Enchanted Madness: A Contemporary Case Study on the Sensed Spirituality of Psychotic Mania
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This thesis provides a contemporary case study on the “sensed spirituality” of psychotic mania. The case is located within a context of growing uncertainties and debates concerning the nature of psychotic phenomena. These uncertainties are reflected in the manners in which psychotic spectrum patients relate to their psychotic experiences. The case consists of the works and practices of Sean Blackwell, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. To make sense of his experiences, he consulted sources stemming mainly from the field of transpersonal psychology. Sean takes the effort to single out psychotic manic experiences as meaningful events, by referring to them as spiritual. I look at the material dimension implied in this process of meaning making by analyzing the various and complex ways in which the body is involved in experiencing and promoting psychotic phenomena as spiritual. Studying the role of the body is accomplished by describing a specific characteristic of the body of those experiencing psychotic phenomena, and discussing how this body is portrayed by Sean. Also, the reports of Mike – who was diagnosed bipolar and participated in retreat sessions with Sean – are used to uncover how his body was involved in aligning with Sean’s perspectives. To understand this process of valuation in the aforementioned context of uncertainties, its discursive relation to the societal context is studied. This is analyzed by looking at the related issues of authenticity and authority as they come up when defining the nature of psychosis. These issues are related to embodied psychotic manic experiences deemed spiritual.