Saturday, February 11, 2012

On Personal Experiences

In response to:

I think that the response here to this guy is entirely unhelpful to him or (possibly more importantly) to future readers who might be looking for answers about their own personal experiences.

First, we need to acknowledge that, as a simple matter of fact, people DO have spontaneous ecstatic or hallucinatory experiences (what those experiences mean is an entirely different question). By some estimates ~10% of the population has at least one occurrence of such an event during their lifetime.

Sometimes it's from stroke, stress, illness, injury, autohypnosis, meditation, dancing, drumming, chanting, or just plain-old brain chemistry gone awry (or possibly 'right' in the case of psychoactives).

Shamanistic cultures have thousands of years of reports of interacting with other 'beings'. People used to report interacting with and even having relationships with Faeries. Now it is predominately reported as 'alien abductions'. But there are common themes running through all of these such as feelings of being immobilized, presence of other beings, sense of sexual or reproductive manipulation, experiences of having a child in the 'other' realm, or just generally being probed, studied, or sampled (etc).

I have had similar experiences myself from meditation. Some of the experiences are incredibly realistic. But I KNOW that they are only in my mind. They are wonderful illusions, powerful, emotional, and meaningful to me. But illusions nonetheless.

What we need to be doing is helping this guy understand that his experience is fairly common because it has an entirely mundane neurological explanation. He's not crazy or demented, just uninformed. He's had an experience that he cannot explain, it can be very confusing - hopefully this post takes a few steps towards explaining it and demystifying it (but I know from experience that is unlikely - but maybe some reader will find it helpful).

The brain is perfectly capable of synthesizing entire 'alien' words in the sense of dreams, but it can do this while you are awake as well. Just because your brain says you are experiencing something does not mean that it is actually happening in reality.

There isn't enough detail in the email to really comment on specifics. But the fact that it is reported as 'shared experience', in no way, makes the reality of the event any less illusory. People often cue off of others both verbally and non-verbally. "Psychics" exploit this all the time. They mention something and you respond, they talk real fast and distract you, and then pretend like they reveal some information that you JUST told them but you've already forgotten that you said anything. And despite the 50 things they got wrong, you'll pick that one thing as evidence that they are truly psychic (Confirmation Bias combined with statistical in-expertness).

When you think of someone having a personal experience here is what you should envision: Double Rainbow. Your 'amazing experience' is no different from Hungrybear9562's.

It can be profoundly moving to you because your brain is what is assigning the meaning and significance but there is no external reality to what you are experiencing.

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