WW87 December 4, 2019: The Healing Power of Experiences that Don’t Make Sense, Logically-Part 1

Wednesday Wisdom Series December 4, 2019

December 4, 2019

Here is your Wednesday Wisdom series from the Family Assistance Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D., and distributed by the Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., www.fafonline.org. Reprint is available with written permission from the Foundation.

The Healing Power of Experiences that Don't Make Sense, Logically-Part 1


"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature, and that is because in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."

-Max Planck, principal founder of quantum physics


    In last month’s Wednesday Wisdom, I reviewed a scientific explanation of apparitions using a well-known story from an Eastern Airlines crash in December of 1972, as an example. In 2017 I published a fiction book, Beyond Dark Skies about a boy who dies in an airline crash and goes to heaven where he attempts to communicate to his family that all is well. However, the examples that I used of the spiritual phenomenon, were not fiction. Every example came from a family, passenger, or crew member survivor’s story and in many cases, the same experience happened to numerous survivors—some at the same time.

     In the beginning, Lenny, the young man who is killed in the accident, is met on site of the burning aircraft by his deceased grandparents. Numerous passengers and crew members have described in detail meeting deceased family members who communicate with them about the accident. When they awaken in the hospital, after surviving the crash, they remember the details of the communication vividly. This reunification with dead relatives has a positive effect on survivors—and is the reason why I chose to write the book and encourage others to remain open to such experiences that defy logical explanation.

     Due to the number of people who contacted me after the last article, I decided to write more about survivor experiences that defy logic—but were immensely helpful to them in their healing.


“I used to be a skeptic until I learned better.”

-Bernie Seigel, M.D., Author of Love, Medicine and Miracles


    During 1990-91, I completed over one hundred structured interviews of passenger survivors of fatal airline crashes. While 78 were published in my doctoral dissertation, I interviewed numerous additional survivors who were unable to participate in the formal study. The instrument used in the study was developed by the National Institute of Mental Health and designed to assess psychiatric diagnoses. In my doctoral dissertation, it was used specifically to determine symptomatology of the five disorders associated with trauma. The second part of the interview pertained to the survivor’s account of the accident and their subsequent survival.

     My favorite question in the second half of the interview asked about unusual experiences. “Did anything unusual happen during the accident?” I never had one survivor ask me what I meant by the question. Without hesitation, survivors would begin giving me experiences they could not explain. For this article, I have chosen three of the main themes. First, numerous passenger and crew member survivors were assisted by someone during the rescue phase of the crisis, but who subsequently disappeared. Secondly, there were pictures that came into their visual fields that gave them comfort and hope. Third, many, many survivors saw rainbows over crash sites that were interpreted as true signs that a power beyond earth was sending a message of hope and promises for their future.

     In the time since I conducted those original interviews where survivors shared experiences that they were often too afraid to tell family and friends about, for fear of being laughed at or misunderstood, countless credible researchers, and scientists have written stories and conducted experiments that validated these survivors. In fact, books and accountings of similar experiences abound on the internet today.


“My experience showed me very clearly, that incredibly powerful consciousness far beyond what I’m trapped in here in the earthly realm, begins to emerge as you get rid of the filtering mechanism of the brain."
-Eben Alexander, M.D., Author of Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife


    Before I cover examples that come from my own interviews, I would like to introduce the reader to Dr. Eben Alexander’s bestseller, Proof of Heaven. Dr. Alexander, an academic neurosurgeon for 25 years before his Near-Death Experience (NDE) held appointments at Harvard Medical School with its affiliate hospitals. He is the author of two text books and nearly 200 scientific papers and is a recognized expert on the workings of the human brain. Dr. Alexander had an NDE, when he lapsed into a coma for seven days and was not expected to recover. When he awoke, he remembered vividly his entire experience and became a living testament that life exists beyond human consciousness. Today, Dr. Alexander is a leading influencer on helping people accept that there is life outside our five senses.


Support from Angels

    Stories of receiving help from angels during a crisis is a common theme from the original interviews. For example, shortly after I mailed the consent forms to potential study participants, I received a phone call from a young man who survived the Aloha Flight 243 accident in April, 1988. The accident occurred when the top of the fuselage peeled back just past the cockpit and well into the ceiling of the main cabin. One flight attendant was ejected, never to be seen again, and largely due to highly skilled cockpit crew, there were very few physically injured passengers—and those were minor. This young survivor told me that while he wanted to participate in my study, the psychiatrist he was seeing, advised him against it. I told him that by all means he should follow his doctor’s advice. 

     The survivor asked if I wanted to know why he was seeing a psychiatrist. I told him that it was normal for survivors to seek help from professionals after surviving a traumatic event such this. He politely told me that he did not see his experience as normal and sought professional help to understand what happened to him.

     He told me that before the ceiling above him ripped open, the seat beside him was vacant. As soon as the fog in the cabin dissipated, to his surprise, a man was now seated beside him. The man seemed familiar to him and immediately began comforting him. “You are going to be fine,” he said and touched the young frightened passenger on the shoulder. To the delight of the frantic passengers, within a few minutes, they felt the landing gear touching down on the runway. The young survivor glanced out the window for just a moment to confirm that there was runway beneath the aircraft. When he looked back, the seat beside him was vacant. Despite his best efforts, he could not locate the man who supported him during the most frightening experience of his life.

     While the young survivor sustained no physical injures, he reported the classic symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress. His parents encouraged him to seek help from a medical professional, thus he began seeing a psychiatrist shortly after the accident. Over three years after the accident, he decided that his Guardian Angel had come to earth at his most vulnerable time and looked after him until he was safe. This concept gave him a sense of peace and assurance that no matter what happened, he would never be alone.

     In February, 1989 a United Airline DC-10 experienced an explosive decompression similar to the Aloha flight when a cargo door opened during flight. Nine passengers were ejected, never to be found. In her book, The View from 13-F, survivor Shari Peterson, an experienced aviation/travel employee planned to take a sedative to help her sleep on the flight from Honolulu to Auckland, New Zealand. As she was about to take the pill, she heard a voice over her shoulder telling her to strap in for the ride of her life. She looked around only to see that no one was behind her—she was seated directly in front of a bulkhead. Shari opted to forget the sleeping pill and strapped in tightly.

     Shortly after takeoff, the floor was ripped from beneath her feet and she found herself clutching survivors around her, as she and the others held on during the rapid descent. Once again, the excellent response by the pilots, saved the lives of those who had not been ejected when the explosive decompression occurred.


Visual Phenomenon

    Another example, where seemingly unexplainable phenomenon has proved to be healing, involves visions and sightings of images at critical times of a trauma. For example, in 1989 when United Airlines, Flight 232 lost an engine, the highly-skilled flight crew managed to control the aircraft for well over 30 minutes as they prepared to make an emergency landing in Sioux City, Iowa. Passengers spoke of “unusual” experiences as they prepared for what many believed were their final moments on earth.

     One woman had difficulty remaining calm, despite her best efforts.  With young children at home, the thought of never seeing them again was more than she could bear. Shortly after the engine exploded and Captain Haynes made the announcement about preparing for an emergency landing, she began to break down. Suddenly within her field of vision two large hands appeared. She saw herself seated in the center of the palms of the two hands. This picture gave her peace like she could never have imagined.

     The frightened woman gained total control of her emotions for several minutes. Each time her emotions began to get the best of her, the image of the hands appeared. This sequence of events continued all the way up to the crash landing. Like many others, she escaped the burning aircraft and was rescued by first responders as she ran through the corn fields, adjacent to the site of the crash.

     Part two of this article will include more examples of experiences that while not logical to most people, were healing and helpful to those who had them.


"Western science has given us great accomplishments and shown us the far reaches of space. But it has shrunken our mental space down to the size of a coconut."

-Russel Targ, Ph.D., Author of The Reality of ESP: A Physicist’s Proof of Psychic Abilities    

     Whether or not someone in a leadership role believes or is skeptical about the discussion of survivors’ experiences is not the point. What matters is that those they interact with and in particular those under their supervision, receive support during the healing and integration phase of traumatic loss. As was reported in the November 2019, Wednesday Wisdom article where employees reported sightings of pilots who died in an airline crash, the corporation made a good decision by not disputing the employees’ stories.   
     While company leaders are responsible for their employees’ productivity, experience has shown that scheduling a time and a place where they can talk about traumatic events, with or without professional counselors being present, actually improves productivity. To deny employees the opportunity to discuss any topic that is related to their work-life, including a workplace trauma will likely produce psychological reactance. This occurs when a survivors needs are denied by others. For all survivors, including employees who work for an organization where trauma has occurred, the need to process and integrate all of their life experience is part of healing. But when a wall goes up and a strong need is thwarted—it is only natural that the need intensifies, thus productivity will likely suffer.          

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