Al-Krenawi, Alean and Graham, John. "Spirit Possession and Exorcism in the Treatment of a Bedouin Psychiatric Patient." Clinical Social Work Journal 25.2 (1997).
10 May 2008 .
This study investigated the diagnostic decisions regarding the case of a Bedouin psychiatric patient, called “M”, who underwent sudden and severe behavioral changes. He felt angrily towards his mother’s disrespect for his wife, eventually instigating several arguments, and nearly physically attacked her.
He was referred to the nearest biomedical hospital, where he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with auditory and visual hallucinations that were themed around demonic images. The psychiatrist also gave him anti-psychotics in order to alleviate the hallucinations. Though the drugs calmed him, they did not eliminate these intrusive images. M failed to improve until he received guidance from a social worker, who arranged treatment with a traditional healer upon consideration of his Muslim background. (Because they highly regard the Mother figure, any wrongdoing towards her is considered sinful. Thus, M believed that God inflicted punishment by imbuing him with evil spirits.)
The healer, or Dervish, functions as a Bedouin version of an exorcist, working to treat mental and physical illness through the use of ritual and prayer. He diagnosed M as being possessed by demons, and went on to perform Tazeem, which is a dialogue with spirits—much like Western exorcism. The Dervish overpowered the evil spirits and managed to quickly relieve M of both his hallucinations and pent-up anger.
He continued seeing both biomedical and traditional practitioners until he felt fully restored. The psychiatrist admitted his initial diagnosis was incorrect, since the medications were not appropriate for M’s condition as he should have been classified as neurotic. Understanding his cultural framework, which insists on an external locus of control, was crucial for offering him effective treatment. Thus, the modern, scientific system would have been futile without the integration of traditional, religious-inspired practices. The authors posit that both realms should be seen on the same level, as complementary structures enriching one another.
In terms of the film, The Exorcist presented the ritual as outrageous and dramatic. However, this actually promoted the curiosity of many viewers, compelling them to explore the possibility of exorcism as a real phenomena with tangible benefits. People began to entertain ideas relating to practices of the occult, which involve superstition and supernatural powers; many took an interest in studying foreign cultures and understanding their belief systems for healing. As addressed in this article, it turned out that the synthesis of both science and religion proved to give the best outcome.
Hence, the film was influential in shaping America’s modern day religious scene. Many fans started to explore what they initially feared, opening up their minds to a new world in which otherwise ‘strange’ and seemingly ‘uncultivated’ practices were discovered to be actually useful towards mental health. In essence, people began to realize that biomedicine, alone, does not always provide the best answers.