Can There Be Negative Effects from Meditation?
When Meditation Isn’t Calming!
Negative effects from meditation are not all that uncommon. In a 1992 study, Dean Shapiro, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at UCLA, Irvine, followed 27 people who attended a two-week meditation retreat. During meditation, 17 (62%) reported at least one adverse effect: fear, anxiety, confusion, depression or self-doubt.
Several other studies have shown similar findings, and in most it was the experienced meditators, not the beginners, who reported the most problems.
How could something that is supposed to minimize negative emotions cause them? Meditation experts point to several explanations...
First, some people have felt so stressed for so long that they are unfamiliar with deep relaxation and therefore feel threatened by it.
According to Patricia Carrington, Ph.D., a meditation researcher and author of Freedom in Meditation, meditators are most likely to experience the downside of this relaxation technique during the first ten minutes of a meditation session, when they are unwinding into a state of deep relaxation. The unwinding process is not always smooth, she notes. Sometimes jarring thoughts or feelings pop up.
But occasional “side effects” of meditation are no reason to stop doing it, Dr. Carrington says. If you begin to feel that the negative effects from meditation outweigh the benefits for you, switch to another stress management activity, such as walking, tai chi or yoga. And then try meditation when you are generally more relaxed!
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