PhD researcher Nicole Lindsay is seeking people in the Nelson district who have had a near-death experience

Study explores life-changing impact of near death


 

A Massey University psychology researcher is looking for people who want to share their near-death experiences. 

Nicole Lindsay, a PhD student with the School of Psychology who is based in Motueka, is looking for people in the Nelson/Tasman district to interview who have come close to death, and remember something unusual happening to them.

This might be the experience of leaving their body, travelling down a tunnel, meeting deceased others, being absorbed in a bright light or seeing their life quickly pass before them.

Near-death experiences more common

Due to improvements in resuscitation techniques over the last decade, near-death experiences (NDEs) are being reported more and more frequently.

“The people who experience this are a bit of a hidden population, probably because many have difficulty speaking about it,” says Ms Lindsay. “But not only are these types of experiences surprisingly common, with up to a quarter of survivors of life-threatening situations reporting them, but they typically lead to a number of positive changes in the experiencer.”

Researchers have noted that those who have a near-death experience tend to display a typical pattern of after effects. These can include physical changes, such as increased electromagnetic sensitivity and an intolerance of loud noise and bright light, as well as psychological changes such as becoming less materialistic, and more selfless, kind and loving. One of the most pronounced changes that can take place is a dramatically decreased fear of death, and it is this Ms Lindsay’s study is focusing on.

“It’s particularly interesting as we tend to view the fear of death as something inescapable, something that is simply part of being human, but near-death experiencers often completely lose their fear of death,” she says. “You can imagine how that impacts on an individual’s life. When you don’t fear death, then what do you have to lose? The world becomes a very different place”.

Transformational change in the individual can happen after any life-threatening event she says, but the extent of change is much greater amongst those who experience near-death states. This suggests there is something unique about this particular type of psychological experience..

“I’m interested in why this is so? What is it about the near-death experience that can bring about such a dramatic shift in attitude. At the moment we don’t really know.”

Understanding positive changes following a near-death experience

Ms Lindsay hopes her study will foster a better understanding of the aspects of near-death experiences that trigger positive changes and how people find meaning in their lives – information of benefit to psychologists working to help people feel more positive, motivated and self-aware. 

“In the West, we have a high level of anxiety surrounding the thought of death, and anything that helps us understand and accept death more positively can only be a good thing,” she says.

Ms Lindsay has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology from the University of Canterbury and is now studying at Massey's Manawatū campus. She was inspired to do research in this area by Massey psychology lecturer Dr Natasha Tassell-Matamua, an international near-death experience specialist who, with sociologist Dr Mary Murray, undertook the first major research on people’s accounts of near-death experiences in New Zealand.  Dr Tassell-Matamua is supervising Ms Lindsay while continuing her own research on near-death experiences. 

If you are living in or near Nelson, have had a near-death experience and would like to take part in the study, please contact Nicole Lindsay at nicole.lindsay.2@uni.massey.ac.nz. All responses will be treated confidentially.

 

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