The Dark Side of Meditation
Around a quarter of people who meditate regularly report stressful moods during their exercises. This is shown by a study for which Marco Schlosser from University College London and his colleagues interviewed a good 1,000 people experienced in meditation.
Around 25 percent of the participants stated that they also had "clearly unpleasant experiences" such as anxiety during or shortly after an exercise. There were clear differences: female and religious respondents spoke less frequently of negative meditation experiences; People who tend to brooding thought spirals anyway, more often. Above all, the type of meditation influenced the mood. For example, practitioners of certain Zen and Vipassana techniques mentioned negative experiences more often. Less affected were people who used mindfulness techniques such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) or approaches aimed at cultivating kindness, (self-)kindness and empathy.
The results underscore and differentiate earlier warnings that the hype about meditation can also have harmful consequences. According to the authors, it is questionable to arouse the expectation that meditation as a self-optimization program in a social competition simply makes the practitioners generally calmer and more relaxed. On the contrary, the opposite can happen, especially with attention-focused techniques that sometimes bring out stress and doubts, or with meditation approaches that also deal specifically with negative experiences.
However, the researchers say that this should not be classified as harmful across the board. Instead, it is important that a professional companion helps the practitioner to classify such experiences correctly. In addition, not every type of meditation is suitable for everyone who is interested.