Online Seminar series
24 Sep- 29 Oct-26 Nov 2022 and 28 Jan 2023
The Shamanic, Trauma and Analysis
A shamanic dimension to my analytic work is an area of experience I have not sought out, but which has found me. It has found me without any recourse to psychedelic drugs or any conscious expectation. I feel like an innocent bystander, where the collective unconscious snook up on me unawares, not as a frontal assault but taking a path that the unconscious, in its purest form, seems often to take, in percolating up from the depths and gradually making its presence felt, unbeknown to the recipient.
The context for this has been ancient shamanic art. I grew up in a family where any form of culture was conspicuous by its absence – no books, no pictures, no music. It was a cultural desert. I was a blank canvas. Then out of the blue I was introduced to ancient art. Some pieces found a home in my consulting room which, in hindsight, had a shamanic connection to ancient civilisations. They had a strange power of their own, imposing themselves on my room, my life, and my patients. I would like to trace the journey of living with this art, and its impact, connecting me to a world of collective phenomena that has transformed my view of time and space. This has been a very moving experience.
I would like to give a series of clinical examples of how ancient art dovetailed with analytic practice, to bring about striking change, often with very traumatised patients. With such patients there is a raw connection to the various layers of the collective unconscious.
I’m reminded of the words of Leonard Cohen : “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. For those with the deepest crack, there is sometimes an access to a brighter light.
I would like to set this in context and talk about a shamanic view of the world, which seems to have emerged right across the continents, thousands of years ago. I will do this with particular reference to South and Meso America, the cultures with which I am most familiar. The shaman is normally a damaged individual who crossed boundaries of space and time, who accessed the collective unconscious, containing individuals and communities.
I would also like to explore Jung’s work on this theme, and also the work of Stanislav Grof, who brought together analysis and the use of psychodelics and holotropic breathing, as ways of bringing healing to deeply traumatised patients.
Malcolm Rushton is a training analyst of the SAP and works full time as an analyst in private practice. He has an interest in antiquities from various cultures as well as symbolism and shamanism in ancient art, this is expressed in his wide-ranging collection. His current exploration is of the presentation of extreme psychological states in television drama.