The near-death experience as a dissociative phenomenon: An empirical assessment

1993 Journal of Near-Death Studies  
Many commentators, particularly those working in a psychi atric framework, interpret the near-death experience as a dissociative phenom enon. The present study sought to assess the hypothesis that near-death experiencers are characterized by a dissociative response style engendered by severely traumatic childhood experiences. A postal survey of 121 Australian university students failed to identify a dissociative response style in experi encers, but these people did evidence a distinctive
more » ... distinctive history of traumatic events in childhood. An attempt is made to reconcile these seemingly paradoxical findings. In much of the psychiatric literature the near-death experience (NDE) is interpreted as an instance of dissociation. The purpose of this paper is to examine this view and to subject it to empirical investigation. Some preliminary remarks on the nature of dissociation are appro priate. In the usual course of everyday life processes such as thoughts, memories, feelings, and sense of identity are relatively integrated. A particular train of thought, for example, may rekindle a distant mem ory that in turn may evoke various emotional reactions and may reaffirm the roots of the person we are. Dissociation may be defined as a structured separation of such mental processes (Spiegel and Cardena,
doi:10.17514/jnds-1993-12-2-p95-103. fatcat:mxrlngxjcbguvpd25oc5rfbbie