Who Has a Spiritual Crisis?
No, you don’t have to be religious to have such a crisis. Yes, some priests and ministers have spiritual crises—nuns, too; but, typically, they have not been taught how to manage it within themselves or within their spiritual communities.
What is a Spiritual Crisis?
A spiritual crisis can come in many forms. There are about 13 categories. Perhaps, the one that occurs most frequently is the “Dark Night of the Soul”. In today’s world that strikes many as a “crisis of meaning” that can look like deep depression. Questions associated with this crisis are similar to those posed in an existential crisis, e.g. “What’s the meaning of life?”, “Does God exist?”, “What are the qualities of the Higher Self or Soul?”, “Where do we go at death?” And, “If the planet is not going to be habitable much longer, should I have children?” Someone is this crisis seeks answers and feels compelled to find them ASAP.
Other categories of spiritual crisis, aka spiritual emergency, may include a “psychic opening”. A person may have premonitions of the future that manifest. For example, they know who is calling on the phone without prior arrangements. They know if someone is in trouble or dying unexpectedly. Or, someone may be able to sense the physical or mental well being of another individual without any prior knowledge about that person—not even meeting them physically. Since this “knowingness” is not tied to the 5 senses—seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting—the one experiencing these unusual phenomena wonders if they are “going crazy”. That fear of being crazy can haunt our best visionaries, inspired scientists, musicians and poets.
When Does a Spiritual Crisis Occur?
A spiritual crisis can happen at any time in life. It can occur to those who are too young to know what religion is. It can occur to people who don’t like any traditional church; just as it can occur to those deeply involved with traditional religions. A spiritual crisis can happen as a response to current news, a poor diet, being lonely, practicing yoga, going through divorce, losing a job, or even on a meditation retreat.
Is Spiritual Crisis Normal?
Actually, spiritual emergency is within the realm of being normal. It is normal to grow and expand in life, cradle to grave. For those having a spiritual emergency this growth takes them into altered states of consciousness. If they find the right support, the one experiencing the crisis comes through with more wisdom, more peace, a happier person with a desire to be in service to others in their growth. They may also become an advocate for a sustainable way of life on planet earth. This is beyond normal, maybe super-normal.
Where to Go for Support?
Some who experience such crises become overwhelmed, and deeply distracted by their profound inner questions about life, their apprehensions about life purpose, and their relationships. They benefit from a timeout. That means a quiet, safe, friendly environment in which they are not seen as “crazy”. What’s best: they are gently supported by individuals who have been through such crises and can offer understanding. Call them peer support people, or, when trained, “Spiritual Emergence Coaches®”. There are Spiritual Emergence Networks and Spiritual Crisis Networks in many countries that offer support.
Unfortunately, a spiritual crisis such as in the two categories described above, can be mistaken as a psychiatric problem, even by a priest or minister, monk or nun. If a person approaches a conventional MD or psychiatrist with the darkness that accompanies a Dark Night of the Soul, or the unusual perceptions of psychic opening—they are often given a psychiatric diagnosis of “Depression” or even “Psychosis” (being out of touch with reality). The standard treatment is psychiatric medication (and the stigma associated with having a psychiatric diagnosis). They may even be told their problem is likely going to dog them for the rest of their lives so medication should be part of their ongoing regimen.
Now Is The Time
Fortunately, there is increasing awareness of the nature of spiritual crisis. It is now more often referred to as an “evolutionary crisis” that heralds a growth in humanity towards a more expanded consciousness. From that perspective, it is a signal of the direction we are going as a species.
If this is so, now is the time for religious, spiritual, non-religious and science-based people to learn more about spiritual crisis so we can all be in support of the front-runners of our collective evolution.
Emma Bragdon, PhD is the Executive Director of Integrative Mental Health for You. She wrote two of the classic books about Spiritual Emergency. She was licensed as a Marriage, Family, Child Therapist in 1988. EB@IMHU.org
If you liked this article, you will likely enjoy the following online courses at IMHU.org:
- Spiritual Emergency: What is it? (FREE)
- Psychosis: What is it? (FREE)
- How to Effectively Support Someone in Spiritual Emergency (SALE)
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