Anomalous, extraordinary, or otherwise interesting conscious experiences

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  • #1
hypnagogue
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I've always been interested in unusual phenomena in conscious experience-- events in consciousness that are novel, surprising, sublime, or just plain strange with respect to the normal waking consciousness in which we are usually ensconced. In the interest of exploring this topic, I'd like for this thread to become an ongoing log in which us PFers provide first person accounts of such anomalous experiences.

The recounted experiences can range from the mundane to the profound, the transient to the enduring, the rare to the recurring. They can issue from sleeplike states; states of emotional stress; extraordinary circumstances; psychoactive drugs; meditation; unusual, degraded, or heightened physiological or psychological functioning; extreme sensory deprivation or excitation; or they can be tied to some other factor or simply be apparently unexplained, random occurrences. Essentially, everything is fair game. Please don't be shy; what seems mundane and not worth mentioning to you could be quite interesting to someone else!

Some good, general guidelines to be mindful of: Try to be as detailed as possible in describing the nature of your experience, such that others will have a good sense of what the experience was like for you (perceptually, cognitively, and/or emotionally) and why it was anomalous. Also, it would be illuminating to mention external or internal factors that might have been relevant to the occurrence of the experience (e.g. was conducting so-and-so form of meditation, or had ingested such-and-such kind of drug, etc.).
 

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  • #2
hypnagogue
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I'll start things off by relating some unusual auditory experiences I've had. I'm somewhat prone to experiencing quite vivid auditory hallucinations when I'm in a hypnagogic state, that twilight region on the border of waking consciousness and sleep. I recall one instance on a lazy summer day when I was watching a baseball game on TV and nodded off into sleep. Suddenly I heard a swift, quite loud and somewhat jarring crack as if a bat had just struck a baseball. The noise startled me awake, but when I checked the game nothing of note was happening.

At the risk of sounding insane, a few times in the hypnagogic state (with no other circumstances of note, as far as I know) I have also heard spontaneously generated voices in my inner ear. Qualitatively, these voices sound similar to my inner speech; they do not sound as vivid or real as speech coming from the environment. The voices assume something of a personality, with a distinct emotional valence and exaggerated, almost caricature-like vocal features and styles of speech to match. When this has happened, I've been fully aware that the voices were just hallucinations occurring on the way to a full-blown dream state, but nonetheless the voices were generated spontaneously and were generally immune to any attempts at suppression. That proves to be unfortunate, since usually the voices have been irritating with a mildly negative emotional charge. The last time this happened, there were two independent voices chirping annoying or undesirable things (the exact contents I can't recall), and it was a bit of a nuisance that I was just trying to ignore and ride out until I fell asleep. After several minutes of this, another voice (spontaneous, not of my own volitional control) chimed in with something like "Oh, shut up already!" I believe it mostly cleared up after that.

I experienced another interesting auditory hallucination one time when I tried out a sensory deprivation tank. In the tank I was assuming an essentially meditation-like mindset, focusing my attention on my breath (which sounds almost thunderous in a sensory deprivation chamber!) and letting thoughts come and go, observing them without becoming absorbed in them. After some time of this (I would guess about 30 minutes), I noticed a faint musical strain coming to me as if from a very distant location. It was a reggae-like tune in the style of Bab Marley. What makes this especially strange is that I'm not a particularly avid fan of reggae or Bob Marley, and the song was definitely not a parroting of some song I had heard in ths past (or at least, I recognized it not to be, with a high degree of confidence)-- it was a novel musical composition being put together by my brain somehow, spontaneously.
 
  • #3
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hypnagogue said:
At the risk of sounding insane, a few times in the hypnagogic state (with no other circumstances of note, as far as I know) I have also heard spontaneously generated voices in my inner ear. Qualitatively, these voices sound similar to my inner speech; they do not sound as vivid or real as speech coming from the environment.
:confused: That's supposed to help you not seem insane? :rofl: :rofl:
 
  • #4
honestrosewater
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I've had something similar happen, but it's familiar music playing. It will be a song that I have recently been listening to and usually happens after using headphones. It isn't my inner voice singing the song; It sounds just like the normal song - whoever's vocals and the instruments, only much fainter and a bit fuzzy. It seems like the sound is coming from the environment (the first time it happened, I thought the radio was broken), but I don't experience the same sensation in my ear. It usually keeps repeating the same short snippets. I'm not in a 'special state' when this happens; It just needs to be quiet enough for me to notice the faint sound. I figure my brain is just doing something funny. And who knows how often it happens without me noticing. Could you be experiencing the same thing, only conversations instead of songs? You're sure the sounds are entirely new and not just memories?
 
  • #5
honestrosewater said:
I've had something similar happen, but it's familiar music playing. It will be a song that I have recently been listening to and usually happens after using headphones. It isn't my inner voice singing the song; It sounds just like the normal song - whoever's vocals and the instruments, only much fainter and a bit fuzzy. It seems like the sound is coming from the environment (the first time it happened, I thought the radio was broken), but I don't experience the same sensation in my ear. It usually keeps repeating the same short snippets. I'm not in a 'special state' when this happens; It just needs to be quiet enough for me to notice the faint sound. I figure my brain is just doing something funny. And who knows how often it happens without me noticing. Could you be experiencing the same thing, only conversations instead of songs? You're sure the sounds are entirely new and not just memories?
i have experienced this too. the songs of Pantera, Metallica, Linkin Park come again and again in my ear. the sound is ditto to the song.
just listen to dave mustaine's guitar and go to sleep and there it is. tinng. zzzing. and buzzing and, skdl;hfdgoreeorh;uf.

sometimes when my migraine headache starts i listen chinnn...ing sound in either of my ears.
 
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  • #6
matthyaouw
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I've had odd experiences when drifting off to sleep. I've been known to dream, but be concious enough to incorporate things I hear or in one case see into my dream. I can't remember any specific examples of what I was dreaming however.
 
  • #7
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Sometimes I hear little beeps like it's coming from just outside my ear (usually left ear). This hasn't happened in a while, it doesn't seem to happen at any paticular time or state of mind though.
 
  • #8
I've been trying to teach myself Lucid Dreaming, conciously perceiving that you are in a dream. A common way to try to induce a lucid dream is WILD, Waking induction of lucid dreaming. Basically you try to keep your mind awake while your body goes to sleep. The key is the hypnagogic state, which often induces both auditory and visual hallucinations. So no, I don't think you're insane for hearing things before you go to sleep :biggrin:
 
  • #9
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The other night I woke up and couldn't remember anything. It was just like when you arm goes to sleep and you have to just flop it around until it wakes up again, but it was my memory. I had no idea who I was, where I was or what to do. For the first few moments I just sat there, perplexed, but I gradually began to feel a little afraid. This was exacerbated by the fact that I slowly became aware (a strange phrase indeed) that I was not alone in the building, but that there was someone upstairs.

In the course of another 60 seconds I remembered that I was downstairs, that I had fallen to sleep on the couch, and that it was my wife who was upstairs, asleep.

It was a rather uncomfortable experience.
 
  • #10
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I'm often aware that I'm dreaming but don't have perfect control. Whenever I change something I wake up a little bit untill it's at the point that I'm just lying with my eyes closed making pictures in my mind. Not really dreaming.
 
  • #11
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Locrian said:
The other night I woke up and couldn't remember anything. It was just like when you arm goes to sleep and you have to just flop it around until it wakes up again, but it was my memory. I had no idea who I was, where I was or what to do. For the first few moments I just sat there, perplexed, but I gradually began to feel a little afraid. This was exacerbated by the fact that I slowly became aware (a strange phrase indeed) that I was not alone in the building, but that there was someone upstairs.

In the course of another 60 seconds I remembered that I was downstairs, that I had fallen to sleep on the couch, and that it was my wife who was upstairs, asleep.

It was a rather uncomfortable experience.
I've done that too! A couple times, it seems to happen when you fall asleep ... Or rather, it happens when you wake up in places you don't usually wake up in or are unfamiliar to you. I think they're quite cool.
 
  • #12
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I experiene Deja vu all the time. For example I will be walking some place I have never been before, but before I even go around the corner I already know what I am going to see and where I am going to walk because I experienced it in a dream before. I know it sounds far fetched to believe but I have had things like this happen to me many times.
 
  • #13
honestrosewater
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Smurf said:
I've done that too! A couple times, it seems to happen when you fall asleep ... Or rather, it happens when you wake up in places you don't usually wake up in or are unfamiliar to you. I think they're quite cool.
Yep, me too. The first one I remember was when I was 6. We had recently moved to a new house, and I fell asleep on the floor in the livingroom watching TV. I woke up in the middle of the night and panicked immediately, didn't know where I was or how I got there for several minutes. This happened other times when I used to go out partying with friends and we would end up passing out at someone's house (alcohol, marijuana). I didn't forget who I was - just massive confusion and panic.
 
  • #14
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honestrosewater said:
Yep, me too. The first one I remember was when I was 6. We had recently moved to a new house, and I fell asleep on the floor in the livingroom watching TV. I woke up in the middle of the night and panicked immediately, didn't know where I was or how I got there for several minutes. This happened other times when I used to go out partying with friends and we would end up passing out at someone's house (alcohol, marijuana). I didn't forget who I was - just massive confusion and panic.
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: I remember the first time I went to a punk show. I got so smashed, first time I tried marijuana too. Crashed at someone's house, in their attic, in a hammock, surrounded by 4-5 other people laying in sleeping bags and on inflated matresses. I had no idea where I was. Not sure how much of it I should attribute to the alcohol :biggrin:.

I don't panic though, I'm not the panicky type.
 
  • #15
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Just a few weeks ago I was at stop light and noticed the truck in front of me had a flat on the right rear tire. I couldn't believe the driver was ignoring it, and was baffled. I thought I might see if I could pull up next to her at the next red light and warn her.

Strangely, as we took off and proceeded to the next intersection, her flat tire "disappeared".

I think what happened was that the sun was at such a position, and at such an angle that the first tire I looked at cast shadows on each side of it that resembled the bulging folds of a flat tire.

Having "observed" that tire was flat, though, I saw it's counterpart on the left as fully inflated, despite the fact it had about the same shadows. In other words, I saw what I expected to see: if the first tire I noticed was flat, the other must not be.
I discounted these shadows as shadows, and "saw" the left tire as fully inflated, despite having been fully persuaded by the illusion of flatness on the right tire.

A short way down the road, with the sun at a somewhat different angle, they suddenly both revealed themselves to be fully inflated.

I was over tired, having only gotten about four hours sleep the previous three nights. What bothered me the most was that I had almost warned someone about a flat they didn't have.
 
  • #16
hypnagogue
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Grizzlycomet said:
I've been trying to teach myself Lucid Dreaming, conciously perceiving that you are in a dream. A common way to try to induce a lucid dream is WILD, Waking induction of lucid dreaming. Basically you try to keep your mind awake while your body goes to sleep. The key is the hypnagogic state, which often induces both auditory and visual hallucinations. So no, I don't think you're insane for hearing things before you go to sleep :biggrin:
Have you had any successes yet? Anything interesting happen?

I was fairly dedicated to trying to induce lucid dreams during a summer several years ago. I was using WILD techniques advocated by Stephen LaBerge, including the rather cumbersome process of arranging to wake yourself up before getting a full night's sleep, staying up for about 20 minutes and then going back to sleep using some of the mindfulness techniques you mention. I didn't have great success inducing lucid dreams (I managed to start them off several times but they never lasted very long), but I did have some strange things happen.

In the most vivid and remarkable occassion, I was lying on my bed doing WILD, and had a subjective sense that I was making good progress. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt an enormous sensation of energy pulse through my body. The best way I can describe it is to say it felt something like a great current of electricity shot through me, although it wasn't unpleasant at all, except perhaps for the sheer intensity of it. My memory gets a little fuzzy here, but I believe this event precipitated the occurrence of another interesting event-- possibly a lucid dream or a brief, subtle out of body-ish experience (see below)-- but it didn't get very far. I think what happened was I got too excited that something extraordinary was happening and I lost my mental concentration, and with it went the experience.

Using WILD I've also had experiences where my body subjectively feels like it has sunk deep into the bed, as if I'm lying on a soft mattress that yields about 3 feet when I lie on it. Sometimes accompanying this experience is a subtle loss of the sense of my body boundary, such that it's difficult to tell where my body ends and the bed begins-- they feel almost like they continuously merge into eachother. Once or twice when this has happened, I've also experienced a slight out of body kind of feeling, where it seems like "I" am hovering just a few inches over where my body actually is. I've experienced similar "sunk into the bed" feelings (though nothing out of body-like) while deep in self-hypnosis, another mind altering technique I've dabbled in.
 
  • #17
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At all times I see what looks like infinitely small dots everywhere. They seem both black and white at all times but not quite. They don't impede my vision at all and are present in total darkness, light, with my eyes closed, and in twilight. Occasionally the dots seem to form shapes, but the shapes don't stick to the same part of my vision like "light stains" do when I glance at the sun or a bright light. I can control the shapes to some degree, but barely.

Once I was travelling to my dad's house on the other side of California and I felt a great sense of dread. I told my dad to be careful numberous times. After a while I started seeing a kind of blurry color in my inner eye. After a while I could see others as well. About 3 hours into the trip it felt like something was lodged in my chest. I imagined/saw a piece of metal in my inner eye. About 4 hours into the trip we came upon a HUGE car wreck exactly where I saw the first color.

I have a lot more, but I can't remember them all right now.
 
  • #18
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As a kid I had flowered wall paper in my room, and as I fell asleep, the flowers would begin to dance. Well I called it dancing, mostly movements in circles and waves.
To me it was very natural, and was suprised when I found out that others don't see this.
 
  • #19
hypnagogue
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As a yound child (I would guess around 5-7 years old) I sometimes experienced what, in retrospect, is an odd sort of mental imagery when I closed my eyes. I would see a constellation of dimly lit points of light, somewhat as if seeing stars in outer space, and my perspective would zoom through the field as if I were traveling on a very fast space ship. At regular intervals on the order of seconds, the zooming would abruptly stop (I believe the points of light would actually jiggle back and forth a bit as if the abrupt stop had caused a reverberation), and then it would continue again in another direction. This occurred spontaneously, but I recall being able to initiate it intentionally if I so wished. I usually experienced this when lying down to go to sleep, but I don't recall being very sleepy when it would happen. It seems an odd sort of thing to happen in retrospect, but at the time it felt quite natural and not out of place to me.
 
  • #20
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honestrosewater said:
I've had something similar happen, but it's familiar music playing. It will be a song that I have recently been listening to and usually happens after using headphones. It isn't my inner voice singing the song; It sounds just like the normal song - whoever's vocals and the instruments, only much fainter and a bit fuzzy. It seems like the sound is coming from the environment (the first time it happened, I thought the radio was broken), but I don't experience the same sensation in my ear. It usually keeps repeating the same short snippets. I'm not in a 'special state' when this happens; It just needs to be quiet enough for me to notice the faint sound. I figure my brain is just doing something funny. And who knows how often it happens without me noticing. Could you be experiencing the same thing, only conversations instead of songs? You're sure the sounds are entirely new and not just memories?
I sometimes experience something like this. Sometimes when I have a song in my head, all of a sudden the song will go through a sort of qualitative phase change and sound quite vivid and clear, as if I am actually listening to it (although it still seems very much 'in the head' as opposed to coming from the environment). This effect usually lasts for several seconds with no conscious intervention on my part, but then fades.
 
  • #21
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I've done that too! A couple times, it seems to happen when you fall asleep ... Or rather, it happens when you wake up in places you don't usually wake up in or are unfamiliar to you. I think they're quite cool.
sounds like a typical saturday morning for me after a crazy friday night :smile:
 
  • #22
matthyaouw
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Smasherman said:
About 3 hours into the trip it felt like something was lodged in my chest.
Were you sleeping/snoozing at the time? A feeling of pressure on the chest is a common symptom of sleep paralysis.
 
  • #23
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No, I was wide awake.
 
  • #24
EnumaElish
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hypatia said:
As a kid I had flowered wall paper in my room, and as I fell asleep, the flowers would begin to dance. Well I called it dancing, mostly movements in circles and waves.
To me it was very natural, and was suprised when I found out that others don't see this.
That's really neat, and cute!

Here is a personal "ghost story." (Not really scary, just weird.)

I used to live in a high-rise building. An elderly lady who served at the front desk used to live in one of the apartments and we'd chat every once in a while. Then I moved to a nearby place but continued to talk to some of my previous neighbors. One day I learned that that woman had fallen ill and was hospitalized. As she stayed in the hospital, some of our common neighbors used to visit her in the hospital. I never went myself but sent my well wishes and was told that she remembered me.

At around that time, I started to get the feeling that there was a "presence" in my new place, usually during the evening hours. I never felt a threat, just a weirdness. I stopped sleeping in the master bedroom where I thought that was happening, and started sleeping in the small bedroom where I thought it didn't happen.

Days went by until one dreadful winter night when I got home very tired and dragged myself to the master bedroom to go to sleep. There was a winter rainstorm, with a wind that was shaking trees to their roots, and a rain coming in lashes. I was so tired that I thought I couldn't sleep. Then a heaviness descended upon me, and I dreamily thought that something was covering and weighing over me, so that I could sleep despite being so tired. My last memory before I fell into sleep was how the wind was sounding like a wild laughter as it howled and whistled through the branches and dry leaves of the trees nearby, and for some reason I imagined a couple of sisters' ephemeral spirits laughing as they ran wildly along the wind. Then I fell asleep.

That weekend I heard from an ex-neighbor that the woman in the hospital had passed on, during that stormy night, and at around the time that I thought I had heard a couple of sisters laughing in the wind.

It took me a while to make the connection, especially to the passive "visits" during the evening that coincided with the time that she was in the hospital. I now think that she was letting herself wander at night, in the neighborhood that she had lived and worked last. And that, during a stormy night, she was invited by an older sister to come and join her and to laugh with the wind.

P.S. Animist stories can be found in almost any culture; e.g. the Irish have their black bird (a crow?) that signals someone has deceased. What I posted above is the only such event that I personally experienced, to my knowledge.
 
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  • #25
hypnagogue said:
Have you had any successes yet? Anything interesting happen?
I have had a few interesting experiences. I have reached the hypnagogic state many times, and have seen plenty of interesting images in my "mind's eye", and also had auditorial hallucinations such as bangs, knocks, voices, and sometimes bits of music. Sometimes I have also felt as if I was floating, not "hovering above my own body" as you mentioned, and as I have read a lot of people feel when they try these techniques, but rather floating in the same posistion, as if the bed wasn't there, but the air still supported me in the same place.

I have not yet succeeded in taking the last step and actually achieve a lucid dream, but hopefully I will in due time. :approve:
 

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