Cult Observer, Volume 10, No. 3, 1993
The following, which first appeared in the Summer 1992 issue of TM EX NEWS, was written by former followers of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. TM-EX is a nonprofit, educational and research organization.
Trance states, derealization, dissociation, spaceyness. What are they? What strategies can we use to cope with them? By trance states we mean dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization. In the group we called it spacing out or higher/altered states of consciousness. All humans have some propensity to have moments of dissociation. However, certain practices (meditation, chanting, learned processes of speaking in tongues, prolonged guided imagery, etc.) appear to have ingrained in many former members a reflexive response to involuntarily enter altered states of consciousness. (These altered states are defined fully in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM III]).
Even after leaving the group and ceasing its consciousness altering practices, this habitual, learned response tends to recur under stress. For some former members this can be distressing and affect their functioning. When this happens, it tends to impair one’s concentration, attention, memory, and coping skills.
Many former members coming from groups practicing prolonged consciousness altering find that the intensity, frequency, and duration of the episodes decrease when they deliberately and consistently use the strategies outlined below.
It is important to note that when one is tired, ill, or under stress, the feelings of spaceyness, dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization may temporarily return. By developing the ability to immediately label these states and attempting the following strategies, one can return to a consistent state of mental functioning.
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