Dissociative Trance Disorder vs. Trance Channeling

August 3, 2021
Science Team

IONS has published a paper on channeling that investigates the differences between mental disorders and trance channeling experiences.

Trance channeling has been defined by Klimo as “the communication of information to or through a physically embodied human being from a source that is said to exist on some other level or dimension of reality than the physical as we know it, and that is not from the normal mind (or self) of the channel.”

Of course, there is no room for trance channeling in the materialist paradigm; so current diagnostic criteria usually characterizes channeling experiences as either Dissociative Trance Disorder (a.k.a., Dissociative Possession Disorder) or Dissociative Identity Disorder.

However, by comparing trance channeling states to recent diagnostic criteria put forward in DSM-5 and ICD-11 it is apparent that, in most cases, channeling is either (a) an exceptional non-ordinary mental experience, or (b) a non-pathological Dissociative Trance/Possession experience.

If this is true, it opens up a new realm of exciting possibilities. Where does channeled information come from? Is it an expression of the channeler’s subconscious? An expression of their voluntary, conscious mind? Or is it a true connection with discarnate entities — angels, aliens, spirits, or otherwise?

Trance Channeling vs. Dissociative Trance Disorder

Trance channeling has existed in cultures all over the globe, throughout history; from the Oracle of Delphi and her famous Apollonian prophecies to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV’s vision of monotheism.

According to Cardena et. al, how often channeling experiences occur in a culture depends on how stigmatized they are. If these experiences are viewed as non-psychopathological expressions then they are more common within that culture.

From the mainstream Western point of view, channeling appears to be psychopathological. And yet, if we compare channeling experiences to Dissociative Trance Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder, we find stark differences.

Let’s take a look at how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines these disorders. The DSM-5 is considered the authoritative work on mental disorders and diagnoses, and is the product of 10 years of study compiled by leading, international experts in mental health.

According to the DSM-5, symptoms of Dissociative Trance Disorder include:

  • A significant change in an individual’s state of consciousness;
  • An individual’s sense of identity is replaced by an external identity that then controls their behavior and movements;
  • Recurring episodes or an episode that lasts for several days;
  • Resulting in significant distress, impairment, and/or functioning;
  • The state is involuntary, unwanted, and is not accepted as a cultural practice;
  • Not occurring exclusively during another dissociative disorder;
  • Inability to be explained by another kind of disorder; and
  • Inability to be explained by the effects of substance or medication.

Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder) in DSM-5 include:

  • Two or more distinct personality states are present;
  • Personality states affect sense of self, sense of agency, and may alter behavior, consciousness, memory, cognition, and motor functioning;
  • Amnesia (the inability to recall everyday events, important information, or traumatic events);
  • Distress that affects the individual’s ability to function in their daily life;
  • The state is not accepted as a cultural practice (e.g., a child with an imaginary friend is accepted within Western culture and therefore not a symptom of a disorder); and
  • Inability to be explained by the effects of substance or medication.

While there are some similarities between these disorders and trance channeling, there are some critical differences.

For example, when channelers take screening questionnaires, they do score higher than control groups — however, their symptoms do not reach a threshold considered pathological, and very few channelers experience amnesia.

Perhaps most importantly, functional impairments are usually not found in channelers. They tend to be:

  • Well-adjusted;
  • High-functioning; and
  • Positively impacted by their channeling experiences.

These individuals typically feel as though their channeling experiences are beneficial, inspirational, and even of service to their clients, for whom they provide healing.

Here is a table that illustrates the difference between trance channeling and disorders:

"Other Identities"ChannelingDTPDDID
Switching toControlledUncontrolledUncontrolled
Locus ofExternalExternalInternal
Contact DurationControlledVariableUncontrolled
AwarenessVariableReduced or AbolishedReduced
NumberOne at a timeOne at a timeAt least two
Dissociative Identity DisordersRareAlwaysAlways
Functioning ImpairmentRare or MildAlwaysAlways

Where Trance Channeling Goes From Here

Channeling is clearly distinct from Dissociative Trance Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder. That opens an exciting door for scientists: What is trance channeling, and where does channeled information come from?

There are a number of possibilities. Channeling might be:

  • An expression of an individual’s subconscious mind;
  • A voluntary mental mechanism for filtering out trauma;
  • An issue of distinguishing fantasy from reality; or
  • The channeling of disembodied entities.

Those who have had channeling experiences believe they are channeling disembodied entities.

IONS is very interested in exploring this from a scientific point of view. Why? Because if channeling is what channelers purport it to be, then the materialist paradigm crumbles. To account for a phenomenon like trance channeling, an entirely new worldview would need to be adopted.

This worldview would allow for more scientific exploration into phenomena not previously understood. Imagine a world in which it was common practice to communicate with deceased loved ones — as well as interface with entities beyond our physical world, should they exist.

Have you ever experienced or witnessed trance channeling? What did you make of it? If you’re interested in learning more, check out Dr. Helane Wahbeh’s (IONS Director of Research) book The Science of Trance Channeling, coming out in September 2021.

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