While I admit that standing at the mouth of Hell a couple of times was stressful, I was still reluctant to accept this diagnosis without evaluating some of the research on how paranormal encounters and trauma relate, specifically.
Believe it or not, there exists such research on Bullyonline.org, which has this to say on the subject:
Trauma and the paranormal"The purpose of trauma is to help us find, and then achieve, our purpose in life"
Trauma and paranormal experiences often go hand in hand, with one triggering the other. Abduction or a close encounter will often result in trauma, whilst trauma from a mundane terrestrial cause (eg accident, violence, bullying and harassment) often leads to paranormal experiences such as precognition, telepathy and sometimes a UFO experience.
The collective symptoms of trauma often add up to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. Almost anybody can suffer PTSD although it appears that those most likely to experience trauma are people who are sensitive, empathic, caring, honest, trustworthy, imaginative, artistic and creative. PTSD is a real condition, not imagined; PTSD is a psychiatric injury, not a mental illness. The differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury are listed at the bottom of my PTSD page.
Experiencing paranormal activity as a result of trauma (particularly if you've not had paranormal experiences before) may initially increase the trauma, especially if denial escalates. Those who already perceive your psychiatric injury as a mental illness are likely to take your disclosure of paranormal activity as confirmation that you really are on your way to the funny farm.
The causes of trauma have three things in common:
The effects of trauma are surprisingly commonplace, and many people suffering "stress" (from whatever cause - including the workplace) will find they are experiencing some (probably most) of the symptoms of trauma. These include:
- an external cause - you cannot traumatize yourself, something or someone has to do it to you (this factor is important in cases of negligence and personal injury); suddenness or unexpectedness are key components
- violation - your body and/or mind are violated by an unexpected and unwelcome intrusion; with many forms of trauma the violation is of a sexual nature (eg harassment, rape, a violent partner, sexual abuse, abduction, etc)
- loss of control - the experience is unexpected, overwhelming and beyond your control (and would be beyond the control of most people)
One of the most common causes of trauma is bullying, which includes all forms of psychological violence, harassment and emotional abuse. My experience and research suggests that at least half the population are bullied (click here to identify the bullying in your life), either at work or at school, or by a partner or family member, or by people in authority, or by neighbours. Bullying causes prolonged negative stress which ultimately results in trauma. For more information on how stress causes ill health, see the injury to health page. For more information on the effects of trauma, including the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for PTSD, see the PTSD page.
- bewilderment and confusion, an inability to understand what is happening or why it happened
- a strong sense of denial, an inability to convince yourself that the experience was real; your denial is reinforced by the denial of those around you and especially of people in authority
- irritability, short-temperedness, sudden intense anger and occasional violent outbursts
- hyperawareness, an acute sense of time passing, the seasons changing, distances when travelling
- an enhanced environmental awareness, a greater respect for the natural world, a feeling of "wanting to save the planet"
- hypervigilance, which feels like but is not paranoia, and which may be (sometimes deliberately) mislabelled as paranoia by those around you
- sleep problems including nightmares and waking early
- flashbacks and replays which you are unable to switch off
- impaired memory, forgetfulness, memory which is intermittent, especially of day-to-day trivial things
- inability to concentrate
- exaggerated startle response
- panic attacks, feelings of nervousness and anxiety, excessive sweating, trembling, palpitations
- hypersensitivity - almost every action or remark is perceived as critical or threatening, even when you know it isn't
- a deep sense of betrayal
- obsessiveness - the experience takes over your life, you can't get it out of your mind
- joint and muscle pains with no obvious cause
- depression (reactive, not endogenous)
- excessive shame, embarrassment and guilt
- undue fear
- low self-esteem and low self-confidence
- a deep sense of unworthiness, undeservingness and and non-entitlement
- physical numbness, especially in fingers, toes and lips
- emotional numbness, anhedonia, an inability to feel love or joy
- detachment, avoidance of anything that reminds you of the experience
- physical and mental paralysis at any reminder of the experience
Interest in the paranormal and extraterrestrials has grown steadily over the last two decades. Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET - The Extraterrestrial have become classics. Chris Carter's long-running series X-files starring FBI agents Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully and David Duchovny as Fox Mulder has enthralled a new generation - as well as older generations. Star Trek (Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise) and Stargate have made travel to distant planets and contact with alien races a part of normal everyday life. Ray Santilli's Alien Autopsy created enormous interest although its authenticity is in doubt. Maybe it doesn't matter whether the alien autopsy is genuine - perhaps the purpose is to raise awareness, educate and prepare so that a forthcoming revelation will not panic the planet.
The US government continues to sequester land around Groom Lake air base in Area 51 in Nevada. Stories of captured flying saucers abound, with the possibility that the stealth program uses reverse-engineered UFO technology. The rumor of Roswell refuses to go away. It's likely that the B-2 stealth plane's successor (often referred to as Aurora) is already operational, and may have been since 1991. It's also likely that the the successor to Aurora is also flying.
It's estimated that as many as 2 million Americans believe they have experienced an alien abduction. The pioneering work of Dr John E Mack (Abduction: human encounters with aliens, Simon & Schuster, 1994, ISBN 0-671-85194-2) and Whitley Strieber (Communion, Transformation et al) has opened our eye to the possibility that the physical world which dominates our lives may be only a part of our existence. Gifted individuals may, knowingly or unknowingly, be part of a greater plan which our denial mechanisms have hitherto prevented us perceiving. John Mack's book challenges our earth-bound paradigms of normality (that our three-dimensional world view is all that there is). Whether you're interested in the UFO phenomenon or not, his book offers an excellent study of trauma and its consequences for the individual.
An academic study of how people come to terms with and recover from trauma with special emphasis on subsequent spiritual growth and development is contained in Trauma and transformation: growing in the aftermath of suffering (Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, Sage, 1996).
Bully OnLine identifies bullying as a common form of psychological violence which is a major cause of stress and trauma; bullying is also identified as the underlying behaviour of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, conflict and violence, as well as the current limiting factor for human evolution.