Free Therapy #95: Lessons from Jordan

“Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where they all came from.
Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go

when the whole thing’s done.
But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me.
I think I’ll just let the mystery be.”

Iris Dement

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I don’t know where I was or who I was or if I was before entering this mysterious, complicated, wondrous world 61 years ago.  And I don’t really know what will happen at the end of my journey here.  No one does.  Some have faith in particular outcomes and state their views with confidence, certainty and zeal.  But despite all that’s said and written on the subject, the mystery remains.  Meanwhile, science, of all things, just might be offering a glimpse of what lies beyond the veil separating us from the dead.

In college, in the 1970s, I read Raymond Moody’s groundbreaking look at near-death experiences (NDE), Life After Life, based on his interviews of 150 people who claimed to have died and been revived.  Since Moody’s book was published in 1975, there have been thousands of such accounts, all describing similar experiences.

Some, including Moody, view these stories as proof of life after death of the body.  Others insist they are neurological hallucinations.  One of those skeptics was Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon before he had his own startling NDE in 2008 after suffering a meningitis-induced coma.

After his recovery, Alexander claimed he had died and, according to his book, Proof of Heaven, “journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.”

Alexander concluded from his experience that consciousness is not dependent on the physical brain and that bodily death is merely a transition from one state of being to another.

Matthew McKay did not have an NDE but after the death of his 23-year-old son, Jordan, experienced such searing grief and pain, it led him to seek re-connection.  As described in my previous column, McKay worked with fellow psychologist, Allan Botkin, who described his remarkable success with helping war veterans communicate with the dead in his book, Induced After Death Communication.

In Seeking Jordan, How I Learned the Truth about Death and the Invisible Universe, McKay explained that out of 83 veterans who Botkin treated, all but two were able to experience a direct communication with a deceased loved one, what is described as an induced after-death communication (IADC).  And through Botkin, McKay claims to have established a connection with Jordan.

In his book, Botkin describes additional research by others who obtained similar results.  One study found that out of seventy-one patients, 79 percent experienced an IADC.  Another study looked at two hundred eleven patients treated by sixteen different therapists trained by Botkin. Three quarters of their patients reported experiencing an IADC.

In the first study, a six-month follow-up found these clinically significant results: “a decrease in associated sadness, guilt and anger; an increase in a belief in an afterlife; an increase in the belief that one can get on with life in spite of the loss; a decrease in unwanted thoughts or images associated with the loss; an increase in the belief that the person they lost is still with them in an important way; a decrease in the belief that their loss is having a negative impact on their life and a decrease in feeling disconnected to the person they lost.”

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In my practice, one of the saddest and hardest challenges I face is sitting with a parent who’s lost a child.  Their pain is indescribable.  Losing an aged grandparent or parent is difficult but on some level, natural and expected.  We live our lives knowing that our grandparents and parents are likely to die before we do.   Losing a child, on the other hand, tears at the heart of our deepest need to produce, nurture and preserve life.  For many of us, our stability depends to a large extent on seeing our children experience a full and rich existence as we devote and commit ourselves to their security and welfare.  And we want them to survive us.  We need this.

It makes sense then that parents feel the death of a child as a loss of some physical, essential, intimate part of themselves.  For many parents, having children is intricately interwoven into their life purpose.  And once we are parents, many of us terrorize ourselves with fears that some unknown harm will befall our child.  So it’s understandable that we would long to reclaim the lost or severed bond with our precious progeny.  What is grief but the despair we grapple to accept as we feel the full impact of the void of death?  Nothing material can fill that gaping wound.  Our only hope is in spirit, the look and feel of healing love.

Some will never believe that contact with the dead is possible and I get that too.  My own scientific brain is deeply skeptical.  I don’t write these words to persuade anyone of anything.  Still, when a friend I respect, an open-minded atheist who has had her share of pain and loss, recommended McKay’s book, I immediately knew I had to read it.

One thing is certain.  People in pain will do just about anything to not be.  Pain motivates.  It doesn’t matter if it’s physical, emotional or spiritual.  If we hurt, we seek relief.  At some point, we literally or figuratively drop to our knees and surrender.  We open up.

I am able to make quick and long-lasting progress with some clients in deep emotional pain.  Their normal coping strategies and defense mechanisms become useless.  Denial, avoidance, repression and the rest are abandoned, littered behind them like trash they once treasured but now no longer need.  Desperation drives them to my door where I am honored to receive them.

McKay suggests our pain is necessary.  It’s why we’re here.  We don’t want pain, of course.  We don’t want to lose, hurt or fail.  No one wants these things but it’s a huge reason we’re here.  It is vital fertilizer for needed growth.  Our lessons of loss contain important truths that we traveled all this way to acquire.  It’s how we become, how we evolve, how we deepen our awareness of eternal love.

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In McKay’s book, his son Jordan explains why things happen as they do.  Life is a school and we’re all enrolled.  Some students are more open than others to learning but as long as we breathe, the lessons keep coming.  There is a reason behind all of it.  Jordan states, “And beneath the ripples of cause and effect, beneath the material impact of every choice, is the driving purpose of all consciousness (and everything consciousness creates):  to become.”

Everything teaches all the time.  It is up to us to pay attention and learn.  He states, “There is a force, much like gravity, that pulls us toward the circumstances of our next lesson.”

If we are sensitive and receptive, we will feel it, Jordan explains, as “an attraction, almost a yearning to be entangled in a particular kind of struggle.”  Beyond our conscious awareness, we may discover we “seek people, situations, and environments that offer a new version of old challenges that we haven’t learned how to face, or new lessons that are integral to the plan for this life.”

How do we come to know what we know if not by experience?  We know by doing and feeling and being involved.  In this sense, Jordan explains, “each event of our lives is pulled to us, and we to it, so that we may know what isn’t yet known, complete what is partial, see a hidden truth that all of consciousness has waited for us to see.”

Just as I tell my clients, Jordan explains that failure isn’t what we think it is.  Many of us associate failure with shame and inadequacy when in fact failure can be our most powerful and compassionate teacher.  What do we do when we fail?  How do we cope?  Can we accept such experiences with openness and grace or do we close up and shut down?  Jordan explains, “Failure is the core experience that allows for becoming and change.  It isn’t bad or wrong in a spiritual sense but it must be faced.”

I sometimes tell my clients if we are willing to fail, we won’t and if we are unwilling to fail, we will.  By this I mean an openness to failure is an openness to life.  We can’t win all the time and if we are ok with that truth, we will approach life with receptive, interested curiosity, not fear and resistance.

The only true failure, Jordan tells us is to “refuse to face” it “through denial, hubris, blame.”  When we accept failure, we own it.  We embrace it. This allows us to see “the truth of how things really turned out, which includes seeing the actual consequences of” our choices.  From this process we gain both humility and wisdom.

While many of us live in fear of judgment and blame or a punishing hell, Jordan reassures.  He states, “No actual judgment takes place. “  As I tell my clients, avoid the courtroom mind of right/wrong and good/bad and instead seek out the science lab mind where we run experiments, get results and learn.

Jordan elaborates, “It is solely about choices and outcomes:  what we do and what happens after.  Instead of judgment, the soul is allowed to see, which changes it at the level of soul DNA.”
Something in us knows the truth.  When we hear the truth, we recognize it like an old friend.  It feels right.  It resonates.  It fits.  You are here for a reason as am I.  And one of those reasons is to share this moment together and learn from it.  Thank you for being you, being here, being now.  It is a blessing to be with you, this way, this time

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Douglas Craig
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 30 years. He believes in magic and is a Dawes fan.
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10 Responses

  1. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I got drawn to this article by the Iris Dement lyrics.  That song is the opening theme of the HBO series, “The Leftovers,” which explores how people confront the unknown when 10% of the Earth’s population suddenly vanishes.  How people react when confronted with this jarring and utterly mysterious event is not pretty.

    I’ve been put under both shallow and deep anesthesia.  Shallow anesthesia is interesting in that your relatively untethered thoughts are influenced by what’s going on in the room.  I recall having vivid hallucinations as well as answering questions that were being asked by medical personnel, but not always understanding the questions or knowing who was asking them at the time. Under deep anesthesia, it’s as if consciousness is suddenly turned off quickly via a dimmer switch, then immediately switched back on—I experienced no sense of time passing.  I imagine death being like that, but with the switch being left off.  Consciousness may be an epiphenomenon, but deep anesthesia suggests that it is 100% dependent on a living, functioning, aware brain.  Shut the brain off, and that’s all, folks.

    I’ve not read these books, but I’ve read several accounts of the first two.  My impression is that what they offer as evidence for “Proof of Heaven” and “…the Truth about Death…” would not pass muster in academia—not by a country mile.  If I had to bet—based in large part on my own several deep-anesthesia experiences—I’d bet on Bertrand Russell being right:  “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive.”

    That said, Uncle Ellis from “No Country for Old Men” had some words of wisdom about presuming to avoid oblivion, when it’s coming, and why.

    • Graham Maxey, M.A., LPC says:

      Steve, you may want to google “Pam Reynold’s NDE.”  She had the famous case of having an NDE while her brain was drained of blood for an aneurysm repair that threatened to kill her.  She was able to describe in detail the specific, and unusual instruments used in her surgery, and then went on to have some of the classical NDE experiences–all while officially brain dead.

      Ego may in fact, as Bertrand Russell said, not survive.  But then, it never really existed at all.  It is, after all, a construct of our consciousness from experience and sensation.  It is much like a rainbow that is produced by the scattering of light passing through drops of water.  But, the memories that filter through our egos evidently survive in coherent form, even after the brain (or consciousness receptor) goes away.

      I have used IADC therapy for my clients for the last 11 years, and found it to always be a reliable, and speedy way to help people who are dysfunctional because of their grief.  Their experiences, as well as my own after-death communication experiences (and in on memorable session, a shared ADC experience with my client) has always convinced me that not only does this therapy work, but that it works because it allows us to access another part of our humanity–the part that goes beyond our mortality.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        I’m a rational empiricist and a skeptic.  That’s not to say I deny NDEs or IADCs are actually experienced by people, including you. Nor would I presume to deny the efficacy of IADC therapy, as I have no experience or expertise in the area.  I’m not skeptical at all that IADC therapy works to help people who are experiencing grief—with no reason to believe otherwise, I take your word that it’s effective.

        That said, you have not convinced me that experiences in the realm of NDEs and ADCs are something other than the products of brain/body experiences, immediate surroundings at the time of those experiences, modulated by later processing of memories.  I’ve read about Pam Reynolds and remain wholly unconvinced that her experience (or any other NDE I’ve read about) requires some extra-materialist explanation.

        I have no doubt that you and others are sincere about your experiences with ADCs. I have zero reason to doubt that you had those experiences—I assume they occur during an induced altered state of consciousness*.  I also have zero reason to believe that dead people had anything to do with them, beyond your memories and impressions of those people.

        *In grad school I was the teaching assistant for Dr. Charles Tart’s “Altered States of Consciousness” course at UC Davis for one quarter.  I normally TA’d physiology and ecology courses, but Tart offered me the TA position for his course following a spirited coffee house conversation regarding which martial arts were actually useful for self-defense and which were not. (I was on the wrestling team as an undergrad and had competed internationally, so I wasn’t just talking out of my ass.  Tart was an Aikido practitioner and instructor.)  About two-thirds of the way through the quarter, Tart beckoned me to his office to tell me that he didn’t appreciate me sharing my own thoughts during my office hours and in my published lecture notes.  I replied that I would continue to offer up measures of skepticism in keeping with my training and the traditions of academia.  To his credit, he didn’t can me.

    • Richard Christoph says:

      My view of the post-death experience is that it will be identical to what I recall about the year 1421.

      Nothing.

  2. sue k says:

    Again, Doug, Thank you.

    I watched a documentary last night from Netflix that is EXCELLENT — not be be missed.  It is called “I Am”.  Here is what I have to say about it.

    Hollywood comedy director Tom Shadyac initiated and directed – the documentary.  All his life he has searched for the truth.  He was very successful materially but could see that all the material wealth did not bring him happiness.  In 2007 he had a dreadful accident which left him in a deep depression and withdrawn.  He faced death and what he discovered was the unity of all.  He saw it at a deep level and set off to produce the documentary that interviews prominent philosophers and spiritual leaders about what ails our world and how we can improve it.  He shows that science confirms what mystics have said all along – all is One!  He shows how the heart sets the tone in our dealings  – not our brains and that our innate nature is cooperation – not violence.  Ultimately in the end he shows what is right with our world!!!!

  3. sue k says:

    What is the problem with all the ???? that appeared within my reply???

    dear oh dear!!!!

  4. Barbara Rice says:

    Hi Sue,

    I don’t know what went wrong but I have fixed it.

  5. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Thank you for a great article Doug.  I remember the day that I decided that there were things I could never know or understand.  I wondered how it would be to live if you were certain that there was no life after death.   What moral road would you take if you weren’t attempting to meet the “eternal life” requirements of which ever religion you were part of as a child?  I would say that the question of an afterlife is one of the issues that effects all people.

     

  6. Al Botkin says:

    The only thing I know for sure is that we humans are not as smart as we think we are. 19th century scientists believed that all of the basic principles of nature had been discovered, and that the only thing left to do was plug in the numbers. Then came relativity and quantum mechanics.

    More recently we found out that we know nothing about  84% of the matter in the universe. We are also genetically 98% chimpanzee, but that does not prevent us from having a persistent tendency to think we have it all figured out. It provides comfort and a reduction in anxiety to adopt a belief system. That is true whether one defines oneself as a skeptic or a believer. Nevertheless, both positions are psychologically motivated and empirically premature.

    Steve, you don’t know, and neither do I. I am willing, however, to not seek comfort in any particular belief system. For me, its all about suspending beliefs, and separating the good evidence from the weak evidence. This is not an easy thing to do. Debates go downhil when evidence is interpreted by one side in terms of what one already believes to be true.

    BTW, I am the discoverer of IADC.

     

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Every schoolboy knows that our science-based understanding of how the universe operates is tentative and subject to revision—that’s how science works.  Every schoolboy also understands that there are realms of inquiry and understanding that are outside of the purview of science.

      What I personally can’t abide is pseudo-science masquerading as science. I’m convinced that you have persuaded your clients that they are communicating with the dead.  You had not convinced me that your clients are actually communicating with the dead.  When you start publishing academic papers about communicating with dead people in Science, Nature, or one of the flagship medical journals, I’ll eat my hat, belt, and shoes.

      I don’t mean to overstate my skepticism.  I’m not doubting that IADC is a useful therapy—I assume it is.  Humans seem to have a powerful desire to believe that oblivion is not what awaits us with death.  People with powerful desires are susceptible to a staggeringly wide range of suggestions and manipulations. Many of the woes of this world can be attributed directly to that human susceptibility for delusion and manipulation.

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