About 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 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.