optimal betweenness–feeling the space we need, that others need, the pulls and pushes of the dance with everything, everyone. There is no static distance, it’s always changing, always new. There is no one way to be. Each moment, each person, every event calls forth its unique beautiful response. When we relax into this, trusting the connection, holding the space, we can let others in our lives, and ourselves, dance and move in the ways Life calls us–always knowing we’re supported. Ever trusting we are loved. Always with a little bowl of cream on the porch 😉

        I hope your talk is or was wonderful and I’m looking forward to your next post!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s