You Are Not Alone If You Have Had One Of These Paranormal Experiences
New studies navigate the integration of an ‘unreal’ experience into reality.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | July 7, 2022
Transcendent, mystical, and out-of-body experiences are becoming a mainstream conversation – not just in pop culture, but also in the field of psychological research. While more and more studies are cropping up to try to determine the causes and nature of these experiences, it can still feel unnerving to actually go through one.
Luckily, there has been a resurgence of literature on these seemingly 'fringe' areas of human perception – specifically psychedelic, mystical, and ghostly episodes. Here's some information on each to make you feel less alone and less frightened in case you encounter one in the future.
#1. Psychedelic experiences
Not just that, psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca that have been used in shamanic cultures for centuries have been known to induce feelings of deep interconnectedness, joy, love and awe – relieving people of the distressing effects of neuroticism and negative emotions.
In some cases, these psychedelics have caused long-term positive personality changes.
However, since there is a lot that we don't understand about these substances, it is important to be mindful of the following factors, should you attempt to have such an experience. Here are a few recommendations given by psychologist and psychedelia researcher, Sam Gandy:
- Since natural settings can be unpredictable, a sheltered location with the option of seclusion is ideal. Natural settings and large doses should only be taken by those who have had prior experience with psychedelics.
- Strongly reconsider going for powerful psychedelics if you have a family history of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. These conditions put you at a heightened risk of psychedelic-induced psychosis.
- Read up thoroughly on the pros and cons of the experiences, as a small percentage of people have reported side effects such as difficulty relating to people, hypersensitivity, flashbacks/recollections of adverse subjective experiences during the ceremony, distressing dreams, hallucinations, speech impairment, brain fog, and difficulty concentrating.
#2. Mystical experiences
According to a recent study, mystical experiences, such as feeling like you are part of a higher force and/or temporarily losing touch with time and space (not induced by drugs), can be indicative of healthy psychological functioning even though it is often thought to be associated with psychological illness.
Such a mystical experience, characterized by feelings of joy, happiness, unconditional love, collective consciousness and divine predetermination, is actually connected to spiritual intelligence that includes a set of adaptive, ordinary abilities such as:
- The capacity to critically contemplate one's existence
- The ability to create and master the purpose of life
- The ability to recognize the transcendental dimensions/patterns of reality
- The ability to reach higher states of consciousness
Psychologists Daiga Katrīna Bitēna and Kristīne Mārtinsone of Rīga Stradiņš University in Riga, Latvia have the following advice for anyone who might be struggling to come to terms with a mystical experience:
"The most practical advice for a person who has experienced a mystical experience is, at least initially, to understand that this experience may be part of spiritual development or that it may be a symptom of pathology," they explain. "It is important to accept both views at the same time with an open view and the fact that they can both coexist. Don't choose between either but try to understand how it is and how I should react to what I am experiencing."
#3. Ghostly experiences
A ghostly episode or a haunting is probably the most controversial of the three paranormal experiences discussed in this article and is often the toughest to come to terms with. It is important to understand that even these experiences come under the purview of psychological research and, more importantly, are real.
Firstly, if you have had a ghostly experience or an 'anomalous experience,' chances are you are high on the trait of 'transliminality' – a concept that "represents a thin boundary between the conscious self and unconscious self, as well as the outside environment," according to psychologist Brian Laythe.
"Information from any of these sources tends to pass more easily within a person high in transliminality," informs Laythe. "The state and trait nature of transliminality share relationships with creativity, imagination, fantasy traits, disassociation, and temporal lobe lability."
According to Laythe, whether or not people choose to interpret anomalous experiences as 'paranormal,' they do not have to feel alone or crazy for having gone through them due to the following reasons:
- Having just one paranormal experience is extremely unlikely. According to previous research, long histories of a variety of subtle and sometimes overt paranormal experiences are common.
- Anomalous phenomena tend to be both subjective and objective. The internal aspects of the experience include sensed presences or somatic touches or marks whereas external aspects include objects moving or apparitions caught by technology.
Laythe points out that ghostly episodes, shamanic experiences, and general high strangeness have been well documented throughout history. Furthermore, over 100 years of modern empirical psychology show they are not going away despite changes in society's zeitgeist.
"In these sorts of experiences, knowing that your experience is actually not uncommon, and has some predictable components is often helpful," he concludes.
There is much to be discovered and explained by psychology and research, especially when it comes to such extraordinary experiences. If you or a loved one has had one of these experiences, it is important to know that they are far more common than you think and do not necessarily point to a pathology. In the case of psychedelics, they may even serve as a beneficial course of treatment.