It’s when you have a physical sensation in your body when something happens to someone you have an emotional connection with. It’s as if, for an instant, two people’s bodies are connected and process elements of the same event.
It was Dr Berthold E. Schwartz who first gave the name to them after observing the phenomenon repeatedly in his patients. Easy to dismiss as just coincidence, Schwartz investigated further, eventually uncovering hundreds of examples.
It was through Larry Dossey’s paper, ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ that I first became aware of them, even though I’d had some interesting experiences myself.
In one of the examples Dossey shares, a woman had been writing a letter to her daughter when, all of a sudden, her right hand began to burn. The pain was sudden and intense. She dropped her pen.
Just a short time later she received a phone call from the college, where her daughter was a student, to tell her that there had been a lab accident and that her daughter’s right hand had been severely burned with acid.
In another example, a woman suddenly doubled over in pain, clutching her chest. Her husband panicked, worried that she was having a heart attack, but she said, “Something’s happened to Nell [their daughter]. She’s been hurt.” Again, it was a relatively short time later that the sheriff knocked on their door to tell them that Nell had been involved in a traffic accident and that part of the steering wheel had punctured her chest.
Despite the woo-woo label that many of these types of phenomena receive, Schwartz believed they were real and deserved further research, but that paranormal-type phenomena had simply been given a bad name by fraud and deception.
But still, many scientists do have an active interest, although few admit to it publicly in case such views hamper their reputations. A poll in the 90s conducted by the US National Academy of Sciences found that 4% of its members believed in ESP and that 10% felt that the phenomena was worth serious investigation.
On the whole, scientists are generally open minded, but paranormal (psi) phenomena comes with a lot of baggage that could dent a scientists’ career ambitions if she or he were to study it, which is why many keep their views to themselves.
I vividly recall doing so myself, especially as one or two of my scientific colleagues had a tendency to be vocally aggressive in their views. Being more of a gentler person, I have always avoided conflict, so after one or two near run ins, I kept my personal views on the topic largely to myself all through my academic studies and R&D research as a professional scientist.
But those scientists who do conduct serious research have presented an evolving picture. Rather than ESP, telepathy, and other ‘psi’ phenomena being like reading entire sentences in a person’s mind – the sort of thing we see in the movies and that many who are sceptical of psi assume that proponents of psi phenomena believe – the effect is much more subtle. It is generally more akin to a slight response in the nervous system that mostly occurs when someone whom you are emotionally connected with has an experience.
For example, in some early research at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, identical twins sat in different rooms. When one twin was instructed to close their eyes at a specific time, an act that generates alpha brain waves, the other twin’s brain also generated alpha waves. It was far from reading a whole sentence, but it was a demonstration of some form of connection between the twins.
A great deal of research has now pointed towards an emotional bond as a general requirement for telesomatic events, ESP, and other psi-phenomena, but such a requirement is not so well known outside of those specialising in the field.
Indeed, in some seemingly failed psi studies, insisting on an emotional connection between volunteers wasn’t part of the experimental protocol, presumably because those investigating it didn’t know that it was important. Rather than concluding that psi is false from a failed experiment, which some did, many researchers in the field instead increased their efforts in investigating the importance of an emotional connection.
This is indeed the type of investigative route that most good science takes. An experiment that yields a particular result, whether it is what the researchers are looking for or not, invites them and others to hone into the experimental details, searching for clues as to why a result was what it was. They can either conclude that they were wrong in their initial hypothesis, or they form a new hypothesis – for example, in this case that psi-phenomena is stronger between people who share an emotional bond.
This has now been well studied in ever more sophisticated ways. In some studies, people were asked to get to sit together in meditation and to try to feel a connection with one another and to try to maintain a sense of felt connection even when they would later be moved to different rooms. Others were asked to simply sit together but neither meditate together not try to feel a connection. In a sense, they were just strangers.
Shortly afterwards, each pair was separated, and had EEG readings taken of their brains. After a time, one was shown a checkerboard pattern that elicited a specific brain wave pattern, yet EEG readings showed that the brain of the person they were paired with reacted at the same time. But key was that the phenomena only occurred in those who had shared the meditation experience. Similar kinds of effects have been shown using MRI scanners instead of EEG.
Personally, I believe that psi is a real phenomenon, but that bias, large scale knee-jerk scepticism that blocks open mindedness and a vocally aggressive minority who categorically believe that phenomena is false and bully others into agreement, as well as fraud and deception by a minority claiming to have powerful psi, have given the field a bad name and put off many open minded scientists from researching it further.
However, there are a few who have diligently gathered data over the years, including Dean Radin, chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Rupert Sheldrake, and others.
In multiple experiments, Radin has demonstrated a connectedness between people that is stronger when the people are emotionally bonded. Sheldrake has shown something similar and even that the phenomena exists between humans and dogs.
These studies show that you don’t necessarily need to be related to a person or have an existing bond with them, but that empathy is the key. Empathy allows us to generate a sense of felt connection with each other even if we don’t know each other. It is this felt connection that seems to facilitate, or reveal, some connection in our consciousness that is real and that allows the brain and body of one person to subtly register some of the experiences of the other.
From telesomatic events, it seems that either some people are more emotionally bonded than others, or that some people are more highly empathic or are better able to identify feelings for what they are, or that certain types of intense experiences are more likely to register between emotionally bonded people. Or all of these things.
These are the some of the directions that those researching psi are following now. They’re no longer interested in trying to convince us of the reality of these kinds of phenomena. They are convinced and are quite happy to let us argue about it between ourselves. They are now turning their attention to what sort of person is better at it than others and if there are certain conditions that are more conducive to psi.
Results are already pointing towards people who are naturally artistic and creative as generally scoring higher on psi tests. Perhaps a creative mind is more accepting of phenomena that isn’t well understood and is less likely to over analyse and explain it away as chance, the latter being the sort of mind that would actually block psi experience.
Overall, I think research is showing us that we are much more deeply connected than we have imagined and that love, empathy, and other states that make us feel connected tend to reveal and strengthen this deep connection. It is my personal belief that we are all connected, all of us, and that we are family, brothers and sisters seemingly separated but never actually apart. I believe that our prayers matter, our hopes for the best for each other are important, and that maybe, just maybe, love really is the answer.
If you want to read more about telesomatic events, psi research and the importance of emotional connection, see my book ‘Why Woo-Woo Works’, David R Hamilton PhD (Hay House, 2021)
Copyright 2022 David R. Hamilton PhD.