A reader says he knows about “all the negative traits a person’s character can contain that could trigger a negative NDE.” But now he is curious. What if the cause isn’t related to some spiritual fault? What if, before an operation, a person is scared to death? What if there’s been an accident, and a person is afraid he’s going to die?
The question is, “Could justifiable fear in a crucial moment cause a distressing NDE?”
The answer, I’m sorry to say, is the same as for so many questions about near-death experiences and their close relatives: We don’t know. Nobody knows. There is no data that would help answer these questions.
However, we can make some assumptions.
For one thing, there is no hard evidence that character traits “cause” any type of NDE. The list of character traits that people assume help to create a distressing NDE include: being hostile, cold, repressed, suppressed, unloving, controlling, rigid, sinful, guilt-ridden, non-God-loving, fearful, mean. Although authors, even some researchers, have said those traits are connected to distressing NDEs, no testable evidence has been produced in support; the list is based on guesswork, assumptions, and experiencers’ self-assessments (“I think I was unloving”), not on factual evidence.
By contrast, there are individuals with a perfect fit to those descriptions who have had pleasant, even blissful NDEs. Some describe themselves as having been unloving, even hostile, before the NDE, whereas afterward they have become open and affectionate. On the other hand, some kindly, friendly, peaceful, religious, loving people have had a really difficult experience. Perhaps there are subtle factors we don’t know about or can’t capture that make a difference; but in broad terms, the observable characteristics of a person simply do not always match up to the type of NDE.
I believe the same is true with the question of whether justifiable fear might cause a distressing NDE. Some women happy to be delivering a baby have had extremely unpleasant NDEs. And some people who say they were terrified and half-expecting to die during open heart surgery have had glorious NDEs. The thought does not always produce the corresponding effect.
At the same time, although the evidence does not support making a general rule about causation, healthcare workers know that optimism and calm are likely to be more helpful attitudes in a crisis than anxiety and agitation. The positive attitudes may have nothing to do with near-death experiences, but they will certainly help the person’s psychological status both before and after the crisis.