15 Things We Know About Distressing NDEs

15 Things We Know About Distressing NDEs

Feb 19


By Nancy Bush
Dancing Past The Dark
February 19, 2012

Original Link

With all the points of view about near-death experiences, it can be difficult to sift out facts from opinions. Here, for the sake of convenience, is a brief listing of what the research has shown about NDEs.

1. Reports of experiences like NDEs, both splendid and harrowing, have come from around the world, going back to antiquity.

2. Although the great majority of NDE accounts describe pleasant, even glorious, experiences, a study of research reports indicates that as many as one in five may be disturbing.

3. Both pleasant and distressing NDEs are likely to include: an out-of-body experience; movement, often with a sense of speed, to areas with special qualities of light or dark; a landscape; encountering one or more presences; intense emotion; sometimes transcendence; sometimes a specific message. Some experiences include more of these elements than others. Distressing NDE reports typically lack three elements that may appear in a pleasant NDE: a life review, positive emotional tone, and loss of the fear of death.

4. The primary effect of any NDE is usually a powerful and enduring awareness that there is more to reality than the physical world.

5. NDEs do not play favorites: they appear across demographic bases including age, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual preference, education, occupation, socioeconomic status, religious background and beliefs, level of religious activity, expectations of afterlife. Despite limited demographic data about distressing NDEs, they appear to have the same universality.

6. At least three types of distressing NDE have been identified: 1) one with features common in pleasant NDEs, but interpreted negatively; 2) the Void; 3) features or landscape interpreted as hell. A suggested fourth type separates out an otherwise pleasant NDE with a guilt reaction to the life review (a type I generally include with #1).

7. NDEs are not always static but may switch from unpleasant to pleasant or, less commonly, pleasant to distressing.

8. A fear of social stigma has made many people reluctant to report distressing NDEs.

9. A distressing NDE may produce long-lasting trauma, especially for the unknown percentage of individuals who have great difficulty explaining and integrating the experience.

10. The strong emotional response reported to have been present during an NDE indicates that interpretation begins within the experience. A distressing NDE is upsetting during the experience, not only when thought about afterward.

11. The description of any NDE is dependent upon the pre-existing mental categories and vocabulary of the person doing the describing. For instance, encountered entities are not reported as wearing name tags but are described according to whatever identities are present in the person’s cognitive storehouse; people do not describe presences or other elements in terms that are unfamiliar to them. Any report identifying a presence as a particular individual is a perception that may or may not be factually true. Nevertheless, the identification is bound up with the content and ascribed meaning of the experience, though it cannot be confirmed as literal fact.

14. Pleasant NDEs tend to convey powerful messages that are common to all human experience, across religious and philosophical systems: a mandate to love, to have compassion, to keep learning, and to be of service to others. Distressing NDEs have less focused messages but follow the ancient shamanic pattern of suffering/death/ resurrection, read as an invitation to profound self-examination, disarrangement of core beliefs, and rebuilding into a new way of understanding. (The new way commonly moves toward some aspect of the elements described by positive NDEs: love, compassion, learning, service.)

15. Because NDEs do not conform to the precise doctrines of any specific cultural, philosophical, or religious subset, they present a difficulty for groups tightly tied to particular teachings (which may be religious or secular). For example, unwavering materialists dismiss NDEs as impossible and therefore unbelievable, whereas strongly doctrinal religious groups may believe them to be satanic. Again, description is dependent upon individual interpretation.

If you have questions about any of these–or anything else–please feel free to ask. I’d love to have some guidance from readers of the blog about particular interests!



Dancing Past The Dark – Distressing Near-Death Experiences
Pulse on Near-Death Experiences
NDE Stories



  1. Bless you Nancy for this useful distillation.
    May I ask how your interest in NDEs began?

  2. Hi Eugene. In order to leave a comment for Nancy, you need to visit her website. Here’s where to go: http://dancingpastthedark.com/2012/02/19/15-things-we-know-about-distressing-ndes/

    There is a place to send her a message at the bottom of her post. If you want to find out a little bit more about her, here is a good place to start: http://nhneneardeath.ning.com/forum/topics/nancy-evans-bush-on-1

    I’m getting ready to create a section for her on the NDE Stories website and will have more info available about her then.


  3. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon eevery day.
    It will always bbe interesting to resad articles from other writers and use
    something from other websites.

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