In a new study, researchers found that more 25% of people who do meditation regularly have had a ‘particularly unpleasant’ psychological experience.
The psychological experience including feelings of fear and distorted emotions.
The research was led by a team from University College London.
A limited but growing number of studies have reported psychologically unpleasant experiences could occur during meditative practice.
In addition, some traditional Buddhist texts also reference vivid accounts of similar experiences.
However, very little is known about these unpleasant experiences.
In the study, the team conducted an international online survey. They examined 1,232 people who had at least two months of’ meditation experience.
They found that about 26% of people who did meditation had an unpleasant psychological experience.
In addition, people who had attended a meditation retreat, those who only practiced deconstructive types of meditation, and those with higher levels of repetitive negative thinking, were more likely to have a ‘particularly unpleasant’ meditation-related experience.
On the contrary, women participants and those with a religious belief were less likely to have had the ‘particularly unpleasant’ experience.
The team suggests that it is important to widen the public and scientific understanding of meditation. It is more than just a health-promoting technique.
The finding is important because most research on meditation has focussed on its benefits.
It is important to see all the health effects of meditation.
Currently, it is premature to make a conclusion about the potential negative effects of meditation.
But future work needs to examine the unpleasant experiences linked to meditation and to see whether they can have long-term effects.
This future research could inform clinical guidelines, mindfulness manuals, and meditation teacher training.
The lead author of the study is researcher Marco Schlosser, UCL Division of Psychiatry.
The study is published in PLOS ONE.
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