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 references her maternal love for her 5 year old son as a strong baseline, and then claims that the sense of love that overwhelmed her in the bathroom greatly surpasses it.
I find this testimony impressive. There are 2 aspects about this testimony that intrigue me a lot:
- This lady experienced an emotional transition from deep despair to immense peace and love in just seconds. How is this possible?
- Not only that, but also as a result of this experience she was completely healed from bulimia and anorexia, despite suffering these eating disorders for 4 years and numerous failed attempts to quit up to that point.
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 had a sleep paralysis "attack" but with an unprecedented level of intensity. In similar fashion to the previous testimony, she cried out "Jesus, save me" a couple times, she broke down emotionally, cried for 1 hour, and afterwards she began to experience a sudden deliverance from all her addictions and mental health issues, without ever relapsing again. This experience is narrated from 27:37 to 33:41 in the video. And there is more. At 42:41 she tells that she changed so dramatically that her attraction to women also stopped, she stopped being a lesbian.
I find this second testimony incredible. She had a very intense sleep paralysis "attack", in desperation she cried out for help, then she broke down emotionally and cried for 1 hour, and afterwards all her addictions and mental health issues stopped. And she also stopped being a lesbian. I just don't know how to express my perplexity and puzzlement at this testimony.
So, 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 be free from years of addiction or compulsive habits or mental health issues in a matter of seconds, without therapy?