This may come as a surprise, especially when we’re hearing the antithesis of the statement ahead so often, that we’ve considered it to be the gospel truth. According to a recent study, meditation, which is widely known for being the ultimate treatment for all mental health issue, may not be the most pleasant experience for everyone. The scientists who carried out this study also advocated more studies in this manner to get to the bottom of this issue. The group of researchers from University College London said that more than a quarter of people who meditated regularly had a 'particularly unpleasant' psychological experience related to the practice, including feelings of fear and distorted emotions.
"These findings point to the importance of widening the public and scientific understanding of meditation beyond that of a health-promoting technique," said Marco Schlosser, a researcher at UCL. "Very little is known about why, when, and how such meditation-related difficulties can occur: more research is now needed to understand the nature of these experiences," Schlosser said in a statement.
"When are unpleasant experiences important elements of meditative development, and when are they merely negative effects to be avoided?" he said.
The research was conducted along with a research group at Witten/Herdecke University in Germany, and the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia was triggered by a limited but growing number of research reports and case studies, which indicate psychologically unpleasant experiences can occur during meditative practice.
Apart from that traditional Buddhist texts were also referred to for more details. Of the 1,232 participants, 25.6 percent indicated that they had previously encountered particularly unpleasant meditation-related experiences.
More people, 29.2 percent, who practiced only deconstructive types of meditation reported a particularly unpleasant experience, compared to 20.3 percent who only engaged in other meditation types. About 29 percent of those who had been on a meditation retreat (at any point in life) had a particularly unpleasant experience, compared with 19.6 percent, who had never been on a retreat.
"Most research on meditation has focussed on its benefits, however, the range of meditative experiences studied by scientists needs to be expanded. It is important at this point not to draw premature conclusions about the potential negative effects of meditation," Schlosser said. Researchers acknowledged a number of limitations in the study.
The study only asked one question to capture the prevalence of particularly unpleasant meditation-related experiences. The data does not provide any indication of the exact type of experiences or their severity and impact. The study did not assess possible pre-existing mental health problems, which could have confounded the prevalence estimate of particularly unpleasant meditation-related experiences.
The data also do not allow researchers to clearly infer whether meditation caused these experiences.