Déjà vu? Psychology

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Every once in a while, for no obvious reason, some people experience distortions of perception. Some of these are named. Depersonalization, for example, is a sudden sense of disorientation – a queer feeling of not being oneself. It is as if the affected person cannot quite recognize himself/herself. It may involve physical feelings, but may be reported only as an unfamiliar and uncomfortable state of mind. De-realization is a feeling that the world around one has suddenly changed in character—become less real. Both feelings, as people describe them, seem similar. Some people experience these sensations as curious, but not particularly threatening. Others report them as unpleasant, sometimes extremely unpleasant. Yet they sound not very much different from those sensations that other people seek out when they use hallucinogens. It may be that those who do not purposely seek these uncanny feelings become frightened by them. Depersonalization and de-realization are occasional features of schizophrenia, but also, more commonly, anxiety states.

These odd sensations seem to exist in some kind of subtle place between a physical sensation and an emotional state of mind. They are feelings without precipitating thoughts. They are subtle changes in mood, without cause.

Perhaps these sensations are not so unusual. We often speak of not “feeling like” ourselves. Sometimes, we experience subtle changes of mood for no apparent reason. Take ennui. Ennui is a condition of lassitude or boredom, but something more (or less.) It may come on suddenly. It is a feeling of tiredness or lack of interest. It is subtly different from ordinary boredom. A feeling of “world-weariness” is somewhat similar too, but just a little different, implying that the state of lassitude is a result of too many encounters with others. These feelings come and go with no clear precipitant. There are very many subtle changes of mood and perception which have not been given a name. I make fun of our wish to get our heads around some of these odd feelings in a book I wrote, “Come One, Come All” in which someone who purports to come from the future defines some new terms.

“Flacier?”

“Flacier. That’s just an expression. It means, uh… sort of a feeling of resignation, shading slowly into ennui. It’s a…well, it’s the sort of feeling you get when the last rays of a sunset are leaving the nearby hills, and there’s a violin trio playing somewhere.”

Or, “Sequined balloons.”

“There were sequined balloons?”

“That’s just an expression. It means, sort of…well, like you’re at a carnival with the sounds of a merry-go-round audible behind you, and fireworks going off in the sky. And the girl in your arms turns to you with a smile after you win a stuffed animal throwing a baseball through a hoop.”

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