The Role of Altered States of Consciousness in Native American Healing

In Altered States, Articles, Healing, Hypnosis, Trance by Timothy C. Thomason

Shamanic and Native American healers have utilized methods to produce altered states of consciousness in themselves and their patients for thousands of years. These methods include sonic driving, photic driving, and other means of changing consciousness. Recent research on non-drug methods to produce altered states has revealed that they probably work by changing the brainwaves of the subjects, so that they enter an alpha state and become more susceptible to suggestion. A reasonable conclusion is that since ancient times Native American healers have developed reliable methods to, in effect, hypnotize their patients so they are more susceptible to suggestions that will help them feel better. This puts Native American healing for psychological disorders on a continuum with modern psychotherapy.

Traditional Native American Healing Traditional healing in tribal societies is often described as shamanism, which is a family of traditions whose practitioners voluntarily enter altered states of consciousness to interact with spiritual entities to heal people who are ill or distressed (Eliade, 1964). Shamanism may be 25,000 years old (Walsh, 1990), and “fully 90% of the world’s cultures make use of one or more institutionalized altered states of consciousness, and in traditional societies these are, almost without exception, sacred states” (Walsh, 1996, p. 101). Practices that induce altered states of consciousness are often considered spiritual healing practices, since they are based on spiritual and supernatural beliefs in tribal societies. However, they can also be seen as psychological healing practices, or even psychotherapies in some cases…

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