All the research about Psychedelics brought about a renaissance in the field of psychiatry and psychopharmacology. Many people with severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD are not satisfied with the current pharmaceutical medication, and they are heading towards alternate Psychedelics-based treatment. Some of them even adopting the traditional Shamanic treatment to treat their treatment-resistant depression and anxiety.
The Holy Medicine of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca is known to be the Mother of all Medicine; with the help of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca, shamans have healed all sorts of misalignment for generations.
With more and more research now, it is a proven fact that the Holy Medicine has profound benefits on individuals’ overall well-being, including treating depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Researchers have been working to understand the effects of the Holy Medicine on human consciousness. Most recently, an article has been published in the Scientific Reports, which examined the changes in personality following a Sacred Ceremony organised by shamans with the Holy Medicine.
Joshua D. Miller, Professor of Psychology from the University of Georgia, and his colleagues organized this study where they had recruited 330 participants from three different the retreat centers across Central and South America. Among the 330 participants, 256 participants took part throughout the study.
The researchers used self-and informant-report measures of personality across three timepoints- baseline- before the retreat, post-retreat, after three months for self-report; baseline, and after three months for informant-report. Differences in self-and informant-report personality domain scores between different time points were examined, and changes in personality traits were determined by the Five-Factor Model (FFM).
What is the Five-Factor Model of personality?
Personality traits are recognized as patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that are fairly stable across an individual’s life span. Five-factor model is a very well-known model in psychology which divides an individual’s personality into five broad trait dimensions which are often referred to as the “Big Five”, which are as follows.
- Extraversion: sometimes referred to as surgency and indicated by assertive, gregarious, and energetic behaviors.
- Neuroticism: is essentially corresponding to emotional instability and can be seen in moody and irritable behaviors
- Openness to experience: referred to as an individual’s inquisitiveness, intellect, propensity for intellectually challenging tasks, and thoughtfulness.
- Agreeableness: is indicated in sympathetic, empathic, and kind behaviors.
- Conscientiousness: referred to an individual’s sense of duty, responsibility as well as foresight.
For years psychologists and researchers have observed a number of ways by which an individual’s personality changes, such as biological maturation, major life events, normative development, psychotherapy, self-motivation, and many more. Several scientific pieces of evidence suggest that Psychedelic substances may also offer an additional pathway to change personality. Many similar studies like this previously held with other substances like Psilocybin, LSD, demonstrated changes in the five-factor model such as decrease in Neuroticism, increase in Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, which have been reported across healthy and clinical sample participants.
Studying the Holy Medicine in Sacred Ceremonial setting versus a laboratory setting
There is a long history of the role of the Holy Medicine of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca in Sacred Ceremonial settings by the indigenous peoples of the Amazons in South America.
However, there are two different schools of thought about the precise timing of development of the Holy Medicine’s role in Sacred Ceremonies. Some scholars suggest that the modern form of Sacred Ceremony practices emerged no more than three hundred years ago in Spanish missionary contests, whereas other scholars strongly believe that modern practices have been uninterrupted among the indigenous people for at least five thousand years.
Within the last 25 years, the healing centres where the Holy Medicine is offered during Sacred Ceremonies, have become foundations of alternative mental health treatment among Westerners, mainly those whose symptoms have shown resistance to change using Western therapeutic approaches.
Sacred Ceremonial practices may be informative about key elements of Psychedelic-assisted experiences which potentiate positive psychological changes. Furthermore, exploring approaches to healing which are outside of the Western scientific tradition is corresponding with recent calls to revise Western epistemological biases which circumscribe scientific understanding. The Sacred Ceremonies combined with numerous elements which may play a role in whatever personality change is found, including the communal format of Sacred Ceremonies, engagement with the shamans, such as with the Holy Icaros, Medicine prayers, guiding elements such as with the help of adjunct Plants, perfumed water, chanting, etc., and the engagement by the participants in the Sacred Ceremony with their personal challenges such as purgative aspects, traumatic re-experiencing, and purgative aspects.
Another element which deserves consideration is the ontological framework within which shamanic traditions understand the therapeutic process. For example, in the understanding of shipibo shamanism, the Holy Medicine introduces the ‘Spirit’ of the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca and She is the ‘One’ Who helps in the ‘Healing’ process.
The Holy Medicine in Sacred Ceremonial settings prompt changes in individual personality
The study prospectively explored the role of the Holy Medicine in Sacred Ceremonies as a potential cause of personality change in participants.
The study observed that Neuroticism of the five-factor model declined significantly between pre-treatment measurement and the week following the Sacred Ceremony and remain significantly below pre-treatment scores three months following the Sacred Ceremony. Remarkably, the decline was also reflected in informant-report data. These results were consistent with a number of previous prospective findings, including effects of the Holy Medicine on self-directedness, worry, neuroticism, and major depression.
The researchers could not find support for hypotheses predicting changes in openness and extraversion as robustly, but they mentioned statistically significant change within self-and informant-data in the openness domain. According to the authors, this study shows initial support for the therapeutic benefits of the traditional role of the Holy Medicine in Sacred Ceremonial settings, where the Holy Icaros are sung along with cognitive reappraisal, purgative elements, Sacramental atmosphere, and communal context.
Though parallelly, these elements can also be found, differences in the modern Psychedelic-assisted environment such as therapists as the Shamans, carefully curated music, is selected to guide the participants in the Sacred Ceremony, but the Sacred Ceremony may contain additional therapeutic dimensions. Firstly, the live, visceral presence of Sacred Ceremonial environment with music and its union with the guide’s other roles may create vivid mystical experiences. Secondly, a communal-based format of the Sacred Ceremonies bring possible benefits of normalizing inner conflicts and other psychological struggles which create bonding, empathy, and trust-building as individuals accept their and other people’s vulnerabilities which lead to affording constructive opportunities to endorse new behavioral patterns of interpersonal linking.
According to the authors, there could be elements of shamanic philosophy, for example, connection with the ‘natural world’, which is psychologically beneficial and not to be ruled out as psychospiritual agents; they also suggested whether elements of the Sacred Ceremony hold additive benefit over Western components deserve ongoing attention and deep research.
The present study showed a comparative inspection of personality change in relation to Sacred Ceremonies where the Holy Medicine is offered. Attending a Sacred ceremony was associated with a medium-sized decrease in Neuroticism, and this study results pointed to predisposing and experiential factors which may potentiate personality change. Attributes of the Sacred Ceremony may be particularly powerful as a treatment for Neuroticism or internalizing psychopathology, especially among individuals at elevated baseline levels. Furthermore, baseline personality, meta-cognitive reappraisal, mystical-type experiences, and certain shamanic elements emerged as predictors of favorable personality change.
Therefore, it is quite clear that that the whole process of a Sacred Ceremony, which includes all the rituals which have evolved over a long period of time, and retained meticulously, all contribute to the process of ‘Healing’ received by the participant in the Sacred Ceremony from the Holy and Divine Mother Ayahuasca.
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