Feeling Another’s Distress at a Distance: A Seemingly Psychic Connection
A mother was writing a letter to her daughter when her right hand began burning intensely and she dropped the pen. Less than an hour later she got a phone call telling her that her daughter’s right hand was severely burned by acid in a laboratory accident.
A family living on a farm in upstate New York began their day’s work, but all returned to the house later in the morning after experiencing a strange feeling. All eight family members felt an intense foreboding, each without being aware the others felt the same. That day, in Michigan, a son in the family died in an accident.
A woman felt a pain in her chest and said her sister had been hurt. The woman later found out that her sister was in a fatal car accident at the same time; her chest had been crushed by the steering wheel.
These stories go well beyond empathy. They are about feeling the pain of a loved one at a distance, without the conscious knowledge that that person is suffering. “Even when it happens between a mother and child, it likely goes beyond the stock phrase ‘a mother’s intuition,’” said Michael Jawer, a researcher interested in the mind-body connection who co-authored the book “The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion: How Feelings Link the Brain, the Body, and the Sixth Sense” with Marc Micozzi, MD, PhD.
The first two stories were recounted in Dr. Larry Dossey’s books “Healing Beyond the Body” and “Reinventing Medicine” respectively. The third was told by the late Dr. Ian Stevenson, former chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and quoted by Jawer.
Dr. Dossey calls these experiences telesomatic events. The word telesomatic comes from Greek words for “the distant body.” He wrote in “Healing the Mind” that such events are usually positive. A woman who feels a suffocating sensation, for example, and senses that her child is drowning may run out to the swimming pool in time to save the child. Sometimes, however, they can be damaging. For example, a soldier had his legs blown off and a loved one’s legs became paralyzed for no apparent reason.
“They cannot be compelled to happen in the laboratory or on command,” said Dr. Dossey, who is now retired but once served as chief of staff at the Medical City Dallas Hospital. Nonetheless, he said, they command attention for two reasons: “First, they are exceedingly common; hundreds of instances have been reported over the past few decades, some of them in medical journals. … Secondly, these cases display an internal consistency that is striking. They almost always take place between people who share empathic, loving bonds—parents and children, spouses, siblings, lovers.”
“The nub of all this, which I find most fascinating, is the role of emotion,” said Jawer in an email to Epoch Times. “It seems that the awareness that breaks into consciousness in these cases is almost always tied to a deep feeling, a connection with someone else. It’s often an immediate family member, a close friend, or a pet.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Beitman had a personal experience of this phenomenon, and he coined the term simulpathity to describe it. He felt himself choking inexplicably, only to later find out that his father had been choking at the same time thousands of miles away. Dr. Beitman graduated from Yale Medical School and Stanford University and he was the chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He’s now working to establish a transdisciplinary Coincidence Studies.
The first step in forming a clear method of study is setting up a taxonomy, he said. One of the categories of coincidences he has demarcated is synchronicity. He noted that simulpathity is a subcategory of synchronicity. He explained that synchronicity literally means “moving together in time.” It is “the surprise that occurs when a thought in the mind is mirrored by an external event to which it has no apparent causal connection.”
Dr. Beitman hypothesizes about what he calls a psychesphere. “The psychesphere is something like our atmosphere—around us and in dynamic flux with us. We breathe in oxygen and nitrogen and water vapors, and we breathe out carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and more water vapors. We receive energy-information from the psychesphere and release energy-information into the psychesphere. Our thoughts and emotions contribute to the psychesphere and our thoughts and emotions are influenced by it.”
He is looking at the physical energy humans emit and what kind of receptors we may have for picking up on this energy. For more on this topic, see the Epoch Times article “Is There a Physical Explanation for the ‘Vibes’ You Get Off People?”
Jawer explained that veterinarian Michael Fox, author of the nationally syndicated column, “The Animal Doctor,” spoke of the “empathosphere.” Fox described the empathosphere as “a universal realm of feeling that transcends both space and time.”
“My strong suspicion is that the body and mind are one, and mediated by emotion,” Jawer said. “The empathosphere … may allow us to effectively reach one another when we are distressed—all the more when we have a close or familial connection.”