Understanding Hallucinations, Visions & Dreams

….. from an Indigenous/Native perspective.

Some ‘behind the scenes’ context- this book began as a question to our group of Indigenous/Native/Indian psychologists… in the DSM-5-TR world of Western/mainstream psychology, how do we interpret experiences like this? I know if someone (a patient/client) told me this, I would most likely just take it as their experience- it’s not necessarily a pathological experience. However, knowing the difference does require some understanding, clinical experience, and cultural competence to know how to discern that delicate balance…

In fact, that is how this book started. I asked a question that spurred lots of great discussions. Then an idea to turn it into an article then it evolved into chapters. Next thing you know, we had a small book! There is nothing written like this, as far as I can tell.

This book was completely written by Indigenous/Native psychologists, a very rare occurrence.

Myself and my co-editor, Dr. Morse, are honored to present this book to all. I am a mid-career psychologist from the Diné (Navajo Nation) in the Southwest; Dr. Morse is a senior psychologist from the Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) and works in the Northeast part of the U.S. Together, we span a continent, careers, clinical experience, and lifeways.

Below is an excerpt from my chapter, where I share my own experience of “hallucinating”. Later in the chapter, I go on to say how I know (as a rational person), I am well aware I am not “crazy” (haha) for hearing what I heard. I simply accepted it as experiencing something beautiful and hozho. It was not pathological in any way. Thus, the understanding that hallucinations, visions, & dreams do not automatically mean someone is ‘somehow’ …


Hallucination in a Cultural Context

It was That Time in the ceremony, when everything “shifts” into something more.

My siblings and I somewhat jokingly refer to as ‘surround sound mode’.

I don’t know how to describe it- there comes a point during the night where the senses are catapulted into another dimension-whooosh! The drum is not simply heard, I see it and feel it in a way that is beyond the usual everyday experience. The ground seems to vibrate with each beat, the grains of sand jumping in time to the rhythm, undulating in waves outward .

My senses are sharpened to an otherworldly degree.

As the words of the prayer and the harmony of song begins to fill the space or perhaps open another way of sensing, I become acutely aware Others are there- adding their voices to the songs. I recognize my father’s voice to my right- even though I know he is not there “for real”- he is there.

I try to keep singing.

It has been a decade since he passed away, I am overjoyed yet this incredible grief kills my voice at the same time.

As the song continues, I listen to his voice- it is as I remember.

I know my father’s voice yet I am also well aware he is not there in physical person. 

It is his spirit- he arrived in the predawn darkness with the Holy People and he joins us in song and prayer.

I am thankful, grateful, blessed- it is difficult to describe the feelings and emotions that infuse me at that moment.

I start to sing again and my voice grows stronger as I am accompanied by all those ancestors.

It is beautiful.


You can order from the publisher. It helps us editors know our work is valued, because we can’t quit our day jobs just yet:







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *