Out of Body Experiences
Sometimes individuals who are severely stressed or ill report having an out-of-body experience (OBE) not associated with a near-death experience (NDE). Patients commonly describe the OBE as the inner-self floating above their physical bodies while watching activities from a position near the ceiling. They see their body and recognize they are separate from it. Generally the patient feels no pain during the OBE experience. However, unlike the feelings of love and peace associated with NDEs, some individuals may fear being unable to return to their bodies.
Often the experience is limited to the room where their body is located but there are exceptions. For example, a hospitalized patient reported that he left his body in bed and traveled to the nursing station where he could see the nurses popping popcorn. He said he felt no pain since he was not in his body (Lawrence, 1997).
Pain can initiate an OBE. Lawrence (1997) reports an obstetrics patient whose labor was so difficult that she left her body to escape the pain. From her vantage point near the ceiling in the corner of the room she could see the doctors and nurses examining her. She recounted that a doctor that she had never seen before and never saw again delivered her baby. She could describe the doctor's physical appearance accurately, including the balding area on the top of his head.
An OBE can be an aftereffect of an NDE. In another obstetrics case, a mother who had experienced an NDE during childbirth was breast feeding her new baby in bed; suddenly she was out of her body, standing at the foot of her bed, watching herself and her baby.When she reported this OBE to her doctor, she was put on tranquilizing medication. Both she and her doctor were concerned about her mental health.
Individuals who experience a spontaneous OBE may believe they are ‘going crazy’. They are often afraid to speak about the experience. Typically these individuals have never used any type of hallucinogen. They are ordinary people living normal and routine lives who experienced extreme physical stress and then had a transpersonal experience.