Shalini Masih grew up in a stimulating environment of priests and healers, witnessing firsthand states of spirit possession and exorcism. In adulthood, she revisited these experiences, motivating her to extend psychoanalysis outside the clinic's realms into spaces of traditional healing. The outcome of her detailed exploration acknowledges the hugely productive interface between cultural manifestations and concerns of psychoanalysis without reducing the phenomenon of spirit possession to something formulaic. Instead, Psychoanalytic Conversations with States of Spirit Possession: Beauty in Brokenness highlights the intrinsic beauty of this complex experience, illustrating relevant themes through culturally sensitive psychoanalytic conversations with participants who felt haunted and possessed by ghosts. The author's journey reveals the ghosts of her own inner world. She draws upon her reveries, dreams, and nightmares to make sense of the unconscious processes in her informant's testimonies, journeys that are so often undertaken from one grotesque ghost to another until these ghastly beings reappear as broken part-selves in search of the glue of spiritual meaning.
Shalini Masih is practicing as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in United Kingdom. She has taught psychoanalysis in institutions like Ambedkar University Delhi, India and Birkbeck College, University of London, UK.
Chapter I: Allies Lighting Up a Dark Path
Chapter II: Various Beginnings
Chapter III: Engaging With Lives, Loosening the Grip of Terror
Chapter IV: Between Dread and Meaning
Chapter V: Psychoanalysis Under the Banyan Tree
Chapter VI: Ghosts as Messengers
About the Author
This remarkable book by one of the most creative people of the younger generation of Indian psychoanalysts and is an absolute triumph. With impeccable prose and breathtaking narratives, Shalini Masih transports readers to a world where psychoanalysis has rarely ventured, the world of spirit possession in which mental illness is expressed in most of the non-Western world.
This is a beautiful book, and the beauty spans many dimensions in depth and breadth. Dr. Masih takes psychoanalysis into the realm of spirit possession and explores the positive and negative aspects of the latter. She shares conversations with the patients and their spirits when possession has gone wrong and becomes deformation. At the same time, she appreciates the healing transformations that are made possible by this engagement…. Dr. Masih reaches deep into her own life with breathtaking sensitivity, touching domains of the psyche that help the reader as well. At times grotesque, ghosts meet the aesthetic psychic touch where therapist, patient, and reader taste the possibilities of growth.
Psychoanalytic Conversations with States of Spirit Possession is an inspiring, rigorous, and moving volume. Dr. Shalini Masih’s unique voice presents the interplay between cultural manifestations and psychoanalytic theory, as well as the tensions between love and loss, the broken and the beautiful. A powerful book on the many faces of healing.
Shalini Masih brings to the subject of spirit possession and the imagination that practitioners often lack because they are so focused on cure. Via a memorable cast of ghosts, exorcisms, priests, healers, and patients, Masih invites us to be a little less sure of what is real and healthy and a little more curious about what is useful. Drawing from anthropology, religion, and culture, she argues persuasively for a friendlier attitude towards the phenomenon of spirit possession. A sparkling and thoughtful work.
Shalini Masih’s book on spirit possession is uniquely valuable. Dr. Masih, trained as she is in the psychoanalytic tradition, is highly skilled in the art of active listening. As a result, she draws out her interview subjects beautifully. They break new ground as they revisit their experiences of being inhabited by spirits, at once learning about themselves and teaching us.
In this fascinating and original book, Shalini Masih describes her personal and authentic immersion in two types of spiritual culture, bringing the tools of a psychoanalytic training into conversation with her own childhood environment of Indian priests and healers. She focuses on the nature and meaning of spirit possession in a sensitive and non-reductive way that brings out the beauty in the brokenness of these revenant parts of the self, which are characteristically experienced by women, seeking to identify their quest for ‘the glue of spiritual meaning’ as she puts it, and highlighting their rich potential for containment and expression.
Psychoanalytic Conversations with States of Spirit Possession: Beauty in Brokenness is a striking debut by a promising young scholar Shalini Masih. Framed by an evocative foreword by Marilyn Charles, this book extends the tradition of writings on spiritual possession inaugurated by Sudhir Kakar. Using very powerful autobiographical snapshots, Masih introduces us to a pantheon of characters who are all ‘possessed’ and engages with them to offer us ways of decoding this enigmatic symptom. From a family of healers, Masih has an affinity to her subjects that often feels very intimate. There is also the evocation of Ray’s masterpiece Devi which is revisited here with a focus on deification as possession. This widens the scope of this book and suggests how the conversation can be extended. Without stating it obviously, this book offers a suggestive commentary on modernity and contemporary India.