Normalizing Non-Ordinary Experiences: An Interdisciplinary Approach


In her research, Ann Taves, Ph.D., professor of Religious Studies at The University of California at Santa Barbara, explores non-ordinary experiences and the way different disciplines might diagnose the same experience, such as hallucinating, from different perspectives—including psychology, psychiatry, religion, or spirituality. For example, while psychiatrists largely look at hallucinations as symptoms of pathology, many religious and spiritual movements are based on those exact same kinds of unusual experiences, which could potentially be more common or less problematic than psychology or psychiatry tends to view them.

Taves believes that depth psychology, influenced so deeply by Jung, is in a unique position to bridge the gaps between psychiatry, psychology, and religious studies, in contrast to regular psychology or the psychiatric tradition. Jung himself was profoundly interested in these kinds of non-ordinary experiences, and he documented the ways he worked with them in his now famous Red Book.

To explore the idea of non-ordinary experiences across cultures, Taves is currently working with collaborators to develop and test the cross-cultural Inventory of Non-Ordinary Experiences, which is administered online to large samples of people in the United States and India. One aim of her research is to find more ways to help people work with these experiences, instead of only pathologizing them or medicalizing them, in order to engender healing.

Ann Taves is presenting at the upcoming conference, “Trauma and Transcendence: Depth Psychology, Spirituality, and the Sacred” in Santa Barbara, CA, June 22-24, 2018.

Listen to my audio interview with Ann Taves, or read a summary article via Pacifica Post here