Jon Skalski, a doctoral student at University of West Georgia, and Brigham Young University psychology Professor Sam Hardy said although Scrooge, the central character in Charles Dickens' 1843 novel, "A Christmas Carol," had money, he hit rock bottom in terms of relationships.
Orphaned as a child and brokenhearted from a failed engagement, Scrooge's pains intensify each Christmas Eve, the anniversary of the death of his only friend, Jacob Marley.
"Like our participants, Scrooge was suffering," Skalski said in a statement. "There was disintegration. There was a world that was ripe for change because of suffering."
In the story, Marley appeared seven years after his death as a voice of warning. Though a ghost, the role he plays is true to life. Most study participants described the presence of a trusted other person during their experience.
"Just by their presence, a trusted friend can open up possibilities and a sense of faith in what's possible that one can't see," Skalski said.
The experiences shared by the study participants were not recent events, but were on average, nine years from the transformation and their interview.
"I've often thought about this, whether these transformations are really sudden or gradual," Skalski said. "It's like water boiling -- you can look at that as a discontinuous change from not boiling to boiling, but there are certain elements going on beneath the surface that allow for the dramatic change to take place."
The findings are scheduled to appear in the January issue of The Humanistic Psychologist.