The expression attributed to baseball great Yogi Berra is a humorous take on a subject that many people find disturbing, if not frightening. Déjà vu is a French term meaning “already seen.” The experience of déjà vu is an overwhelming sense of familiarity with a place or situation. It differs from simple confusion as to whether or not you have visited a place, had a particular conversation, or been involved in a particular activity in that the sense of déjà vu is less an intellectual than an emotional exercise. And, the depth of emotion can be very profound.
Consider, for instance, a traveler to a foreign land. He enters a restaurant or a museum and immediately senses that he has been there before, even though he has never previously visited that country. Or, take the case of a person sitting down for a meal with friends who suddenly has the uncanny feeling that he has previously had this same meal in the same location with the same friends discussing the same topics.
We have all had experiences similar to these. And, experiences of déjà vu are often accompanied by feelings of strangeness and dread. Are these experiences fragmented memories of past experiences, stories dimly remembered from childhood, or evidence of experiences in past lives or parallel universes? Or, are déjà vu experiences proof that the nature of time itself differs from our own conceptions?
These are all questions for another day, because the effect of the déjà vu experience is firmly rooted in the present regardless of its trigger. If you find the déjà vu sensation worrisome, you might try one of two different techniques to short-circuit it. One approach is to move from the present to the future. That is, try to predict the next things to be experienced. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to do so. Or, simply forget about it and say to yourself “It’s déjà vu all over again.”