We’ve all seen that one ghost movie that has us sleeping with the lights on because we think it will prevent them from visiting us during our slumber. However, do you know someone who swears they have seen an actual spirit? Here are some reasons why people may see ghosts.
Dr. Frank T. McAndrew, Professor of Psychology at Knox College, explains that extreme stress can cause people to see and experience things that are not there. He uses the term sensed presence to describe a specific situation where an individual may become isolated in an unnatural environment that triggers high levels of stress. For example, this can be waking up alone in a hospital or spending the night in a cabin in the woods. Dr. McAndrew says that people in those situations may report the presence of an entity. This can be the result of sudden changes in brain chemistry brought on by stress.
Protection From Harm
Dr. McAndrew also describes an evolutionary psychological term known as an agency-detection mechanism, which can happen when we are placed in unfamiliar situations and the possibility of threat is there. As a result, our body enters a heightened state and we are on the lookout for danger. This is an important overreaction because if there is no threat then there is no harm. But if we fail to react and there is a threat, it could be costly. Dr. McAndrew explains that some individuals who may not be in imminent danger but are under stressful conditions are more likely to have paranormal encounters.
Dazed State of Consciousness
Sometimes if the mind is not fully alert it can convince us of things that may not be real. Joe Nickell, a senior research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, says people are more likely to see ghosts when their state of consciousness is altered. The term waking dream is used to describe this scenario. For example, when you feel as though there is a presence standing over your bed in the middle of the night. According to Nickell, this happens when you believe you are awake but are still asleep and having a nightmare. Your body is experiencing sleep paralysis and your mind is projecting your dream onto a visual plane.
*This article doesn’t address spirit guides who may visit us. We are not discounting the experience of people who believe in them.