Out-of-Body Experiences

out of bodyAbout 6% of the patients interviewed reported having an out-of-body experience (OBE). Their perception was that their consciousness was separate from their body, and they could see their body from a vantage point somewhere above. Understandably, severe pain was generally the trigger for one of these episodes. One patient had this experience during an episode of severe chest pain, another during child birth. Somehow, having an OBE allows the patient to feel free from pain. The following is a description of a woman in labor who became unconscious and had an out-of-body experience.

The pain was very severe, and I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to get out of here. The next thing I remember, I was looking down on myself. I was on the ceiling, in the corner. I felt great. No pain at all. I could see myself, and I wasn’t frightened anymore (Lawrence, 1995).

The downside of this experience is that many patients report having a distinct fear of being unable to get back into their body, and general confusion about what was happening. While they were momentarily free from their pain, they still felt connected to their world and maintained an interest and longing to continue in it.

Parapsychologists have studied out-of-body experiences for years to try to establish if a part of consciousness really does leave the body. Subjects who report being able to have out-of-body experiences, (sometimes known as astral projection) have been studied in controlled laboratories. They were asked to go out of their bodies and locate objects in different rooms or places. The parapsychologists study how frequently the subjects accurately identified these objects. In general, gifted subjects, did better than subjects who were taught how to go out of their bodies. Most of the research in inconclusive at this time.

Lawrence (2017) analyzed selective attention of subjects during transpersonal experiences surrounding death. She found subjects during OBEs were attracted to four stimuli primarily in the involuntary attention realm as opposed to the voluntary attention realm. She documented 46 accounts from 40 patients.

Four types of OBE and examples of recollections

Described out of place or odd objects or events

20% e.g., recalled a nurse wearing plaid shoelaces
2 Observed their injured body or from a perspective not seen before 30% e.g., recalled watching body move in response to defibrillation
3 Observed people coming to the scene of the accident 35% e.g., recalled seeing people running toward the car
4 Spiritual body assessment 30% e.g., recalled inability to touch anything or communicate

Helpful communication with someone who has had an OBE:

  1. Establish a client centered rapport
  2. Hold in reserve your causal belief about the event
  3. Encourage communication about the experience
  4. Listen to the client’s description of the even with empathy
  5. Determine if the experience was visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or a combination
  6. Determine the client’s explanation for the experience
  7. Validate any veridical perceptions
  8. Normalize the experience
  9. Assess the emotional impact.
  10. Provide resources as needed (Lawrence, 2015)


Lawrence, M. (2017). Selective attention during transpersonal experiences surrounding death. International Journal of Transpersonal Research. 9(2), 49-56.

Lawrence, M. (2015). The death view revolution:  A guide to transpersonal experiences surrounding death. Guilford, England: White Crow Books.

Lawrence, M., (1995). The Unconscious Experience. American Journal of Critical Care, 4 (3) 227-232.