Near-Death Experiences and the Aftereffects, Part 1
"There is one common element in all near-death experiences: they transform the people who have them.” - Raymond. A. Moody, M.D.
Every day in the United States, 774 people have a near-death experience (NDE). 98% now believe there is life after death. Join us as we talk to Dr. Janice Holden about the IANDS community, and aftereffects of the NDE.
Guest: Dr. Janice Miner Holden is President of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) and serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Near-Death Studies.
TW: Death, suicide
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McNair Ezzard 00:14
This is WPVM 103.7 FM in Asheville, North Carolina. Hello and welcome to A Better World on WPVM. My name is McNair Ezzard and I'm your host for today's show. Each week on A Better World, we take an in depth look at the people and organizations locally, nationally and internationally, who are working to create a world that works for everyone. And our guest today is Dr. Janice Holden. Dr. Holden is the President of the Association of Near-Death Studies. And since 2008, she has served as the editor in chief of that Association's peer reviewed scholarly journal, The Journal of Near-Death Studies. She holds a Doctorate of Education Degree in counselor education from Northern Illinois University, and for 31 years served on the faculty at University of North Texas counseling program. Dr. Holden, welcome to A Better World.
Dr. Jan Holden 01:12
Thank you. McNair. I'm happy to be here.
McNair Ezzard 01:15
Really appreciate you being here, here with us today to talk about your work. First of all, tell us about the International Association for Near-Death Studies or IANDS. What's its mission?
Dr. Jan Holden 01:28
Okay, well, our mission is to advance global understanding of near-death experiences and related experiences through research, education, and collaborative community.
McNair Ezzard 01:41
And how long has it been in existence?
Dr. Jan Holden 01:44
Since-, well, the fledgling organization started in 1978. But IANDS was incorporated in 1981. So we're incorporated as a nonprofit.
McNair Ezzard 02:00
And some of its activities might include?
Dr. Jan Holden 02:04
Okay, so for using the mission about research, education and support. For research, some of the examples are you mentioned that we publish the scholarly peer reviewed Journal of Near-Death Studies three times a year, and we offer a competition every year for graduate students who are doing their dissertations on something related to near-death and related experiences. And we hold at our annual conference, which is traditionally over the Labor Day weekend, so we have one coming up here in a couple months, we hold a researchers reception, so that anyone who comes to the conference and presents research is invited to this invitational reception to network and schmooze with other NDE related researchers. So that's the research part. And then for education, we have a very extensive website with all kinds of resources for people who either have had these kinds of experiences, or who have personal or professional interest in these kinds of experiences. And so for example, we have a page for NDEs in the medical healthcare setting so that doctors, nurses, chaplains, and other EMTs can know how to respond to near-death experience disclosure in a way that is helpful and not harmful to people because people can be harmed if they get a bad reaction to disclosing that they've had an experience like this. We also have a listing of-, well that that actually goes in the support part or the community part. So other educational activities, we hold a symposium every year in the spring. The first one was three years ago and it was on the subject of NDEs in the healthcare setting. The second one was on what NDEs and related experiences reveal about the relationship between mind and brain. And our most recent one was the role of near-death and related experiences in grief and grief counseling. So we touch on specific topics and try to bring experts into present on those topics. And through those activities we sometimes provide continuing education credit for people in the health care professions, medical, health care, mental health care, social, like social workers, and religious spiritual, like as chaplains and ministers, and so forth. And then for the support aspect, the community aspect of our mission, we have had, for many years, local groups around the US and actually around the world that meet usually on a monthly basis for people who've had these kinds of experiences or again, who have personal or professional interest in them. And we have over 50 groups like this in the US and about, I think over 20, internationally. And we also have a branch of IANDS that's called IANDS Groups and Events. And it's our online presence. And we provide webinars, we have online support groups for people who don't live near one of our local groups, but still would like to meet with other experiencers and get support and things like that. So we just-, we-, and that's-, I'm not touching on everything, but some of the highlights of the various things we do. And I just would really invite anybody interested in the organization to go to our website, iands.org. And just mouse around and see what all there is there.
McNair Ezzard 06:20
Yeah, it's quite an extensive website. I was doing a little research on it before the show, and just, I couldn't get to everything. There's just so much information there. So yeah, I encourage listeners to do that. So tell me about how did you first become involved with IANDS?
Dr. Jan Holden 06:35
Oh, golly, well, I, the shorter story is that, in the mid 1980s, I was finishing up my doctoral degree in counselor education, and it was time to plan my dissertation. And long, much longer story shorter, my dissertation ended up being on near-death experiences. And when I went to submit it for publication, I discovered this Journal of Near-Death Studies, and, and was warmly received for my publications there and then realized it was connected to this organization. And, and ever since then, I've been going to the conferences and presenting my research and, and I served as president once, I don't know, 10 or 15 years ago. And then again, another tour of duty starting about three years ago. So, so I've been involved in, as a researcher and served on committees and, and served in leadership. So I've been involved in the organization a lot of different ways.
McNair Ezzard 07:47
So as the extent of your professional career, your research and your work at the University, was it all related to near-death studies?
Dr. Jan Holden 07:57
Um, well, sort of. My-, you know, a professor's job - any professors job - has three parts. And teaching is only about a third of it. And so I taught standard counselor education courses, counseling theories, and couples counseling and things like that. But I also created and offered, multiple times, a course entitled Transpersonal Perspective In Counseling. The word transpersonal is an umbrella term for all these kinds of experiences that transcend the usual personal limits of space, time, identity or influenced. So they include like near-death experiences, but also things like after death communication, past life memories, out of body experiences, mystical experiences, just the whole-, precognition, telepathy, the whole gamut of those types of experiences. So, so my teaching included a focus on on that whole domain. The second part is service. And that's where my involvement with IANDS came in, because I provided service to the organization as part of my role as a professor. And then the third part is research. And that-, my focus those 31 years was on essentially transpersonal experiences, but mostly near-death experiences and after death communication.
McNair Ezzard 09:29
Can you kind of give us a summary of what is the best way to characterize the near-death experience?
Dr. Jan Holden 09:36
Sure. Well, these experiences were brought to public awareness in 1975 with Raymond Moody's book Life After Life, and what had happened is that because of resuscitation techniques developing, we were bringing people back from the brink of death in unprecedented numbers. And as a result of that, a substantial minority of those people were reporting this type of experience that Moody first noticed had similarities, but also unique-, were unique to each individual. And so he, he presented this information in that book. And, and in the 30 years, since then there's been a lot of research on this phenomenon. And so what I'm going to tell you is kind of a, a nutshell of, of the research. And that is that during a close brush with death, or even a situation where a person thinks that they might die, but they end up actually not getting injured, they have this unique psychological experience of their consciousness, functioning apart from their physical body, observing the material world from a position outside their body, and or perceiving or, and or interacting with beings and environments, not of the material world. So in a typical-, in a kind of a complete near-death experience, which there are many that are complete, a lot of experiences have one or more of these features. A person, let's say that they are in a car accident, or they're on the operating table, and they're fully anesthetized, and their heart stops. They-, what they perceive is their, their consciousness leaving their body. And they're up, usually up above watching the, what the scene and of the material world, you know, what's happening to their body, and that sort of thing. And other a lot of other stuff happens in that, in that aspect of the experience. But then they suddenly find themselves moving rapidly through this, like a tunnel, a void, some enclosure, or even just open space, often toward a light. And as they approach this light, they realize that the light is actually a being. And this being communicates with them and exudes absolute love, total knowledge and absolute compassion. And in the presence of the light, the person might have like a life review, where they review typically every moment of their life and experience, not not only re experience what they experienced originally, but experienced being each of the people with whom they interacted. So they actually feel what it is, what it was, to be on the receiving end of their own actions. And sometimes people encountered deceased loved ones, including deceased pets, encounter other beings, are sometimes taken to other non material domains like cities of light, cities of knowledge. And, and and some sometimes encounter these beautiful preternatural environments with trees and flowers that-, with colors and unlike anything they've seen on Earth, and where every blade of grass has its own consciousness and communicates. So you know, different things happen there than happened in the material world. And then sometimes the person encounters some kind of border, beyond which they know that if they go there, they won't be returning to physical life, about half of people choose to come back in the sense that they are shown what, or they just know, what life will be like for people they've left behind. And in virtually every case, they feel compassion for the person and don't want to like leave them or abandon them, and they're suddenly back in their body. But about half of people are just, just come back without either-, against their will or without any warning, they might be just tooling along in their NDE and then suddenly, boom, they're just back in their body. So that's a kind of overview of the experience itself. And then what we also know is that the experience has some very predictable after effects that are psychological, spiritual, physical, and social in nature.
McNair Ezzard 14:45
Yeah, and I've got a question a little bit about that. When I was preparing for the interview, I read an article about Dr. Bruce Grayson, who I believe you work with and know, [Yes] who said that some 10 to 20% of people who come close to death report them. That seems like a low number to me. Why-. Is it? And why do you think that is?
Dr. Jan Holden 15:07
Yeah? Well, you know, I don't-, it's a-, that's a big question in the field of near-death studies. So to start out of all the people who survive a close brush with death, 10 to 20% remember a near-death experience, 80 to 90% don't remember anything unusual. And we think the number might be a little bit low. But, but the number comes from doing both retrospective studies of people who report having come close to death, and prospective studies in hospitals where they decide, okay, for the next year or two, everybody who is resuscitated from cardiac arrest, we're going to go interview and, and so the results are pretty consistent. Why this is, Heaven only knows. And that's, that's my bottom line answer because everything that we've tried to do to find the difference between people who do and don't recall an NDE after surviving a close brush with death, and as from from where we stand, they were in identical circumstances. So why did this person have one, or remember one, and this one, not? Nothing has, has emerged as an explanation. It's, uh, you know, I like to say that it's an equal opportunity experience in the sense that we don't know what characteristics of people you know, would predict who would have one. But it's not equal in the sense that, you know, four fifths of people don't remember having such an experience. But so my bottom line answer is Heaven only knows.
McNair Ezzard 17:00
If you just joined us, you're listening to a conversation with Dr. Janice Holden. She is the president of the International Association of Near-Death Studies. And you're listening to us on A Better World at 103.7 WPVM. [Musical interlude] Okay, that's Frank Sinatra singing "I'm Gonna Live Until I Die". And that's from the album The Best of the Rat Pack. And you're listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM in Asheville, North Carolina. And we're talking to Dr. Janice Holden, president of the International Association of Near-Death Studies. Jan, we were just talking about the number of people that report their near-death experiences. A gentleman was telling me about his near-death experience and he shared that I was the first person he had told about it. And he was somewhat reluctant to even share it with me, but he said the reason he didn't, he didn't share it was because he felt he would be ridiculed. Do you think that kind of be an issue with people that don't want to report they they fear being ridiculed by people they know?
Dr. Jan Holden 18:30
Absolutely, we know that it is. Because we we too, have run into people who, you know, years later, tell us about their experience that they never disclosed to anyone else. So that's why we think that the 10 to 20% estimate is a bit low. But but we also know that there are a lot of people who truly do not remember, including people who don't remember immediately after the experience, and sometimes remember it years later, when something happens in their life that they were actually shown in their near-death experience would happen. And they recognize it and suddenly the near-death experience comes flooding back to them. So it's possible that some of the people who don't remember it, at the time of resuscitation might have actually had one that is for for reasons we don't know, suppressed out of memory. So yeah, it's, it's still it's still a-. The 10 to 20% is definitely a squishy number.
McNair Ezzard 19:33
I know you've researched and probably listened to many NDE stories over the years. Is there anyone that comes to mind that sticks out in your memory of being the most impressive?
Dr. Jan Holden 19:44
That is so hard? Because you know, a couple of my-, you know, I do have some favorites and a couple of them are. one is Dr. Mary Neal. She is a spinal surgeon in-, an orthopedic surgeon In Wyoming, and some years back, she was kayaking in South America, her kayak, she went over a fall and her, her kayak got lodged under a rock and she was underwater for a little over 30 minutes. Lives to tell about it and anyone who's interested can just google her name and find her testimony online. She is the most down to earth person, she acknowledges that prior to her NDE, if somebody had told her about their NDE, she would have kind of patted them on the head and said, "Uh huh", you know. Now, of course, she is completely transformed. She had so much happen in her NDE, it's, you know, more than I can go into here. But that's a favorite because she is scientific. She was originally a, you know, quote, unquote, non believer who was transformed in her belief system by her own experience. So I really like her case. And then also a Anita Moorjani. She wrote a book Oh, and Mary Neal has written a book as well, I can't remember the title of it, but, but again, easy for anybody to do a search online and find it. And, uh, Anita, her book is called "Dying to Be Me" which I listened to the audio version, which Anita herself narrates, and I highly recommend that. She was in coma with end-stage lymphoma. And her organs were shutting down. She was-, they really expected her to die within a few hours. She had a profound near-death experience in which she was essentially healed. As I'm telling you this, I'm feeling chills just remembering, you know, some of-, the whole feel of her, her experience. And among many things that are very rich experience. At one point, she was above her body, seeing it down below, lying in the hospital bed in a coma. And her husband was there, her mother was there, she, you know, she sees the whole scene, a nurse comes in and draws blood and then walks out. And, uh, Anita is with a another being, I think it was her deceased father, but I'm not absolutely sure about that. And he says to her, it's time for you to decide whether you're going to stay here or go back to that body. And she's like, well, you know, how can I decide that, you know, the nurse just took blood. And isn't that blood test going to show whether my body is, is continuing to have organ failure, or somehow, you know, starts to revive. And her father said, No, the decision you make right here is going to determine the outcome of the blood test. That, to me is just about the most powerful thing that we can say that, that our intentions have effects on the material world. And I know you're, you're I'm going to jump ahead a little bit that we can come back to, but I know that your program is called, you know, something that relates to A Better World. And probably the bottom line reason that I have been fascinated with NDEs is that near-death experiencers come back with knowledge and attitudes, that if all of humanity adapted them, our world would be a very different place, a much better place. But in order for people to believe the message of near-death experiencers, which is that love is the most important thing and our purpose in physical existence on earth is to advance in our capacity to love. And also to acquire knowledge. In order to, for people to believe that they have to really believe that near-death experiences are something more than just a production of the, of the mind. And that's why I'm particularly interested in a phenomenon called veridical perception, where, during their NDEs, people perceive things, both in the material world and the trans material world, that based on the condition and position of their body, they shouldn't have known this, but once they're revived and they report it, it's confirmed to be accurate. So I can give you some examples of that. You know, if if you want to hear that now or later.
McNair Ezzard 24:48
Yeah, give us an example of one.
Dr. Jan Holden 24:50
Okay, well, one of my favorites is a man who was undergoing surgery and during the surgery, of course, he's completely anesthetized this whole time. But his heart stopped beating, unanticipated. And so the team is scurrying around and, you know, getting him resuscitated, which they succeed in. So then they-, he's stabilized, then they finished the surgery, they take him to post-op, where he then regains consciousness. And he tells the nurse who's attending to him, I know that I died during the surgery. And she's like, What?, cuz she really didn't know exactly what had happened. And he said, Yeah, he said, I was outside of my body, I was up against the ceiling watching. And he said, and Dr. So-and-So, his surgeon, the main surgeon, was flapping his arms as if trying to fly. And she's like, what, what?, and so this happened to happen at the University of Virginia, where Bruce Grayson is, you mentioned, Bruce before, he's a psychiatrist, who I consider to be the number one researcher of near-death experiences. And so she called him and she said, I have a patient here who might have had one of those experiences you're interested in. So Bruce went right over. And this is one of the reasons why I like this, because there was no lapse of time where things could get, you know, there's some alternative explanation or whatever. So he tells Bruce the story, and Bruce is like, okay, so Bruce proceeded then to schedule interviews with each of the people who was in the operating room one at a time ending with the physician, the surgeon, himself. And everybody told the same story, and which was, oh, yeah, he he does that. And when Bruce got to the surgeon, he learned that the surgeon had been trained internationally. And there they taught people that once you scrub in, you put your sterile hands on your sterile gown on your chest, and then you don't take them down until you're actually starting your work on the patient. And meantime, your associates are doing-, they're opening the patient, you know, getting everything ready, and all that stuff. So while that was happening, the patient went into cardiac arrest. So here's a surgeon with his hands on his chest, and he's pointing with his elbows, get that tray out of the way, pick up that scalpel, Do this, do that. And he looks like he's flapping his arms, trying to fly. It's what makes the case so good is that there was no sound clue that the person that the patient could have heard anything, you know, if you're pointing with your elbows, you don't make you know, any noise. And it was anomalous that, you know, very a very unique kind of thing. And something that no one talked about, because it was just a quirk of this surgeon that everybody kind of knew, but didn't even think about. And then the fact that there was interviewing right away, and and all that's-, it just points to, you know, there's no way to explain this except that this man's consciousness was truly out of his body, watching the material world.
McNair Ezzard 28:09
Very interesting. Let me ask you about you've written articles about the challenges. I think he said, six challenges in one article that NDEers, can face after having had such an experience. Can you talk briefly about what those are?
Dr. Jan Holden 28:26
Yeah, well, I actually didn't co-author that particular article, but I certainly can speak to the challenges and that, that are mentioned in that article by near-death experiencers themselves. And they include that, you know, essentially, near-death experiences. and the-. Near-death experiences range, there are some that are relatively shallow. And I don't mean that in a judgmental way, but in the sense that there's not a lot to them in terms of features or depth of features. And then there are some that are very deep, with lots of features very impactful and that sort of thing. And one of the things we know is that the deeper the NDE, the more likely the person is to have transformative after effects. It doesn't mean someone with a shallow experience can't be transformed, because they can. Someone with a deep experience may resist transformation, that happens. But generally speaking, the deeper the NDE, the more the transformation. Well, this transformation is very holistic, I mean people's basic values shift. You know, we live in a very physically materialistic culture in the US, you know, we're after wealth and thing-, a accumulation of things and after NDEs people become disinterested in the accumulation of wealth and material things. It's not that they don't still enjoy the material world because that's one of the messages, but they don't, it doesn't it's no longer their total priority, because their priority is love. And they, they become more like some of the, they lose their fear of death, because they perceive that they were dead temporarily and they know what it is. And there's nothing to fear. I've heard more than one NDEer, say, it's like walking from this room into the next, you know, that easy of a transition. And so they're, and they're, they're, they become very, like, non violent, very compassionate. And so, so it, it changes them. And I just am finishing up a study. In fact, we just submitted the article for publication, about how even people's political views change, people tend to become more liberal. And if, if they started out very liberal, they tend to become a little more moderate. So it kind of brings people toward a moderately liberal kind of position. Now, that doesn't mean there aren't conservative and so forth, there are, but the majority are-, ended up as moderately liberal. So those are some of the psychological changes. Then there are spiritual changes, people have an ongoing sense of connection to this other domain that they didn't have prior to their NDE, they may still communicate with a spirit guide or with Jesus, if they have-, some people meet Jesus and other recognizable religious figures in their NDEs. And they often have what in the Christian-, the conservative Christian Church, are called spiritual gifts, of seeing the future, telepathy, knowing what someone else is experiencing, and things like that. And, and they become more interested in spiritual things. A lot of NDEers leave organized religion, but they they describe themselves as more spiritual, but not necessarily, even as religious. Now, again, that doesn't mean that there aren't people-, aren't NDEers who are still very connected to their religion, there are. But we're talking about the trends here. And then, physically, people change, they sometimes need less sleep, they have different preference-, food preferences, and they're much more sensitive to environmental stimuli to medicine, to sound and other kinds of things. And then there's this phenomenon called electromagnetic effects where following the near-death experience, the person effects electronic things in their environment. For example, a lot of NDEers don't wear a watch, because after their NDE, the battery dies, they replace it, within a few days, it's dead again, and they just give up. A lot of NDEers have had the experience of, of light bulbs-. One person said his kids used to love it when they would go for walks in the evening. And they'd-, he-, they wanted him to walk ahead under the street lamps because as he approached each lamp, it would go off, and when he got past it would go on, but then the next one that he approached, would go off. And so, so there're these-, and you know, that's-, that can be kind of amusing, but it also can be problematic, you know, for computers crashing and cell phones, calls dropping. And that's one of the studies that one of my doctoral students did that NDEers definitely have those problems significantly more than none experiencers. So, so all these changes, the psychological, the spiritual, the physical changes, these people become, you know, they're still the same person, but they're quite a different version of the same person. And this has reverberations in their social world. We know that there's a higher proclivity for divorce, if a near-death experiencer was married at the time of their NDE. And we know a little bit about the dynamics of that. And people change their affiliations with organizations and friends. And there can be rifts in families. And just difficulties. You know, a father who used to watch TV with his family every night, can't stand to watch TV because of all the violence. And so what is the family to do, you know, it just has all these social repercussions.
McNair Ezzard 34:57
Yeah, and I want to encourage our listeners to go to your personal website because you have a whole host of articles, some of which address what you're just talking about, about the effects on our relationships, a person's relationships, after they have an NDE. You're listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM and we'll return with our guest, Dr. Janice Miner Holden, in just a few minutes after this break. [Musical Interlude] Okay, welcome back. That's Joe Cocker singing "Into The Mystic", that's an old Van Morrison song. And that's from Joe Cocker's album Organic. And you're listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM in Asheville, North Carolina. And our guest today is Dr. Janice Holden. She is currently the president of the International Association of Near-Death Studies. And since 2008, she has served as the editor in chief of that Association's peer reviewed scholarly journal, Journal of Near-Death Studies. Janice, let me ask you about-, you mentioned briefly, one of the effects that a near-death experience can have on people as it takes away their fear of death. For people who do not have a near-death experience, but yet have a fear of death, is there any way that they might be able to tap in emotionally or spiritually or psychologically to someone else's experience that might lessen their own fear of death?
Dr. Jan Holden 39:41
Yeah, definitely. We-, you know, I'm not aware that there's ever been a study that specifically focused on this, but there's there have been studies that that speak to this, that we know that people who-, just learning about near-death experiences, that it can reduce their fear of death, that it-, reading one story after another can have a lot of impact on not only the fear of death, but the general, once general belief system about the survival of consciousness after death. And a book that is, I think, particularly influential in this way is called The Self Does Not Die. And it's a collection of over 125 cases of verified paranormal phenomena associated with near-death experiences. So the story I told you about the surgeon flapping his arms comes from that book. And so reading can can help people feel less afraid of dying. There's one of my doctoral students, did a study of the effect of learning about near-death experiences on grief. So he had two groups of grieving people. And the groups met, I think, three or four times, and one group, he provided information about NDEs at the beginning meeting, and then either he or they brought it up again at each meeting. And the other group didn't talk about near-death experiences at all just add a standard grief support group. And he administered a grief questionnaire at the beginning before the first meeting, and at the end after the last one. And the group where the people learned about NDEs had significant reduction in their grief symptoms. So we just know from studies even about teaching courses on near-death experiences, that students report that their fear of death has just diminished, in some cases evaporated. In a nutshell, learning about NDEs through listening to testimonies online, reading, taking courses, of studying these phenomena, can definitely reduce fear of death and have other benefits, like reducing some aspects of grief.
McNair Ezzard 42:25
Are there ever been any studies that you know of, for people who have attempted suicide, had a near-death experience in the process? And if so, did the NDE have any effect on them afterwards?
Dr. Jan Holden 42:39
Yes, we do have a repository of near-death experiences associated with suicide attempts. And what we've found is that if you're a mental health professional, you know this, that if someone in the general population, there are a certain number of people who will attempt suicide, if they did attempt, they're more likely to attempt again, in general. However, if they had a near-death experience during their attempt, they're less likely than is the the general percentage of people who attempt and the reason is not because they were punished, or there was guilt or any of that sort of thing. It's the during their near-death experience, they learned that their life has meaning and purpose, and that to abort that, that meaning and purpose is to-, kind of like dropping out of school. A lot of NDEers say that they had the sense that if they did-, had succeeded in killing themselves, they would have been reincarnated. That is a fairly common tendency for NDEers to believe. And in some cases, because in their NDE, they saw past lives, and even future lives. But anyway, back to the suicide people, that if they, when they were reincarnated, they would have to re-, they'd have to start over and relive the the challenging circumstances they lived in this lifetime in the hope that they would respond in a better way. So people come away from the experience having the sense that our lives have purpose, and that when we face challenges in life, we're meant to face them and move through them in order to glean whatever spiritual development we can from them. Now this again, this doesn't mean that an NDEer has never attempted suicide again. It does happen, but much less frequently than even in the general population. And if they do, it's usually because of one of these after effects, which is that for most near-death experiencers, the experience is profoundly pleasurable. They feel absolutely immersed in and one with love. And to come back to earthly existence is truly a crash experience. And they miss the the love and the peace that they felt in, in their NDE. And so sometimes that longing is so profound that, that they may attempt suicide. But again, it's extremely rare. We only know of a few cases where we know from things that the person said that, that that's what, what was motivating them. What most people-, how most NDEers deal with that longing is just the realization that, you know, someday I'm going to be back there. And in the meantime, I'm here and I'm here for a reason. And I'm going to make the most of it. And I'm just going to, you know, deal with that longing.
McNair Ezzard 46:04
You mentioned in your answer there about reincarnation and, you know, many religions in our world, it's part of the belief system - not so much for Christianity - but do do NDEs indicate anything about the idea of reincarnation?
Dr. Jan Holden 46:19
Yeah, they they support the idea. And I will say too, although modern Christianity doesn't include concepts of reincarnation, original Christianity may have. And even in the Bible, there's reference to a prophet being the reincarnation of another prophet and that sort of thing. And my understanding is that at some point, around 1200, or something, there was some kind of counsel, this king wanted to have more control over people and, and and banned the concept of reincarnation. So, so I'm not sure that it wasn't originally part of Christianity. But in any case, yes. Not all NDEers, believe in reincarnation after their NDE but a substantial number of people do because of what they experienced. That they, in their NDE, they may have seen their own past lives.
McNair Ezzard 47:28
That's Dr. Janice Holden. She's the president of the International Association of Near-Death Studies. And you're listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM, in Asheville, North Carolina. [Musical Interlude] Okay, that's Queen singing, The Show Must Go On. And that's from the Platinum Collection album. And our guest today is Dr. Janice Holden. She's the president of the International Association of Near-Death Studies. Jan, to start our last quarter together, I want to ask you, I know you're a highly educated person, scientist, and are you also a person of faith? And if so, how has your involvement, and your years of study of NDEs impacted your faith?
Dr. Jan Holden 48:33
Um, well, I'm not affiliated with any church, I did grow up Lutheran. But for reasons that are kind of related to my family dynamics, I left organized religion when I was around 18. But I don't I don't hold animosity. I know that religion is very helpful to a lot of people. But I would describe myself as spiritual, not religious. And certainly, the study of NDEs has deepened my sense of spirituality, my sense of the reality of a spiritual domain, and my connection to it. And I've also had a lot of experiences myself, I have not had a near-death experience per se that I recall. But I have had other experiences, after death communication, mystical experiences, precognition, a lot of deja vu, and so forth.
McNair Ezzard 49:34
You-, one of your articles that I read, which I found interesting, I've never even given thought to it before. And again, I want to invite our listeners to go to your site and have a read but this particular article that caught my attention was Spontaneous Mediumship Experiences: A Neglected Aftereffect of Near-Death Experiences. Were you involved in that research? And if so, can you tell us about that?
Dr. Jan Holden 49:58
I sure can. So one day a gal came to meet with me who had had a near-death experience and was struggling with the after effects. And her name is Janie Thompson. I can say her name because she's-, her video is on online. And she's wonderful. And, and what was happening was that deceased entities were appearing to her at all times of the day and night, many of whom wanted her to convey a message to a living person. Sometimes she knew the deceased person, sometimes not, sometimes she knew the living person, sometimes not. This just created all kinds of problems for her. First of all, she was suffering from sleep deprivation, because they'd wake her up in the middle of the night. But then there was the kind of ethical question of what do you do with, with this, if you, you know, you have a message from somebody that you never met for somebody that you never met, a living person you never met? Are you going to like walk up to them and say, you know, I know this sounds weird, but I heard from you know, your husband, and he wants you to know, blah, blah, blah. So, this happened, maybe, I don't know, 10 years ago, and I've been in this field for a long time. And I hadn't heard exactly this. And, you know, I've read a lot of, I've read a lot of what's been written about NDEs, I just hadn't heard about this. So I decided to do a study to poll NDEers and ask if other people were having this experience. And, to my surprise, I did this study with with a former doctoral student, a now doctor, and we found that, although very few people reported having this experience before their NDE, over half of people reported having it after their NDE. We call that spontaneous mediumship as opposed to like planned mediumship, where you go in to a medium to have a set of, you know, a sitting, and they tell you, you know, communicate, they serve as a medium of communication between your deceased loved one and you. In these cases, the medium is being contacted spontaneously, without invitation or agreement. And being asked to convey a message. So, so it, it happens to a lot of people, it's more troublesome for some people than others, for a variety of reasons related to the person and the nature of the contact and that sort of thing. But about a fifth of people said that they really struggled with it, at least for a while until they figured out how to manage things. And usually the biggest thing was learning how to just set boundaries. And just to say to the deceased entities, do not wake me up, you know, I am not available that night. And like one gal, she sets aside an hour every day in the morning. And that's the time that they can come and you know, communicate with her, the rest of the day and the night is hers. And so people don't usually know that they can set boundaries with trans material entities and, and that sort of thing. But, but they can. And similarly, you know, sometimes people have been plagued with other things. Like one one fairly common one is seeing the future. In some cases, people see the future that they don't even know why they're seeing it. In other cases, it's distressing to them, they might see that there's going to be like a plane crash or something and like, what are you supposed to do about that, and but you still feel responsible. And so more than one NDEer has asked for those experiences to stop. And they do stop. So there's a dynamic process that's going on after the NDE about integrating the experience and managing the aftereffects and and that sort of thing, which, back to that article about the six challenges you mentioned, one of the things they found was that on average, people said it took about seven years after an NDE to feel really stabilized in their new identity. You know, for some it's a little shorter, but-, and some longer, but on average seven years, so it's quite a while.
McNair Ezzard 54:33
So these mediumship experiences do they tend to taper off over time during that seven years or do they stick with people?
Dr. Jan Holden 54:40
My impression is that they continue until the person sets limits, decides how they're going to manage the experiences and then they change. Otherwise they'll, they'll go on kind of unbridled.
McNair Ezzard 54:56
Getting towards the end of the show, I wanted to ask you this. You have an article on your website about recommendations for healthcare providers and how they can help people who've had an NDE. And it made me think is there a way for others of us, not health care providers per se, but that can be of help to people, we know who may have had an NDE?
Dr. Jan Holden 55:16
I'm so impressed that you've done so much research, it's wonderful. And I think that a lot of the recommendations that I made for healthcare providers are equally applicable to lay people, you know, like, if someone discloses a near-death experience, don't discount the experience, and say, Oh, you must have been hallucinating, or it must have been a drug effect or something like that. Just remain open, listen to what the person is saying. And consider that this is likely going to be one of the most important experiences of the person's life. And that they may be in the process of figuring out what it means for their life going forward. And so to be open, don't make the mistake of confusing a near-death experience with psychopathology, even though a lot of NDEers are afraid that they're going to be considered crazy, from what they report, research is very clear that there's no connection between mental illness or mental disorder and, and near-death experiences. And also, that these experiences are-, tend to be spiritually benevolent. And so whatever your beliefs are about what should and shouldn't happen in our communications with, you know, that which is beyond us, accept the fact that whatever the person experienced is likely to be spiritually beneficial to them, and then point them to resources like the IANDS website, and recognize that-, say to them, you know, it sounds like you might have had what's called a near-death experience. And this is, this is a thing that's been identified and researched extensively. And you might want to, you know, look up some information about it and see if you think that it fits what you experienced.
McNair Ezzard 57:21
What's been most gratifying for you about your work in the NDE field?
Dr. Jan Holden 57:27
The course I teach at UNT, on the transpersonal perspective in counseling. At the end of the course - of any course - at the university, the students provide feedback that is anonymous, so they can say whatever they really think, without fear of retribution. And often, the, their feedback on that course begins with the phrase, this course changed my life. And that is the most gratifying thing for me. That people become more reassured about the purpose of life, the continuation of consciousness after death, and how enriching these experiences are for for our, our earthly lives.
McNair Ezzard 58:17
So how can people find out more about your work?
Dr. Jan Holden 58:19
Well, you mentioned I do have a website, janholden.com. And some of my work is on the IANDS website as well. I A N D S.org. So those are those are probably the two best ways.
McNair Ezzard 58:37
Well, unfortunately, we've come to the end of another hour, and I want to thank Dr. Janice Holden, for being our guest today. She's the president of the International Association for Near-Death Studies. Jan, thank you so much for being with us and all the best to you.
Dr. Jan Holden 58:53
Thank you McNair. This has been wonderful experience. I appreciate it.
McNair Ezzard 58:57
You've been listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM. This is McNair Ezzard. Thank you for joining us and hopefully we'll see you next time on A Better World. We're going out today with Ozzy Osbourne singing See You On The Other Side.
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