Friday, February 17, 2012

Djohar Si Ahmed – a psychoanalytic approach to psychic openings

A recently published collection of essays is a *very* thought-provoking contribution to the really frontier profession of “clinical parapsychology.”  “Perspectives of clinical parapsychology:  An introductory reader,” Kramer, Bauer, and Hövelmann, editors, contains 13 articles by professionals with experience in both conventional mental health and parapsychology, as well as a *126-page* bibliography  on the clinical aspects of exceptional human experiences!

Today, I am going to focus on the article by Djohar Si Ahmed, Ph.D. on “Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Major Paranormal Experiences (MPE).”  Dr. Si Ahmed is a psychoanalyst in Paris, where she co-founded the Institut des Champs Limites de la Psyché, and is Secrétaire Générale of the Institut Métapsychique International.

One of the purposes of this blog is to discover better means of helping people who are going through a neurological injury cum psychic opening.  In her work with people who are experiencing distress that has a psychic element, Si Ahmed uses a combination of psychoanalytically-informed technique and theory, Eriksonian hypnotherapy, Grof Holotropic breathwork, “Telepathy Training Groups,” and education about psi.

In this article, Si Ahmed focuses on people who are distressed by the psychic experience they’re having, and who don’t know how to manage or understand it.  Si Ahmed does a masterful job of holding the fact that distressing psychic experiences often contain both genuine psi *and* personal, unresolved psychological material.  She sensibly believes that it is essential to identify and heal the psychodynamic issues in order to liberate the individual’s ability to utilize psi in a secure-feeling, life-enhancing way.

She says that sudden openings of psi faculties “mobilize all levels of the being:  archaic, physiological, psychological, affective, cognitive, and spiritual ones” (p. 66).  People “suddenly find themselves exposed to an event that goes beyond what seems thinkable or tolerable, an event that shakes their world view and its boundaries, with all the corresponding suffering and distress” (p. 67).

Part of what makes sudden psychic openings so overwhelming is that they often emerge from a period of crisis, during which the primitive, psychotic level which is in all of us is more stirred up.  Also, major paranormal experiences challenge the established status of imaginary v. real, inner v. external. So, some of the foundations of one’s sense of self and reality become confused and have to be re-negotiated.  Another way of thinking about it is that the psychic experience represents an eruption of archetypal material into one’s psyche.  “Consequently the consciousness is completely swamped by the contents of the collective unconscious” (p. 67).

Si Ahmed points out that non-ordinary states of consciousness help us free ourselves from “the habitual constraints of body, space, and time.  The subject’s unconscious takes advantage of these transient states to *recall to the surface* …the exact material that the psyche most vitally needs to promote a process of change, development and healing” (p. 69).  

Furthermore, she refers to Ehrenwald (1978) in pointing out that the life crises that may trigger a psychic opening, and the crisis caused by the psychic opening itself must necessarily re-awaken whatever trauma there is in the prenatal and perinatal relationship with the mother (and other caregivers), because that’s where the first telepathic link was ever formed (p.70).  And, for many of us, that’s where our psi is kind of developmentally arrested…..until, boom, we have a psychic opening in adulthood….

This is really a superb article that validated and deepened my belief in the value of a psychoanalytic / psychodynamic approach to bringing psi into your life.  There are a few people who have been raised in a family that normalizes psi, and have had psi integrated into their lives throughout their development.  But, at this time in history, most of us have imbibed very negative or invalidating messages about psi from our cultures and/or families, and have experienced a significant developmental gap between our innate, very early childhood psi and taking psi on again at some point later in life. 

This is a set up.  It is nearly impossible, under these conditions, not to misattribute to psi the very early experiences of one’s environment and important caregivers, with a negative bias.  Even if you intentionally choose to develop your psi, but especially if it is thrust upon you by circumstances in adulthood, your experience of psi will be developmentally out of step with the rest of your life.  Kind of like how, if you are not an artist, and you take a drawing class, you start at about the age 10 level of skill, because that was the last time you worked on drawing!

On top of this developmental lag, we have the negative messages about psi  throughout our lives, so we are more likely to transfer or project onto this ambiguous new experience that which was problematic in our early lives. On top of this, we have the likelihood that someone takes up psi in adulthood in order to solve a problem, so there is yet another reason for this new phenomenon to become entangled in our minds with unresolved difficulties.

Finally, psychic ability makes you more truly yourself, more powerful, and, at this time in history, more at odds with just about any national culture.  Therefore, it is a revolutionary, anti-establishment force.  Therefore, there will be resistance to it, both from without, and from within.


Si Ahmed, D.  (2012).  Psychotherapeutic approaches to Major Paranormal Experiences (MPE).  In Kramer, W.H., Bauer, E., & Hövelmann, G.  (Eds.)  Perspectives of clinical parapsychology:  An introductory reader, Bunnik, The Netherlands:  Stichting Het Johan Borgman Fonds.

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