The Meaning of Deja Vu: Understanding the Phenomenon of the Already Seen
Ever get that feeling when you’re watching something happen that you’ve already seen it before? Then you are familiar with the fundamental déjà vu meaning. It’s an experience that you can’t quite understand until you’ve had the feeling yourself. Déjà vu can feel completely disorienting and otherworldly, especially if you don’t have it often.
So what is the true déjà vu meaning? Do scientists actually understand what it really means? Or is it something supernatural without a scientific understanding?
Let’s talk about the déjà vu meaning and see if perhaps we can start to understand this phenomenon more clearly.
What Does Déjà Vu Mean?
If you’ve seen the original Matrix movie, you might remember the scene where Neo looks over and sees a black cat walk past the doorway twice. He mutters “huh, déjà vu,” not thinking much of the experience. However, his entire crew suddenly grows serious, because déjà vu means that something in the Matrix has been reset.
But what does déjà vu mean in real life? Assuming you don’t believe we live in a simulation, déjà vu refers to the experience of having a feeling as though you have already seen something that you currently are witnessing.
It’s a French phrase that translates to “already seen.” You know that you can’t possibly have seen that couple walk past you in a park, followed immediately by their child dropping their ice cream cone. But you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve already seen that exact sequence of events. The feeling of déjà vu catches you off guard, because you know it’s impossible. Some people refer to it as a glitch in the brain.
What Causes Déjà Vu?
So now you understand the déjà vu meaning. But what causes that glitch in the brain?
Originally, doctors believed that déjà vu could be an indicator of epilepsy. But since up to 97% of people report experiencing déjà vu at least once, having déjà vu alone cannot predict the condition.
One of the current psychological explanations for déjà vu is that it happens when you have two streams of awareness intersecting. Your brain recognizes the situation happening in front of you, but your brain doubts that it is an accurate recollection.
It happens more often when you’re distracted. You saw whatever happened out of the corner of your eye, but you weren’t 100% paying attention. So you look back up to refocus and your brain essentially replays it for you to catch you back up to speed.
You only fully experience the second recollection, which is why you get the sneaky suspicion you’ve seen it before. So you didn’t recognize it the first time because you only partially processed the vision.
There’s another theory out there about what causes déjà vu. Some scientists believe it’s a glitch that happens when your brain tries to transfer information between your long and short-term memory banks, resulting in an instant replay.
If you’re looking for a more supernatural explanation, some will tell you that déjà vu gives you a glimpse into your past lives. According to hypnotist Eli Bliliuos from the NYC Hypnosis Center, “déjà vu happens when we unconsciously find a person or place familiar due to a past life experience…
When we feel like we know someone we have just met, or feel at home in a city we are visiting for the first time, that familiar feeling is very often due to a past life experience. This happens at an unconscious level, where all our memories are stored, including past life memories.”
Who Is Most Likely to Have Déjà Vu?
While any brain can experience déjà vu, people with certain conditions are more likely than others to commonly have an episode.
People experiencing déjà vu most often likely have less grey matter in their brain. That’s what scientists call the outermost layer of the brain. Grey matter controls memory, emotions, and movement. As a general rule, the more grey matter you have, the more effective you are at those three traits.
Neurological conditions frequently impact three parts of the brain: the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, and temporal neocortex. Each of those impact the way we process and retain memories, so it makes sense that you would experience more déjà vu than other people. Scientists also believe that déjà vu could be a sign of abnormal signaling in the medial temporal lobe of the brain.
Here are some conditions where you might have more déjà vu experiences than others:
- Vascular dementia
If you have a lot of déjà vu experiences, you don’t need to panic. Without exhibiting other symptoms, having déjà vu alone isn’t a way to diagnose yourself. Aside from different health conditions, people experience déjà vu more frequently when they’re stressed, fatigued, or over tired.
Understanding the Déjà Vu Meaning
So what is the déjà vu meaning in your life? If you commonly have déjà vu experiences and also experience other symptoms of neurological conditions, you could talk to your doctor about getting diagnosed.
But you could simply just be tired and unfocused. Make sure you take the time to care for yourself so your brain can process experiences in a less disorienting way. If you suddenly feel like you have a sense of déjà vu, there’s no need to panic. It’s a very common experience that almost everyone has!
With so many theories surrounding the déjà vu meaning, what do you think truly causes the experience of déjà vu? Tell us in the comments!
Author, Artist, Photographer.
Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.
She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.
She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.