Can Extreme Stress & Trauma Awaken Intuitive Abilities?

A reader from Bulgaria recently asked me whether traumatic events can open up our intuition. As part of her question, she gave an example of a famous Bulgarian psychic named Vanga:

“Vanga was very famous here in Bulgaria – many people went to her to ask for advice on present problems or about their future choices.

It is said that her intuitive abilities were awakened when at age 12 (in 1923) during a storm, she was taken in the air by strong winds and found at a different place much later. After this, she lost her sight and her intuitive abilities started growing stronger and she eventually became known as a great psychic.”

Yes – trauma can open up our intuitive abilities.

(And by a trauma, I am referring to a negative event that we are unable to process at the moment it occurs, due to it being very negative/sudden/overwhelming. A trauma is also something that threatens our survival, or something that we perceive to be life threatening.)

Baba Vanga is of course not the first human being to have been awakened and sensitized to the spiritual plane following a trauma. Archetypally, this is the path of the shaman.

The Path of the Shaman

A shaman is one who acts as a bridge between heaven and earth, and who has one foot in both worlds. The shaman is often initiated onto his path following some kind of life-threatening trauma – traditionally, it has involved being struck by lightning, or being struck down with a serious illness.

This reminds me of a Spanish Horror film I saw several years ago – el Orfanato (the Orphanage.) The main character, Laura brings in a medium to find out about the ghosts that haunt the orphanage she has bought. The medium explains her abilities by showing Laura her mangled and scarred arm and says:

“Those of us who have been close to death are much more receptive to such phenomena.”

How Does this Work?

During traumas and near death experiences, a person may dissociate (i.e. exit the body energetically.) Leaving one’s body in this way can result in developing a degree of sensitivity to the planes that lie beyond the physical. Some also believe that traumas can weaken the energy field, making us more porous and sensitive to spiritual phenomena.

These days, you don’t need to be struck by lightning or lifted into the air by a hurricane, Wizard-of-Oz-style to be initiated onto the path of the shaman and healer. Your trauma could have been a car accident, being physically assaulted, losing a loved one or having a difficult or dangerous birth, to give a few examples.

Why Do We Go Through Such Events to Awaken?

Sometimes Spirit wants to jolt us out of our current state of awareness and into one of spiritual awakening, because this is essential for the path ahead. Other times, you are pushed onto the shaman’s path because you are going to help others to heal, and the most effective healers have known suffering and have had their own ‘dark night of the soul’ experience.

Please note, however, that going through a traumatic or life-threatening experience is NOT necessary in every case to develop intuitive abilities. You can also do it much more pleasantly and gently through training and practice.

Have you experienced a spiritual or intuitive awakening following extreme stress or trauma?

Meet Anna

Hi, I’m Anna Sayce! My purpose here on this website is to provide practical techniques and information to help empaths to understand, and fix the root of their energetic overwhelm & also to help sensitives to embrace and develop their intuitive gifts. I believe that developing our spiritual & intuitive side is very powerful and allows us to improve our own lives, and if we wish, even make the world a better place for others. Discover more >


  1. Gerard

    What an excellent subject . It is very rarely discussed , but very important. I found , that I discovered my soul through trauma . Luckily , I have found gentler ways now . Thanks Anna !. Your writing ,helps all of us be more open and powerful

  2. Paul Schofield

    Well, maybe the following are not life threatening traumas, but here are two things that happened to me when under great stress:

    The first occurred many years ago, when my wife and I were fostering children, and we were given a new born baby girl in emergency placement. Her mother was on serious drugs and had just stabbed her support worker with a knife. The poor baby was probably full of drugs and had been born into a maelstrom of emotion, and because of this she hardly ever slept and cried and cried all the time, and was really in a very unhappy state.

    Nothing would console her, and we both had had no sleep at all for many days, giving her all the love we could. Eventually we realised we were totally exhausted and could not continue to care for her without sufficient sleep so we devised a shift system. As soon as I was able to go to sleep I went out like a light.

    The very next moment I was standing by my body, outside of it, so I decided to go into the next room, and found myself in that room as soon as the thought had entered my head.
    Realising that I was having an OBE (out of the body experience), I decided to go to the town one mile distant, and as soon as I had I wished to do this, I went straight through the brick walls of the house as though they weren’t there, whooshed through the air at incredible speed and found myself in the town centre. The town was lit up and people were walking in the street, just like a normal night.

    Sadly, I then snapped straight back to bed, woke up, and then went into a very deep sleep.

    The second occasion occurred just seven years ago, during a period of extreme emotional stress. We decided to holiday in a hotel to take our minds off the large problem we had at the time, it was a material problem that I had unwittingly caused, partly through lack of knowledge, partly through foolishness, and if the outcome were bad it would have a profound effect.

    On the last night in the hotel, around midnight, the light in the bathroom, which was on a pull cord, commenced trying to switch itself on with a very distinctive sound, every few minutes.

    The strange thing is I knew just before it happened, that it was going to happen, in fact I seemed to know that somehow I was causing it to move. I found this somewhat frightening, and the action was always preceded by a strange tingling or vibration within my body that built up very quickly. There was nothing I could do to stop it.

    This went on for about half an hour. At one point I got up, went into the bathroom and stayed right by the pull cord but nothing at all then happened so I went back to bed. My wife was awake and witnessed all of this.

    I remember thinking “well at least the light itself isn’t actually coming on”, whereupon the tingling built up again and the light did come on. I had to get up to turn it off. I went back to bed, feeling a little scared, and fell asleep.

  3. Susan Londono

    Hi Anna, I would like to tell you my story as briefly as I can. About 3 yrs ago I had an experience where I instantly was so tired I needed to lie down. I immediately fell into a sleep paralysis state. Initially I was afraid but that feeling was replaced by an overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance. At the time I knew nothing about chakras or kundalini. Some being came to me and was massaging my lower back and hip area, I could feel this massage extend well past my body. I was communicating mentally with this being. I felt like I knew him forever and the love I was feeling was like nothing I’ve ever felt. In my mind I could sense that he was taller than a man could be but I couldn’t mentally see a face. I dont know how I know this but at the time there was a feeling of remembering and knowing. I feel I was made to know that he was human and I knew him in the past. I also feel he was an angel. There was a sense of a bright light behind me where he was. At one point he turned around behind himself and told others “Not yet, give her time. ” there were others behind him and I sensed they were anxious and excited to connect with me. All of this was so beautiful and peaceful. I felt he was massaging love into me and reminding me how beautiful I was. This had nothing to do with physical beauty and I don’t have low self esteem. I could feel surges of love emanating thru me. This massage continued for a while with circular motions from the hip buttock area to well outside my body. In no way was this sexual. Everyone I have told this story to looks at me like I’m crazy, so I’ve learned the hard way and now I keep it to myself mostly. I have gone to psychics and even to a well known shaman. The shaman thinks I channeled an angel. I meditate daily and I do your chakra clearing meditation often. Ever since that experience I have an insatiable need to read everything I can and learn all I can. I feel I am an empath. This has been beautiful and exhausting. I am a hairdresser and it is difficult sometimes. Lately I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed and depressed, this is not me! I am usually very happy and upbeat. I know now that I’ve been an empath my whole life. Things are finally making sense and I feel that my kundalini has been awakened. I feel very drawn to Buddhism, crystals and the chakra system. I’m struggling with what to do next. I leave my job so exhausted every day and I have a constant pain in the area of the heart chakra. When I meditate I definitely connect and I can feel tingles and surges in my body. In the beginning it almost felt as if I was being touched on my legs and feet. A psychic told me that my angels were healing my legs. I stand all day and have been a busy hairdresser for 38 years. My hands used to get red and hot after a busy week at work. I am in perfect health with just normal issues of a 57 year old woman. Mostly digestive which the docs told me is from anxiety. I’m very active and young looking for my age. At least that is what everyone tells me. I’ve had a lot of hard times in my life but I have powered thru them with prayer and faith in God. I’ve been obsessed with angels for more than 25 years. I believe one came to me back in 1984 after I lost my first husband. At the time my son was 6-7 months old. I was distraught one night when I felt a powerful surge of electricity go thru my body, starting from the top of my head and out thru my toes. Of course at the time it scared me. Now I can look back at things over my life and I realize that all of those unexplainable events were angels or guides. There is so much more to tell, but I would love to hear your thoughts about all this. I still would love to know who it was that came to me and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I have asked the angels who is with me but I get no answers. Someone I know who owns the crystal shop I go to told me it was Metatron . He said he heard a voice behind him,while I was in his store. I’ve read about Metatron and that would make sense because he was a human first then he became an angel. I have many synchronicities every day, yet I feel stuck and depressed. It almost feels like the depressive thoughts aren’t mine as I’ve never felt this feeling of hopelessness before. I have a very happy life and a good family and friends. Of course I have my ups and downs,but nothing to warrant these yucky feelings coming over me out of nowhere. When I feel this happening I will do your chakra cleansing meditation and it helps, but the negative emotions creep back in eventually. I learned many things while meditating, I almost see a movie in my mind. I feel I am being taught. In the beginning I was shown things about Buddhism. At the time I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I also had an experience on Easter Sunday this year while babysitting my 7 yr old grandson. I feel my deceased husband came to me while meditating. I feel he entered my thoughts, and the best way to describe it was to acknowledge his grandson. That was the first time that happened. It was beautiful and made me cry because my grandson was sleeping next to me. I also felt a powerful surge of love go through me. The feeling is similar to being on a roller coaster except for the fact that instead of my stomach dropping, the feeling whooshes up from my belly. I know I’m opening up and I am very intuitive yet I’m feeling stuck, I’m craving something, some sort of change. I just don’t know what. I hope I was able to convey my thoughts appropriately,I am a very sane and functional person with a comfortable life and career. Despite a few tragedies in my life I feel I have been blessed and continue to feel blessed every day.

  4. Leila

    I haven’t had what would be called life threatening trauma but I have broken my arm and gotten a compound fracture which was really painful and somewhat recently I broke my wrist which made me want to be more aware of my intuition because I had a bad feeling that could have stopped me from making the choice that resulted in me breaking my wrist.

  5. Paul Lane

    Yes. My spiritual and intuitive emotions have increased because of extreme stress and trauma.

  6. HJ Tanner

    Hi Anna

    Yes! I’ve had many wake up calls and various brushes with my intuitive side but after losing my husband to suicide in January it became something I was unable to run from any longer. I have found it very difficult through the grief block. I remember how much easier it was before this event (to tune in) – now I have to work so much harder ♥

  7. Hiranmoy Bhattacharyya

    I’ve experienced extreme trauma during 11 years., its till now continuing. Probably my kundalini is awakening. I don’t know what I should do. When the full course will complete.

  8. Anna Sayce

    Ann – very interesting – thanks for sharing!

  9. Ann

    Welcome! I do think, though, that for many people a *combination* of spirituality and trauma work is most supportive – healers etc who don’t just get spirituality, but who also have some solid up-to-date training about how the nervous system functions. While it is certainly very painful for clients when professionals can’t relate to spiritual issues, my sense is that some people prolong their suffering by waiting for a spiritual breakthrough, and some good somatic trauma therapy can be the most spiritual thing by helping to integrate states of expansion (for many people, it can be very confusing and exhausting to sometimes experience very spiritual states, and then be thrown back into hell again, and my own experience is that somatic trauma therapy can really help with that because that (hellish) part of the experience often is a nervous system thing and not a spiritual problem, while the post-traumatic growth of course is very spiritual).

  10. Anna Sayce

    Ann – That is a good point you make.

    Spiritual & intuitive development is not enough to recover from trauma. For recovery, sounds like you’re referring to Somatic experiencing, which some of my clients have found helpful, too. Lots of other helpful modalities out there, such as EMDR and Cranio-sacral therapy.

    The issue I have found is that it can unfortunately take people a long time to figure out they are dealing with trauma. Not many people make that link between their spiritual awakening and the traumatic element that might have caused it.

  11. Anna Sayce

    Thank you to everyone else who posted here with their experiences, insights and stories!


  12. Ann

    Anna – I worked with a therapist who combined Somatic Experiencing and Craniosacral Biodynamics, and had a grounded spiritual background, that was like Paradise in the middle of a rough time…

    For me personally, it was hard to admit to myself that I was dealing with trauma, because I had a very inaccurate idea about it. Because it sometimes made life so hard, I sometimes thought I was dealing with a bad mental health problem, and at other times just tried to pretend everything was fine by clinging to better feeling states. Understanding that trauma is a physical problem much more than a mental health one and getting adequate support really helped me.

    Wishing all the best to all of us, wherever we may be on our journey!

  13. Mae

    hi Anna
    Thanking you for your website, it is a revelation. I especially related to Susan Londono’s situation. Being an empath and feeling others pain and sadness and also happiness – it comes out of no where and is from people I know.
    It’s hard but you just have to roll with it. would be great if there was a platform where empaths could get help to manage this!

  14. Saanenthar

    To Susan Londono:

    I’ve read your story and thought I’d give you a hint on what could possibly help you find answers you’re looking for. If you like, try googling up Pleiadians, Arcturians and Adromedans and then look up indigos / starchildren. See if anything resonates with you. I’m not trying to sell you any movement or religion here. Look for the truth within yourself, but this info could give you a little nudge in the right direction.

  15. Anna Sayce

    Ann – thanks for sharing your experience – glad to hear you found a therapist who helped you!

  16. Susan Londono

    To Saanenthar:
    I appreciate you commenting. So far your suggestions have been interesting. I googled pleidians and have been finding some similarities to things I’ve been experiencing. The connection to the Cherokee tribe may have some meaning. I will continue to see what resonates with me the most.
    Thank you !

  17. Shyann

    Hi Anna 🙂
    I totally agree w/ the trauma opening up abilities.
    It’s as if u connect w/ ur soul,..and one realizes we
    R a soul that lives in a body. U connect more to the
    spiritual side of life and not so much the 3D aspect.
    My own spiritual awakening came to me after having
    chronic health issues, it’s like the Universe keeps
    tapping u on the shoulder to get u to “wake up” and
    sometimes it has to hit u hard to get ur attention.
    A change in perception of reality and what is
    truly important happens. This is called “the shift”.
    Your reality shifts..and one realizes they need to do
    the inner work that will help u know who u really r.
    To “know thyself” is knowing the true essence of
    the soul that u r. We r all soul travelers…most people
    haven’t understood this. What I do is “soul work”…
    and I have studied and went in very deep and now
    I am able to help others. I have answered the call,
    i’m fully awake, and am here in service. Thank U
    Anna for being of service ~ Namaste ~ Love & Light


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