The psychology of a Deja vu

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Deja vus According to Frued

The cause of Deja vus is still unknown and there are tens of theories out there that explain why Deja vus happen however i got very interested when i came across some psychological theories that explain why Deja vus happen and that appealed to me a lot.

I am generally not a fan of Sigmund Freud , though i can't deny he discovered great things, but i will start with his theory about Deja vus. According to Freud the human mind represses the memories it doesn't like. If for example you had a very bad childhood because one of your parents used to abuse you then your mind will want to hide that memory from you.

Now what will happen if you have been through a new situation that has some similar settings to some of the memories your mind doesn't want you to remember?

In such a case, according to Freud , A deja vu will happen.
While A part of your mind will recognize the familiarity of the situation another part of your mind will want to repress it and so you will think as if you have been there even though you are experiencing the situation for the first time.

Deja vus According to Adler

What i like about Alfred Alder is the fact that all of his theories are too logical that it's hard for a person to find something wrong with them even if he tried hard. Adler's works were always based on the theory that the unconscious mind always has certain important goals that it wants to reach. (see What are the subconscious goals)

According to Adler's theories the unconscious mind uses all possible methods, including psychological disorders, to achieve it's important goals. According to Adler the mind can sometimes use hallucinations to help a person achieve one of his goals.

In my other article about seeing ghosts i explained how the mind can let a person see a ghost , by altering his perception, to make him feel superior to others and to give him the feeling that he is a chosen one.

Adler said that a Deja vu can be a mechanism used by the mind to achieve one of two important goals. The first would be encouraging a person to do something by convincing him that he has successfully done it before and the second is preventing a person from doing something by scaring him away.

In both cases Adler believes that the mind uses Deja vus to achieve some of its important goals.

The one theory that appeals to me the most

Some theories like Adler's sound very logical but there is one psychological theory that appealed a lot to me. Our subconscious minds can sometimes notice things that our conscious minds don't notice. For example if you saw someone wearing red then you might unconsciously believe that this person is dangerous.

In fact in one study it was found that athletes were more likely to lose when their opponents wore red. Now what if you suddenly found yourself in a situation where there were many familiar cues that your subconscious mind picked but your conscious mind didn't?

In such a case a Deja Vu might happen because your subconscious mind have seen many familiar things and connected them to past events even though the situation you are facing is totally new.

The elements in the new situation, the setup of the scene and the other cues that are only noticed by the Subconscious mind can cause a feeling of a Deja vu.

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