Daydreaming about ghosts

30th May 2020. Reading Time: 10 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 1192 page views. 0 comments.

Daydreaming is a natural thing that we as humans do. Could entering a state of daydreaming make us think something paranormal is happening? Alternatively, does accessing this state of daydreaming allow us to see things as they truly are?

Do you ever just tune out and go off into your own little world?  The scariest thing is when you do it while you are driving.  Often when you are driving down long stretches of the road your mind tends to wander.  You start thinking about things and soon you start visualizing things in a type of 'daydream'.  It can last for seconds or several minutes.  In fact, there is a medical condition where daydreams can last for hours.  At some point of course, your attention returns and you tend to jolt a little bit and think to yourself "how long was daydreaming?  What if something had happened?"  Your body has almost gone into autopilot while you are experiencing this daydream.  Have you ever been driving and tuned out a little bit and then either jumped, swerved, or even stopped because you thought you saw something run across the road or a figure standing on the side of the road?  You blink and they are gone or you look back and there was nothing there.  Many people think this kind of experience could be a ghostly figure on the side of the road.  I know it has happened to me on many occasions.  How many of these kinds of stories have you heard?  They are what a lot of local legends are made of.  The question of course becomes, did you see a figure on the side of the road because there really is a spirit or ghost or something there, or was it a side effect of your daydreaming?

When absorbed in intellectual attention we become so inattentive to outer things as to be ‘absent-minded,’ ‘abstracted,’ or ‘distraits

William James 

Founder of American psychology

What is a daydream?

A daydream is like a form of escape and is often related to performing boring or mundane tasks.  The brain gets a little bored and either takes a little break or plays a little movie in your head to entertain you.  Often a daydream is often related to us and more specifically our goals in life.  It can even be a fantasy or a time of self-reflection.  

A set of brain regions known as the default network increases its activity when focus on the external world is relaxed. During such moments, participants change their focus of external attention and engage in spontaneous cognitive processes including remembering the past and imagining the future. However, the functional contributions of the default network to shifts in external attention versus internal mentation have been difficult to disentangle because the two processes are correlated under typical circumstances. To address this issue, the present study manipulated factors that promote spontaneous cognition separately from those that change the scope of external attention. Results revealed that the default network increased its activity when spontaneous cognition was maximized but not when participants increased their attention to unpredictable foveal or peripheral stimuli. To examine the nature of participants' spontaneous thoughts, a second experiment used self-report questionnaires to quantify spontaneous thoughts during extended fixation epochs. Thoughts about one's personal past and future comprised a major focus of spontaneous cognition with considerable variability. Activity correlations between the medial temporal lobe and distributed cortical regions within the default network predicted a small, but significant, portion of the observed variability. Collectively, these results suggest that during passive states, activity within the default network reflects spontaneous, internally directed cognitive processes.

Given that around 96% percent of the population is said to daydream at least once a day, it makes sense to connect this to certain paranormal experiences as well.  Of course, not all paranormal experiences are a hallucination or daydream, but coming out of a daydream, could indeed be mistaken as something 'paranormal'.

“Someone will be doing some routine chore like polishing the furniture – they’ll be in a near-reverie or daydream state – and they’ll see something out of the corner of their eye,” he says. “They’ll turn and their mind will fill in the blank – they’ll see a Civil War soldier or a ‘gray lady’ -- and then it will promptly vanish.  “It’s a trick of the eye,” he says. “Your eyelid will twitch or an insect will fly by and this will trigger a momentary welling up of a mental image. It’s like a camera’s double exposure for just a brief moment.”

Joe Nickell

Senior research fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Is daydreaming a form of hypnagogia

People often report a lot of paranormal experiences as they are falling asleep at night.  They are in an in-between state called hypnagogia.  You are not asleep, but you are also not awake. You are in between. It is a state that is compared to REM sleep where a person is in their deepest sleep. Your mind is going through a lot of thoughts, emotions, ideas, and accessing memories. During REM sleep, you are in such a deep sleep that you are not aware of so you don't remember it in the morning. When you are in a hypnagogic state, you are in between full sleep and being awake, so you are aware of these thought processes.

It is in this state that the brain itself is more open to connecting the dots so to speak. As your brain is going through random memories, thoughts, and ideas, it is connecting them at the same time. A lot of creative people deliberately put themselves into this state to help them come up with ideas and inspiration. Thomas Edison is one such person who would use this state to help problem solve. He is said to hold a piece of metal in his hand while he entered this state with a specific thought in mind that he needed clarity on so that when he fell asleep he would drop the piece of metal which would make a loud noise on the floor to wake him up so he could then work on the ideas and connections he made in his hypnagogic state.

It is actually thought to be a close relative of sleep paralysis. In this state, people can receive images they find confronting or scary, they can feel like they are being touched, they can sense a presence in the room. Because they are somewhat awake at the time, it feels very real and many believe they have experienced something paranormal. Science suggests that this is a neurological disorder and it is simply the brain playing tricks on us. It is what is called a hypnagogic hallucination. Certain medications, stress, tiredness, and alcohol can all be factors that can cause a person to have a hypnagogic hallucination. It is the number one conclusion that a lot of people will jump to when a person claims to have some sort of alien visitation in bed.

So what if we apply this concept to daydreaming?  Is a daydream essentially a state of hypnagogia?  What about instances where people are driving late at night and 'nod off'.  Again they aren't fully asleep but they are on their way there.  It is during these times that people report encounters with UFOS or again seeing a ghostly figure run in front of them or on the side of the road.  It is entirely possible that the person has experienced a form of hallucination in this state.

While this would explain a lot of sightings, what about the sightings that are consistently reported on the same stretch of road? 

Does daydreaming allow us to see things as they truly are?

A dream is a story or a movie that our brain creates while we are in REM sleep. There is still a lot about dreaming that Science does not yet know or understand. Some speculate our subconscious plays a major role in 'creating' these stories. So much so in fact there is what is called a dream dictionary. Psychology suggests that it comes from our subconscious and our current state of mind or emotions can play a role in the type of dreams that we have. There are common dreams that people share. From falling from a building to turning up to school or work completely naked, we have all had a certain type of dream at some point of time. A lot of people however do tend to argue over what the meaning of these dreams is. In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud explored this quite extensively. He believes a dream was a result of our deepest anxieties and desires. He believed they often had a connection to repressed childhood memories or obsessions.  Hypnagogia for example is not a full dream, however, you are in a meditative state that allows you to access your consciousness.  This is why Edison would use this state to reflect and come up with ideas or solutions.

It is unknown exactly what our consciousness is capable of and if it even lives on after we die. If our consciousness is not confined to our physical body, where does it go when we are sleeping? Is a dream our subconscious or perhaps is it a peek into something else. We live in a 3-dimensional world. The 4th dimension is the time that we cannot see. Some consider it to be the bridge between our physical world and the spiritual world. The 5th dimension is thought to be the first major spiritual dimension where a person reaches a higher form of consciousness. It is in the 4th dimension that people claim they can astral travel and leave their body via their consciousness to visit another place or person. The 4th dimension is also made up of time. When we dream, it can feel like a dream has gone for hours, yet in reality, a dream lasts for only 20-30 minutes on average. Time doesn't seem to apply in our dreams - the ones that we remember anyway. Is this an indication that perhaps during our dreams, we are entering a different state of consciousness? Is that what would make it possible for us to receive a visit from a loved one in the form of a dream? Is that why we only remember certain dreams?

When it comes to daydreaming, I know myself I know sometimes I have drifted off into another World during a paranormal investigation.  Sometimes I dream about how the place would have looked 100 years ago when it is was thriving with people.  Other times I daydream about things that I think might happen during the night.  I remember one specific investigation, I kept getting mental images of what were like mini daydreams or mini-movies from the past of what a prison with people walking around would look like.  It was like a scene out of a movie.  I am not a person who is sensitive or psychic when it comes to the paranormal, but sometimes I even zone out and think that I am seeing figures walking around.  Am I somehow getting a glimpse into the past or are these just very well-timed daydreams influenced by the fact I am in a location 'looking for ghosts'?  If a person is driving along a long stretch of road at night thinking they might see a UFO or a ghostly figure on the side of the road, are they influencing their own daydreams just by expecting or thinking about it?  

One of the factors I guess to look for in all of these cases is tiredness and boredom.  We know when we are really tired or doing repetitive tasks that we are providing an ample environment for a daydream.  In the early hours of the morning on an investigation, we are tired.  We are repeating the same things and we are often sitting around waiting for things to happen.  People often drive home on little to no sleep, relying on caffeine to get them home (I know energy drinks are my poison in this circumstance).  So the next time you drift off and away and have an experience or a sighting, ask yourself the question .... 'Was I daydreaming?'

Of course when you have two people witnessing or experiencing the same thing at the same time ...................


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