Almost everyone in the world has had at least one experience that they couldn’t explain. It could be a coincidence that seemed too particular to be happenstance. It could be a moment that had no realistic, or even rational, explanation.
What you will notice about these seemingly unexplainable instances is that a strong emotion is almost always evoked. In that lies the key to understanding what paranormal experiences are, and how they function in our lives.
Most supernatural phenomena can be chalked up to something called anthropomorphism. This is the way human beings attribute random, chaotic events to invisible, supernatural order. It helps to make sense of things – and to try to better control them – in an often unpredictable and random world.
This is reinforced by two psychological phenomenons: confirmation bias and anchoring effect. This is the way in which our brains pick out information that supports what we want to believe, and then grows to prefer that which we’ve already been exposed to. Through these two functions, we begin to insulate our lives to reaffirm ourselves.
The “paranormal experience” doesn’t matter as much as what it made the person think and feel. Their response to it is a projection of what they need to know.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we can use these types of experiences to better understand ourselves, and even potentially expand the limits of our imaginations. Here are 7 of the most common ones, and what they might really mean about your life:
The experience: speaking to a psychic who predicted a life event down to an eerily specific detail.
What it really means: Psychic readings tend to be just vague enough that it can apply to almost anyone. Self-fulfilling prophecy comes into effect, especially when we like what predictions were made. It’s common for people to cherry pick the aspects of a reading that affirm what they already want for their lives, and then made a deeper subconscious attempt to manifesting that.
What it could mean: Everything is energy. Time is an illusion of consciousness. It could very well be possible that some super intuitive people are able to pick up on events in an individual’s current timeline, or events that are happening concurrent to the reading, in another dimension. Some people also believe in fate, or “soul contracts,” which is that some aspects of human life were pre-agreed to, and the intuitive person can just feel what those are.
The experience: A tarot card reading that revealed the honest truth about a situation before you even knew it.
What it really means: Tarot can be a very powerful process because it is more or less like a new age inkblot test. What you see in the cards says everything about your situation, far more than what they could actually represent.
What it could mean: Some people believe in divination, or the way that celestial beings interject into human life in order to impart wisdom or forewarning. Cards are a means of delivering a message through random means.
The experience: Seeing a token from a deceased friend or relative, like a certain type of flower that keeps showing up, or a feather that lands on your hand.
What it really means: The brain is constantly picking up on and filtering through different stimuli available in your peripheral vision. That means that if you associate your deceased mother with lilacs, you’re going to be unconsciously seeking out lilacs and then drawing your attention to them, making the frequency of their presence in your life seem higher than normal.
What it could mean: A disembodied energy is drawing your attention to stimuli by making something innocuous (like a feather) come across your path. It is a harmless way to communicate their presence and to let you know that they are still with you.
The experience: Waking up in the middle of the night, not being able to move, and seeing or hearing disembodied spirits talking or interacting with you.
What it really means: Sleep paralysis is a heavily studied medical phenomenon, in which the brain puts the body to sleep, but the mind stays awake. Hallucinations occur, often in the form of a demon or dark figure “pushing down on you” or holding you in place, which is likely a projection of the feeling that is being paralyzed.
What it could mean: This is also a way in which people report having out of body experiences, in which they meet and communicate with beings who have important messages for them, or get to experience a dimension parallel to this one.
The experience: A friend calling as soon as you think of them, as though you were communicating telepathically.
What it really means: It’s likely that you’re falsely associating having thought of them with being contacted by them. There are likely dozens of times you’ve thought of them without anything happening further. It’s just another case of confirmation bias, most likely.
What it could mean: Given that everything is fundamentally and essentially connected, it’s not impossible to wonder if we have the potential to communicate through nonverbal means (groups of animals do this when they flock together). It’s not that outlandish that humans could, too.
The experience: A visitation from a ghostly figure, especially if it is repeated or randomly in the middle of the night.
What it really means: It’s most probable that there’s some other kind of stimuli in your life that’s spooking you, and that fear response is heightening your sensitivity to small sounds, smells or flashes that are normally present, but this time, you’re piecing them together to create an idea of something else being present in your home. It’s more important to consider what’s happening in your life at the time, and why it would seem necessary for you to believe that there is an invisible force in your home terrorizing you (for example, consider what invisible emotion or idea is scaring you in reality).
What it could mean: You could be seeing glimpses of disembodied energy, whether you believe that is a particular soul, or just a pocket of energy that doesn’t have anywhere to go (especially if it’s been built up, like a poltergeist).
The experience: Receiving signs that you’re meant to be with a certain person, to the point that it appears undeniable that you’re soulmates.
What it really means: The only sign that you are “meant to be with someone” is that you are with that person. When we are uncertain and scared when a relationship isn’t working out (or might not work out) we look to external, supernatural “signs” to give us a sense of control and certainty that does not inherently exist.
What it could mean: When two people are right for each other, many things synchronize. You have the same taste in music, interests, you’re in the same geographic location, you just “click.” It can be easy to feel as though all of these things mean some external force is telling you that you’re supposed to be together when in reality, you’re probably going to be together because all of these things are aligned.