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Raft, D. Andresen, J.J. (1986). Transformations in Self-Understanding after Near-Death Experiences. Contemp. Psychoanal., 22:319-345.

(1986). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 22:319-345

Transformations in Self-Understanding after Near-Death Experiences

David Raft, M.D. and Jeffry J. Andresen, M.D.

SOME PEOPLE ARE FATED to behold the face of death more than once. The sight is sprung upon them by cardiac arrests, accidents, and illnesses that have imperiled survival.

We might expect these people to tell us that the glimpse of death is harrowing, for many survivors are destined to suffer mental and emotional problems for the rest of their days. But what is true for these survivors is not true for all, for some find the experience of nearly dying to be an instigator to substantial changes that they and others view as beneficial.

We have found among the more favorably influenced survivors a small number who share several striking characteristics in addition to their common brushes with death. The personalities of members of this group of survivors change remarkably, and, of central concern to us in this paper, the changes evolve in tight association with novel experiences of self-understanding. These people become very curious about themselves, and they create special states of mind in which they find access to mutative experiences of self-knowing. They also tolerate the sense of uncertainty that openness to new knowing requires.

This group should hold compelling claims on our attention, because their changes bear striking resemblance to certain changes induced in people by psychoanalysis, particularly in the methods used to pursue self-knowledge. What is remarkable in these survivors is that they apparently grasp the nature of these methods in but a few moments of time—in fact, in the duration of the brush with death.


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