I keep having recurring deja vu.
May 15, 2005 12:26 AM   Subscribe

Normally I experience deja vu randomly, just every once in a while. But occasionally, maybe once or twice a year, I have days in which I experience it really frequently, dozens of times a day. Today is one of those days. It's actually not quite deja vu, it's more linked to my dreams last night...it's hard to explain, but does anyone know what I'm talking about? What causes this? It's not unpleasant, but it's certainly....weird.
posted by zardoz to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Frequent perception of deja vu has been identified as a posible early warning sign of schizophrenia. Not to freak you out, your description of this is a regular but infrequent occurrence doesn't really sound like what they're talking about.


The topic comes up some with drugs, particularly Dextromethorphan. So if you're an afficianado of the cough syrup trip...

And, a decent wiki with some external links. Bottom line, science doesn't know for sure

posted by nanojath at 12:59 AM on May 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think I know what you're talking about because I have similar things happen. I think it's linked to being absurdly empathetic. I have dreams that are so strong that the emotions and the small instances that accompany them stay with me for a day or two after the fact and then little things that happen as I go about my day bring the feeling flooding back.

So, I can't tell you what causes it, but I don't think you're going insane. Well, at least no more than any of us. :)
posted by amandaudoff at 2:03 AM on May 15, 2005

I remember hearing years ago that deja-vu is a mechanism our brain uses to help cope with new and/or unfamiliar situations, so I assume when I have days like that (which I do occasionally), that it's that coping mechanism kicking in for whatever reason. I've not thought much about it beyond that, personally.
posted by tracicle at 2:12 AM on May 15, 2005

There are two possible explanations:

1. DJV is actually the manifestation of some subtle form of precognition, i.e., seeing into the future.

2. The feeling of DJV is actually just that--in fact, you only feel like you've experienced something before, but in fact you never have in the first place. In other words, let's say I'm cutting carrots and suddenly think, "Man, I totally remember doing this already, down to the number of carrots. Cool." But, if I were to ask you about the carrots a minute before your DJV experience, you'd have no idea what I was talking about. In other words, the DJV experience is completely irrespective of any prior dream/occurance/thought/etc.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:14 AM on May 15, 2005

There's a Straight Dope article about it here and I found this an interesting analogy:

Others explain déjà vu by analogy to a tape recorder. They propose that memory storage is accomplished by means of a "recording head" and memory recall by a "playback head." During déjà vu the two heads are erroneously situated above the same bit of mental blank tape. An experience is thus recorded and remembered simultaneously, with the result that the present is experienced as the past.

Personally I've found deja vu to be more frequent when I have hangovers or I'm very tired. Maybe the more frequent occurence could be a symptom of being tired, stressed or just needing to take better care of yourself. I'm only speculating though.

As for the deja vu that isn't quite deja vu: I think you might need to try and explain that - presumably you mean more than just vivid replays of last nights dreams? Maybe the feeling that what you're doing now was dreamt last night?
posted by dodgygeezer at 3:04 AM on May 15, 2005

There's a pretty good paper here by a student at Bryn Mawr College. (note: only links 9 + 10 at the bottom of the page seem to work)
Your description sounds like déjà senti - also associated (but I assume not exclusively) with temporal lobe epilepsy

- ..the occasional mismatch made by the brain in its continuous attempt to create whole sensical pictures out of very small pieces of information..

- ..slight malfunctioning between the long and short-term memory circuits of the brain..

- ..the manifestation of wish fulfillment..

- .. the possibility of particles that can travel backwards in time (tachyons)...seeing into the past or future cannot be so immediately dismissed

posted by peacay at 3:05 AM on May 15, 2005

More here, here and here. Fascinating stuff.
posted by peacay at 3:12 AM on May 15, 2005

Oh and an excerpted NYT book review article from last year that looks at some of the current experimentation in this field of psychology.
posted by peacay at 3:20 AM on May 15, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments and links, everyone. Fascinating stuff, indeed. I didn't expound very well on the sensation that it feels much more like dreams than deja vu. The dreams I had last night, specifically.

Then again I've come to notice a link between dreams and deja vu--to me it seems the latter is simply dreams trying to "take over" the conscious mind. I guess the strangest thing is the scope of one night's dreams seems to be endless....maybe it's my "dreamworld databank" built up over the last few days (weeks? months? years?).

Here's to hoping I don't have frontal lobe epilepsy, .peacay :)

/orders a double anything
posted by zardoz at 3:49 AM on May 15, 2005

Response by poster: also, Civil_Disobediant wrote:

In other words, the DJV experience is completely irrespective of any prior dream/occurance/thought/etc.

I agree. It's like these thoughts/images/memories are pushed to the forefront, with nothing to do with what's happening in the real world.

(Or is it "real" world....???)
posted by zardoz at 4:37 AM on May 15, 2005

cue twilight zone music
posted by peacay at 5:58 AM on May 15, 2005

Best answer: Here's to hoping I don't have frontal lobe epilepsy, .peacay :)

some forms of what's categorized as epilepsy manifest simply as multiple episodes of deja vu. They could prescribe an anti-convulsant to stop it, but you might not want to bother. The point is just that there's extra electricity in your brain that makes weird things happen. I have TLE, and although I have had a few full seizures in my life, most of my TLE events are partial seizures, which are hallucinations & deja vu. It can definitely get in the way of life, but I have to admit that to a certain degree I find it interesting.

Deja vu can be a pretty intense experience. I get various "levels" of deja vu, and in a sense I would say my hallucinatory episodes are just like an even more increased level, because they always feel intensely familiar and maybe sort of nostalgic or dreamy. I can definitely see why epileptics in past times thought they were experiencing previous lives etc. Anyway, as for the deja vu, it sometimes is just a passing feeling of, huh, i've been here before, and it sometimes is very definite, every moment is absolutely exactly what I already know, and it almost feels slow-motion or something...

Basically, as I understand it, the idea is that part of your brain gets the information before the rest of it, so it actually is exactly what you already know because the other part of your brain already knew it (possibly interesting implications for the nature of time...). These 'hiccups' in your brain's reception are what could conceivably by caused by or classified as some sort of epileptic event. Epilepsy is another one of these diagnoses that doesn't really tell you anything about the cause, but just gives a name to the group of symptoms...
posted by mdn at 6:04 AM on May 15, 2005

On a lighter tangent, one of Monty Python's more hilarious works is on deja vu... episode #16. Script here for the curious.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:11 AM on May 15, 2005

I keep thinking this is a double post. Searching AskMe turned up the related phenomenon, Déjà Acheté:

Sponsored Links
Deja Vu
Great deals on everything
Deja Vu themed.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:57 AM on May 15, 2005

AskMeFi: "I dream events that will occur to me in the future..." might have some answers related to your question.
posted by Melinika at 10:31 AM on May 15, 2005

>Searching AskMe turned up the related phenomenon, Déjà Acheté

There are some related concepts:

Deja lu - I know I have read this book before

Deja nu - I have been naked in this situation before - I just cannot put my finger on it
posted by yclipse at 8:34 PM on May 15, 2005

...often followed by the extremely embarrassing déjà screw.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:23 PM on May 15, 2005

The amazing thing about the human brain is its ability to take shortcuts. Kasparov can play a machine that analyzes 200 million moves per second. You recognize a friend from a glimpse of his back at a hundred yards. But there is a threshold beyond which the brain makes mistakes. Sometimes it's not your friend. Each year hundreds of people are shot by hunters mistaking them for deer or elk. Aside from the consequences, is this any different from déjà vu?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:43 PM on May 15, 2005

Just to add to what mdn said, deja vu has generally been attributed to the development of brain circuitry and so is most usually experience by people under thirty, as typically the brain has not fully finalized its development until around the age of twenty five, when one stops growing. As the emotional circuitry develops far earlier than the logical circuitry, one can note how their perception and reaction varies from how they would in their adolescence.

It's hard to find the terminology to use for what it seems you may be experiencing as I don't know what you have experience with or what ideas you prescribe to. For most people, the dream state is when the mind can process through a wide variety of information, sometimes called "sorting through the unconscious" as much information absorbed may not register to your "conscious" mind in the wakened state. Whether this channels through one as a form of "intuition" or a recurrent ponderance of what has been more fully processed from your dream state, some connections or conclusions that have meaning or validity to you have occurred. As people will tend to obsess or view information egocentrically, how objective one's perspective is on this recently concieved information helps apply it to whatever it may be at hand.

Instances with people who discover solutions to whatever issue is at hand through dreams (such as in the case of the inventor of the sewing machine) point to the primacy of the process of nonlinear associations that occur in the dream state in the more fully realized processing of information on a much wider scale.

Sorry to not have links at hand, and to explain why I put quotes on intuition, the arrival at ideas and conclusions by nonlinear means in always questioned by people entrenched in explanation solely by the model of scientific method, but nonlinear thinking or use of cross-discipline thinking, while much attributed to those truly deemed "genius" in the orginial sense, is often still highly suspect to some because of a lack of adequate articulation, often left to hazy abstractions because they can at least encompass the range of what is not articulated, if a differing vocabulary is not created or employed-- and those sadly come with varying cheesy associations.

"In conclusion,--" or basically what I'm trying to say is if you can understand this information objectively, you may divine what it is you already know in some fashion and then make use of it with your conscious mind to process it further or apply it to what it is that has causes it to divert your thought to it.
As to what one may not consciously percieve, I ain't gonna bother here.
But I would like to mention to a popularly sleep deprived US how important it is to achieve deep sleep on a regular basic so one can make the most of one's brain.
posted by philida at 12:10 AM on May 16, 2005

I definitely have episodes that are linked to dreams. That is, sudden recall of an intense memory as "real" that I know was actually a dream, or the sensation that a current experience was previously dreams (even though I'm sure it wasn't).

These things only happen when I'm tired and out of sorts, and for some bizarre reason, usually while walking outside.

I wish I knew what it was too. It's actually a neat sensation, and it always feels like I'm just on the edge of figuring something out but losing it again. Like an intuition misfire.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:51 AM on May 16, 2005

Interesting article on the first real study of déjà vu, taking place at the University of Leeds.
posted by nicwolff at 5:45 PM on January 30, 2006

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