“Haunted people” potentially explained

In another dispatch I shared a passage from my book with Michael Jawer, The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion. It detailed some “haunted” stories from the White House—both past and present. The point of that passage was to show that those who “see” or report “apparitions” are not just superstitious, crazy people.

In fact, surveys consistently show that anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the public say they’ve had an extra-sensory experience. With nearly 25 percent of respondents stating they’ve actually seen or felt a “ghost.” That’s a lot of people to shrug off! Not to mention the fact that people have been reporting these experiences for many centuries—and across all cultures. They’re quite universal.

There must be something to explain it, right?

Which is exactly what we’ve begun to investigate, based on what we’re beginning to understand about energy, emotions, and the body-mind connection. And what we’re starting to document is that there’s a certain type of person most likely to experience these perceptions.

Sensing a presence, seeing an apparition, or feeling energy around a person or place may be related to the workings of the limbic system—the “emotional brain”—as well as a personality type that rapidly registers feelings. Someone who is environmentally sensitive.

In fact, our data has shown that these types of perceptions tend to parallel other forms of environmental sensitivity. Such as having pronounced or longstanding allergies, migraine headache, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, irritable bowel, and heightened sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell, as well as so-called “sick building syndrome.”

Women make up three-quarters of this sensitive population, but there are other markers as well. Being ambidextrous, for example, or recalling a traumatic childhood. The more we look at the people who say they’re “psychic,” or who have recurring anomalous experience, the more it seems there’s a mix of nature and nurture that predisposes them.

If you accept that the brain and body are effectively unified, or connected as one, then it’s easier to see.

Highly sensitive people react more strongly than others to what they’re feeling as well as to incoming environmental stimuli. And this raises the possibility that subliminal feelings and other environmental nuances could be picked up by individuals who are sufficiently sensitive. A reputedly “haunted” place, therefore, could exhibit stimuli that register more with certain people and less with others.

It’s part of the pioneering field of psychoneuroimmunology. And it’s ripe for study. We have the technology these days to study emotion as it’s processed in the brain. Why not widen the scope to study how feelings are felt, and perceptions registered, in the rest of the body? If we look at human beings more holistically, we’re bound to discover more interesting things about us and our interactions with the environment.

We need to take seriously what these highly sensitive people are telling us and investigate the mind-body basis of what they’re feeling. For more examples, data, and much deeper discussion, be sure to pick up a copy of our book The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion, available at bookstores or online.