Chronic Grief-Spiritual Midwifery: A New Diagnostic and Healing Paradigm

By Gowell, Elaine Childs Arnp, PhD | Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Chronic Grief-Spiritual Midwifery: A New Diagnostic and Healing Paradigm


Gowell, Elaine Childs Arnp, PhD, Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health


"The science of unitary human beings portends a new world" Martha Rogers 1991

THE NEW PARADIGM: We are in the midst of a paradigm shift which began with the ancient messages of "unbearable compassion" and "unconditional love" given to the planet in the early teachings of the Buddha and of Jesus Christ. This message has been side-tracked away from mainstream western society for centuries. In fact, it was used historically, to further the old fear-based paradigm of original sin and suffering which became doctrine in the fifth century, with the adoption as doctrine of Augustine's discussions on his own process. Many crusades were launched based on this doctrine, in particular, the crusade or "witch hunt" against women which lasted from the seventh century to the seventeenth century. Women were the major healers and herbalists of the middle ages. The fear engendered by this assault, which is carried in the archetypal memory of women, continues to haunt us. Because nursing has been largely a women's profession, I believe we have been influenced deeply by this archetypal fear. In more recent years western society seems to be moving towards a "Compassion and Unconditional Love-based" paradigm. This paradigm shift is being chronicled by many writers, among them scientists from physics, biology, the environmental sciences, nursing and the medical sciences (Prigogine 1984; Capra 1995; Kuhn 1962; Rogers 1991). It is believed by these writers, and this author, that societies all over the planet are approaching a critical point when the way people view themselves and the way they think about their relationship to the planet will stem from a core of compassion and responsibility for self. This shift in consciousness has been quickening, and accelerating in the past thirty years, indicating that many of the ideas which were considered with suspicion in the 1960's have now entered the mainstream of thinking.

SEPARATION FROM SELF

The shift in consciousness has brought people face to face with the fact that they can no longer hide from this archetypal pain, and from these deepest fears. Instead of turning to the taverns, hotspots, and their addictions for self-comforting and self-medicating, people are going to twelve-step meetings and into therapy. Those clinicians who call themselves psychotherapists have had a great challenge in the past three decades to change the old image that psychiatry and psychoanalysis carried. Now the prejudices against psychotherapy are diminishing in the population at large. Nevertheless with the upsurge in insurance companies taking over the mental health field, people have become fearful of having their diagnoses registered on the computer and thus accessible in the public domain. For example, it has been documented that a diagnosis of depression lost a woman a job she was seeking, and she had to sue to get redress.

SPIRITUAL CRISIS VS THE FEAR BASED DIAGNOSES

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (1996) carries a number of what clients have experienced as "fear-based" diagnoses. The descriptors enumerate certain categories of the medical model of disease (not dis-ease). These categories such as Major Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder etc, from my viewpoint as an anthropologist, actually describe people who have been in "Spiritual Crisis" as far back as they can remember. They say "all of my life I have felt this way." This is the standard phrase often offered when presenting themselves for healing. They are continuing to grieve the loss of attachment which affected them at preverbal levels. Attachment and bonding are supposed to create a deep connection with those who are significant at those early stages in life. If the significant people are not themselves connected to Self/Spirit, then they cannot offer this connection to their babies. So, more fundamentally most of the clients we see, including ourselves, are grieving their very early separation from Self/Spirit. …

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