Quantum Change: When Epiphanies and Sudden Insights Transform Ordinary Lives [NOOK Book]


Most of us walk through each day expecting few surprises. If we want to better ourselves or our lives, we map out a path of gradual change, perhaps in counseling or psychotherapy. Psychologists William Miller and Janet C'de Baca were longtime scholars and teachers of traditional approaches to self-improvement when they became intrigued by a different sort of change that was sometimes experienced by people they encountered--something often described as "a bolt from the blue" or "seeing the light." And when they ...
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Quantum Change: When Epiphanies and Sudden Insights Transform Ordinary Lives

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Most of us walk through each day expecting few surprises. If we want to better ourselves or our lives, we map out a path of gradual change, perhaps in counseling or psychotherapy. Psychologists William Miller and Janet C'de Baca were longtime scholars and teachers of traditional approaches to self-improvement when they became intrigued by a different sort of change that was sometimes experienced by people they encountered--something often described as "a bolt from the blue" or "seeing the light." And when they placed a request in a local newspaper for people's stories of unexpected personal transformation, the deluge of responses was astounding. These compelling stories of epiphanies and sudden insights inspired Miller and C'de Baca to examine the experience of "quantum change" through the lens of scientific psychology. Where does quantum change come from? Why do some of us experience it, and what kind of people do we become as a result? The answers that this book arrives at yield remarkable insights into how human beings achieve lasting change--sometimes even in spite of ourselves.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Psychologists C'de Baca and Miller (both Univ. of New Mexico) define "quantum change" as a kind of sudden "personal metamorphosis." People who experience it, they believe, are sources of untapped potential for universal human healing. Collected here are dozens of "before and after" tales that the authors derived from interviews, letters, and telephone calls. These tales reflect two types of quantum change sudden insights and epiphanies as well as their characteristics. The authors successfully assert that as a person is guided to a new place of authentic truth within himself or herself, peacefulness and inner strength ensue, and a positive shift in core values results. Unfortunately, the authors do not effectively address the other side that is, quantum changes that bring negative outcomes for the examples they give do not exhibit most of the characteristics of quantum change. Still, this work is valuable because it teaches ordinary people not to fear sudden spiritual encounters. For large psychology collections in public libraries. Lisa Liquori, Syracuse, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Bill Miller and Janet C'de Baca have written a wonderful book. Not since William James's Varieties of Religious Experience has there been such a psychologically penetrating book on spiritual experience." --George E. Vaillant, MD, Harvard Medical School

"Although many people spend years struggling to fix personal problems, some people undergo sudden, dramatic, and nearly instantaneous change. This book tells their stories and identifies the core features of these transformational changes. The idea of quantum change is arguably among the most exciting in psychology, since it challenges both common sense and clinical lore. This book will appeal to anyone interested in psychological change, transformation, or the human condition. In other words, this book is for everyone." --Todd F. Heatherton, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College

"Reading Quantum Change is a mystical experience of its own. This is an exceptionally well written book that I found inspirational, enlightening, and a 'must read.' After reading this book, don't be surprised if you think about change in a new way." --Monty Roberts, author of the New York Times best seller, The Man Who Listens to Horses

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781462504367
  • Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/21/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 212
  • Sales rank: 493,061
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

William R. Miller, PhD, is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico. He has published 40 books, including Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change, and his many scientific publications reflect his interests in the psychology of change, the treatment of addictions, and the interface of psychology and spirituality. The Institute for Scientific Information lists him as one of the world's most cited scientists.
Janet C'de Baca, PhD, received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of New Mexico. She is currently a research scientist with the Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest, in Albuquerque. Her professional interests include cross-cultural psychology and the prevention and treatment of addictive behaviors.
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Read an Excerpt

Quantum Change

When Epiphanies and Sudden Insights Transform Ordinary Lives
By William R. Miller Janet C'de Baca

The Guilford Press

Copyright © 2001 The Guilford Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57230-505-3

Chapter One


The mathematics underlying three hundred years of science, though powerful and successful, have encouraged a one-sided view of change. These mathematical principles are ideally suited to analyze-because they were created to analyze-smooth, continuous, quantitative change: the smoothly curving paths of planets around the sun, the continuously varying pressure of a gas as it is heated and cooled, the quantitative increase of a hormone level in the bloodstream. But there is another kind of change, too, change that is less suited to mathematical analysis: the abrupt bursting of a bubble, the discontinuous transition from ice at its melting point to water at its freezing point, the qualitative shift in our minds when we "get" a pun or a play on words. -Alexander Woodcock and Monte Davis, Catastrophe Theory


Change happens. It is one of the few constants of life. Like a canoe on a river, the question is not how to start to move but rather where your current course of movement is taking you.

Usually change is gradual, cumulative, like drifting slowly down-stream. Call it Type 1 change, or the"educational" variety, as William James termed it in his The Varieties of Religious Experience. You shift or drift a little bit at a time and, as with growing children, the changes may be most apparent to those who haven't seen you for a while.

Yet sometimes change also comes in big waves. Type 2 change is more like hitting the rapids. You are drifting along, and all of a sudden, before you know what has happened, you're moving fast and find yourself in a very different place. Every day some people's lives are thus changed forever in a matter of moments.

In many cases, Type 2 change results from the acts of humans toward one another or from the twists of fate sometimes referred to as acts of God. The results may be for good or for ill. In a popular early television series called The Millionaire, a mysterious and fabulously wealthy philanthropist chose ordinary people, not randomly but by some knowing and discerning process, to receive a gift of one million dollars tax-free. A cashier's check from the anonymous donor was delivered by a messenger, with absolutely no strings attached. The fascination in this dramatic series was what each new millionaire would do with the sudden and unearned gift and how it would change his or her life. The outcomes were sometimes uplifting, sometimes disastrous. Accidents, heart attacks, inheritances, storms, lotteries, fires, diagnoses, chance meetings, and bullets all permanently change lives each day. Sometimes it is a matter of just being in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time. We try to insure ourselves against adverse intrusions and to place ourselves in the path of windfalls, but we remain subject to many external forces beyond our control.


Quantum change is a particular kind of Type 2 change. It may occur in conjunction with a significant external event, but in no sense can it be understood as a normal and ordinary consequence of such an event (at least not within current conceptions of change). It may be just as dramatic as natural responses to traumas or windfalls, but the drama tends to unfold within the person. People standing near an individual in the midst of a quantum change may have no inkling that anything important is happening. On the inside of that person, however, there is no doubt about it.


It is absolutely clear to quantum changers that something out of the ordinary is occurring and that life will never be the same again. Through some identifiable, often dramatic, and usually quite memorable event, the person is transformed. It is utterly obvious to the individual that something has happened, something extraordinary.

Typically quantum changers can point to a particularly salient moment in which something happened to them. It may happen over the course of a few hours or days, but often it is a matter of minutes-"instantaneously," some say. The experience has a distinct beginning, though often a less marked ending, if it ends at all. There may be strongly ingrained sensory memories of the event: several people remembered a sense of brightness in everything around them; some remembered feeling cold or chills; others the feeling of incredible warmth. One woman found that "suddenly even the desert was pretty. I'm not trying to be poetic about it in any way. It was just like being given rose-colored glasses." Another described a specific feeling in her chest of "pain, suffocation, death" that was at the same time both agonizing and joyous. Yet another said that "the coffee tasted better. My vision had been widened considerably. I'm trying, but words ... I have trouble here. It was sort of like instead of walking on the ground I was walking several inches above where I had been before."

A majority of quantum changers still recall the date, time, and vivid details of their experience many years later.

I just know that this experience made a difference in my life; it saved my life. It's one of the very few experiences that I truly remember, I mean in great detail, totally: everything I felt, everything around me, almost everything that was said and done, and the light. Everything. It's one of the few times I really remember.

Of course, many people speak of how their lives have been greatly enhanced over time by things like sustained involvement in psychotherapy, twelve-step meetings, or religion. Their stories, too, are a testament to the human capacity for change. Yet such stories differ qualitatively from the accounts of quantum changers, who trace their transformation to a particular unforgettable experience.

Another form of vividness is that quantum changes are often accompanied by profound emotion. They do not have the subjective quality of reaching a rational decision or finding by personal effort the solution to a problem. They are often deeply moving. A very common experience during and after quantum change is a profound sense of peace and release from chronic negative emotions. There is frequently a sense of a great burden having been lifted. One woman, whose story is elaborated in Chapter 10, awoke one morning with the experience of being unable to initiate speech. For three days she had what she described as an out-of-body experience: "I could still see ... myself.... I was kind of standing over on the side, and I couldn't talk.... [E]verything that came out of my mouth wasn't what was like me." Not surprisingly, this was quite an emotional experience, but she also found it soothing rather than frightening, "like when a mother holds a baby."

After that experience I just felt really peaceful and happy and glad to be alive, and every day since then it's just progressed more. The anger that was eating away inside me was gone. I've gained more confidence and I'm not afraid anymore, and I know what I can do with myself now. Whatever happens, I'm just at peace.

Following his classic quantum change experience, Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote this:

Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence. A great peace stole over me and I thought, "No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are all right."


Quantum changes are rarely remembered as willful or volitional events, like changing your mind or making a resolution. They are more like waking up one morning to suddenly discover that your skin is a different color.

More than four out of five people who told us their stories said that the experience took them completely by surprise. It was nothing they had expected, imagined, or even sought. It came unannounced and, as often as not, uninvited. If we had been able to ask them, on the day before it happened, whether they were in need of a personality overhaul, many quantum changers, like Scrooge, would probably have humbugged the idea. Many were not striving for or expecting a transformation. They didn't "do" it. It just happened. They had no map, and if they heard the rapids coming at all, it was only moments before they were swept up in the current. To this sense of unpreparedness and surprise, Abraham H. Maslow added the observation that it also has the quality of newness, of having such an experience for the first time.


Almost always, the quantum changers we interviewed saw the experience as profoundly positive and beneficial, if not always pleasant. It is what Scrooge would likely have said, had we been able to interview him on December 26. The emotions experienced are quite positive, such as the intense joy and relief one woman in her forties felt when she saw a newspaper ad for Neurotics Anonymous and went to a meeting:

I was so happy. So ... not just thrilled, so elated. I felt like I wanted to tell the whole world. I just wanted to burst into millions of pieces and go all over the world, and let a little piece drop on everybody and say, "Look what I've been given! Look at the joy, the wonder we can have in life!"

To be sure, there are sometimes elements of sadness as well, perhaps of being sadder but wiser. A number of quantum changes told us they found that both joy and emotional pain were intensified for them. The contrasts were greater: "In many ways the experience intensified my pain also. Things seemed brighter and more beautiful. It was also a bleaker way of looking at things." Yet there was no question among the people we interviewed that the net effect was very positive. Sometimes there is a newly experienced sadness and compassion for the amount of suffering in the world, and a positive desire to take part in alleviating it. Less often in quantum change experiences there can be a new strong sense of responsibility and remorse for what one has done:

It was at that point that I began feeling extremely guilty about living with my boyfriend, who is now my husband. I didn't have that guilt before. I felt very ashamed of many things I had done in my past.-I started feeling the presence of what I interpreted as evil, where I had never felt that before.-I always thought that good and evil were just perceptions of an individual, that you created your own identity and your own reality.-I thought you could turn something that other people perceived as negative into something positive for yourself, and therefore there was no such thing as absolute evil.-But from that point, I have had a definite perception of evil versus good or whatever you want to call it, the Divine. I felt real sad from that point, and that lasted, maybe even to this point.-I just feel sad that I had wasted all that time and misled all those other people.-I wish I could go back and tell them.

Yet even such remorse tends to be accompanied by a sense of ultimate acceptance and forgiveness.

Many quantum changers voiced a deep sense of gratitude for what they had been given. When one hears of people who are "gifted," the first association may be of someone born with particular talents or aptitudes. The people we interviewed felt a different kind of giftedness. Each had received, in her or his own way, a unique and life-changing gift. Often it came as an unexpected flood of hope in a time of great darkness. Many voiced the clear sense of being in the presence of and gifted by a power beyond the self. The recipients typically felt they had no special qualities that made them deserve such a gift, but they were deeply grateful for it. Rather than opining that "I earned this," quantum changers are more likely to wonder, "Why me?" A woman who had been sexually abused by her father for years and who had experienced a deeply healing quantum change puzzled:

What I don't understand is why I came to all of this, to terms, to grips, when so many others who have been through the same thing as I have are not faring as well. They're devastated and broken and crushed. They have no hope. Nothing. They're broken, and they'll carry the scars forever. I don't understand why I've been saved or changed. Something's happened to me that they didn't get.

Another woman with a relatively recent experience told us:

When I heard the voice say, "You don't have to do that anymore; I will be with you always," I knew I could quit drinking. How can I tell anyone that I was able to stop that day and never have the desire to drink again? Who would believe me? My mother is also an alcoholic and abuses prescription drugs, and she has been in numerous treatment centers over the years without success. I would love for her to have the same awakening that I have had. I wonder why this happened to me?

The stories of how quantum changers have dealt with their gift are quite varied. Some were embarrassed by the gift and sought to keep it secret even though some of its effects were clearly evident to those around them. Some puzzled long over what they were to do with it. Some simply accepted it graciously and rejoiced. Some felt a sense of responsibility, or at least a longing, to share with others what they had been given. Yet whatever they felt about it, almost all shared this sense of having been graciously gifted. "I was given something free," one person observed. "No strings attached. Ever had anybody do that to you, just give you something like that?"


Besides vividness, surprise, and benevolence, quantum changers convey the sense of having passed through a one-way door. There is no going back. When you have just shot through a canyon in class five rapids, there is no way you are going to turn around and paddle back upstream. You are changed forever. Many of the people we interviewed in preparing this book still remembered the exact date and time when their experience began and had vivid recall of their surroundings and circumstances, even though the events had occurred, on average, eleven years earlier. It is plain to such people that they were markedly and permanently altered by the event. They were confident that what had happened would remain. Their understanding, their perception, had shifted markedly. Sea captain John Newton, author of the well-known hymn Amazing Grace, wrote of his experience, "I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see." Having seen, quantum changers cannot go back to unknowing, nor would they care to.


Excerpted from Quantum Change by William R. Miller Janet C'de Baca Copyright © 2001 by The Guilford Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

I. The Context
1. Something Old, Something New
2. The Landscape of Quantum Change
3. Before
II. Insights
4. The Insightful Type of Quantum Change
5. Boom
6. Taking the AA Train
7. A Mirror and Two Roses
8. Awakening
9. Ripples
III. Epiphanies
10. The Mystical Type of Quantum Change
11. The Reluctant Mystic
12. Something Like a Star
13. A Voice in the Fireplace
14. At Pecos
15. Trampoline
IV. Reflections
16. After
17. Are Quantum Changes Always Positive?
18. What Happened?
19. Messages to Humankind
An Invitation
Appendix. Values: What Matters Most to You?
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2001

    Deeply insightful

    How is it that ordinary people can change so drastically for the better, without even trying to do so, when others strive, meditate, go to AA, etc to get help. Engros-sing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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