Author Uses a Personal Crisis to Help Transform Self & Others
by Charles Swedrock
How can some thrive in the midst of crisis? Rehabilitation specialist Jim Macartney, having himself journeyed to the edge of life and back via a near death experience (NDE) in 1997, found that though he is on long-term disability for epilepsy and heart damage, he feels more alive, more engaged than ever in his life.
The NDE deepened his search for the reasons why some people thrive, even transform their lives, in the aftermath of crisis. Since the 1980s, he’s sought out people who have endured the most extreme of crises, yet opened to entirely new ways of being as a direct result of the havoc the crises wrought.
Clear patterns of growth reveal themselves in the scores of people he interviewed and the many hundreds he counseled over the last twenty-five years. These people had somehow stumbled upon what Macartney calls the Crisis to Creation Cycle: a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Sometimes, even unexpected physical healing is observed to follow in the wake of letting go to the capacities and desires already within. Paradoxically such healing seems to be spawned by acting and seeing oneself as already able and whole. Recent brain research demonstrates how mobilizing one’s residual abilities can actually change the brain subsequent to traumatic brain injury—a natural plasticity once thought impossible. What is also observed is that many people often go on to lead richer and more rewarding lives than even before their illness or injury, even if they have not fully recovered from the trauma itself. This requires a new way of understanding our relationship to our bodies and ourselves.
Amazingly, this same pattern of inner growth is even more striking in people who have died and been revived.
The December 15, 2001 issue of the prestigious medical journal Lancet features a thirteen-year study focused on patients who were determined clinically dead following a cardiac arrest and then successfully resuscitated. The author, Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel, found 18% of the patients claimed to have had a near-death experience (NDE). In the wake of their NDEs, these people found themselves more compassionate and less afraid of death as a final ending.
The subjects felt as if there is no difference be¬tween others and themselves. They saw life was not about power, appearance, nice cars, clothes, a young body. It’s about completely different things: love for yourself, for nature, for your fellow human beings.
The similarity of the NDE with people growing through crisis of any kind is striking: both groups demonstrate increasing inner resilience, compassion for others, sharing, caring, wanting to serve and expanded clarity of purpose.
We all possess these attributes deep within, ready to be unleashed. Jim’s NDE opened him to a state of being he knows is possible for humans to attain without having to almost die. It is a matter of letting go.
Einstein seemed to realize this himself when he stated: “The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has found liberation from the self.”
James W. Macartney, author of “Crisis to Creation: Our Power of Choice” is coming to Tucson in March (see ad on page xx) to speak about his near-death experience and how he had to walk the path that he, as a rehabilitation specialist, had helped others do before him. Jim is also offering a workshop on how others can implement the insights from these lessons in their own lives without being traumatized to face the changes required. Rehabilitation thus becomes recovery and growth guided by the principles he will present in a structured program called Post Traumatic Growth.
Charles Swedrock is co-facilitator of the Tucson IANDS* Experience Sharing (TIES) peer group that has monthly meetings for sharing near-death and similar transformative experiences. The TIES group also sponsors a guest speaker series that has brought Mr. Macartney to Tucson this month. More information on TIES events can be found at meetup.com/spiritual-explorations or call 520-395-2365.
Van Lommel, Pim. “Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands.” Lancet 358, no. 9298 (December 15, 2001): 2039–2045.
Graves, Lee. “Altered States: Scientists Analyze the Near-Death Experience.” The University of Virginia Magazine, Summer 2007.
Einstein, Albert. Ideas and Opinions. Based on Mein Weltbild, edited by Carl Seelig and other sources. Translated by Sonja Bargmann. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1995.
* IANDS = International Association for Near-Death Studies (www.iands.org)