Hope everyone is having a great Summer!
A friend of mine at work said to me the other day that she was feeling a real sense of deja vu during our conversation. She asked me if I knew what deju vu was all about, and so I thought what better way than to look into this for my monthly post.
|We've all been there!|
Most of us have had that funny feeling that we've been somewhere before, or that we're experiencing a situation for the second time. This gut feeling is deja vu (meaning "already seen" in French).
There are quite a few different theories as to why deja vu happens, for instance is it an act of precognition or prophecy? Or does it reflect our past dreams? Or maybe its something more scientific?
The most compelling (and probably the most accurate) reason for deja vu is that is is an anomaly of memory, which gives a false impression of an experience being a recall.
So basically events and episodes which we experience are stored in our memory as individual elements or fragments of that event. Deja vu may occur when specific aspects of a current situation resemble certain aspects of previously occurring situations; if there is a lot of overlap between the elements of the new and old situations, we get a strong feeling of familiarity.
One of the ways our brain tricks itself into deja vu is through a mismatch between its long term and short term memory pathways. The current stimuli, instead of being stored in short term memory and then transferred to long term memory (if needed) gets dumped straight into long term memory, immediately causing that stimuli to feel as if it is an experience that you are pulling from your past.
This phenomenon is pretty common with as much as 70% of people having experienced some sort of deja vu, and interestingly its more experienced by people of 15 to 25 years old. I wonder whether this is because younger people's memories are more malleable and active and so the chances of memory overlap or disfunction is higher.
More controversial explanations of deja vu have been put forward by parapsychologists who say that some cases might be representations of past lives, so in effect déjà vu experiences occur as people are living their lives not for the first time but at least the second.
Several psychoanalysts attribute déjà vu to simple fantasy or wish fulfilment, so the experience is made to seem like a past experience, but with a more positive outcome.
|Jung, a fellow deja vu sufferer|
Looking into my psychotherapy training, I discover that Carl Jung himself wrote briefly about deja vu. He described a instance during his 1925 trip to Mombasa where he viewed a slim,black man with a spear looking at him from his train. Jung really captured the feeling of deja vu when he wrote "it was a picture of something utterly alien and outside of my experience , but on the other hand a most intense "sentiment du deja vu". I had the feeling that I had already experienced this moment and had always known this world which was separated from me only by distance in time. It was as if I were this moment returning to the land of my youth, and as if I knew that dark-skinned man who had been waiting for me for five thousand years."
So looking at the different theories it seems deja vu is just our memory getting a tad confused and not unfortunately something a little bit more intriguing like psychic activity. Sorry folks!
Till next month!