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 Post subject: boundary thinness???
PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 4:30 pm 
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Exploring ways of manipulating anomalous experiences for mental health and transcendence
Christine Simmonds-Moore, Psychology Department, Liverpool Hope University

Many people who have experienced subjective anomalous or paranormal phenomena contact academic institutions with research and teaching interests in parapsychology. Some people are intrigued by their experiences and are interested in learning how to have more experiences (e.g., as psychic development). Others may want to learn how to gain more control over experiences, or to switch them off. This paper explores research findings which might be applied to the possible (healthy) manipulation of anomaly-prone states and experiences in the general population.

It will be argued that anomalous experiences and beliefs are associated with the expression of various forms of “boundary thinness”, defined here (after Hartmann 1991), as enhanced functional/anatomical connectivity within the neural structures of the brain, cognitive processes, consciousness (binding), and how people interact with others in their social world (e.g., in terms of greater empathy and coherent group consciousness). Boundary thinness can be considered to be both a trait and a state of consciousness. At the trait level, positive schizotypy is an anomaly-prone personality dimension consisting of the normal distribution of “psychotic-like” traits in the general population (c.f. Claridge, 1997). Such traits are underpinned by reduced cognitive/neural inhibition (leading to increased connectivity) and the tendency to experience altered states of consciousness. These traits may underpin the tendency to experience a range of anomalous phenomena (including the OBE, e.g., McCreery & Claridge, 1996; psi experiences and beliefs, e.g., Wolfradt, Oubaid, Straube, Bischoff & Mischo, 1999 and spiritual experiences, e.g., Jackson,1997). Despite the quasi dimensional view (e.g., the Chapman group, see Claridge & Beech, 1995) that any expression of the traits reflects psychopathology, fully dimensional theorists (e.g., Claridge, 1997) consider traits to be neutral in terms of health or illness. From this perspective traits interact with other factors to lead to transcendence, adaptive traits (such as creativity) pleasant experiences and good mental health, or to disintegration, negative experiences and lower mental health (e.g., see Schofield & Claridge, 2007). Boundary thinness can also be understood as a state (or states) of consciousness (e.g., hypnagogia, meditation/subjective feelings of connection with others), which are possible in everyone but more likely among those with higher trait boundary thinness. If it is possible to 1. understand and pinpoint the differences between healthy and less healthy boundary thinness and 2. manipulate boundary thinness, it may be possible to encourage the experience of healthy anomalous phenomena or to attenuate or “switch off” unwanted experiences.

Moderating factors are important if one is to understand how to manipulate anomalous experiences. It will be argued that the balanced or healthy expression of anomalous experiences may reflect the co-existence of (some) ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ boundaries, alongside other moderating factors, e.g., the use of rituals/metaphorical/synaesthetic cognition and attempts to organise and assimilate experiences in terms of cognitive structure, useful application, and (social) context.

Claridge, G. (1997b). Theoretical background and issues. In G. Claridge (Ed.), Schizotypy: Implications for illness and health, (pp. 3-18). New York: Oxford University Press.

Claridge, G., & Beech, T. (1995). Fully and quasi-dimensional constructions of schizotypy. In A. Raine, T. Lencz, & S. A. Mednick (1995) (Eds.), Schizotypal personality, (pp. 192-216). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hartmann, E. (1991). Boundaries in the mind: A new psychology of personality. New York: BasicBooks.

Jackson, M. (1997). Benign schizotypy? The case of spiritual experience. In G. Claridge. (1997) (Ed.), Schizotypy: Implications for illness and health, (pp. 227-250). New York: Oxford University Press.

McCreery, C., & Claridge, G. (1995). Out of the body experiences and personality. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 60 (837), 129-148.

Schofield, K., & Claridge, G. (2007). Paranormal experiences and mental health: Schizotypy as an underlying factor. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 1908-1916.

Wolfradt, U., Oubaid, V., Straube, E. R., Bischoff, N., & Mischo, J. (1999). Thinking styles, schizotypal traits and anomalous experiences. Personality and Individual Differences, 27, 821-830.

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