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Frequently Asked Questions

I need to find a real healer in my area. But how do I tell its lure from a plain old doctor?
A plain old doctor makes the diagnosis and treats the patients. A great doctor does that and also offers some preventative health advice. But a healer does all that, makes a heartfelt connection with a patient, and intuitively offers support and advice that is heart-centered. A healer is involved in the wellness of the whole person, not just the mechanics of the body. I learned a lot about the mechanics of medicine in medical school, but I learned about healing after I completed my training and went to work with Native American medicinemen and women.

How can you tell the phonies from the real healers?
Real healers are authentic, which means the things they say, demonstrate by their actions, and believe in their hearts, are all telling the same story. Pay attention to how you feel after you leave their presence-do you feel you can trust this person? A real healer will have trained and apprenticed for years; whether it’s an MD using a brain scanners or an Amazonian shaman using rattles and feathers. The basic cause-and-effect treatment of the body is one thing; it takes years of practice and openhearted listening to heal with the soul.

You are a “community psychiatrist”. How's that different from a regular psychiatrist, and how could it help me?
A community psychiatrist seeks to understand the person within the context of the environment of their daily life-where they live, who they know, what they do, the kind of people they come from. Community psychiatrists believe that human behavior is not solely determined by what's going on in your head. Who we are as individuals and how we behave, is also the result of external influences like poverty, racism, violence, alcoholism, drugs, and unequal educational opportunity's. Community psychiatrists know that in every neighborhood, there are many untapped resources - people whose wisdom, perspective and healing skills can help people with their problems. I completed my post-doctoral training in Psychiatry at Yale in 1970, with a strong emphasis in community psychiatry and brought that approach to my work in Indian Country.

What do you think about the use of psychiatric drugs?
I am opposed to the over-prescribing of drugs to deal with the ordinary ups and downs of life. Just because you’re sad, anxious, tired, shy or over-active doesn’t mean you have a mental illness (even if someone else thinks you’re crazy!). Yet the message that something’s wrong with you if you’re not feeling glee 24 hours a day is exactly what the non-stop ads run by the giant pharmaceutical companies want you to believe.

Altering the richness of human experience by the use of these chemicals not only injures the body, it bodes poorly for the spirit. 25% of all Americans have been diagnosed with a mental illness- how likely is that, really? The cycles of life are how we become more of who we are: deeper, richer, more compassionate, more aware, more grateful, more self-accepting, and more spiritually alert.

Why do you clown and wear a pink tutu?
Throughout history the clowns, fools, and jesters have served as vehicles to get people to laugh at their challenges and ridiculous behaviors. Clowning gets me completely out of my head and allows me to connect with people at the heart level. My clown persona is a pink flamingo ballerina who clicks castanets and dances flamenco. People looking at this vision giggle (sometimes collapse hysterically. When we can laugh amidst the struggles we reaffirm our humanity.

For years, I have followed one guru after another. I never seem to feel like I've “got it”, what's wrong?
Nothing is wrong; nobody gets it, we are always in the process of getting it. Every time we think we finally got it something happens that reminds us that we didn't quite get it the way we felt we had it. We get older, more experienced, and see things from new perspectives. Wisdom is the result of looking at the old landscape with new eyes.

As far as a guru giving you what you need to get, the good ones won’t. A spiritual teacher provides a framework for you to discover it yourself. As a general rule, be wary of all those who say they have ” the secret” and will sell it to you; pay attention to those people who tell you they don't have it and don't know it, and listen to their stories.

Life is just so difficult sometimes, not just for me but also for lots of people, and what can I do about it?
Life is sometimes difficult, so what! Everybody, sooner or later, gets dealt cards at the table of life that they wish they hadn’t. But in this game there are no mixed deals, you have to play the hand you're dealt. The only choice is to play it as well as you can; you can choose to throw in your cards, pray for divine intervention, or fake it, but you do have to choose, and the best way to get through face difficulties is to choose to make one step at a time.

What do I do if I'm growing spiritually and the person I'm in relationship with isn't?
Spiritual growth is a personal road trip toward enlightenment. You don't have to be in the same car with the one you love you just have to be on the same path and moving in a similar direction if you want to share your life's journey.

I need a sense of purpose in my life. How do you suggest I find one?
The purpose of life is to live it...and hopefully:

  • Learn how to recognize the bad apples and eat the rest
  • Love repeatedly, because the only question you’ll be asked at life’s end is how will did you love?
  • Get indignant about something, something that makes you want to scream at the injustice of it, and stand up to fight for it.

I used to be a religious person, and now I'm not. I tell people I'm “spiritual but not religious”. But sometimes, it feels just as fake and empty. Do you ever feel that way?
If you are truly spiritual it feels real, not fake. Religions are simply bridges that connect us to the spirit; there are many bridges and they all lead to the same place. Religions provide the structure and ceremony that help us get in touch with our spiritual selves. You can create such sacred space even if you don’t follow a formal religious path. Create your own rituals and ceremonies, participate with others and you will intensify your spiritual pursuit. Know too, that as a species we are hardwired for spiritual experience. There are areas in our brains that light up when we are in that state of spiritual consciousness, so exercising it probably serves some useful purpose; find more ways to illumine this portion of your mind and you will replenish your soul.

How do I know if I've had an authentic spiritual experience or if it was just my imagination?
You know it's real if it changes your life, and if it keeps coming back to you as the truth.

 

 
Dr. Carl A. Hammerschlag, M.D., CPAE is a psychiatrist, author, and professional keynote speaker. He is an authority in the science of psychoneuroimmunology mind, body, spirit medicine and speaks about health and wellness, healing, leadership and authenticity . He has delivered motivational keynote speeches to corporate and business clients around the world.