The Gods & Ego States — How Comparable are They?

I’m struck by how many Pagans I know who are good at going into Aspect (divine possession) during rituals also have a traumatic childhood background.  Trauma in childhood is linked with all sorts of trauma disorders and dissociative experiences including PTSD and leading up to Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder).

Now I’m not saying that all instances of divine possession in Pagan rituals are not real.   That they are only an artifact of trauma.  Several times lately I’ve heard the idea batted about that children who have experienced trauma are more open to otherworldly communication & more psychic.  Of course I’ll never be able to prove this through any scientific or professional means as a psychotherapist.  Still — as a Pagan and a psychotherapist I’d really like my religious and professional worldviews to mesh and complement each other.

For more information on this idea, see all of the articles from the Spring 2007 edition of the Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies — especially the one entitled “The influence of childhood dissociative states from sexual abuse on the adult woman’s spiritual development“.

Another interesting article touching on dissociative states and otherworldly communication and creativity leading towards health can be found at a recent “Searching for Imbas” blog posting

I’m mulling over an idea right now that I hope proves true — because it would make my world alot easier.  I’m hoping that a parrallelism exists the paradigms of divine possession and psychological dissociative states.  In divine possession, there are “rules” — the gods are supposed to behave certain helpful ways at certain times.  They are of course unperdictable and Themselves, but the farther their behavior strays into what is considered inappropriate or destructive, the more this is discouraged and a means sought to end it.  The more its questioned if it’s really a god or something else. 

In a somewhat similar fashion, psychology usually seeks to integrate the different ego states — the different alters — of a person suffering trauma.  They are all thought to be a part of the same whole person.  They all have strengths as well as weaknesses.  Generally speaking, even the scary ones hold energy and abilities that the whole healthy person needs.  Only occasionally when an alter is too dangerous or the person is not ready does psychology seek to keep that alter — that ego state — walled off and seperate and forgotten.

So, as I work with clients who seem to fit both paradigms simultaneously, what I’m hoping to find is the following:

  • That divine possession states that seem scary actually need to be embraced and worked with, just as scary alters need to be integrated into the whole person
  • That divine possession states that must be discouraged corrispond with ego states or alters that should not be integrated and should be weakened

 I’m indulging in some hopeful thinking here because it will be difficult when I find situations where Pagan religion calls for rejecting at the same time that psychology calls for integrating (or vice versa).

 Whatever the level of divine or otherworldly communication actually present in Paganism, I do tend to think of modern Paganism, and ancient shamanic and magick systems as definitely servicing a mental health purpose as well.  So I’m hopeful the systems will mesh.

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