Understanding matakite : a Kaupapa Māori study on the impact of matakite/intuitive experiences on wellbeing : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Māori Studies at Massey University, Papa-i-ōea, Aotearoa
This thesis is a response to expressions of concern from within Māori communities and also from within mental health that some Māori who are diagnosed as mentally ill are actually having spiritual experiences, which in the Māori culture are called matakite (among other terms). The thesis explores this issue from a Kaupapa Māori perspective, which enables a multi-layered, culturally resonant, exploration and analysis of the health issues that arise in relation to matakite. Thus, while exploring the nature of the experience, the thesis also explores the impact of social, cultural, political, and economic factors upon the wellbeing of people experiencing matakite, and which have hindered the use of the Māori spiritual knowledge-base as a health resource. It is expected that this thesis will increase understanding of the nature of the experience and its relevance within contemporary Māori society, and therefore contribute to the reduction, and ideally elimination, of the misdiagnosis of matakite as symptomatic of a mental disorder.
An exploration of the literature reveals a history of ignoring or misunderstanding experiences of a spiritual nature by mainstream Western mental health researchers, clinicians, and policy makers. However, new interest in this field is emerging, and attention has been turned to the development of bio-psycho-socio-spiritual models. Nevertheless, Western biomedical frameworks continue to dominate the discourse and practice in mental health, despite decades of calling for a more integrated approach from many health disciplines, researchers, indigenous communities, and mental health consumers.
The study reveals new understandings about the nature of matakite experiences, which may support efforts to distinguish between matakite and pathology. Multiple factors are identified as impacting upon the wellbeing and health of people experiencing matakite. The impact of social and cultural factors, as well as the politics of mental health, upon the wellbeing of matakite are identified, and possible strategies for enhancing and protecting wellbeing around matakite experiences are discussed. To this end the study challenges the norms and structures in mainstream Western mental health and highlights how traditional Māori knowledge about matakite can be used as a resource for mental health in Aotearoa New Zealand.