Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis
by Stanislav Grof
Increasing numbers of people involved in personal transformation or a healing crisis are experiencing spiritual emergencies — when the process of growth and change becomes chaotic and overwhelming.
Individuals experiencing such episodes may feel that their sense of identity is breaking down, that their old values no longer hold true, and that the very ground beneath their personal realities is radically shifting. In many cases, new realms of mystical and spiritual experience enter their lives suddenly and dramatically, resulting in fear and confusion. They may feel tremendous anxiety, have difficulty coping with their daily lives, jobs, and relationships, and may even fear for their own sanity.
Unfortunately, much of modern psychiatry has failed to distinguish these episodes from mental illness. As a result, transformational crises are often suppressed by routine psychiatric care, medication, and even institutionalization.
This book delves into the potential problem inherent in the spiritual growth process: bouts of mental confusion, seeming madness or at least extreme dysfunction. The Grofs have put together a collection of essays by themselves and various other authors which explore the psychic/psychological dynamics of what they call “spiritual emergency.” That’s their term for when the growth process puts a person into psychic overload. The essays describe different aspects of such overload, as well as ways to help yourself or someone else through it.
From Spiritual Emergency to Healing
There is a new perspective slowly developing among many mental health professionals and those studying spiritual development that views such crises as transformative breakthroughs that can hold tremendous potential for physical and emotional healing. When understood and treated in a supportive manner, spiritual emergencies can become gateways to higher levels of functioning and new ways of being.
In this book, foremost psychologists, psychiatrists, and spiritual teachers address the following questions: What is spiritual emergency? What is the relationship between spirituality, “madness,” and healing? What forms does spiritual emergency take? What are the pitfalls — and promises — of spiritual practice? How can people in spiritual emergency be assisted by family, friends, and professionals?
This groundbreaking work reveals that within the crisis of spiritual emergency lies the promise of spiritual emergence and renewal.