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Animus ...Exploring the Mystic Dimension


2 months ago4 min read

For a woman, danger emanating from
the unconscious comes from above, from the "spiritual"
sphere personified by the animus.

—Carl Jung


It started innocently enough when I sat in on a case conference involving a forty-year old female named Aileen Monaghan.

Her depression was growing worse and Anton Sehr, one of the hospital psychiatrists, was contemplating the use of electroconvulsive therapy.

“Nothing else is working and her condition seems to be worsening.”

I nodded gravely, well aware that some cases of severe depression don’t always respond to pharmacotherapy.

“Have you obtained consent?” I asked.

“We haven’t been able to contact the husband—they live on the reservation, but so far we’ve had no luck in finding him. She’s formed, so we can go ahead on the basis of informed consent.”

“Wait a minute—you said they live on the reservation?”

Anton nodded. The room went silent.

Generally, in these cases the legal basis considers that the will of the patient is supreme. It implies the patient has the right to refuse a treatment such as ECT.

I was wondering why Aileen’s rights were disregarded—then, it hit me—she was a Mohawk Indian.

Anton Sehr cleared his throat and said quietly, “Since you are Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Blaine, we are willing to defer to your opinion in this matter.”

I stood up, “I will take this under advisement and let you know what I decide.”

I spent the next hour looking over Aileen’s file. I confirmed she was a full-blooded Mohawk whose Indian name was Aylen Mahigan.

My first tendency was to treat her myself, confident I could do so without intrusive measures as ECT.

But I was reluctant to admit the obvious—I had no idea how to approach treating a Mohawk woman and automatically defaulted to my own cultural superiority.

I was ashamed to admit it, but like Anton Sehr, I also wore blinders. I devalued the native people’s culture and heritage.

I had a plan, however, and it would involve swallowing my pride and taking a risk—but I decided in this case, it was worth it.

The next day I drove out to the Six Nations Reserve. I was going to meet Jim Crow, a local medicine man and a trapper. Jim’s reputation as a shaman and healer was well established in the area and if anyone could reach Aileen, it was him.

I found him chopping wood in back of his house. I felt a little foolish calling to consult a fiftyish Cherokee with gray-streaked hair tied back in a ponytail. He was dressed in a blue plaid lumberjack shirt and jeans and broke into a broad smile when he saw me.

“Hey Doc, I was expecting you.”

“You were?” I looked to see if he were joking. I hadn’t informed him I was coming.

“My guides told me to expect a white man visitor—a medicine man like me.”

I eyed him skeptically, but had learned to trust his almost mystical way of knowing.

“What can I do for you Doc?”

I told him what I knew of Aileen Monaghan and her situation.

“What’s her Indian name?”

“Aylen Mahigan,” I replied.

He gave me a crinkly grin. “Aylen means beautiful and mahigan means wolf. That’s a real help.”

“Will you help her?” I asked.

He put down his axe and picked up his leather jacket. “What are you waiting for? Let’s go.”

On the ride back to the hospital he asked me questions about Aileen, none of which I could answer. I felt very despondent.

“Ah, don’t worry Doc—I’ll consult my guides—they’ll tell me what to do.”

“Don’t you go lighting any fires or beating drums in her room,” I quipped.

He shook his head, a big grin plastered on his face. “I have my own personal totems—no need for smoke or rituals, Doc.”

I was glad he was amused.

As for me, I wasn’t reassured—I felt lost in a trackless forest with a mystic medicine man leading the way.

to be continued…

© 2020, John J Geddes. All rights reserved



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