Lesson 6 - Red Light Symptoms

There is no coming to consciousness without pain
Carl Gustav Jung

Criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D)
According to the American Psychiatric Association 1994

A: The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:

  1. The person experienced, witnessed or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others..

  2. The persons response involved intense fear, helplessness or horror.

After Cotton & Jackson: Early Intervention & Prevention in Mental Health

B The traumatic event is persistently re experienced in one or more) of the following ways:

  1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts or perceptions.

  2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event.

  3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated.)

  4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

C: Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

  1. Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma.

  2. Efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of the trauma.

  3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.

  4. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities.

  5. Feeling of detachment or estrangements from others.

  6. Restricted range of affect (unable to have loving feelings)

  7. Sense of a foreshortened future (does not expect to have a career, marriage, children or a normal life span).

After Cotton & Jackson: Early Intervention &
Prevention in Mental Health

D: Persistent symptoms of increased arousal
(not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:
1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
2. Irritability or outbursts of anger.
3. Difficulty concentrating.
4. Hypervigiliance.
5. Exaggerated startle response.

E: Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in criteria B, C, and D) is more than one month.
F: The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

After Cotton & Jackson: Early Intervention & Prevention in Mental Health

How does one differentiate between spiritual emergence and psychosis?

One of the questions most frequently asked during discussions of spiritual emergency is how does one differentiate between spiritual emergency and psychosis?

As we have pointed out, the term PSYCHOSIS is not accurately and objectively defined in contemporary psychiatry. Until that happens, it will be impossible to offer a sharp delineation between the two conditions.

Stanislav Grof: The Stormy Search for the Self, p 43.


Two client-cases

The important differences in both the attitude towards the inner process and in experiential style can be illustrated by describing the following two hypothetical clients […] they represent opposite poles of a continuum of possibilities:

  1. The first client comes in for consultation and presents the following account:
    In the last three weeks I have been having all kind of strange experiences. My body is charged with incredible energy. It keeps streaming up my spine and jamming in the small of my back, between my shoulder blades, and at the base off my skull. At times, it is very painful. I have difficulties sleeping and often wake up in the middle of the night sweating and feeling extremely anxious. I have a peculiar sense that I have just come from somewhere far away but do not know where.
    I have visions that seem to be coming from other cultures and other centuries. I do not believe in reincarnation, but sometimes it feels like I am remembering things from previous existences, as if I have lived before. Other times, I see bright lights or images of deities and demons, and other fairy-tale stuff. Have you ever heard anything like that? What is happening to me? Am I going crazy?
    This person is very bewildered and confused by a variety of strange experiences but is clearly aware that the process is internal and shows a willingness to receive advice and help. This would qualify the process as a possible spiritual emergence.

  2. The second client arrives with a very different attitude, less to ask for advice than to present a clear-cut story, to complain, to blame:
    My neighbour is out to get me. He is pumping toxic gases into my cellar through a pipeline that he secretly has constructed. He is poisoning my food and water supply. I have no privacy in my house; he put a lot of bugging devices all over the place. My health is endangered; my life is threatened. All this is part of a complicated plot that is supported by the Mafia; they have been paying large sums of money to get rid of me. I am inconvenient for them because my high moral principles stand in the way for their plans.

Whatever the causes of this condition are, a client in this category lacks the fundamental insight that this state of affairs has something to do with his own psyche.
As a result, he would not be interested in any help, other than assistance in the fight against his alleged persecutors […] In addition, he would rather see the therapist as a potential enemy rather than a helper.

Grof: The Stormy Search for the Self, p.44-45.


Red light symptoms
From Stanislav Grof The Stormy Search for the Self

A: Emergence. B: Emergency

A: Inner experiences are fluid, mild easy to integrate.
B: Inner experiences are dynamic, jarring, difficult to integrate.

A: New spiritual insights are welcome, desirable, expansive.
B: New spiritual insights may be philosophically challenging and threatening.

A: Gradual infusion of ideas and Insights into life.
B: Overwhelming influx of experiences and insights.

A: Experiences of energy that are contained and are easily manageable.
B: Experiences of jolting tremors, shaking, energy disruptive to daily life.

A: Easy differentiation between internal and external experience and transition from one to other.
B: Sometimes difficult to distinguish between internal and external experiences, or simultaneous occurrence of both

A: Ease in incorporating nonordinary states of consciousness into daily life
B:Inner experiences interrupt and disturb daily life.

A: Slow gradual change in awareness of self and world
B: Abrupt, rapid shift in perception of self and world

A: Excitement about inner experiences as they arise and willingness and ability to to cooperate with them using guidance.
B: Ambivalence toward inner experiences, and unwillingness or inability to to cooperate with them using guidance.

A: Accepting attitude toward change.
B: Resistance to change

A: Ease in giving up control.
B: Need to be in control

A: Trust in process.
B: Dislike, mistrust in process.

A: Difficult experiences treated as opportunities for change.
B: Difficult experiences are overwhelming, often unwelcome.

A: Positive experiences accepted as gifts
B: Positive experiences are difficult to accept, seem undeserved, can be painful.

A: Infrequent need to discus experiences
B: Frequent urgent need to discuss experiences.

A: Discriminating when communicating about process (when, how, with whom)
B: Indiscriminate communication about about process (when, how, with whom)

Stanislav Grof’s differentiation between Spiritual Emergence (SE) and

Psychiatric disorders (PD)

PD Characteristics of the process indicating need
for medical approach to the problem.
SE Characteristics of the process suggesting that the strategy for SE might work.

Criteria of a Medical Nature
PD Clinical examination and laboratory tests detect a physical disease that causes psychological changes.
SE Negative results of clinical examinations and laboratory tests for physical disease.
PD Clinical examination and laboratory tests detect a disease process of the brain that causes psychological changes. (Neurological reflexes, cerebrospinal fluid, X ray, etc.)
SE Negative results of clinical examinations and laboratory tests for pathological process afflicting the brain.

PD Specific psychological tests indicate organic impairment of the brain.
SE Negative results of psychological tests for organic impairment.

PD Impairment of intellect and memory, clouded consciousness, problems with basic orientation (name, time, place), poor coordination.
SE Intellect and memory qualitatively changed but intact, consciousness usually clear, good basic orientation, coordination not seriously impaired.
PD Confusion, disorganisation, and defective intellectual functioning interfere with communication and cooperation.
SE Ability to communicate and cooperate (occasionally deep involvement in the inner process might be a problem).

Criteria of a Psychological Nature

PD Personal history shows serious difficulties in interpersonal relationships since childhood, inability to make friends and have intimate sexual relationships, poor social adjustment, usually long history of psychiatric problems.
SE Adequate pre-episode functioning as evidenced by interpersonal skills, some success in school and vocation, network of friends, and ability to have sexual relationships; no serious psychiatric history.
PD Poorly organised and defined content of the process, unqualified changes of emotions and behaviour, unspecific disorganisation of psychological functions, lack of meaning of any kind, no indication of direction of development, loosening of associations, incoherence.
SE Sequences of biographical memories, themes of birth and death, transpersonal experiences, possible insight that the process is healing or spiritual in nature, change and development of themes, often definable progression, incidence of true synchronicities* (evident to others).

PD Autistic* withdrawal, aggressive, or controlling and manipulative behaviour interferes with a good working relationship and makes cooperation impossible.
SE Ability to relate and cooperate, often even during episodes of dramatic experiences that occur spontaneously or in the course of psychotherapeutic work.


PD Inability to see the process as an intra psychic affair, confusion between the inner experiences and the outer world, excessive use of projection and blaming, acting out.
SE Awareness of the intra psychic nature of the process, satisfactory ability to distinguish between the inner and the outer, owning the process, ability to keep it internalised.
PD Basic mistrust, perception of the world and all people as hostile, delusions of persecution, acoustic hallucinations of enemies (voices) with a very unpleasant content.
SE Sufficient trust to accept help and cooperate; persecutory delusions and voices absent.

PD Violations of basic rules of therapy (not to hurt oneself or anybody else, not to destroy property), destructive and self-destructive (suicidal or self-mutilating) impulses and a tendency to act on them without warning.
SE Ability to honour basic rules of therapy, absence of destructive or self-destructive ideas and tendencies, or ability to talk about them and to accept precautionary measures.
PD Behaviour endangering health and causing serious concerns (refusal to eat or drink for prolonged periods of time, neglect of basic hygienic rules.
SE Good cooperation in things related to physical health, basic maintenance, and hygienic rules.

From Stanislav Grof The Stormy Search for the Self

Synchronicity, the double conception, C.G.Jung: Synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in time and space as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves AS WELL AS WITH the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.

Syncronicity postulates a meaning which is a priori to human consciousness and apparently exists outside of man

Jung for Beginners p 164

*Autism: Condition in certain psychotic patients, especially schizophrenics, in which they live their own distant world, occupied by their own thoughts and imaginations. There is only a sporadic emotional contact. They live as if behind a wall.

Edited and translated from Psykiatrisk ordbog (Danish)

Psychiatric disorders: A neurosis is a longer lasting but less serious psychic illness, activated by outer conditions or influences, most often psychic traumas, damages from the environment, more rarely physical conditions.
The sense of reality is preserved; there is a sort of disturbance of the ego. There are no deep changes of the psyche (as opposed to a psychosis) only few psychological areas are not functioning normally - accompanied by limited difficulties in adaptation and functioning. The neurotic person is inhibited (as opposed to the psychopathic person) and do have a recognition of being ill.

Edited and translated from Psykiatrisk ordbog (Danish)

A psychosis is a disease with primary psychic symptoms which are present to such a degree that the whole personality is involved / affected and changing.
The sense of reality and the ability to judge is weakened to a high degree; most often the person do not recognise that he or she is sick.

Edited and translated from Psykiatrisk ordbog (Danish)