Have you ever visited a place you’ve been been to before and feel an uncanny familiarity that you’ve actually been there before? Or maybe you were in the thick of conversation with a friend and all of a sudden you feel like you’ve had the very same conversation?
Well, these instances are what you call deja vu – a phenomenon that translates to “already seen” in French, and is defined as an overwhelming sense of familiarity with a place, an event, or a person that shouldn’t be familiar at all.
So what is deja vu and is it more than a mere coincidence? Does it have spiritual meanings or maybe a possible scientific explanation? Let’s try to find out.
What Does Deja Vu Mean?
Let’s define what this phenomenon is in the first place. Deja vu, as mentioned, is an experience wherein you feel an overwhelming sense of familiarity. It is very different from recalling a memory, or recognizing a person or a place, but brings about a strange sensation that makes you stop in your tracks.
The experience usually lasts for 30 seconds and it leaves you bewildered as to what had just happened. Were you actually here before? And did you actually meet the person some time in your past? And did you actually say something that you said before?
When you try to recall the supposed memory, you simply can’t pinpoint where and when it happened – you just know that you feel it has happened before or that you’ve actually been there before the present.
The first person to coin the term “deja vu” was French researcher Emile Boirac, who used it in his book, “The Future of Psychic Sciences.” Explanations of the phenomenon range from reincarnation, chemical imbalances in the brain, extra-sensory perception, and a long list of theories that have been hard to substantiate.
Scientists find it hard to study, too, because the phenomenon occurs randomly and with no prior warning. Deja vu happens spontaneously – in the middle of a walk, while driving a car, in the middle of a meeting – just about any random time with no factors that contribute to its occurrence. And the feeling of familiarity is also fleeting – at only 30 seconds, it’s extremely difficult for researchers to study an actual deja vu experience.
Nevertheless, theories of the phenomenon abound, helping us to understand why it occurs and if there’s something you need to do about it.
Scientific Explanations of Deja Vu
Temporal Lobe Seizure
A popular scientific explanation of the phenomenon is that it is a symptom of a coming seizure. Doctors have noted that people who suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy experience vivid cases of deja vu before an attack occurs. Researchers believe that the sensation is an effect of your temporal lobe’s nerve connections doing a “misfire” of neurons.
Another explanation is linked with the hippocampus area of the brain. The hippocampus is where memories are produced. Inside the hippocampus is a small part called Dentate Gyrus. Dentate Gyrus is the one responsible for memories that are episodic – small fragments of memories that form one big memory. This part of the brain allows you to tell similar places and situations apart.
For example, you see a dining table in a restaurant. When your Dentate Gyrus is acting normally, you recognize that the table is a part of the restaurant and it’s something you haven’t seen before. When your Dentate Gyrus doesn’t act normally or there is a misfire of neurons in this part of the brain, you will see the table in the restaurant but not immediately realize that it’s something you’ve never seen before. You may think it looks familiar when it isn’t.
Recognition Memory Theory
One other explanation is the Recognition Memory theory. According to this theory, there are two kinds of recognition memories: recollection and familiarity.
Recollection occurs when you see a man in a supermarket and recognize him as your neighbor. Familiarity occurs when you see this man but are not able to pinpoint exactly where you know him from. According to this theory, deja vu is a form of familiarity.
Is Deja Vu Good or Bad?
People experience deja vu differently. Some are terrified of the experience while others feel a mild euphoria. Since it only occurs for about 30 seconds, it doesn’t really have a tremendous effect on anyone’s consciousness, unless it brings about anxiety.
Some people associate the phenomenon with clairvoyance or a premonition – and this is where problems may occur because they will tend to use the phenomenon as a factor in their decision making. However, there has been no proof whatsoever that deja vu is a precursor of things to come. It really does depend on how you interpret the experience.
Speaking about clairvoyance and premonition, deja vu is also closely related to paranormal activity or parapsychology. Many Eastern religions believe that deja vu is simply a case of memories of your past lives that surface.
Deja Vu and Reincarnation
Reincarnation is a major tenet in many Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. According to these beliefs, deja vu is a common phenomenon brought about by memories of past lives that surface when familiar places, people, or objects appear in your present life.
Reincarnation is sometimes explained for love at first sight, for meeting people whom you automatically connect with, and being familiar with places you’ve never physically been to before.
Other paranormal explanations of deja vu include:
- Dreams – deja vu is sometimes explained as an event that occurred in a dream that you’ve forgotten, which contains elements in common with your current waking situation. For example, you dreamed of meeting a man in a coffee shop some weeks ago. Today, you meet a man in a restaurant – there are similar elements, and this makes you think the event actually occurred before.
- Astral Projection – believers of OBEs or Out-of-Body-Experiences contend that people who feel a sense of familiarity to a place have actually been there through astral projection. They believe that the astral body has actually visited the place, and therefore, the eerie feeling of familiarity.
Deja Vu has been difficult to explain and prove. Interpretation to the experience is always on your hands. Maybe one day we’ll truly understand the experience. As for now, you can either brush it off or take great meaning from the sensations.
Judy Nyssa Tanko
Psychic ClairvoyantPsychic Nyssa is a Psychic Clairvoyant. She’s been aware of her gift since she was 6. As you go into a reading she never knows what information is going to come forth, once you ask a question the flow starts happening and she will tell you all she sees, hears, senses etc. Read more about Psychic Nyssa & Book her for a Reading.