Psychosis or spiritual emergency? A Foucauldian discourse analysis of case reports of extreme mental states in the context of meditation

Kaselionyte, J. and Gumley, A. (2019) Psychosis or spiritual emergency? A Foucauldian discourse analysis of case reports of extreme mental states in the context of meditation. Transcultural Psychiatry, (doi:10.1177/1363461519861842) (PMID:31311435) (Early Online Publication)

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Abstract

Meditation is becoming increasingly popular in the West and research on its effects is growing. While studies point to various benefits of meditation on mental and physical health, reports of extreme mental states in the context of meditation have also been published. This study employed Foucauldian discourse analysis to examine how the experience of extreme mental states has been constructed in case reports and what kind of practices were employed to address them. The study analyses how extreme mental states associated with meditation are framed within the scientific literature and how such differential framings may affect the meaning making and help-seeking of persons experiencing these states. A systematic scientific literature search identified 22 case studies of extreme mental states experienced by practitioners of various types of meditation. The analysis suggests a discursive divide between two dominant framings: a biomedical discourse which constructs such experiences as psychiatric symptoms and an alternative discursive, which understands them as spiritual emergencies. Both approaches offered distinct therapeutic avenues. This divide maps onto the disciplinary divides within the mental health field more generally, which may obscure a better understanding of these experiences. However, the two discourses are not necessarily mutually exclusive and authors of three articles chose to blend them for their case reports. A supportive environment could help those experiencing extreme state integrate them into their lives. Our findings encourage collaboration between clinicians, therapists and spiritual teachers in order to make a range of approaches available.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Meditation, spiritual emergency, psychosis, discourse, transpersonal.
Status:Early Online Publication
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gumley, Professor Andrew
Authors: Kaselionyte, J., and Gumley, A.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Transcultural Psychiatry
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN:1363-4615
ISSN (Online):1461-7471
Published Online:16 July 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Transcultural Psychiatry 2019
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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