If I Stay

If I Stay About Out-of-Body Experiences

An out-of-body experience is a phenomenon in which a person seems to leave their physical body and perceive their surrounding environment from a position outside of what they could possibly see through their usual perspective.

In the fields of neuroscience and psychology, the phenomenon is considered a dissociative experience that results from various mental factors, likening the altered state of consciousness to a dream. There is also a long history of parapsychology and occultism that considers the phenomenon to be evidence of the soul detaching from the body so that it may travel.

Neuroscientists and psychologists divide out-of-body experiences into two categories: induced and spontaneous. Methods for inducing an out-of-body experience include taking hallucinogens, entering trance states through meditation, listening to binaural beats to trigger brainwave frequencies, magnetic brain stimulation, sensory deprivation, and sensory overload.

The phenomenon can also arise spontaneously during sleep, and is often accompanied by lucid dreaming, in which people have control over the content of their dreams, and sleep paralysis, a condition in which the body shuts down for REM sleep while the mind stays awake, causing mental panic when the body doesn't respond to impulses to move or wake up. Near-death experiences also induce out-of-body experiences. People report a feeling of painlessness that leads them to believe they are dead, and sometimes encounter visions of God-like tunnels of light that would appear to lead to the afterlife.

Different cultures have developed and structured narratives around out-of-body experiences to explain the relatively common phenomenon. In these narratives, people may believe they are being visited by dead relatives, are being taken into the forest by witches, or inhabited by demonic spirits.