Help! Can science explain feeling the “presence” of a dead loved one?
Posted: 28 December 2013 11:26 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I was wondering if someone can help me.

A close friend of mine (who is generally fairly skeptical) reached out on fbook asking if anyone could recommend a clairvoyant. She privately confessed that she is struggling to move on from the death of her beloved grandmother a year ago. She said that she can’t explain it, but that she regularly and with certainty “feels her grandmother’s presence” around or nearby her. She feels that this is interfering with her grieving process.

She is the first to admit that seeking out a clairvoyant is completely out of character, but she just feels so desperate and doesn’t really know how to start exploring what she is going through. She’s not completely off the deep end, and said that she is definitely also going to speak to her psychologist about it. If she wasn’t already generally pretty skeptical, and if she didn’t come to me specifically asking for my very honest opinion and encouraging me to look into the science when I brought it up I wouldn’t touch this situation with a ten foot pole. I did tell her that she might not be ready to let go of these feelings so if she changes her mind about me looking into the science of it, all she has to do is let me know and I will support her regardless.

I’ll bet my bottom dollar that science has something to say about feelings like this, even if it’s nothing terribly comprehensive or conclusive. I’m a bit hesitant to go Googling away blindly though, as I’m sure much internet discussion on the topic is seeped in serious Woo. Does anyone have suggestions of reputable places to start looking for real answers? There must be some sort of neurology or psychology which looks at grief and the perception of a loved one’s “spirit”. Even if people could just point me in the direction of reputable research and theories on the subject it would be really helpful.

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Posted: 28 December 2013 11:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Oops, posted that twice accidentally smile

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Posted: 29 December 2013 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Should be studying… - 28 December 2013 11:27 PM

Oops, posted that twice accidentally smile

Second one has been deleted. Thanks.

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Posted: 29 December 2013 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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What I’d really like to see is a study on why people insist they agree the brain is a powerful organ and can produce incredibly complex and seemingly realistic simulations and hallucinations on a regular basis (dreaming). Yet when it’s suggested the brain can do this when awake, suddenly people are like “nope, it was real, I know it!” even though it’s rare anyone realizes they are dreaming until after they wake up, even though it’s (in most cases) obviously not reality.

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Posted: 29 December 2013 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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We invest a great deal of emotion connected with those we are very close to.  As such, it would be easy when our mind happens to drift or we happen to think of the person, to feel the emotions strongly enough that we have the same feelings we had when they were actually present.  Even though my parents have been gone for quite a while, when I think of events that involved them, they are part of my fuzzy memory visualization.

My dreams, although uniformly boring, are relatively realistic.  Rarely, after I’ve awakened my mind drifted back to an event as if it were real for just a moment, then I realize it’s part of a dream I had.  It happens very seldom, but I get a kick out of how, for a bit, my mind conflated reality with a dream.  This kind of thing might be happening to your friend, but without her ability or desire to separate it from reality.

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Posted: 01 January 2014 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Carl Sagan wrote about his experience of the presence of his deceased parents this way:

Probably a dozen times since their deaths I’ve heard my mother or father, in a conversational tone of voice, call my name. Of course they called to me often during my life with them — to do a chore, to remind me of a responsibility, to come to dinner, to engage in conversation, to hear about an event of the day. I still miss them so much that it doesn’t seem at all strange that my brain will occasionally retrieve a lucid recollection of their voices.

Such hallucinations may occur to perfectly normal people under perfectly ordinary circumstances. Hallucinations can also be elicited: by a campfire at night, or under emotional stress, or during epileptic seizures or migraine headaches or high fever, or by prolonged fasting or sleeplessness or sensory deprivation (for example, in solitary confinement), or through hallucinogens such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, or hashish ... It is very likely that the normal human body generates substances — perhaps including the morphinelike small brain proteins called endorphins — that cause hallucinations, and others that suppress them. Such celebrated (and unhysterical) explorers as Admiral Richard Byrd, Captain Joshua Slocum, and Sir Ernest Shackleton all experienced vivid hallucinations when coping with unusual isolation and loneliness.

Whatever their neurological and molecular antecedents, hallucinations feel real. They are sought out in many cultures, and considered a sign of spiritual enlightenment.

...Hallucinations are common. If you have one, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy. The anthropological literature is replete with hallucination ethnopsychiatry, REM dreams, and possession trances, which have many common elements transculturally and across the ages. The hallucinations are routinely interpreted as possession by good or evil spirits.” — Carl Sagan, THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD (Ballantine, 1996), pp. 104-105.

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Posted: 01 January 2014 07:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks so much to everyone who is taking the trouble to post, it’s all really helpful.

I was thinking of it more in terms of specific phenomena like waking dreams or something, but you guys are right, there’s so much we don’t know about the brain except for the concept that it can definitely generate these kinds of experiences by itself for various reasons.

That’s such a great quote btw. I have a copy of demon haunted world somewhere, I’ll have to dig it up. It might help her if she wants to to read about others who have had similar experiences.

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Posted: 06 January 2014 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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This kind of stuff is really out of scientific field. You cant really “prove” an apparition is actually occurring
That being said, it does sometimes get annoying when a religious zealot tries to proselytize on the solely on the basis of them

These are interesting

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200302/galvanizing-ghosts

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-journey-ahead/200808/is-it-real-or-is-it-hallucination

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-things-human/201001/apparitions


Personally, I like proofs of my faith to be away from apparitions and the like.

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Posted: 07 January 2014 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m sorry I don’t have an exact reference, but I watched this show on Science or NatGeo about a scientist who’s developed a “god helmet” (or ghost helmet).  When his subjects wear it, they report feeling others are in the room. He postulates that he’s identified therefore the parts of the brain that account for peoples accounts of ghosts, god, etc.

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