Can someone be healed from a long-held addiction or compulsive disorder in an instant due to a dramatic spiritual experience and without therapy?
My question is motivated by multiple conversion testimonies in which people claim to have had dramatic life-changing spiritual "encounters" or experiences that put an immediate end to behavioural addictions, substance addictions, mental health issues, among others. For illustrative purposes, I'm sharing below two conversion testimonies that I find quite impressive and don't know how to explain from a psychological point of view, and therefore I believe they can be interesting case studies.
This testimony has many details, but I want to focus here on the eating disorder aspect of it (from 15:47 to 23:34), and the experience this girl had that made her free in a matter of seconds. This girl had been suffering from bulimia and anorexia for 4 years, with multiple failed attempts to quit the behaviour up to that point. According to her testimony, in December of 2017 she was throwing up in the bathroom, she was feeling impotent, hopeless and desperate. In the midst of this, she had the sudden occurrence to mentally cry out "Jesus" and immediately, in a matter of seconds, a feeling of immense love and peace overwhelmed her. But most astonishingly, as a result of this overwhelming emotional experience, her 4 year bondage to bulimia and anorexia immediately stopped. According to her testimony, the experience happened 2 years prior to the recording of the video, and she has never relapsed or even had the desire to ever since.
She devotes a good part of the video to describe in great detail her bathroom experience. She employs an interesting analogy to help the audience understand her experience: she referenced her maternal love for her 5 year old son as a strong baseline, and then claimed that the sense of love that overwhelmed her in the bathroom greatly surpassed it.
I find this testimony quite impressive, and there are 2 aspects that I find particularly intriguing:
- This lady experienced a spontaneous emotional transition from deep despair to overwhelming love and peace in just seconds. How is this possible?
- As a result of this 'ecstatic' experience (let's call it that way), she was instantly healed of bulimia and anorexia, despite a track record of 4 years of failed attempts at quitting.
This testimony describes a somewhat similar experience to the first one. In short: a woman tells that for decades she used to deal with severe depression, strong anger and hatred issues, porn addiction and compulsive stealing. She also mentions that she used to be a lesbian, and for many years experienced sleep paralysis "attacks" at night and felt "evil presences" during these episodes. According to her testimony, one night she experienced a sleep paralysis episode that was unusually intense (extremely intense). In similar fashion to the previous testimony, she cried out in desperation "Jesus, save me" a couple times, broke down emotionally, cried for 1 hour, and experienced afterwards a sudden freedom from all her past addictions and mental health issues, without relapses. This experience is narrated in detail from 27:37 to 33:41 in the video.
But there is more. At 42:41 she tells that her change was so dramatic that it even affected her sexual preferences. Yes, that's right, her same-sex attraction stopped -- she wasn't lesbian anymore.
I find this second testimony incredible as well. This woman had an intense episode of sleep paralysis, cried out for help in desperation, broke into tears and cried for 1 hour, and then, boom!, all her addictions and mental health issues were pretty much gone. Back to factory settings. Completely healed. No therapies needed. Just an ecstatic/cathartic experience and that's it.
I'm really intrigued to know a psychological explanation for these testimonies. I imagine that if we could learn how to tap into the power of our minds to suddenly turn our emotions into peace and love (like in the first testimony) or experience a strong emotional catharsis (like in the second testimony) to free ourselves from years of addictions and unhealthy compulsive disorders in a matter of seconds, that would just revolutionize therapy and addiction recovery programs.
So, what is really going on psychologically in these testimonies? Do these experiences have a name? How is it possible for a person to suddenly quit years of addiction or compulsive habits or mental health issues in a matter of seconds, without therapy and without relapsing?