Gale MinchewHave you ever felt the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Found goose bumps racing up your arms even without a change in temperature? Thought you heard someone calling your name, but no one was near? Seen something move out of the corner of your eye, only to turn in the direction of the movement to find nothing there? Smelled your grandfather’s cigar or the lingering scent of cologne even though he died several years back?

Or, perhaps you talk to angels or see ghosts and spirits…

Paranormal experiences come in many forms, some obvious, some quite subtle. Many people are reluctant to share these experiences with others. What if they don’t believe me? Maybe they’ll think I’m crazy. That didn’t just happen…did it?

A bump in the night, the hairs standing up on the back of your neck, visions of something in the distance, colors mysteriously appearing around people you encounter, strange dreams of flight or travel to distant or unknown places, a mother’s intuition, knowledge of things before they happen…these are just a few examples of paranormal phenomena. So, does any of this sound familiar?

In my professional practice, I meet many people who have experienced one or even several of the events described above. At times, they are reluctant to mention these encounters due to cultural of personal belief systems. Some individuals think something is ‘wrong’ with them, and they need to be ‘fixed.’ And yet, others openly discuss incidences of a paranormal nature without hesitation or fear of reprisal. You may wonder why some people are open about these experiences and others reluctant. Before exploring other people’s motives, take a moment and ask yourself, “Have I ever experienced a paranormal event, and would I ever admit to it?”

Responses to paranormal experiences vary as extensively as the types of phenomena encountered. Most practitioners in my field discount these occurrences as hallucinations or delusions. Perhaps we should medicate or admit him or her to the local psychiatric hospital for treatment. I admit there are many instances that are legitimate mental health issues and must be treated as such. But, there are some cases that are valid instances of the paranormal…ghosts, spirits, angels, auras, a sixth sense, clairvoyance, spiritual travel, and so much more.

storm approachingPerhaps the one issue I find most often in these cases, whether the person embraces the experience or struggles to refute it, is the increase in stress. Symptoms associated with this stress may include the same symptoms found in panic attacks and some cases of a more generalized anxiety: rapid heartbeat, trembling, shortness of breath, sweaty hands, muscle tension, dizziness, chills, apprehension, and a myriad of fears. That fear may be founded in rejection, criticism, or perhaps just a fear of the unknown…

Some people seek professional help, others find supportive friends, and still others search on their own for answers to reduce the stress associated with the paranormal phenomena. There are a number of techniques used to reduce stress, but I will touch upon only a few here.

1. Relaxation training is a wonderful tool for any incidence of stress, including those resulting from the paranormal. Various relaxation techniques exist, but measured breathing is standard to most. Inhale deep, calming breaths, counting as you breathe in.

2. For those who are visually oriented, it may help to close your eyes and visualize a place of tranquility, as imagery and deep breathing often go hand in hand.

3. For those who believe in a higher power, they may benefit from a request for specific or general protection, depending upon the nature of their experience.

4. Some individuals may reduce stress most effectively through the recreation of the incident, or ‘in vivo exposure’ as we clinicians call it. Take yourself through the event, step-by-step, same place, same situation, relive the moment.

5. Finally, you may benefit from a technique used to calm the body, as well as the mind. Meditation may be used whether you want to clear your mind, normalize your body’s response to stressors, or facilitate an ongoing awareness of psychic abilities.

old graveyardRegardless of the technique you prefer, either the few presented here or the vast collection of other stress reduction techniques I have not touched upon in this article, research and practice are the key to the reduction of stress related symptoms. So, when you see a lone shadow in the distance, hear something go bump in the night, or experience an incidence of déjà vu, what will be your response?

Shadows of Destiny by Gale MinchewGale Minchew is a licensed psychologist who resides in East Texas with her husband and two children. In her professional practice, Dr. Minchew specializes in issues related to children and families. However, over the past couple of years, she has consulted with adults and children who have experienced a broad range of paranormal phenomena, as well. Her first novel, Shadows of Destiny, is a young adult-crossover novel inspired by the paranormal. In the Piney Woods of East Texas, eighteen year old Analise Michaels navigates the tangled web of drama and hysterics during her senior year of high school. But, Analise isn’t like other teenagers. She travels in her sleep. She talks to angels. Spirits are drawn to her pureness of heart. She can see and hear what others cannot, or perhaps that which they simply refuse to acknowledge. As she attempts to uncover the lost soul that is haunting her dreams, she finds an unlikely friend and makes several enemies along the way. Her life becomes inescapably intertwined with an enigmatic stranger she must depend upon to help her unravel the mystery behind her haunted dreams and finally release the Shadows of Destiny.