Main Title
Salutogenesis & Shamanism
Masters Thesis © Barbara Buch, 2006

7. Final Comments

7.1 Salutogenesis
7.2 Shamanism
7.3 Further Research
7.4 Outlook
7.1 Salutogenesis

First of all, we have to be aware of the fact that in using the concept of Salutogenesis, talking about stressors and resources, we only focus on the Western ‘civilized’ cultural circle. People in the third and fourth world, will primarily develop different resources than us, since they must first of all, fight for their own survival and master completely different kinds of situations than we do (Schneider, 2002).

Secondly, Antonovsky himself wished his model be tested empirically and critically further developed (Antonovsky, 1987; Faltermaier, 2002). Antonovsky’s model should be seen as a first base on which to develop further theoretical elements in connection with their empirical perception, as well as their practical implications. Because of many empirical problems and critics, Faltermaier states that the Salutogenic Model can primarily be understood as a fertile theoretical setting, which is able to formulate new questions for health research, and for integrating new research results accordingly (Faltermaier, 2002). Antonovsky himself was also “fully aware that it is a complex, multidimensional concept, not at all easily made operational” (Antonovsky, 1985, p. 117). Since life and accordingly health consist of numerous different aspects, the theory of Salutogenesis must be an interdisciplinary, medicinal, physiological, sociological and philosophical, etc., research area (Faltermaier, 2002), which can enrich it, but also can make it more complicated. Exampling Shamanism, I showed which basic salutogenic principles are used and described further (shamanic) aspects to be added to the Salutogenic Model, especially concerning its practical application.

The more I researched the subject, I realized a main difficulty: the inconsistent comprehension and use of the term ‘stress’ and related expressions (compare Faltermaier, 2005) even within the context of salutogenic research. Antonovsky regards stress as the negative outcome of unsuccessful coping (management) with stressors. In his understanding, occurring stressors can cause tension which, if unsuccessfully managed, causes stress and more dis-ease, while successful stressor-management causes more health. The only possible intervention at this stage of the salutogenic process is management of the occurring tension. Nevertheless, many authors writing about Salutogenesis and related subjects use the terms ‘stress-management’ or ‘stress-resistance resource’ (e.g. Hart et al., 1991), ‘low-stress lifestyles’ (Ellison and Levin, 1998), which according to Antonovsky’s model does not exist. In his sense only the terms ‘tension-management’ or ‘stressor-management’, ‘stressor-resistance resources’ and ‘low-stressor-lifestyles’ should be applied. It seems that in much of the salutogenic literature, tension and stress are used synonymously which is very confusing. Antonovsky regards stressors as potentially positive, neutral or negative, but ‘stress’ itself in his sense can be only negative. In recognizing this problem of definition and use, I exchanged the term ‘stress situations’ used by other authors, with ‘stressor situations’, to clearly distinguish the terminology in accordance with Antonovsky’s concept. Although original citations still contain the misleading terms, I did the best to bring a little more distinctness in the use of those terms.

7.2 Shamanism

The biggest challenge in writing about Shamanism lies in its different forms and occurrences all over the world, as well as in the vast amount of applicable literature. My abundant use of secondary literature is caused by the latter, in combination with the limited time frame of the thesis. The decision of what really does or does not belong to Shamanism is hard to make because opinions differ a lot. The difficulties started by finding a suitable definition for Shamanism (see chapter 3 and appendix). I included a variety of different aspects and techniques within the term Shamanism, like the vision quest (as e.g. Noll, 1985, does) or sweat lodge ceremonies, although these are not cogent shamanic, and may also be used by other practitioners (medicine people, etc.). I know that some authors like Hultkrantz do criticize this “vague, all-inclusive concept” (Hultkrantz, comments in Noll, 1985, p. 453). In my opinion, it all should belong to the broad concept of Shamanism, since it is found all over the world and not only related to Siberian Shamanism, as stated by Hultkrantz (comments in Noll, 1985, p. 453). I agree with Noll’s reply to Hultkrantz defining Shamanism essentially as “a homogenous phenomenon characterized by visionary experiences and soul flight in the course of trance” (Noll, 1985, p. 458). In my opinion ASC or entering trance states are essential to shamanic practice, as well as “séances in which the spirits appear (without necessarily possessing them: the situation is usually one of spiritual inspiration)” (Hultkrantz, comments in Noll, 1985, p. 453). The “main quality of the Shaman is his ability through ecstasy to create contact with the supernatural world; whether he makes a soul flight or calls on the spirits is a question of professional choice and cultural ways” (Hultkrantz, in comments to Noll, 1985, p. 453). Research is just beginning to enlighten processes which stand behind shamanic effects. I hope this will eventually ensure that shamanic knowledge and wisdom from old cultures can be saved and further utilized.

I am aware of the fact that researchers of Shamanism have to be participating observers. They actually have to experience what they are talking about, to comprehend the real meaning that shamanic methods hold for the Native (e.g. Laughlin, 1997). My thesis outlines basic structures of Shamanism described in literature that are in my opinion potential stepping stones for Salutogenesis as an applicable model. Examples of practicable Shamanism today exist. They could be merged further and more concretely into a practicable salutogenic program to increase life quality and support a development towards health of human beings.

7.3 Further Research

Lewis describes the Shaman as the master of anomaly and chaos, but not the slave of it (Lewis, 1971). As this, the Shaman embodies the ideal human being within the Salutogenic Concept – a master of anomaly and chaos, meaning of crisis and stressor situations. In this context I suggest further empirical research. If the Shaman can be regarded as the master of crisis and anomaly, etc., then Antonovsky’s questionnaire about the SOC should show positive results (high SoC) when Shamans are questioned, compared to other ‘normal’ people.

7.4 Outlook

I’ve shown that Shamanism generally represents more than a holistic salutogenic technology, which we can and should learn and practice. Certainly, we should not make the mistake and try to integrate it into our Western education system, like a university degree. It contains crucial elements, like its oral tradition, probably being fundamental for its adaptability, flexibility and long survival, which don’t seem compatible with our Western school system. Shamanic methods are already taught in special schools for Westerners. Anthropologists such as Harner and Villoldo as well as others like Uccusic, Paturi, Cowan and Grof etc., are supporting this movement by writing and teaching about this knowledge (Harner, 1990; Villoldo, 2000; Uccusic, 2001, Paturi, 2005; Cowan, 2001; Grof, 1999). Where Shamanism still exists in more or less traditional forms, it naturally should stay within its own traditions. It is time for the recovery of practical salutogenic approaches, which include all aspects of human life and reintegrate what was always here, but forgotten. It seems to me that the Salutogenic Model represented so far a scientific approach between the Western medicinal view and the holistic traditional view of life including health and disease. In this context I would like to finish with a citation:

“[...] our culture is strong on scientific objectivity, taking action, analytic thought, and individuality. It is less strong on spirituality, community, emotional response, and synthetic thought. We, the ‘Eagle’ spoken of by that Amazonian Shaman have contributed our strengths to the cultures of the world. Our healing systems are justifiably respected. Perhaps it is time to receive the gifts of the ‘Condor’, that represents other cultures which have different strengths. And the Condor suggests to us that spirituality is a part of healing and adult development” (Sinnott, 2001, p. 247).

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