Positive psychology and mediumship
When you think about positive psychology, the subject that is probably furthest from your mind is that of the conundrum of whether consciousness survives physical death.
However, recent research asking participants about their experiences with a medium, who is someone seen to act as a mediator between this world and the next, has made its own bridge between the two distinct disciplines. I conducted a qualitative piece of research where people who had experienced bereavement felt that they had received communication from a loved one who had died, via a sitting with a medium.
Hope, resilience and post-traumatic growth
The reason I chose this topic was that I had seen as a natural observer how people gained hope, buffering against stress, resilience and growth personally, and as psychology studies human behaviour, and so many people visit spiritualist churches or mediums, it made sense to explore what they were gaining from the experience.
Carrying out the research
The research involved interviewing seven participants and asking for a retrospective account of a sitting that they’d had with a medium, also using some semi structured questions around ‘hope, resilience and post traumatic growth’.
Reflexivity was very important for me as the researcher because I also work as a medium, so no questions assuming a phenomenon such as after life beliefs being absolute or true were posed.
After transcribing the interviews, coding was used to identify themes, and these then became the backbone for the findings. There were six main themes, and they all appeared to encompass positive psychological topics.
The findings of the research
What became apparent was that even if participants had no belief before the sitting, what they considered to be robust evidence that they had received contact from the afterlife was enough to alter their belief system to one where they did feel that contact had been established and evidence of this had been given.
One participant talked about the medium describing the death circumstances of the contact from spirit (suicide) and the contact apologising for this and the trauma it had caused. She also described things mentioned which the medium couldn’t possibly know and this led to her belief that she had no doubt it was her son. She also described the sense of renewed hope that this brought her that she would gain peace again in her own life.
The positive psychology topics which I was looking for or hoping to find, were very much in evidence.
Resilience was shown in various ways to be enhanced after a sitting, hope was also identified as being enhanced or returned to participants, and it was also reported that where there had been trauma about a death, this was also somewhat reduced allowing for growth to come from the experience.
What the participants experienced
Some participants reported sense of presence such as feeling cold, and this also allowed for the belief that they had received communication from a loved one who had passed away.
Further, enduring bonds were also explained as being relevant because four participants felt that they had not lost the person entirely and felt after the sitting that they were not alone. (Existential isolation.)
Futher research for positive psychology
If we are to do justice to positive psychology then we will see more studies emerge looking at these types of harder topics, which is where positive psychology could be seen to allow for the exploration of more difficult topics, and where also blending of constructs can reveal meaningful ways that resilience, hope and growth can be found.