There are so many lenses through which we can look at the experiences that get labeled mental illness; one of the more imaginative is shamanism. Shamanism is a tradition found in virtually every primitive society, in every forgotten corner of the world.
First Printed in the SF Bay Guardian September 2002 By: Sascha Altman DuBrul
I WAS 18 years old the first time they locked me up in a psych ward. The police found me walking on the subway tracks in New York City, and I was convinced the world was about to end and I was being broadcast live on prime-time TV on all the channels. I hadn't slept for months, and I thought there were microscopic transmitters under my skin that were making me itch and recording everything I was saying for some top-secret branch of the CIA. After I'd walked the tracks through three stations, the cops wrestled me to the ground, arrested me, and brought me to an underground jail cell and then to the emergency room of Bellevue psychiatric hospital, where they strapped me to a bed. Once they managed to track down my terrified mother, she signed some papers, a nurse shot me up with some hardcore antipsychotic drugs, and I woke up two weeks later in the "quiet room" of a public mental hospital upstate.
"Urban shamanism is a broader approach, rediscovering the roots of tribal mind for modern people and putting ancient patterns to use in new forms. Urban shamans reinvent spirit healing for ourselves. All of us have ancestral links to shamanic cultures if we go back far enough, because all societies have origins in tribalism. There are no rules and no end to learning and creativity, as we reawaken our indigenous minds and recreate spirit healing in new ways" - by Will Hall