I am going through what I believe to be a spiritual emergency.

I have yet to write specifically about what I’m going through, mostly because I haven’t really known what the hell is going on. Many of my friends and colleagues have been as bewildered as I am.

Then, a friend said, I think it’s a spiritual emergency dude. I looked it up. It fits for now (Labeling my experience is a delicate matter).

Even more precise is the term “spiritual emergence” (longer duration).  So, I’ve been doing my homework. I am googling Spiritual emergency a lot, reading articles, case studies, and other tidbits on the subject.

Ahhhhh, I’m relaxing. I’m not alone.

I finally picked up a book that has been on my shelf for years (that I borrowed from someone else after grad school), “Spiritual Emergency: When personal Transformation becomes a crisis.” Edited by Stan Grof and Christina Grof, both pioneers when it comes to consciousness studies and spiritual emergencies.

Early on, I felt very alone and pretty freaked out, even crazy at times. Now, seeing that this is a common experience among spiritual practitioners and everyday men and women, I am relaxing more.

Perhaps some of you have been through this or are going through something similar right now.

From what I’ve read, a spiritual emergency in Western culture is often seen as a mental illness, which is why no one talks about it while they are going through it. No one wants the label of psychotic or crazy person.

As a former psychotherapist for me to publicly talk about my breakdown would put my license in jeopardy. Yet, for the few of us who see a massive identity breakdown as a step toward wholeness, instead of illness, we can take the view that this is a natural stage toward genuine human health and expanded consciousness.

Why talk about it as it’s happening?

I received an email recently that said “These things are best dealt with in closed circles and privacy.” While that might be true for some, it’s not for me. So given the given risks, why I’m talking about it publicly as it’s happening?

1)   I want to tell the truth about my life openly and

2)   Because I think it will serve. Perhaps it can help you or someone you care deeply about feel less alone. I believe that by showing others my humanness in the moment, as opposed to “after the crisis” when I am all patched up looking good, it will be of more service. So far, the gains outweigh the risks (For example, I feel very supported on the live calls where I get real in the moment about what’s going on).

What is a spiritual emergency?

Stan Grof has a nice description in this video away from medical pathology.

Given what I have read and in my own experience, it is a spiritual opening, or a series of several spiritual openings, wherein a person experiences reality more clearly as it really is, followed by a natural contraction away from the more “pleasant” feelings to more confusion, fear, depression, grief, and uncertainty, because his or her personality is not able to assimilate, or sustain, the new stream of light and energy.

It is an ego deconstruction process where certain identities and beliefs that worked most of my life are no longer working. It is a huge death and re-birth process. I find myself moving from one developmental stage of consciousness to the next, but I don’t even know if I will make it through this transition period.

Roberto Assagioli (founder of psychosynthesis) brilliantly describes my experience in his article on “Self-realization and Psychological Disturbances,”

“The inflow of light and love is rhythmical, as is everything in the universe. After a while it diminishes or ceases, and the flood is followed by the ebb. The personality was infused and transformed, but this transformation is seldom either permanent or complete. More often a large portion of the personality elements involved revert to their earlier state.”

This runs true with my own experience and my guide David Cates’ teaching.  In other words, we expand, then contract, expand, then contract. Such is life–a pulse. For me, the contractions are the challenging part.

Because a spiritual emergency can happen to any of us who have jobs, families, and bills to pay, it can be incredibly disruptive because the ego personality needs to function in order to get basic tasks done. True for me.

According to Assagioli, this conflict is not inherently a problem unless the individual makes it one (which I have at times). This can lead to denial of one’s experience, labeling oneself as crazy, and even a turning away from one’s experience, all of which I have felt.

And, when I try to return to my old way of being because “this spiritual shit is too exhausting,” I can’t. Assagioli reports that the individual “cannot return to his old state; he has seen the vision, and its beauty and power to attract remain with him in spite of his efforts to suppress it.”  Doah!

Just as Assagioli points out, I’m in the process of transmutation wherein I regenerate and transmute the personality. We’ll see about that. J

He says it’s a long process full of changes alternating between light and darkness, joy and suffering. Akin to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly yet with no “safe” cocoon.

Assagioli reports this transition can be challenging for the householder like me. “He must remain where he is in his life and continue to perform his family, professional, and social tasks as well as he can.” Whew. At times, I feel as though I can barely do it, yet as a new Dad, there is no choice. Like it or not, I choose to show up even when I feel shattered.

Finally Assagioli gives many cautions to the person in my shoes, two of which resonate for me 1) that removing myself from my life would be a mistake and that by moving toward introversion, I might move into “self-obsession.” And 2) That I continue to pursue my growth process with fervor but “without becoming identified with it.” Yikes. I have done both at times.

On the one hand, while I’m a spiritual development geek, I want to run from what is currently happening to me. I’ve recently said things like “I’m so over this process, I want it to be done. I’m ready to throw in the towel for good.” On the other hand, I am fascinated by what’s happening to me.  If I’m not careful, it does become a self-obsession and I can get lost in my own “special little world.”  I feel this with my 4-wing to my enneagram 3 personality type.

So, it is with renewed confidence today that I write this. Of course, if my experience is any guide, one hour from now could be another story entirely.

As my guide David Cates reminds me, my job is to be fully present and ride the waves with penetrating awareness.

Thank you to those of you who have supported me through this devastating and heart opening process. I am gaining even more confidence in the unknown.

I have a sense this will deepen the healing and coaching work I do for others.

What caused this whole thing? A combination of events. More on that later….

A prayer for myself? There are many these days, but here is one:

May I continue to be fiercely present and find the strength and courage to surrender and let go completely.

A prayer for you?

May those of us who yearn to merge with the divine or live in the vast space of greater and greater love, die to who we really are.

 

Comments

comments

27 Comments

  1. Duff McDuffee November 8, 2010 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Wow–good luck dude. More than one person I know has gone through some very intense spiritual emergence/emergency. You had a basic sanity and groundedness before so you'll probably be ok, but my heart goes out to you.

    Things that have helped people I know: if you're flying high eat heavy foods like red meat (grounding), back off of spiritual practice if possible, get support (sounds like you are doing that), normalize by reading about such experiences (sounds like you are doing that too), don't expect much of yourself for a while yet keep up with the ordinary day-to-day stuff of life as best you can (grooming, family responsibilities, work, etc.) , be patient, and most of all, have faith in the process.

    For some people this can be a process that takes just a few months, for others years or even decades, so hang tight brother.

    • Jayson November 11, 2010 at 7:59 am - Reply

      Thank you Duff. Your support means a lot!

  2. Duff McDuffee November 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    Also, try and stay away from psychiatric drugs if possible as they come with their own problems, although sometimes they are helpful.

  3. Guest November 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Earth as a whole is in the ascension process and you are leading the way for men. It is vital that we as the human race find our heart source and connect. As I follow you and this journey, I am cheering you on. Men everywhere need this example to grow into the balanced men that this world needs. Everything you are going through is right in alignment with the ascension process and the awakening of your true self. Remember to give yourself more love through the hardest times and celebrate the easier ones. You are far from crazy and the labels that once served us no longer have a place. Your courage and strength is an inspiration and as you let go, more fear will grow, keep moving through it and trust that everything you are doing is for a higher purpose. Be well and blessings on this journey to yourself.

    • Jayson November 11, 2010 at 8:01 am - Reply

      I am moved by your words whomever you are. Thank you.

      I do wonder if it's an ascension process or descending process? or both?

      Gratitude.

  4. Shawn Hurley November 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Jayson, you ARE serving me with your courage to share something I have not had a label for withing my own experience right now. THANK YOU!! –Shawn Hurley

    • Jayson November 11, 2010 at 7:59 am - Reply

      Glad to know that Shawn!

  5. Supertortz November 10, 2010 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Going through a similar process “myself”. I feel like I regress, freak out, change and find peace every 6 hours. Don't know who I am, can't remember if I ever was anybody. No idea about any of it. The only thing I found to center me, love for people/animals/nature. When I open my heart the crisis wanes. Support and care for you on your journey. Thank you so much for sharing. Feeling less “alone” in my crisis this evening.

    • Jayson November 11, 2010 at 8:03 am - Reply

      YES! feel free to reach out if need be. or listen to our calls where I'm getting support. They seem to be helping others in a similar boat!

  6. Reneeslebeau November 10, 2010 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    I have been going through a similar process for 2 years while living on the road. I do not have the normal sense of foundation that one might have which creates its own set of variables. However, the pulsing between expansion and contraction is becoming more rapid now and both my nervous system and brain wave states seem to be entrained in fight, flight and freeze. I seem to dance with all of these polarized responses unless I can remain expanded and centered enough to find neutral which is not often. I deeply appreciate what you are sharing and what all the people who have posts are sharing. Your courage is beautiful to me!!!!

    • Jayson November 11, 2010 at 8:00 am - Reply

      Renee, glad to know we are not alone right? I like the way you describe it. Sounds intense of course and I can relate. Please stay with it!

  7. Guest November 11, 2010 at 7:44 am - Reply

    My heart goes out to you. I think I had a similar experience a few years ago also. I don't know if it will help you or anyone else, but one thing that helped me was Calm Spirit teapills by Plum Flower herbs. They seem to help emotional energy run more smoothly through me rather than numb it like antidepressants did. I'm not an herbalist or anything, just wanted to share what helped me. Acceptance of the situation but also remembering that it will pass also helped me immensely.

    • Jayson November 11, 2010 at 8:00 am - Reply

      Great suggestions! thank you!

  8. Stephen November 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    I've been reading a lot about liminal space lately and collecting quotes. This one reached out.

    True liminality, true Lent, leads to increased awareness, increased consciousness of the pain and the goodness — your own and others — and increased knowledge of the shadow, too. Who would go there willingly? I wouldn’t. You have to be led, or, like Jesus, you have to be “driven by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). Because first we must meet the “wild beasts” and only later do “angels minister to him” (1:13). No one wants to wait for the true angels. We would rather manufacture plastic, churchy ones and bypass the truly present wild beasts. Lent is 40 days of training in living with and learning from the wild beasts. Sort of a chosen three-ring circus and a deliberate refusal to retreat to the spectators’ grandstand. We intentionally sequester the angels for six weeks.
    -Richard Rohr
    http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2002a/020102/020102h.htm

    Perhaps you should enter your own Lent?

  9. Deborah November 14, 2010 at 9:52 am - Reply

    Jayson, Was appreciating what you were writing on Casey's thread and found you here. I researched Spiritual Emergence a lot in the mid-'90s because I had all sorts of stuff going on with me in that regard. I'm assuming you found the Spiritual Emergence Network, if that still exists. I had gotten some tapes (yes, cassettes) on the topic, but I'm not sure if I stil have them. Gopi Krishna's book on his situation is interesting, though a bit scary. Stuart Sovatsky (used to be at CIIS) has done some work in this area (though I found him rather arrogant when I encountered him). I do remember a little mantra he suggested, which is “While I feel fear, there is no real danger.”

  10. [...] I am going through what I believe to be a spiritual emergence, I am reading a lot on the topic. I want to continue to educate others. That what we sometimes call [...]

  11. Surrender | JaysonGaddis.com December 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    [...] of late, with my spiritual emergence, I often feel inches away from major divine [...]

  12. Amelia Catone July 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Late to the game with this one (just “met” you via Recovering Yogi today Jayson), but holy sh!t! Thank you for perfectly describing what I went through during the months of May and June! The walls fell down around me and I was that butterfly with no safe cocoon. That's exactly how I described it actually. And now I'm happy to say that things have shifted (as of the July 1 solar eclipse thank heavens) and I'm in a place I've never seen, never been before. More heart-focused and self-emanating than I've ever been. Do I think I will be this way forever and remain untouched by the perils of this mortal coil? Hardly. Attached to the state to the extent that I'll fall apart should I feel that nearly unbearable (but just bearable and therefore lifegiving) vulnerability again? Newp. But I'm loving the reflection and grateful for your honesty and openness!! And I've already been working with some of Assaglioli's theories on subpersonalities, so I will look forward to learning more about what he says about spiritual emergency. So ecstatic to have this relief.

    • Jayson July 13, 2011 at 2:11 pm - Reply

      Amelia,

      Thank you sister! yes, Man it has been a fookin' ride for sure. However, I'm on the other side mostly with virgin wings that are still very wet and vulnerable. Tentative even. Yes, strong in heart and practicing living life from a new seat, a new center. :) Thanks for being courageous enough to make it through yours. whew.

  13. Amelia Catone July 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Late to the game with this one (just “met” you via Recovering Yogi today Jayson), but holy sh!t! Thank you for perfectly describing what I went through during the months of May and June! The walls fell down around me and I was that butterfly with no safe cocoon. That's exactly how I described it actually. And now I'm happy to say that things have shifted (as of the July 1 solar eclipse thank heavens) and I'm in a place I've never seen, never been before. More heart-focused and self-emanating than I've ever been. Do I think I will be this way forever and remain untouched by the perils of this mortal coil? Hardly. Attached to the state to the extent that I'll fall apart should I feel that nearly unbearable (but just bearable and therefore lifegiving) vulnerability again? Newp. But I'm loving the reflection and grateful for your honesty and openness!! And I've already been working with some of Assaglioli's theories on subpersonalities, so I will look forward to learning more about what he says about spiritual emergency. So ecstatic to have this relief.

  14. Jayson July 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    Amelia,

    Thank you sister! yes, Man it has been a fookin' ride for sure. However, I'm on the other side mostly with virgin wings that are still very wet and vulnerable. Tentative even. Yes, strong in heart and practicing living life from a new seat, a new center. :) Thanks for being courageous enough to make it through yours. whew.

  15. Lori August 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Know you are ‘FINE’. Fine tuning into evolution and it IS OK. William Glasser wrote of this in CHOICE THEORY.. look it up… whole communities have been re-trained in how to support and facilitate these processes. Also http://www.healingdrummer.com goes WAY back with Malidoma Some. Toby lived with the tribe years ago and teaches Shamanic work and is hooked up w/ lots of the same. The shift IS HAPPENING as I will be addressing some of this litterally with UCLA and the VA who are realizing the ‘western ways’ haven’t been working and are actually INCORPORATING DRUMMING, TAI CHI, QIGONG, YOGA, ACCUPUNCTURE into their VA basic protocol!

    YOU ARE ON THE LIGHT TRACK AND ALL IS WELL. So SMILE, laugh and love yourself for the courage of the pioneer your soul chose.
    Namaste

  16. Jamie September 3, 2012 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Hi Jayson, got to this article via a Facebook group, it has blown me away. I relate to so much of what you say & it is inspiring to see you are coming out the other side.
    I have had a steadily worsening ‘condition’ for 20 years but have recently begun a spiritual path of my own to hopefully come thru it like you have.
    God bless & Thank you.

  17. Jen September 8, 2012 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Hi
    I’ve recently gone thru a 14 year long spiritual emergency and would like to support others going through the same thing. Email me at jetanoir@hotmail.com.
    Blessings
    Jen

  18. Suzie February 7, 2013 at 10:50 am - Reply

    So Jayson,
    Are you through this – I keep thinking that I am at the end after minor intense 5 years and major (mounting)intensity now – have the stan groff books and others but need help my therepist said she could help me through but is the same story keep spending money that I don’t have on therapists who are in their own adgenda and fixated on and not interested in reading or learning something new! they don’t really understand and pushed me onto citalopram which I have been on for 2 weeks and the only way I can keep it down is with tranquilizers I am quitting tomorrow – everything – I’ve had all the “symptoms” that are listed in the spiritualemergence.org – so bizarre even I cannot believe it is happening. I used to be a hypnotherapist- and I know once I have gotten
    through this and I know I must go thru it – I will be a damn good therapist! I am also an empath and a sensitive which compounds matters – I just want to live on the earth plane enjoy my coffee in the morning and watch the sunrise (I have had “glimpses”of bliss – please write back with some encouragement and good news.And do the work! And i know I must heal first! Thank you Jayson for thie website and speed response – Suzie

    • Jayson February 17, 2013 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      Suzie,

      I am thru it. done. it was a brutal couple of years, but critical and necessary for me to move thru. 5 years for you? wow. that’s a lot to sit thru. do you have a guide? if your therapist hasn’t been thru one of these themselves, they can’t help you. fire them.

      yes, you will be an outstanding guide once thru this. and for you, i wonder what you are “supposed to do” as opposed to what’s uniquely yours to be with?

      i’d encourage you to stay with it. don’t give up. also, i have a friend going thru something similar. his was very different than mine and what is ultimately healing his is medication and a bi-polar diagnosis from a renowned DR. so, meds were not my path, nor was a formal diagnosis. however it was for him and it’s helped him stabilize. but he’s working with a top notch psychiatrist.

      again, i’d encourage you to get immaculate care and guidance. very few therapists could handle what you are going thru.

      blessings!

      Jayson

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