Psychology & “Paranormal” Phenomena
Conventional psychology has typically shunned perceptions and experiences that do not neatly fit into its paradigm. Phenomena such as clairaudience, seeing 'ghosts', feeling or sensing presences are typically labeled as auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations, respectively. Intuitions may be regarded as delusions while out-of-body experiences may be considered a type of dissociation. With such off-putting labels and the stigma that often comes with them, many who have had these kinds of experiences have kept them private in order to avoid ridicule, ostracization, or even persecution and hospitalization. But although such paranormal, parapsychological, spiritual or exceptional human experiences (EHE’s) may be suggestive of pathology according to the current scientific paradigm, psychology does not necessarily consider them to be disorders per se, especially when such experiences can be life enhancing.
Psychology is governed by the rules of conventional science which ultimately rest upon the assumption of materialism. That is, if a phenomenon cannot somehow be physically measured or quantified, science considers it too subjective or hearsay and not worthy of study. One of the primary tools used to diagnose pathology in psychology is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders IV, or DSM-IV. Although this text contains collections of symptoms that are characteristic of various pathological disorders, these alone are generally not sufficient to warrant a diagnosis. Symptoms would also have to cause either clinically significant distress or impairment with one’s social, occupational, or other important area(s) of functioning. For instance, if one was having out-of-body experiences while continually able to take care of oneself, maintain employment, and continue usual socialization with family members and friends, then a conclusive diagnosis could not be made and one could even be considered normal. Unfortunately, conventional psychology completely overlooks the fact that parapsychological experiences can better one’s life.
Those who have had paranormal experiences have reported an improvement their lives in a multitude of ways. Returning to the example of out-of-body experiences, a single experience alone can show one that death is not the end of existence, thereby shedding one’s fear of death. Among other things, it can help one see the interconnectivity of life, improve one’s ethics and sense of altruism, increase one’s understanding of both physical and non-physical reality, etc. As a result, the individual will be apt to feel happier and more fulfilled in life which may positively impact others. Notwithstanding these benefits, it is not until such experiences are more openly accepted, discussed and more comprehensively studied by the greater population that a paradigm shift will occur within the mainstream scientific community.
By questioning the current scientific paradigm, we can expose its flaws and ultimately improve upon it. It will eventually become outdated and be replaced by a more encompassing paradigm, one that includes parapsychological phenomena. Paranormal experiences will thus be shown to be quite normal and beneficial in many ways and the quality of people's lives will greatly improve. A revolution in science will breed an evolution in psychology. It is up to us to pave the way for this to occur by developing ourselves to have more experiences, by questioning the status quo, by more openly talking about our experiences and by educating ourselves through the wealth of information that already exists (but is disregarded) on these subjects.
by IAC New York's Jack Grabon
Originally published in the IAC New York Fall 2009 eBulletin