By: Shaye Hudson MA, Psychotherapist & Clinical Hypnotherapist
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin”
In the last blog, we covered some examples of reported spiritual experiences. We hear the amazing accounts from those who have had Near-death experiences, Out of body, After-death communications and more but in what ways can and do these encounters affect the experiencers? We will now be covering a standard definition or understanding of what is a spiritually transformative experience.
According to the American Center for the Integration of Spiritual Experiences (ACISTE) an STE is “an experience that causes an individual to perceive themselves and the world profoundly differently: by expanding the individual’s identity, augmenting their sensitivities, and thereby altering their values, priorities and appreciation of the purpose of life. This may be triggered by surviving clinical death, or by otherwise sensing an enlarged reality.”
Expanding the Individuals Identity
Many of us go thought our everyday lives experiencing life as who we know ourselves to be. We grow up in certain geographic location inheriting the customs and expectations of that culture. We grow up listening to the influencing truths of our parents ranging from what’s acceptable from a religious, political, and even a the kind of relationships and vocations we choose. We receive these templates and make some minor or major adjustments along the way. Our mindsets are formed though the templates placed upon us and through life experience. Imagine going through your daily life and this mindset being interrupted by some sort of transcendent experience. The truths we have been known and lived up to this point have been disrupted allowing a new worldview to emerge and thus making room for an expanded identity to take form.
I have personally gained some understanding of spiritual experiences after having my own transpersonal encounters and after listening to clients. Many also report an expanded identity to include the spiritual. They no longer see themselves as just a physical human being, but one with an eternal spiritual essence or nature. A by-product of this new identity is the reduction of the fear of death, emotional healing and confirmation that the spiritual world is a reality for them.
Augmenting their Sensitivities
Many clients report that after their experience, they feel more emotionally and intuitively sensitive. Whether this is a spiritual, psychological, emotional or physical symptom it doesn't matter because all these aspects affect one another. What matters is that the person may need help with first coping with their new sensitivities. These new sensitivities can result in anxiety and a feeling of being overwhelmed from being around large crowd’s as well emotional sensitivity in relationships causing arguments or hurt feelings. In some cases the experiencer may require learning to create boundaries and not let the emotions of family, friends, coworkers and even strangers affect their moods by just by being around them.
Altering Values, Priorities, and Appreciation of the Purpose of Life
Imagine having a Near-Death experience or a spiritual encounter with a deceased loved one and receiving a message that life is about love. You have been climbing the corporate ladder with a Machiavellian “ends justify the means” attitude and now grandma give you a gentle and loving reminder to be nice. This may be quite the adjustment and may redirect the experiencer to consider a different practice or path in life.
With some their experience may challenge their religious or lack of religious attitudes. Their typical programming has been challenged and often altered during the experience. This new perspective can cause one to rethink their views on both life and the afterlife and open a “Pandora's box of questions, thus creating a thirst for answers and spiritual seeking.
With these changes jobs, relationships and friendships may fall away and along with this comes the stresses of change. This transformative encounter can be the just beginning of the potential challenges the person may experience.
In the next blog in this series, we will cover some common challenges for the spiritual experiencer and resources for support and integration.
Shaye Hudson, MA, CH.t is a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist in Atlanta, GA with a Transpersonal orientation and training, who specializes in Spiritually Transformative Experiences. He is also a Reviewer for the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology. Shaye facilitates weekly spiritual groups at Tru Integrative Health & Wellness.