This physician discovered near-death experience science can help those experiencing grief.
photo by: Martin
Today we welcome Dr. Piero Calvi-Parisetti, an Italian-born, Scottish-raised MD who since 2004 has developed an intense, scholarly interest in evidence suggesting the survival of consciousness after death. He’s written some terrific books on the subject including 21 Days Into the Afterlife, a book that received quite a lot of positive attention. Recently Dr. Calvi-Parisetti has turned his attention to grief and bereavement–and that’s one of the things we want to talk to him a lot about today.
Alex Tsakiris: …you think there’s a scientific reason why this Near-Death Experience educational programs can be effective in helping people overcome grief and bereavement. You make the point that you get out of it what you put into it. And you say that’s not just a good axiom but there’s scientific evidence for the fact that if you work at this you’re likely to have results. But if you don’t work at it as much you’re less likely to have results.
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: …that’s exactly what happens in cognitive therapy. If you don’t identify your wrong, distorted, excessively negative thoughts, and if you don’t work at correcting them, your moods don’t improve. On the other hand, we have research, particularly by Dr. Kenneth Ring which I found phenomenally interesting, and it’s fueled my enthusiasm for the approach I developed… we all know that NDE’ers show an array of beneficial psychological and behavioral changes after an NDE… what was extraordinary is that Ring showed some of these changes appeared in people who did not have an NDE but just read about it.
Read Excerpts From Interview:
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: Grief is the most universal human experience. Grieving and suffering after a loss is an absolutely universal experience. That’s one thing. The other thing is the approach is to take care of [things] that are normally on offer [that] research tells us are not effective–are not efficacious. The third point, and here comes a personal part of the equation because about 15 years ago I suffered from a bout of severe depression. I was living in the US at the time and I was frankly suicidal. What literally saved my life was cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s important to point this out because what CBT taught me about saving my life is that the way we feel depends entirely on the way we think. Our moods are dependent on our thoughts. Now you can put one and one together–or two and two together. If you’re a bereaved person and you think your loved one has disappeared, vaporized, has completely vanished into some sort of black nothingness, the resulting mood is severe grief [and] depression. If you think that in some way we don’t understand [your] loved one is still quote-unquote “alive” your mood is a lot better. I keep saying that there’s no approach, there’s no therapy, there’s no way of thinking which will take away from the totality of the pain of the loss. But it’s true that by rationally looking at the evidence we have from a dozen different fields of investigation–pointing towards the fact that again in a way we don’t understand–[that] we seem to survive physical death we can correct our thoughts and feel less bad. Based on this after-life science plus cognitive behavioral approach, [myself] and my friends from the Forever Family Foundation put together this resource (that’s coming out as we speak) which combines a cognitive behavior based self-help manual; and a series of video lessons and assignments in which as a fifteen-year university lecturer, try to make as clear [of] a case for a rational belief in the afterlife as I can.
Alex Tsakiris: Let me recap and make sure I got this–you’re drawing the link between cognitive behavioral therapy, which we know from the research is extremely effective for a number of identifiable conditions. It’s a fancy word but what it’s really saying is knowledge is power. So it’s saying, analyze what you know; look at challenging some of those beliefs with new information and that can sometimes lead to different thought processes that lead to different feelings, beliefs, behaviors…that whole cycle. So where you’ve made the connection in a really great way is saying, here’s a problem we see in that we’re indoctrinated in this culture that tells us over and over again, especially from a medical standpoint. You can only imagine–we can have our private beliefs, spiritual beliefs, and people have religious beliefs that are in alignment with survival of consciousness. But when you walk into that emergency room, a lot of [those beliefs] goes poof, out the window, and you have this overlay that says not of that’s true. I think that also comes into play with your reeducation. Do you see that at all in terms of what your up against?
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: I have patients telling me–I myself had an experience; an undeniable experience of after-death communication. I spoke about that with my grief counselor and basically they wanted to lock me up; or describe an anti-depressant or anti-psychotic. That is the experience of millions. And you have this dichotomy–what I would almost call a cognitive dissonance where you talk to a grief counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist and they want to lock you up. Then, you talk to resuscitation doctor or particularly, a nurse or caretaker working in ICU, and for them survival [after death] is a matter of everyday–is a direct experience they have all the time. So don’t think that the health profession is monolithic in that refusal because there’s a lot of people who are seeing these things with their own eyes, day in and day out.
[easy-tweet tweet=”what’s extraordinary is that people who just read about NDEs have many of the same benefits”]
Alex Tsakiris: Well they’re only monolithic in terms of what they outwardly project in their talking points. I think you’re right but just to be clear, you’re saying if you go to the hospice ward of the hospital and you talk to the nurses–and you’ve mentioned, do you think there’s anything to after-death communication? Is there any thing to it? And they just roll their eyes and go, everyday, buddy. Just follow me around.
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: As part of my research and background for the video course, I dug up a discussion on AllNurses.com. All Nurses is the community site for nurses and I found 77 pages of discussion.
Alex Tsakiris: Pages!
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: Exactly. You know how a discussion board works and so you have an idea of how many threads and contributions amongst professional nurses themselves are talking about end of life experiences. What happens around the moment before and after somebody has died.
Alex Tsakiris: Let me go back and poke you a little bit on this because you said, it’s not monolithic; don’t give up hope; there are people in the medical field that are open to this, and in your investigation of this, you’re keen to point out that Nobel Prize winners have come to this conclusion. Scores of PhDs have come to this conclusion. There’s more peer-reviewed research on the survival of consciousness hypothesis than ever before. But this is still an uphill battle. This is still by far a minority opinion. Don’t we have to be careful in presenting this–and I think you are. You’re telling people there’s this problem out there. But I feel compelled a lot of times because it’s something that came to me–[the] how can this be question? So we [think] we’re going to fight the good fight and mainstream medicine is stupid and materialistic. Why? Why are they? Why do we have to fight so hard for what’s obvious? You just mentioned after-death communication and I was recently chatting with Dr. Julie Beischel and she was at an after-death communication conference. She threw a little factoid at me that adds to this picture: 60 percent of spouses who lose their partner experience after death communication… If that’s the case, why is it so hard to get this across?
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: Alex, you’re naive…
Alex Tsakiris: Recap that research for the listeners so they know what we’re talking about.
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: That’s just one of a stream of pieces of research telling us that people see, smell, feel touch, have experiences of people who are recently deceased. The frequency of these experiences goes down dramatically. There’s a time pattern–if these were just haphazard, random events you would not see these very identifiable time patterns telling us the first 48 hours [have] the highest [rate] of incidents then they decrease. That particular piece of research came from a Swedish university–Dr. Greenburg–who said that 70 percent of elderly bereaved spouses reported an experience of after-death communication. But this happens all the time. That’s not the problem. Before we get any further, let me suggest a possible answer to your question. You asked, how is it possible? I think that part of the explanation is in the fact that part of what gets projected officially is not the majority view. The ultra-skeptics–the leverage they have with the media and [dissemination] of public information is extraordinary.
Alex Tsakiris: Hold on, I have to interrupt you. It’s not ultra-skeptics. Ultra-skeptics are the front men. They’re the barking dog on the chain. This is mainstream medicine; mainstream science that wants it this way. You can’t run their business with your air-fairy alternative model. It doesn’t make money. It doesn’t make the trains run on time. It doesn’t do any of that stuff. So forget about the skeptics; they’re just a sideshow. The people behind the skeptics, mainstream medicine, wants this the way that it is. Science wants this the way that it is or they’re out of business otherwise.
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: I will certainly not contest that. But it’s also true that research shows belief in the paranormal; belief in the existence of psychic powers; I’m not sure about belief [regarding] survival but certainly belief in the existence of telepathy for instance, positively correlates with education. This is not the gullible, the stupid and the ignorant. The PhDs are more likely to believe in the paranormal than the less educated people. Here again, I don’t want to present this as a full explanation but it’s part of it. When we talk about the held profession; when we talk about the body of science and the people who [practice] science, we’re not talking about, as I said before, a monolith. There are interests and there are differential accesses to means of information and public platforms, etc. But I would be cautious in saying I don’t believe the majority of–if I look at my professional area–I don’t think that most health professionals are staunch materialists.
Alex Tsakiris: How much does the course cost, and how do people find it and explore it?
Dr. Calvi-Parisetti: The idea here is that people buy the workbook. The workbook sells for $19.95, which I believe is a pretty reasonable amount to invest even for a child. And for that amount people get the workbook and access to 30 modules on a dedicated section of the website. The workbook is the tip of the iceberg. The big thing is the video lessons, which come [included] in the package. There’s no additional money to pay. No one’s making money here.
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