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Er...demon possession

(39 Posts)
PeggyGuggenheim Tue 04-Oct-11 20:45:57

Deep breath.

A very very close friend has been having some strange experiences lately.

During her first ever reiki session (a year ago) she was very affected by something, she didn't understand what. But she felt that something amazing had happened, some spiritual energy had come into her. She stopped smoking, drinking, eating meat. Began practising yoga. She changed in an interesting way, she became calmer, more compassionate, and very interested in spiritual matters, meditation especially.

(Previously she had been quite a hyper, sometimes misanthropic, hilarious person, a totally original thinker, very creative, a one-off. Drinker, smoker, party girl.)

Over a long period, her ideas about "the reiki change" have developed. She became worried that whatever "it" was that had changed her...was not benign. She began to feel controlled by "it", began to think of it as an "it" - something or things that were actually inside her, directing her behaviour and decisions. Like, the decisions to stop eating meat, drinking milk and alcohol, smoking, which had at first seemed really sensible, now seemed to her like - aaah, it's too wierd! It seemed to her like the malign "force" was ensuring her bodily health, in order that it might more easily inhabit her, like it was a parasite, you know, that needed a healthy host.

So anyway she got the fear big time, after some more stuff happened, and contacted some Christian friends and told all. Now she's just been "exorcised" by some evangelicals in London, people who are followers of Derek Prince, a pastor who was an expert in driving out demons.

I am just reeling, can't believe it, especially as I took all my courage and told her on the phone I thought she was having a psychotic episode. She just laughed that off, said of course that's what I'd think, because I didn't believe in spiritual warfare, and the devil's best trick was convincing the world he didn't exist. Circular arguing and I see no way out.

I'm just venting here, but it would be incredible if anyone else had stories about helping friends in similar situations...I'm not holding my breath though!!!

Deesus Tue 04-Oct-11 20:48:20

Wow - that sounds extreme! Sorry - don't have anything similar but fwiw I think you're right. Can you talk to someone else close to her? Think you need to keep a really close eye on things...I'd be very concerned for her wellbeing..

hiddenhome Tue 04-Oct-11 20:52:21

What has her past mental state been like? Has she ever been prone to problems with her perception of reality? Any drug abuse?

Sometimes people who are vulnerable can be pushed over the edge into psychosis by something fairly small, but somehow significant to them. Acute stress can also trigger it.

Does she have any family you could talk to or confide in?

eaglewings Tue 04-Oct-11 20:52:21

The chances of it being a spiritual problem are very slim, prayer may have helped her, but if I was her friend I too would be keeping a very close eye on her

Here's hoping it's all over

PeggyGuggenheim Tue 04-Oct-11 21:08:24

Recreational drug use over many years I think, and bipolar disorder in her close family. But they all live abroad and I don't really know them. I could Facebook friend them and let them know, but I don't know if I can break her trust? I'm the only person she's told apart from the excorcism folks.

She has been under an awful lot of stress, not always visible to those who know her...I'm just wondering, if it could be bipolar, could she be experiencing a psychotic break as a bipolar symptom?

Oh lordy, I should maybe be posting this in the mental health threads I realise! Because that's what I think it is...but I put it here in Religion/Spirituality in case anyone had any ideas...But I think demon possession is quite "out there" as a concept in modern Christianity, isn't it?

Missingfriendsandsad Tue 04-Oct-11 21:23:10

There are many ways to look at this, but one slightly more positive way is that when she went to the reiki session, something in the language and ideas made sense to her, and she followed it. Later she had a kind of 'is this who I really am' period, which happens to anyone who makes dramatic changes to their life - especially if they are made out of synch with the person they thought they were or the path they thought they would follow. Demonic possession is a long way from a 'normal' explanation, but if you look at it like a set of rationalisations that come from older/different/less educated bases (where the common sense explaination might be 'you were a bit extreme for a while and got way addicted to these new rules and are now readjusting' or 'you had a psychotic episode' or 'you wanted to discover a self that was OK with who you are and didn't deny all your previous values, and couldn't get back to it without a ritual' or 'come on, have a bath and a weekend with mates and remember who you really are' etc etc.

I think she may have been trying to explain and reset a change that she had made which made sense at one time, but no makes no sense at all - and the language she went to was 'spiritual' (read 'poetic, resonant with an imaginative belief, but essentially bollocks that felt good to hear at the time) rather than scientific 'you are mental'.

Don't freak out too much just yet but do challenge her beliefs and ask her to explain them in terms of other structures - religeon is interesting as a creative emotional tool to explain emotional patterns behind rationl existance, but with blindness and without perspective (eg internet reinforcement) some people believe them as 'facts'. That's dangerous.

PeggyGuggenheim Tue 04-Oct-11 21:28:15

Missingfriendandsad, thank you. But can you explain the "rationalisation" again please?

Do you mean she's kind of going "woooah!" about the yoga/meditation stuff because it was so very different from what she thought her life would be?

And the form that the "woooah" is taking, is this idea that she was inhabited?

Missingfriendsandsad Tue 04-Oct-11 21:33:17

Also some of those reiki people are very sinister, controlling and talk all the time as if what they are saying is 'fact' rather than opinion. I do know a former doctor who got really into reiki and the reiki lifestyle and is convinced of the evil of meat, and energy forces acting within people etc - I'm happy with these ideas and have experienced people with a force inside them that seems particularly strong (personality?, contentedness?, Imagination?, warmth?) versus people who are dead behind the eyes.

I would engage with a Reiki person with those ideas and talk about them as a new angle on looking at the world - in the same way I can understand the concept of a struggle between good and evil that I , say, experience as a struggle between who I mean to be and who I actually am (eg I think I am tidy and organised, but evidence in front of me proves I am not) I think your friend has gone one step further that's all.

Have you tried finding out where she is on that continuum? Perhaps she is just enjoying the journey?

PeggyGuggenheim Tue 04-Oct-11 21:42:38

Yeah, I think she's totally invigorated by it now, now that the "deliverance" has taken place, she's focussed on finding a charismatic church and getting herself right into Christianity!

Which is a MASSIVE change for her. I'm guessing however, that this particular brand of Christianity won't be a warm fuzzy Rowan Williams / Desmond Tutu / liberal and loving Christianity, but something way harsher.

But you're right to ask how she's finding the journey, and the fact that she's very sure and relieved and focussed is what presents me with my quandary. If she was rushing at people with knives, and trying to jump out of windows, it would be "easier" for me to see the way forward.

Missingfriendsandsad Tue 04-Oct-11 21:44:19

Sorry I am finding this hard to explain.. I mean does she feel 'oh my god it was like I was inhabited' and 'cool, here is a spell to get rid of that feeling, lets give it a go' - in the same way (i hope!) some of us would love to do something like wail away in tongues and see if we felt better - or does she mean 'if you sat in front of me, I (the real me) would be shaking my head and saying don't put the meat in the bin but the 'thing' inside me would control my arms and make me dothings I didn't want to do' - if the latter it sounds like she may have put the 'super healthy her' into a box outside who she thinks she really is and that that is quite disturbing for her. I am sure that most of us have gone through periods where we feel motivated about something we would never previously have been and could explain it is 'possessed' terms or use that sort of language to explain normal things - eg - I was possessed by an exercise demon after I saw that picture of me on the beach' or 'since I forgot to take that library book back everything is going wrong, it just knows I was thinking about stealing it how does it know? Its a pixie inside it.. !'
The concern I would have is that some spiritual bollock people would say 'ah so you already deep down know that there was a pixie in that book and that is what you are picking up - you are very sesitive to your aura and it told you at that time that you were in tune with the goblins and the pixies you need to learn more about that feeling - here are some more books of normal things explained in 'bollockese' When people are really in a learning like a sponge mode they can absorb this bollocks totally as they would rightly do had they started a law course, but it is not in the same category.

Missingfriendsandsad Tue 04-Oct-11 21:48:03

oh and if people are feeling mentally vilnerable and looking for a new theory on life - the people waiting to explain are the spiritualists, the christians and the counsellors - everyone else is just too busy and unwilling to talk about ethics, beliefs, emotions, 'seeking direction' type discussions et al. Those groups see people thinking hard about direction as total targets.

pictish Tue 04-Oct-11 21:48:53

I think your friend is becoming delusional and mentally unwell.
My brother went through similar.

PeggyGuggenheim Tue 04-Oct-11 21:54:02

Yeah, I get you. I will just have to keep the lines of communication open. Thanks for your insights.

PeggyGuggenheim Tue 04-Oct-11 21:55:12

Pictish, did he think he'd been possessed?

pictish Tue 04-Oct-11 22:23:46


madhairday Wed 05-Oct-11 12:19:30

I think you're being a lovely concerned friend and that keeping an eye on her, asking how she is doing etc is the best thing you can do.

However, not all charismatic type churches have a harsh and out there agenda, and many are much more concentrated on love and justice. Hopefully she will have found something like this, rather than one of the more...ahemm...toxic ones. You may find that through this prayer she feels set free from what has been bothering her and that this is helping her on a journey to becoming who she really is rather than covering up, ie bringing out her creative/one off side etc. I guess the danger signs would be if she seems to be more robotic or unnatural.

Possession....well, it happens, but it's incredibly rare, and generally more likely there is a mental health issue or some sort of crisis. Exorcism...doesn't necessarily mean harsh and violent 'casting out' as the name implies. It could simply mean a prayer asking for the person to be set free. You could ask what it entailed and it may give you some insight into what she has got into.

I hope for her sake she has found something safe and loving. There are such in the evangelical movement. I know it in general has a bad name (esp on mn!) but it's the whole tarring-all-with-the-same-brush thing. The evidence will be in her behaviour from now. She will appreciate you being there for her.

PeggyGuggenheim Wed 05-Oct-11 14:55:38

Thank you Madhair. I would be so happy if what she had found was safe and loving, even if it didn't quite chime with my own chilled-out Quakery sense of a Higher Power.

There is already one significant difference of course - she believes in The Devil as a force outside of herself.

I'm worried for her own safety first, but if that's going to be OK then I'm still sad if I lose her because of new attitudes/beliefs I won't be able to accept - say homophobia and other illiberal notions. I didn't know that there was charismatic/evangelical Christianity that rejects that stuff, but I would be delighted if there was!

madhairday Wed 05-Oct-11 15:09:08

I think the lines are thankfully blurring Peggy. There are many of us that would call ourselves charismatic but possibly using the label post-evangelical which means we would reject the more harsh and judgmental ultra-conservative theology of say some of the more extreme right wing churches, and embrace liberal values while retaining the fundamentals of the Christian faith - Jesus' life with us, death and resurrection, and God being love. I know of many churches that are more evangelical/charismatic in nature that are loving and outward looking and more concerned about justice than homosexuality. But...sigh....I know there is a long way to go. smile

PeggyGuggenheim Wed 05-Oct-11 15:19:00

Wow! Cool bananas. I really have learned something today!

madhairday Wed 05-Oct-11 15:39:31


For me it's in the etymology of the words:

Evangelical - sharing with others the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he told his disciples to do. This was never intended to be in a pushy, hellfire-and-brimstone type manner. The gospel is about Love. About a God who got in the mess of the world with us. Evangelical is as much about showing the gospel as telling. It's as much about feeding the homeless as running alpha courses.

Charismatic - simply means gifted, and in this context means a belief that the Holy Spirit works today in signs, in healing, in presence with people. Jesus said he would leave the Holy Spirit as a counsellor, as a comforter. It's not about scary shouty people in suits or indoctrination. For me it's about ultimate freedom.

I'd love to claim these titles back, but sadly they have become attached to some pretty shitty stuff, and maybe the time has come to re name what the original thing meant.

Missingfriendsandsad Fri 07-Oct-11 04:25:42

I thought evangelical was from the latin, meaning 'has a beard and guitar'

spiderslegs Fri 07-Oct-11 04:51:03

However - as reasonable as Madhairday sounds, your friend does not sound like her.

Your friend sounds unwell & her recreational drug abuse over many years sounds horribly reminiscent of a few of my friends.

Please - do not listen to the snake water purveyors - try to get her help. Her thinking is not normal.

spiderslegs Fri 07-Oct-11 04:59:52

Please, they're preying on a woman who is not well.

I've seen it before, a number of times.

spiderslegs Fri 07-Oct-11 05:10:15

Sorry - I'm going to sound as off the wall as they are now but two, TWO, very good friends of mine took too many drugs & who were susceptible anyway were taken in by this bunch.

The last I saw of one, he popped round to mine, stripped naked & proclaimed his love whilst trying to cast the demon out.

The second, I bumped into him, he shambled up to me, he was such a good looking & intelligent boy, he shambled up to me & rambled about this shit.

My only experience is they take vulnerable people & exploit them.

LoveBeingAMummyAgain Fri 07-Oct-11 05:15:40

I do know someone who believed they had been possessed and was not mentally ill. She believed she had been cursed and during this had also been possessed. This was however a culturally accepted belief. It included illness as well as physical actions against her body.

You are a good friend, it's not easy to tell someone you think they are having an episode like that, I've been there.

At the very least she is in conflict with her life and is in desperate need of some guidance. It may take her axwhile to find her course but I hope she gets there soon.

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