Study reveals common yet overlooked mystical experiences impact well-being

In a recent study published in the journal Mindfulness, researchers examine the prevalence and effects of emergent phenomena (EP), their forms, the balance of positive and negative repercussions, and assistance in finding sites.

Study: Altered States of Consciousness is Prevalent and Insufficiently Supported Clinically: A Population Survey. Image Credit: brizmaker / Shutterstock.com Study: Altered States of Consciousness is Prevalent and Insufficiently Supported Clinically: A Population Survey. Image Credit: brizmaker / Shutterstock.com

What are EP?

EPs are spontaneous and unique mental or physical experiences commonly perceived as mystical, spiritual, magical, or energetic. They are frequently associated with contemplative practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness-based therapies, which promote well-being, productivity, work performance, and pro-social conduct. Furthermore, EP can cause cognitive and behavioral changes such as reduced dread of death, decreased interest in dogma, rejection of materialistic lifestyles, improved mood, and profound tranquility.

About the study

In the present exploratory study, researchers created a survey instrument based on quantitative self-report questions to examine the frequency and impact of EP in general populations.

This instrument aimed to elicit a memory of direct experiences while avoiding abstract terms and using ontologically neutral words that might accept spiritual, contemplative, existential, and religious viewpoints. It underwent many pre-testing rounds, including reviews by the authoring team, postgraduate students, 30 MTurk staff, and technical pre-evaluations on Qualtrics and MTurk platforms.
The frequency of EP was assessed using online surveys completed by representatives of three global populations comprising 3,135 individuals. Participants from two commercial survey panels, including the United States MTurk and United Kingdom Qualtrics, and those from one online community who were subscribers to the Rationalist blog were selected. All study participants were over 18 years of age.

The study included individuals with backgrounds in emergency medicine, psychiatry, public health, epidemiology, neuroscience, advanced meditation research and practice, and survey research. The exploratory character of the effort limited the analysis to documenting and comparing population-level estimates, with uncertainties defined by summary documentation of standard errors found in every table.

The questioning method was used to obtain information on the prevalence of EP, well-being outcomes, and aid sought for negatively valenced EP with prospective variables for future studies. The participants also provided information on their experiences with unexpected mental occurrences, their evaluation of whether EP was considered positive, and the type of pain-related experiences.

The study participants also described the severity of their worst experiences, whether medical or mental health professionals ever diagnosed or prescribed medicine for any form of mental disorder, and whether they sought treatment for their adversely regarded incidents.

Study findings

After experiencing EP, study participants reported both negative and positive health outcomes, with 13% experiencing moderate or severe suffering and 1% reporting profound suffering. Moreover, 63% of negatively affected individuals did not seek assistance.

About 26% of study participants reported "supernatural" and "miraculous" events, with the United Kingdom Qualtrics group having a greater rate of reports at 39%. The most prevalent accounts were precognitive information, dreams of other beings, distant occurrence knowledge, and awareness of others' thoughts, reported among 10%, 7%, 6%, and 6% of the study participants, respectively.

About 45% of study participants reported having unexpected and uncommon mental experiences, such as weird alterations in perception or joyful sensations. Comparatively, 30% of respondents did not experience any changes following an uncommon mental encounter, whereas 28% and 40% reported unfavorable and favorable findings. Positive events were associated with good results in 55% of study participants, whereas adverse events were related to poor outcomes in 48% of the study cohort. 

Fewer respondents opposed valenced results, with negative consequences for 15% of the positively valenced occurrences and beneficial implications for 14% of negatively valenced events. Thus, favorably regarded events were more likely to cause positive changes in well-being, whereas negative occurrences were associated with a greater probability of causing adverse changes.

Among individuals reporting negative occurrences, 15% sought assistance from general health providers, 13% from friends or family, 12% from spiritual or meditation practitioners, and 8% from health specialists. Despite the general incidence of pain caused by atypical mental experiences, 47% of respondents were aware of the dangers of challenging unpleasant cognitive, emotional, or physical results from spiritual or meditation practices before completing the survey.

Conclusions

EP experiences are prevalent and can have both beneficial and adverse consequences. Clinical treatment is often inadequate for treating EP; therefore, multi-item measures may increase diagnostic confidence.

Nevertheless, mindfulness-based therapies may pose a danger for EP. Thus, additional research is needed to improve the understanding of epidemiological risk factors like connections with mental disease, previous trauma, psychedelic use, and personality traits. Evaluating the impact on well-being after EP is also critical, as about 20% of study participants reported experiencing pain.

Journal reference:
  • Wright, M. J., Galante, J., Corneille, J. S., et al. (2024). Altered States of Consciousness is Prevalent and Insufficiently Supported Clinically: A Population Survey. Mindfulness. doi:10.1007/s12671-024-02356-z
Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Written by

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia is an oral and maxillofacial physician and radiologist based in Pune, India. Her academic background is in Oral Medicine and Radiology. She has extensive experience in research and evidence-based clinical-radiological diagnosis and management of oral lesions and conditions and associated maxillofacial disorders.

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Toshniwal Paharia, Pooja Toshniwal Paharia. (2024, May 26). Study reveals common yet overlooked mystical experiences impact well-being. News-Medical. Retrieved on June 15, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20240526/Study-reveals-common-yet-overlooked-mystical-experiences-impact-well-being.aspx.

  • MLA

    Toshniwal Paharia, Pooja Toshniwal Paharia. "Study reveals common yet overlooked mystical experiences impact well-being". News-Medical. 15 June 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/news/20240526/Study-reveals-common-yet-overlooked-mystical-experiences-impact-well-being.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Toshniwal Paharia, Pooja Toshniwal Paharia. "Study reveals common yet overlooked mystical experiences impact well-being". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20240526/Study-reveals-common-yet-overlooked-mystical-experiences-impact-well-being.aspx. (accessed June 15, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Toshniwal Paharia, Pooja Toshniwal Paharia. 2024. Study reveals common yet overlooked mystical experiences impact well-being. News-Medical, viewed 15 June 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20240526/Study-reveals-common-yet-overlooked-mystical-experiences-impact-well-being.aspx.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
Post

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
New frontiers in medicine: COVID-19 lessons push for multidisciplinary collaboration