A graphic illustration of how psychopathology, in shamans and artists, can be associated with the creative process and potentially transformed into mental health through social support and other moderating factors (apprenticeship, initiation, learning how to control primary process, study and practice of spiritual traditions, engaging alternate state of consciousness, trusting intuition, etc.).
You may click on the figure to view a larger image.
Figure 22. Patterns of psychopathology and mental health affected by social support in shamans, creators, and artists.
"Opinions of researchers have varied widely with regard to the mental health of shamans, generally polarized into shamans being mentally ill or shamans being mentally healthy. One rigorously designed study (van Ommeren et al., 2004) found the shamans in one refugee group to be as mentally healthy or more mentally healthy than the other members of the community. Another study (Stephen & Suryani, 2000) of a different population of shamans found that, from the medical etic perspective, shamanic candidates qualified as mentally ill; yet, after training and initiation, the same individuals were deemed mentally healthy with psychotic features still evident. Moreover, the shamans had gained control of the psychosis, using it voluntarily in their shamanic practices."
"Importantly, because shamans appear to have a different mental illness-mental health trajectory and outcome, shamans may comprise a unique category of creativity that is different from most artists, eminent creators, clinical populations, and everyday creativity. This unique category might be due to established traditions of social support as set out in Figure 22."
From: Benyshek, D. (2012). An archival exploration comparing contemporary artists and shamans. PhD, Saybrook University, San Francisco, CA.
Available at: Denita Benyshek, PhD, MFA on Academia.Edu
Stephen, M., & Suryani, L. K. (2000). Shamanism, psychosis and autonomous imagination. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 24, 5-40.
van Ommeren, M., Komproe, I., Cardeña, E., Thapa, S. B., Prasain, D., de Jong, J. T., & Sharma, B. (2004). Mental illness among Bhutanese shamans in Nepal. Journal of Nervous Mental Disorders, 4, 313-317.
Dr. Benyshek is a devoted psychotherapist and marriage counselor, a professional artist, and an internationally renowned researcher on contemporary artists as shamans.