This study examined the help-seeking behaviors, sources of social support, and positive/negative affect reported by people regularly experiencing mediumship/possession in Brazil. The sample included 263 self-reported mediums from the city of São Paulo, members of different mediumship religions, 66.5% of whom were women. We found that positive affect (e.g., calmness/peace) was more frequently reported in relation to the mediumship experiences when compared to negative affect. When mediumship experiences began in adulthood and within a religious context, participants reported having experienced lower negative affect (e.g., fear), compared to the occasions when the experiences began in childhood and adolescence, and outside of a religious context. With regard to social support and encouragement received from other people to practice mediumship, few respondents claimed that others were unfavorable to their experiences. The attitudes of the father, siblings, and friends were mentioned as predominantly indifferent. The attitudes of the mother, members of the respondents’ religion, and spouse/partner were predominantly positive. When asked about the kind of help received to deal with different personal and interpersonal problems, spiritual help appeared with greater expressiveness compared to other forms of help (medical, psychological, friends, family). 51.3% have received psychological treatment, and 22% have received psychiatric treatment at some point in their lives. The findings indicate that mediumship experiences are not always associated with negative affect, but that this may vary according to time of onset and the presence or absence of support from a religious group. Psychological interventions aimed at people regularly experiencing mediumship/possession should consider the social context of the experiences and the individual’s life history.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Alexandre Cunha, Edson Hamazaki, and Daniel Rezinovsky were financed by the Brazilian Coordination for Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior) – Brasil (CAPES) – [Finance Code 001]. Mateus Martinez received a grant from São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) (#2020/10929–0).
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.
- Dissociative experiences
- Help-seeking behaviors
- Possession trance
- Social support
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Religious studies