Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Understanding the Nature of Spiritual Encounters in Near-Death Experiences and Dissociative Identity Disorder
by Harrison, Kirsten Viola, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2009, 417; 10822119
Abstract (Summary)

The following dissertation involves intensively entering into dialogue with those suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID) regarding their perceived encounters with the Divine during severe psychological trauma. The nature of the overlap with those who have had spiritual awakenings during near-death experiences (NDEs) and during peritraumatic dissociation is investigated and studied phenomenologically, through an imaginal research paradigm. The insights gleaned from both populations should inform and guide treatment for dissociative disorders and help NDErs cope with and integrate aftereffects while further exploring how the soul apparently survives psychological and physical trauma. In addition, many survivors speak of perceived otherworldly protection from guardian spirits during their traumata. Are NDErs, mystics, and DID individuals accessing an archetypal Self-care system which guides, protects, comforts, and informs, and whose presence is more readily acknowledged during altered states of consciousness?

It is challenging to understand the spiritual implications of survival from torture and how the apparently “disintegrated” mind of DID may actually be more fully integrated and connected to the transcendent. In the attempt to make meaning and find solace during times of intense psychological agony, it is heartening to know that the mind appears to tap into a restorative energetic field, as substantiated by quantum physics, mysticism, near-death research, and work with dissociative conditions. Through a thorough exploration of the subject with those who have felt abandoned, betrayed, and then comforted and nurtured by the Divine, there may appear a set of phenomena, ideas, and insights that could prove transformative in the daily struggles of the severely traumatized individual. The role of an exceedingly helpful yet elusive Ally, Essence, witness, or spiritual helper as human-Divine bridge appears to be a construct validated by many who have elicited safety and comfort from this apparently compassionate universal energy. This Essence may be the key to understanding the nature of the life-saving defenses of the Spirit. This transpersonal agent of transformation and guidance appears to be available to us all if we can learn to open ourselves to its presence. Thus, those who have traversed the edges of “sanity” may well become our best spiritual teachers.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bona, David
Commitee: Allison, Ralph, Koehn, Allen
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Depth Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology, Clinical psychology, Spirituality
Keywords: Ddnos, Dissociation, Dissociative identity disorder, Near death experience, Spiritual, Spiritually transformative experience
Publication Number: 10822119
ISBN: 978-0-355-94549-2
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