If you’ve ever felt like there’s someone behind you, even though you can’t see them, you’re not the only one. Science studies this phenomenon in search of answers.
Have you ever woken up with the impression that you are not alone in the room, even though you are completely alone? If so, don’t panic, because you are not the only one who has had this feeling. And even more intriguing: science may have answers for you.
First, visualize this situation: in the silence of the night, you open your eyes and, for a moment, you cannot move or make a sound. As you struggle to understand what is happening, you feel an unfamiliar presence nearby, perhaps pressing on your chest. What you are experiencing is sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis occurs when there is a small mismatch between your REM sleep phase and your waking state. During that period, even though your mind is awake, your body does not respond. But it is not the only case of sensations of presence.
The phenomenon is called hypnagogic hallucination,—in most cases—and refers to hallucinatory visions or sensations that manifest at the borders of the dream state. It is interesting to note that it has been proposed that certain religious visions documented in the 19th century could be based on these hypnagogic episodes.
However, a comparative study has shown that in addition to sleep paralysis it also happens in spiritual practices, solitary activities – as a defense mechanism – and even in endurance sports. The comparative results showed that the general tendency to experience hallucinations predicted the frequency of PF (Physical Presence) in all activities..
In all these circumstances, several characteristics of the sensation of presence coincided remarkably. For example, people often sensed a presence right behind them. These three groups identified presences linked to sleep, as well as those influenced by deep emotions, such as the grieving process.
The study of the perception of presences goes back centuries.
It is not the first time that science has tried to find an answer, according to an article in TI have Conversation, in 1894, The Society for Psychical Research interviewed more than 17,000 people, discovering that many had experienced impossible visitations that predicted events such as death..
If you find yourself in the dark, if you feel alone, or if you feel like you can’t ask for help, these feelings can intensify. But there is one consolation: although these experiences are terrifying, they do not indicate that you have a psychosis. They are experiences that occur in a particular state of mind and for which science seeks answers.