The reality of paranormal trauma and the negative bias of mental health care

Here’s Alexander De Foe, a Ph.D. candidate in Psychological Studies at Monash University, writing for Australia’s respected online news site The Conversation and asserting the importance of non-judgmental psychological help for people who have suffered from traumatic paranormal experiences:

The therapy room should be a place where clients feel safe and comfortable talking about anything. But some people are reluctant to discuss their paranormal experiences for fear of judgement, ridicule, or that they will be incorrectly diagnosed with a mental disorder. Many practitioners challenge the validity of their client’s [sic] claims rather than focusing on the emotional significance particular experiences might bear. Part of the issue may be therapists’ rigid perspectives on paranormal phenomena — they tend to err on the side of diagnosis rather than hearing clients out and exploring a client’s inner world.

It is the role of the therapist to encourage their clients to talk about their experiences, rather than jumping to a diagnosis or criticism about the validity of their claims. In many cases, their paranormal accounts relate to spiritual, rather than pathological, experiences and exploring the symbolic nature of the accounts may be more beneficial than focusing on a diagnosis.

. . . There is good reason to be sceptical of claims about the paranormal. After all, rates of fraud are quite high, with proclaimed psychic tarot card readers and mediums profiting from unsuspecting clients. Organisations such as the Australian Skeptics have attempted to counter such fraud by offering A$100,000 to anyone who can demonstrate psychic ability under controlled conditions. Yet, our mainstream scientific understanding of human consciousness is by no means complete. There is still much argument among researchers about what constitutes “normal” and “abnormal” or “altered” states of consciousness.

. . . Regardless of the opinions one has about the potential existence of a paranormal reality, it is important to understand the subjective significance of altered states of consciousness.

More: “Hauntings, ESP and Mystical Visions: Counselling after Paranormal Experiences

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD and GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES.

Posted on May 30, 2013, in Paranormal, Psychology & Consciousness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. You may already be aware of him, but Gerald Gaura is working in this direction. His relatively new site is http://parapsychotherapyx.blogspot.com/. There isn’t much there yet, but he recently did (March 2013) an interview with The Gralien Report podcast that is worth listening to.

  2. I’m keenly interested in the idea of the self-loss.. it’s like a Jungian archetype known as the Wounded-Healer.. but what is peculiar about the context of what I am reading about is that the experience is shared across yoga – albeit a very numinous understanding of it – as well as reiki, qi gong, east-asian mediumship generally, victorian spiritualism, and charismatic Christianity. They all gel. This is a short overview I wrote out going over basic premise of how these religious ideas share space and the similarities.

    Korean shamanism is still in modern day incredibly influential in the religious life of Koreans. Even with the coming of Christianity, which has converted many Koreans, the infilling of the holy spirit takes on unique meaning for Koreans who already channel to spirits with their ch’i . For Koreans, the Holy Spirit is ch’i [ Shamanism In Korean Christianity by Jang Nam Hyuck ] . In order for a shaman to initiate, they must sacrifice their ch’i [ Kut : Happiness Through Reciprocity by Hyun-key Kim Hogarth ] to the numinous [The Idea Of The Holy by Rudolf Otto ] . The spirits reciprocate this channeled ch’i back into the neophyte [ The Gift by Marcel Mauss ] . This initiation, called the Self-Loss, triggers a manic psychotic episode in the west known as a spiritual emergence psychosis [ DSM-V , Korean Shamanism Muism by Dr. Kim-tae Kon & Dr. Chang Soo-kyung ] .

    The illness for Spiritualist mediums was characterized as a manic psychotic episode [ The Darkened Room : Women, Power, And Spiritualism In Late Victorian England by Alex Owen ] . Both Korean shamanism, and Victorian Spiritualism are idiosyncratic cultural understandings of the liminal Nether-World, our interactions with spirits, through channeled Life Force. Often the spirits were said to feed off of the channeled Life Force or ectoplasm from the sitters at a seance [ Aleister Crowley & The Ouija Board by J. Edward Cornelius ] Both systems of thought developed independently, not from superstition, but from personal experience. These individuals did not want to become psychotic, but they did, because their experiences of channeling are objective. It happened to them without their prior knowledge. This happens to many Christians too [ When God Talks Back by T. M. Luhrmann ]

  3. Appreciate the buzz Scott! I’m hoping to have some fresh material for my Epipsyche blog here soon, most of which will be research related, some running commentary, and some early thesis pieces on what I’m titling the ‘System Dream Hypothesis.’ Kind of transpersonal bridge for anomalous phenomenon with a systems twist. I also just did a interview with podcaster Jim Harold (http://jimharold.com/), which should be up in the next week or so. Be sure to check it out. Also, I’ve added a link to my research page for visitors to submit their paranormal experiences. I’m also looking at the persistence of transpersonal themes in paranormal narratives – or how the themes of the psyche’s unconscious parallel living process. I’d appreciate the submissions and shares! Just head to my blog @ http://parapsychotherapyx.blogspot.com/ and click the link to the right of the page labeled, “Submit your paranormal experiences”.

  4. Thanks for the heads up Gerald, I will be keeping an eye out for the Jim Harold interview and new content. Matt, I always keep an eye out here.

    My own thinking on this is evolving toward the “multiverse” theory of the paranormal, extreme mental states, shamanic vision, and the daemonic well sharing more ground than often gets talked about. How the experiences are framed depend on perspective. The borders between them erected by the backgrounds of the reporter/observer when it may well all be one grand pool.

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