Subjective Validation

When I was teaching English in Hawaii, one of my students told me she saw ghosts almost every day. I asked if there were any ghosts in the room at the time. She examined the classroom for a moment and said there weren’t.

This incited a debate among the class about the existence of ghosts and why some people see them and others don’t. Personally, I’ve never seen a ghost. According to my students, only true believes of apparitions can see them. At the time, I didn’t buy into that theory. Now I think there may be a lot of truth to it.

In psychology, they refer to this as Subjective Validation. We see what we expect to see. In other words, we interpret the world according to our personal belief system.

We all have a bias toward our own beliefs. Once we accept something as a fact, we start filtering information, looking for things that validate our belief and ignoring everything that disproves it. As adults, we’re not looking for new ways to interpret the world. We merely interpret our experiences in ways that validate what we already know, or at least what we think we know. We become selective in what we see and hear to a point that we’re blind to anything of the contrary. Hence, selective validation.

Often, as I sit at my computer, working on a story, I catch glimpses of movement out of the corner of my eye. When I turn, I find nothing there. My personal explanation is that my eyes are fatigued and I’m merely seeing spots. However, I know people who contribute such images to spirits, claiming they are easier to see with our peripheral vision and when we’re not actually looking for them. Thus, our belief, or lack of belief, in ghosts influences how we interpret the experience.

Sleep Paralysissleep-paralysis sleep-paralysis2 sleep-paralysis3 sleep-paralysis4

A prime example of this occurs with sleep paralysis. In this state, your body is asleep while your mind is partially awake. Thus, you’re mentally aware for the most part, but are unable to move. It’s often accompanied by vivid hallucinations and an ominous feeling that there’s a presence or entity in the room with you. This is something I’ve experience many times and it can be frightening, especially if you don’t know what’s happening to you. When I was a kid, it used to terrify me. Now that I know what is happening to me, it’s much less frightening but still very unpleasant.

The psychological significance of sleep paralysis isn’t the experience itself, but rather how people interpret the experience. In ancient times, people believed they were being attacked by witches. Others claimed they were being possessed by demons. This used to be my interpretation, especially after seeing the Exorcist. I believed the devil was trying to take possession of my body.

Many experts believe that sleep paralysis accounts for most stories of alien abductions. In today’s space age society, people no longer see witches or demons while in this state between sleep and wakefulness. Instead, the presence in room has become a terrestrial being performing experiments on them.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? What was your interpretation of it? Can you think of other examples of selective validation? And, here’s an interesting thought, are people seeing ghosts because they’ve been indoctrinated to believe in them or am I not seeing ghosts because I’ve been indoctrinated to believe they don’t exist?

Halloween: A Time for Exchanging Curses

Halloween: a holiday filled with ghosts, monsters and demented friends. Last year I went all out, adorned my place with ghoulish décor and had a big party with lots of friends and enough noise to drive my neighbors batty. This year I decided to give the neighbors and myself a rest.IMG_0465

Since I wasn’t using all of the decorations I purchased, NC wanted to know if she could borrow them to create her own haunted party. We had a pumpkin-carving contest. Tali and Jeff won with their werewolf, but basically they cheated since Jeff does makeup for horror movies.

When NC returned my plastic crate of Halloween decorations, she said I might as well stuff it in my living room closet, since I recently cleaned it out and now had extra space. Normally, I keep the decorations in a storage cabinet in the garage. Being a suspicious soul, I had to wonder why NC would suggest that I keep the crate in the living room closet. Why would she care where I put it? So, as I was putting the crate away (in the garage), I opened it up, dug through it, and guess what I found. That’s right, the evil nutcracker. Now NC, the devious little brat, thinks she’s pawned her bad luck off onto me. Since she’s too lazy to even read this blog, she’ll never know that I found it. What do you think, should I tell her?IMG_0512