“It seems we stood and talked like this before/ The clothes you are wearing are the clothes you wore/ But I can’t remember where or when.”
Lyrics from a wonderful Rodgers and Hart ballad that captures moments when a face and voice seem so familiar that you relive the past in the present. The setting seems odd but, oh so familiar. That’s déjà vu; French for ‘already seen.’
Déjà vu is a sensation of having been in an identical situation sometime in the past––but you can’t identify where or when. The feeling that you’ve done this exact same thing once before, been in this very place, engaged in the same conversation overwhelms you. Except you haven’t. Or have you?
Most people, as many as 70 percent, experience déjà vu. Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger, you have plenty of company. It’s quite natural to do a double take when you see or hear something that seems familiar. But when you reflect on why you feel that way, you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Sometimes we see and experience things that look like other things we have already seen. That is not déjà vu it is just a coincidence. Experiencing a feeling of familiarity when you are in a completely new place is déjà vu.
Youngsters experience déjà vu the most. The bad news for seniors like me is déjà vu decreases progressively. As we grow older our memory deteriorates. I have time for a fascinating fantasy but it won’t kick in, I’m too old.
Déjà vu can be a neurological symptom. The phenomenon is rather complex. In simple terms: one part of our brain deals with today’s reality while another part retrieves past memories. When working simultaneously, at times the brain mistakes the present for the past, hence: déjà vu.
Déjà vu remains an unsolved mystery among researchers. Theories abound. Nevertheless, when a sense of newness and a sense of oldness collide, it can be entertaining.
Do you feel like you’ve read this before?