This is last minute, but I wanted to pass it on in case any of you are interested and able to attend tonight. It looks fascinate. It's at CIIS in SF at 7pm. Sadly, I have another commitment or I would have gone--but if anyone goes, please post a paragraph about your experience or learnings in the Forum! That would be great!

Bay Area Event: An Integrative Approach to Madness:A Conversation with Michael Cornwall 

Come be part of a free wheeling conversation with Michael Cornwall P.hD., as we explore an expanded meaning of transformative madness and how to lovingly serve those who are in a madness/psychosis process.

'Much Madness is divinest Sense-
To A discerning Eye-
Much Sense- the starkest Madness-
'Tis the majority
In this, as All, prevail-
Assent- and you are sane-
Demur- and you're straightway dangerous
and handled with a Chain.'

By- Emily Dickinson

Michael served for almost 30 years as a radical therapist specializing in helping people who were in a mad/psychotic process without medication in the front lines of Contra Costa County Mental Health Services.

For 3 years he worked in a 24/7, free standing 20 bed, unlocked sanctuary where no restraints or medications were used and no diagnoses were given to people going through their first and sometimes second mad/psychotic experience.

Madness in Michael's alternative experience and practice is understood as a culturally created and compensatory response to a largely loveless and spiritually devoid, social Darwinism corporate culture where guilt, shame and punishment are the coin of the realm.

Without permisssion for learning the emotional freedom of expression grounded in a family capable of loving kindness to prepare some young adults for the developmental task of leaving home and independent adult functioning, the psyche collapses into a breakdown that can be an auspicious time for breakthrough, if a loving sanctuary is provided at this critical juncture.

Archetypal forces of the collective unconscious also come into play as the psyche undergoes such a deep renewal process of transformation, which can ultimately invest the ego with heroic power worthy of such an initiation.

Mythic themes of birth and death, male and female, good and evil, and more, take place on the stage of the central archetype of the Self where all manner of affect laden opposites can be experienced and resolve themselves into a cohesive unity. Then the full range of human emotions can be experienced and expressed without overwhelming the ego again.

The young initiate of such a developmental and archetypal ordeal can come out the other side- 'Weller than well!' as Karl Menninger famously said.

People going through madness/psychosis without medication in these heart centered sanctuaries had at least a 75% lower re-hospitalization rate than those who were given medications. They diverted hundreds of people from being in the mental health system their whole lives. The same basic results are being replicated today in the Open Dialogue program in Finland and the CooperRiss program in North Carolina.

Michael is a CIIS graduate in Clinical Psychology, who did his doctoral study on his mentor's John Weir Perry's, Diabasis House sanctuary. He has given CEU and other trainings and workshops on an integrative approach to madness at CIIS, Saybrook Institute, The Institute Of Transpersonal Psychology and to many consumer survivor groups. He will be co-leading a workshop in December at Esalen Institute called- 'An Integrative Approach to Psychoisis and Other Transformative Spiritual Experiences.' He went through his own harrowing journey of transformative madness without medication or treatment in the 1960's which was the impetus for his vocation.

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  • Thank you for posting this, Bonnie.  I did not know about Michael Cornwall's work and I appreciate what he is trying to do, as I synchronistically read the chapter for my book group tomorrow about initiation and return, or integration, in a wilderness setting, including a 'vision quest' type of initiation an the energy of the giant, or the red energy, of the hero in the first part of the cycle.


    I also hope that someone will post notes!

    • Hi Julie. Thanks for your insights. I don't know Michael's work either, but it seems very compelling in a day and age when there seems to be such a trend toward psychiatric diagnosis in our culture. Everything from ADHD to Bipolar disorder and beyond are almost trendy right now - and while I think they're totally valid in many cases, I have to wonder why they are so pervasive. Something about your theory of initiation really resonates with me: perhaps it is all a slice of a much larger cultural initiation that is contributing to a coming transition...
    • AH!  Bonnie, you offer a very interesting idea with your comment!  Forgive my simplified response...

      There are two levels, one individual:

      Perhaps some of the 'diagnosis disorder' is due to our culture's lack of vision, of seeing and offering the containment and modeling for people who are 'stuck' in a need for initiation and return to community in a much more engaged way than the thin thread of judgement from a medical bulkhead that is resting on the monolithic pharmaceutical business. 

      This giant of a business and the assumption of 'fixing things' at arm's length with chemicals and 50 minute slices of interaction that are very lopsided is so pervasive that we even apply the model to ourselves!  (i.e., if I buy this pill or vitamin and do this short exercise it will fix my problem instantly).  Community and the engaged practice of communion is missing. I was reminded of this by reading the article that Sharon Health recommended last night on the Ecopsychology group page:  "Carolyn Raffensperger's exquisite articulation of "the Great Communion.""

      Then there is the cultural level, when corporations are behaving like adolescents in the 'red phase', the "I WANT and I am indomitable and immortal, see me roar" in other words, A GIANT who is feeling power but is yet to be related to the larger picture and needs some containment, witnessing and initiation! 

      I am projecting this description of a human stage of growth onto corporations but it seems so apt, per your comment of our cultural situation and maybe transition.  Martin Shaw speaks eloquently to the Giant, the grip of the red, on pages 31 - 33 in A Branch from the Lightening Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace in Wildness.


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