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Mette Maja Mouritsen
Mette Maja Mouritsen


Goodwill to awareness anasthesia

Memory anaesthesia is a term doctor’s use for people who wake up after general anaesthesia, and tell about the surprising and frightening experiences they had during surgery while they were seemingly anesthetized and un- conscious. There is an interesting study made by some Danish psychologists in 2012, where they interviewed a number of patients who had experienced memory anaesthesia. This study illuminates consciousness as a formless and movable energy in the body, as “the thing” in humans, which is experiencing and observing the body’s sensations at the same time. Of special interests is the following common feature in the patients personal experiences:

They have lost sense of time: some believe that 5 minutes have elapsed others think several hours. They are in a timeless dimension, as when we dream.

They perceive: everyone experiences paralysation, as they cannot communicate with either body or speech. In addition, they have different sensory experiences, some hear conversation in the room, other sense touch of their bodies, some have pain, others feel anxiety, panic, guilt, disappointment.

They have another sense of reality: as they describe their experiences with words like: "perception of reality is changed", "I felt buried alive", "I felt dehumanised".

But who is experiencing all this?

According to medical science: "it should not happen" but it certainly is while the doctors are observing the patient in a death-like state of being. The person seems unconscious. But he is certainly not "un-conscious". His higher consciousness observes and senses what is going on. In a medical perspective it is somewhat incomprehensible, as the machines and the doctor apparently controls the heart, lungs and level of consciousness. These people's painful but valuable experiences, is to me a self created scientific proof of simultaneously existence at different level of consciousness, which can’t be seen measured and controlled.

The person with memory anaesthesia is present in a timeless state of being as the observer, and also in the present room, perceiving with his body while the operation is going on. Like the woman who describes her feeling of disappointment during the procedure: "The doctor had promised that she would not wake up the second time." This was her second memory anaesthesia despite the doctor’s great efforts.

So there is awareness at the cellular level as a more or less full-bodied experience, as the persons describe that they experience feelings, and bodily sensations like pain, touch and paralysis. And then there is the observer, the witness, which observes it all. Naturally they describe it afterward as a feeling of “derealisation” as they were experiencing it while they at the same time were laying “un-consciously” in the room. They experienced two realities at the same time. It was naturally a completely new and frightening experience to them, however both were real just at different levels of consciousness. The consciousness in the body experienced sensations during the operation, and the conscious observer of the on going operation in another timeless dimension.

Consciousness is with these people’s valuable experiences and descriptions, obviously a full-bodied experience at the cellular level and also at a higher level of consciousness. Consciousness is integrated in our entire body and it is also energetically connected with a higher awareness, as neither the brain nor the body can observe itself. It seems as if consciousness can be more or less integrated in the body as a whole from time to time, as experienced in memory anaesthesia, severe psychosis and near death experiences.

The descriptions from the memory anaesthesia patients have strikingly many features in common with people who have had near death experiences, out of body experience and severe psychosis. Many of them describe that "the sense of time is ceased", that they have a sense of “derealisation", and that they still sense in different ways, while experiencing this unfamiliar state of being. Without having shared their experiences with each other, they tell about some common features. Experiences, which cannot be explained by conventional medical science, and as science finds it difficult to understand and relate to, these patients may easily get a feeling of being wrong. As one of the memory anaesthesia patients described: " I feel guilt in not being able to take care of myself." Shame and guilt are heavy emotions to carry around. The patients are not “wrong”, neither before the operation or after or while they are telling about their experiences. In ignorance we may give the patients a feeling of being wrong or abnormal, when we do not understand what is going on. We doctors have great authority behind our words, so we must be particularly careful with our wording, especially if we call something abnormal when it basically is a normal variation, or reaction.

And It is either not the anaesthetic that causes this reaction, because it is fortunately rare that people have these experiences during an operation. And even if it was the form and the amount of anaesthesia, the point of interests is what they are experiencing while they are seemingly un-conscious. As previously described these derealisation experiences are recognizable by many other people in different contexts. It is about understanding consciousness and sensitivity and individual variation. I am sure that memory anaesthesia patients have a completely normal reaction to a very frightening experience. And I would like to honour them some good will for their valuable experiences.

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