Can your level of sensitivity and your way of perceiving emotions predict your propensity for extraordinary experiences?
Michael Jawer, author of several books on the topic, asked himself that question. IONS had the honor to interview him for a ConnectIONS Live webinar – members have access to the full library of webinar replays.
Michael dedicates his life to investigating why different people have different kinds of experiences. What stood out to him is the key role emotion seems to play for noetic experiences and that we all feel differently.
Emotions and telepathic experiences
Our ability to feel emotions seems closely linked to extraordinary experiences. Is feeling the language of the noetic realms? Michael shares some astounding stories where people have experienced strong feelings or sensations, seemingly out of nowhere, only to discover that a loved one experienced something similar simultaneously but at a different location. As if they could communicate beyond time, space, and the laws of physics.
Some of these stories (around 11 minutes in):
- A mother was writing a letter to her daughter when she suddenly felt her hand burning. She came to know that her daughter burned her hand in a lab accident that same time!
- A son felt a suffocating feeling simultaneously as his dad, although they were far apart.
- A daughter felt her mother’s cardiac arrest and the subsequent reawakening as a surge of energy running through her body.
- A 2.5-year-old girl said, “Daddy has been hurt,” as her dad had an accident… on another continent.
How emotions can trigger extrasensory perception
What could account for these strange/anomalous experiences? Michael mentions three different perspectives:
- Conceptual: The body and mind are closely intertwined and affect each other
- Physiological: E-motion – emotions are energy in motion
- Personal: We all have different levels of sensitivity
If we combine these concepts, neglected by the mechanical worldview, we get a framework to “make sense” of extraordinary experiences.
We feel – therefore, we are
Around 17 minutes in, Michael claims, “Descartes was wrong – we FEEL, therefore we are.” Feeling is the primary way through which we understand our reality.
Nineteen minutes in, he explains how intense emotional experiences originate from bodily stimuli. Our most exciting, vibrant memories are encoded into the vagus nerve – not the brain. This challenges the commonly accepted idea of the brain being the “main processing unit” in the human body.
There’s even a field called psychoneuroimmunology that sheds light on the connections between distinct body parts/systems. Contrary to what one may believe, there are no solid lines between each system – everything flows into everything else. The body is a unified sensing/feeling network.
Feelings are not just a way to understand our reality. They directly affect your physical state! Around the 22-minute mark, Michael gives an example of how it’s easier to catch a cold if you have been stressed. Our emotional state directly affects our physical form. We are all psychosomatic!
The gut: Our second brain
Did you know your gut has its own enteric nervous system that operates independently from the brain and spinal cord?
The small intestine alone has over 100 million neuro cells. If we include the esophagus, stomach, and large intestine, the gastrointestinal system has more neuro cells than the spine!
It is safe to dub the gut our second brain. The gut has a vast chemical factory containing any neurotransmitter found in the brain. Another baffling fact: the vagus nerve is the highway conveying information between the gut and the brain. 95% of the vagus nerve information travels from the gut to the brain, and not the other way around! That’s why it’s believed that depression begins in the gut (24 minutes in).
In short, we are much more than what’s going on in our heads. Each one of us is psychosomatic – all the time.
Where are you?
Around 25 minutes in, Michael asks the listeners: where are you? If I ask you to point at yourself, where would you point?
Many people would choose the heart because the heart is the seat of emotions and our sense of self. The heart produces a hormone affecting the brain. So just like with the gut, the belief that the brain is the master is challenged.
Micheal also touches upon the difference between feelings and emotions:
A feeling is a sense of what’s happening in your body, like “I feel hungry/tired/lonely/sad.” It can be seen as an intellectual interpretation of emotions since your physiology changes depending on your emotions. Some feelings are imperceptible or filtered out by your retinal activating system. How often do you notice your bowel movements or heartbeats if you’re not experiencing issues in these areas?
Highly sensitive people
Finally, he shares the differences in sensitivity to emotions. Highly sensitive people experience symptoms like migraine, allergies, electrical sensitivity, synesthesia, and anxiety to a higher degree. They are more prone to physical disease since they are more in tune with their feelings.
About 33 minutes in, he explains how many people identifying as highly sensitive report anomalous perceptions. Some examples: literally feeling the pain of others, picking up on energy from surroundings, sensing the energy of places, such as heavy energy in a haunted house, and encounters with spirits.
Thirty-six minutes in, we learn that highly sensitive people are often judged as gullible, hypochondriacs, or even delusional. But being highly sensitive is NOT equal to being overly dramatic. Some people are naturally designed to be more on high alert – this has been observed even in animal populations.
Michael also shares the results of an environmental sensitivity survey. The findings reveal that there’s an overlap between sensitivity and apparitional perception. Furthermore, there seem to be six key personality factors shared between highly sensitive people:
- Being female (turned out to be the most significant)
- Ambidextrous (and not left-handed as one may have imagined!)
- Experience of traumatic childhood events
- Sensitive to electricity in an unusual way
The prevalence of synesthesia was 10%, while it wasn’t reported at all in the control group.
Thin vs. thick boundaries – Which one are you?
We wrap up with a look at “the boundaries concept” by Ernest Hartmann. He suggested the existence of thin or thick boundaries. It should be noted, however, that the boundaries exist on a spectrum rather than being black or white.
Thin-boundary people are more highly reactive. They dream vividly, in color. Thick-boundary people tend to suppress or deny strong feelings. They often don’t know what they feel or remember their dreams.
Here’s a remarkable insight: thick boundary people do not have less intense feelings! This may be because a similar intensity of biological reactions could be measured in both thick and thin-boundary people.
It’s also possible to go from being a thick-boundary person to having thinner boundaries. One such example is the remarkable story of Tony Cicoria, shared around 49 minutes in. Tony Cicoria got struck by lightning and had a near-death experience (NDE). During the NDE, he heard music. Upon awakening, he reportedly had a sudden change in musical taste – he went from being an avid rock fan to enjoying piano music.
He also developed remarkable capabilities and sensitivities. Electrical appliances stopped working around him. He saw auras and entered a world where feeling is elemental rather than thinking.
The path forward
Fifty-two minutes in, Michael concludes by claiming that our understanding of human functioning can vastly increase if we study emotions. From his research, it’s clear that not everything happens in the brain.
The experiences of highly sensitive people need to be taken seriously instead of being marginalized. Michael argues that the thick/thin boundary concept is so essential it should be a mainstream concept.
Only then can we leverage the potential of what highly sensitive people perceive and its value for understanding humans and the noetic realms.