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Encounter with the Demonic: Western, Eastern, and Object Relations Approaches

Abstract

The idea that humans can be inhabited by supernatural entities is widespread among cultures and religions around the world. Demonic possession is sometimes encountered by clinicians who choose to understand it as the actual presence of a demon possessing a human, or as a psychological phenomenon. Some forms of Christianity hold to the belief that demonic possession occurs in reality. Clinicians who share these beliefs may abandon a psychological understanding and treatment of the phenomenon in favor of religious explanations and rituals. Eastern religions like Buddhism understand demonic possession as relatively real but also see it as ultimately stemming from psychological issues. Psychoanalysis understands demonic possession as the result of interpsychic processes related to disturbances in the development of early internalized object relations. This has a number of implications for treatment of so-called demonically possessed individuals, which is exemplified in two clinical cases.
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