Seeing things

31 Jul 2019
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I was discombobulated. A recent afternoon, Spock and I at the dog rescue charity... We took a dog into the woodland, unleashed to enjoy some freedom. Next task was to bring another dog in, to assess their reactions. Spock went to get the next one. They have to be on leads for introductions, so I watched out for his return. Then he appeared, walking down the,long track, bright blue jumper, baseball cap. I walked away to put the lead on my staffie, looked round, Spock was now coming through the gate behind me. I glanced at my dog, looked back, no one there.

The track was empty. He eventually reappeared, having been delayed.

My first fear was this was a premonition. The morning before my grandmother in Ireland had died, a lady came into my bedroom while I was playing, spoke to me and then disappeared. I was six, and had only met her once, when taken to Ireland as a newborn. I was shown a photo, and instantly recognised her. Later that day the telegram arrived.

Spock still very much alive next day, so then I started thinking - dementia, schizophrenia, brain tumour? I was due an eye test that week. No change to my prescription, healthy eyes.

I have tried not to brood on it, but a meeting last week gave me another possible explanation.

I was reading to a new blind friend Sid. He told me that his blindness was due to macular degeneration. I learned something new.

He has an associated condition, apparently experienced by a small proportion of macular patients, Charles Bonnet syndrome. He sees people and buildings that are not there, and geometrical shapes. The people are usually wearing Victorian dress, often mourning garments. The buildings are not famous ones, sometimes just the skeletons or scaffolds.

His background is electronics, he worked on the first independent television broadcasts in the UK. Using his knowledge of how television images are formed, he has trained his brain to fill in the gaps in his vision, enabling him to see more, and he can enjoy some television programmes again.

In his own words "As a young man I was interested in the experiments of Professor Theodor Erisman, using goggles with mirrors, using alien scenes to show how the brain adapts and reconstructs what it sees. It occurred to me that I could instruct my visual cortex to emulate digital TV circuitry, using elements of my sight microseconds before a gap in my sight. I now rarely have Bonnet images, but I "see" complete scenes."

I was expecting to see Spock that day, and I am wondering if something in my brain reacted to that expectation? Obviously I did not knowingly "instruct" my brain to conjure up this picture, and there was clearly some unusual, but not necessarily worrying, activity going on in my head.

Next time I meet Sid I am going to quiz him, how does he instruct his visual cortex? The possibilities are fascinating. But what about you, does your brain play tricks with you, have you had anything like this happen?

Val

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

The painter

Aug. 1, 2019, 5:27 a.m.

It sounds like you have a gift Val. I wonder if you have ever been able to explore this with anyone? Sid clearly has an ability to link to the past too. Three years ago I started to experience things that I couldn’t understand but I was lucky enough to find a spiritual mentor and teacher who helped me immensely. Nothing feels strange anymore and I have learnt more than I ever imagined. I appreciate the need to see this scientifically but our world has many more dimensions than we can possibly be aware of. I wish you all the luck with your quest to understand this, the universe has a funny way of supporting you if you remember to ask. Love and blessings ??

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Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 4:59 p.m.

Hello.I have had quite a few possibly ghostly happenings over the years.I was a member at one time of the Society for Psychical Research,which had a surprising number of engineers involved.I was also one of a team run by man called Julian Isaacs,a local psychologist with an interest in the paranormal,until he moved to California many years ago.In experiments,I was a "receiver" rather than a transmitter! I agree with you,an open-minded approach is essential, there are more things in heaven and earth..... x

Oli

Aug. 1, 2019, 5:43 a.m.

Hi Val, for sure. My own brain is missing a face recognition module that most people have which means that I see the world differently to you. (Perhaps that’s what got me interested in studying this stuff.) Earlier this year I had people in the lab who couldn’t read the foreign gibberish appearing on their screen but that was okay because I only wanted them to tell me the colour of the letters. Well, the “gibberish” was all written in English but their brain didn’t believe that, so they didn’t notice it either. Our eyes are not cameras which passively record the world. The brain does ALL of the construction. Every sight, every memory, every feeling, even your feeling of your own body — all of it is a construction. And the brain’s job is to do it quickly so it makes a LOT of trade offs. It doesn’t have to do it perfectly (and by *** it doesn’t), it has to do it fast. It’s a functional construction; it doesn’t have to be that accurate, just accurate-ish enough. Which isn’t anywhere near as real as it feels. Where this has been useful for me is realising that emotions are about as accurate as perceptions. I.e. not accurate at all despite how they feel. Thanks Val.

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Ach UK

Aug. 1, 2019, 12:44 p.m.

That's interesting Oli, makes me feel more comfortable to think of the brain's " constructions" not necessarily being totally absolutely bang on the nail. Not so frightening in those moments when you think you're hallucinating, or well you might be, or I can think rather that it could be my brain's in overload and computing inaccurately. -- Takes the pressure off, if you can think, okay my brain's having glitches . . .its not headless Nick apparatising through my wall. Instead of me stressing off the scale and reaching for meds and predicating a major mental episode I can now try and check on my tiredness levels and how many stressful things I've been working on. Accepting the glitches and stepping back and idling for a bit. Much better. Thank you. XX Ach.

Oli

Aug. 1, 2019, 1:35 p.m.

Ach, sorry to keep using the phase "in the lab" but for example I've had participants hallucinating with vision, sound, smell, even in and out of body perception. These are people with no diagnosis and are given no drugs. All we do is adjust some of the variables of experience and we profoundly alter their experience. That experiment I described above is utterly fascinating because if you google "stroop test" you'll see it's a gold-standard test which is used because it's so robust. It should be impossible to defeat it. And we defeat it. (#feeling clever.) The really serious point here is that people generally don't appreciate how their whole experience, as in everything you've ever known or felt, is so malleable *despite* feeling so real. My clinical interest is in pain and even this is radically malleable. Because even pain is a construction. What one gets into is the very notion of what do we mean by reality? Anyway, accept those glitches! And while the clinical side of all that is outside my area it is highly likely, I'd have thought, that stresses, tiredness, etc. would increase the error rate.

Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 5:03 p.m.

Hi Oli,I was hoping you would respond.It is reassuring to think of my tired brain having a glitch.Once I stopped feeling scared about what happened,I began,not for the first time,to be grateful for this wondrous piece of kit inside my head! x

Molly

Aug. 1, 2019, 5:45 a.m.

Hi Val, I can’t really get my head around this at the moment, and can’t really relate to seeing things. I’d love to make a joke to put in the bag for our comedy act, but I can’t think of one. Do you volunteer at the rescue centre or are you looking to rescue a dog? I’m sure you have told us before but my memory isn’t as good as yours. My two that are not my two, were rescue dogs. May I take this opportunity to thank you for your massive support. For ‘getting’ the situation and saying all the right things. And Ach, if you are reading this, what a wonderful comment you left me yesterday. I’ve read it ten times. Molly xx

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Ach UK

Aug. 1, 2019, 12:47 p.m.

XX Molly. Ach.

Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 5:05 p.m.

Yes,we are volunteers,something I have done most of my adult life.No need to try to be clever or funny Molly, what has happened with your poor friend,and the affect on you and others,is no laughing matter.Sending hugs ***

Ruth

Aug. 1, 2019, 5:59 a.m.

The brain is an amazing organ. We only understand a very tiny part of how it works.

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Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 5:07 p.m.

I often curse mine, but you are right.x

Jul

Aug. 1, 2019, 6:39 a.m.

Very interesting blog Valerie. Quite comforting and reassuring too. I sometimes see different words in print to the ones actually before my eyes. I don't think it happens on screen. What is happening (I hope!) is that my brain thinks it knows in advance what it will say based on context and my agenda/thought process, so leaps in first to "read" the words. It can be quite disconcerting like your experience with Spock but I tend not to worry about it and now I've read your blog and the comments here, I think I'm right not to be concerned. (It happens only with short sentences such as headlines). Thanks Val! Jul xx

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Ach UK

Aug. 1, 2019, 7:07 a.m.

Hi Jul, sounds like your brain is just doing " predictive" text . . . Mine does this too and is much worse at it than Mrs Google lol. Always gets worse when I'm trying to hurry. :))) Ach. .

Jul

Aug. 1, 2019, 7:37 a.m.

Ha predictive text! Hadn't thought of that. Funny.Thank you Ach. Jul xx

Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 5:07 p.m.

I really like the idea of predictive text,maybe I experienced a visual version.***

Leah

Aug. 1, 2019, 9:21 p.m.

Jul, I do the exact same thing seeing different words, thought it was just me!!xx Val, thanks for the blog.

The Gardener

Aug. 1, 2019, 7:05 a.m.

I often hear Mr G's voice, calling my name, quite normally, not in a demanding fashion. I am often on the point of answering, or going into the room the voice came from, then realise he has been dead nine months and hospitalised for a year before that. I should think this is probably 'normal' for people who have been together for such a long time. Interesting Val x

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Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 6:13 p.m.

Being me,I would not rule out that he is still there,maybe in some other form,reaching out.Who knows? x

The Gardener

Aug. 1, 2019, 7:10 a.m.

As a writer and historian I don't know sometimes which world I am in (I think Mary feels this as well), But my people were real. I have all the actual documents. One particular woman born in, possibly my bedroom (same decor, wood pannelling) in 1706. She would have been carried past my present house to be baptised in church at a day old. She would have walked to her wedding in 1726. Sadly she would have been carried in her coffin in 1727. Her tombstone is beside the altar. She is very real. No ghosts, at all. Grand-children claim them, to avoid going to bed!

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Orangeblossom

Aug. 1, 2019, 8:26 a.m.

Thanks for the blog Val. A couple of years ago, I was helping a student in St. Peter’s Graveyard. He was doing the Graveyard Survey. In Wales, they sometimes put their address on the tomb. I came across someone who lived at our address in the early 20th Century. I took photos of it. When I told my husband & son about this, they suggested rather facetiously that I didn’t invite them back. In June I was attending a burial at the graveyard & although I tried to find the gravestone, I was unsuccessful. I shall take a walk there this weekend to look for it in order to satisfy myself that I wasn’t imagining it.’

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Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 6:15 p.m.

Hmm,I can imagine a ghost story starting here! x

Katie

Aug. 1, 2019, 11:39 a.m.

Your blog is *so* interesting Val xx

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Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 6:15 p.m.

Thank you x

Ach UK

Aug. 1, 2019, 1:07 p.m.

Hi Valley, Thank you for your blog today. I've not to my knowledge seen ghosts or other apparitions that I know of. But I certainly don't rule them out. The world indeed has more and more mysteries to unravel as we seem to understand more and more. I have had lots of interesting psychotic and hallucinatory experiences when , I would say, my mental health has been disturbed. Some quite funny, some alarming and some quite terrifying and I would prefer not to repeat any of them, but life gives what it does . My late Mother-in-law had a stroke a couple of years before she died and one of its long-lasting effects was that she "saw" a little dog which sat by her feet when she watched TV in the evenings. Part of her visual field seemed to have a glitch. She got used to it and would ask us to check whether it was there so when she stood she wouldn't tread on its tail. :)) Brought back some good memories, thank you Val. XX Ach.

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Valerie

Aug. 1, 2019, 6:17 p.m.

That sounds like a lovely side -effect of the stroke Ach,that is unless it was a real dog! You have been through the mill by the sound of it. xx

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Nicco

Aug. 6, 2019, 10:43 a.m.

I have had quite a few spiritual & paranormal occurrences in my lifetime - too many to mention but it started when i was 10yrs old & in bed - i heard a choir & musical instruments. My parents were in bed & i thought my father must've had the radio on. I got up theee times & went into their room but all was quiet & it wasnt coming from outside. I woke dad up ro ask if he'd had the radio on - he was angry at being woken & confirmed no, no radio. When i was 17 my fiance was killed in an rta. I met the man who was to become my husband on a blind date & we were sat outside in the car one evening when my fiance rode slowly past us on his bike, looked in at us & smiled, then rode away & disappeared. I was glad my husband-to-be was there at the time to also witness it as i don't think he would have believed me if i'd told him. I go through phases of seeing spiders on my bedroom ceiling which i have grown accustomed to, once it was bees on daisies, & the first time it happened i saw a huge green triangular shaped beetle - weird because i know they're not there but my eyes tell me they are. If i look away & focus on another part if the ceiling, there they are again. I've been told it's a rarer symptom of ME. I also go through phases of deja-vu & sometimws see places i've not been to other than in a dream - i've been told this is where one side of the brain hasn't caught up with the other side. All very interesting.

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