Korean Shamans and Childhood Trauma
Kim, Jin-Young, Ko, Young-Gun, The Journal of Psychohistory
In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Sigmund Freud reversed the wellknown text in Genesis, "God created man in his own image," into "man created God in his."1 As his statement suggests, Freud had a longstanding interest in the inner representation process resulting in God and the Devil.2 According to Freud, the father is "the object representation which offers the materials for the formation of the representation of God and a Devil."3
Freud analyzed Christoph Haizmann, a seventeenth-century demonological neurotic, to support his opinion. In his analysis, Freud concluded the "demon" that Haizmann experienced was both a father substitute and a symbol of Haizmann's wishes regarding his father.
Sally Hill and Jean R. Goodwin, however, stated Freud had overlooked the relationships between childhood trauma and "demonic" possession.4 Based on contemporary experience with patients who considered themselves possessed by demons, Hill and Goodwin suspected Haizmann had likely experienced severe abuse.5 Juan Stephen believed that these discrepant opinions originated from the fact that Freud had not treated Haizmann in person. According to Stephen, if Freud had investigated Haizmann's personal history in more detail, he would have learned Haizmann was the victim of severe childhood trauma.6
Present-day researchers can easily find evidence of a relationship between childhood trauma and demonic possession. For instance, a Vanderbilt university research team investigated five demonic possession cases and discovered evidence of severe childhood trauma (e.g., family violence) in each case.7 According to psychohistorian Lloyd deMause, children experiencing childhood traumas tended to establish dissociated alters and, throughout history, their possession by these alters reportedly began in childhood.8 However, the psychohistory field has not focused on shamans as much as it has on cases of demonic possession, probably because shamans usually do not show symptoms that demand psychiatric intervention.
According to Edward R. Canda, shamans and demonic possession cases may be as different as psychotherapists and patients.9 First, shamans rarely exhibit social maladjustment, while demonic possession patients show difficulties with social adjustment. Second, shamans learn to voluntarily alter their state of consciousness and enter trances, while demonic possession patients do not have a control over the possession. Third, shamans perform the role of therapist instead of the role of patient.
According to Lloyd deMause, however, shamans and demonic possession cases share etiological commonality, despite these differences, in that "these God-fusion states are therefore defenses against and repetitions of early childhood 'insecure and avoidant' abusive attachments" to a caretaker (the mother or wet-nurse).10 He described the Holy Spirit experience of Saint Theresa as an example. "An angel pierced its spear several times through my heart... leaving me all aflame with an immense love for God. The pain was so great that I had to groan, but the sweetness that came with this violent pain was such that I could not wish to be free of it."11 As the case of Saint Theresa suggests, the neurological standpoint indicates these Christian mystical trance experiences correlate closely with the dopamine system's activities in the frontal cortex.12 Dopamine plays an important role in reward-seeking behaviors, such as consumption, addiction, and religion. Among the reward-seeking behaviors, religious activities (e.g., religious ecstasy) can provoke the most intensive positive emotions. With consideration for these differences between shamans and demonic possession patients, we here examine the relationship between Korean shamans and childhood trauma.
KOREAN SHAMANS AND KUT
In Korean, the word Kut refers to a shamanistic ritual managed by a mudang, a Korean shaman. Generally, the mudang performs the Kut when an individual or family faces stressful events or unfortunate accidents. …