A simple quote from a fictional character provides much insight and much to ponder and think about.
Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly
Spoken by Morticia Addams written by Charles Addams
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Let's look at the word paranormal. A word that many of us use on a daily basis if not several times a day. Normal is what is considered to be a scientific explanation of the World around us. Para means outside of or next to, beside etc. So the 'para' refers to anything that is not considered to be normal. In the word paranormal, it tends to be associated with the supernatural. In psychology which is a study of the human mind, the 'para' in parapsychology means the study of the human mind again outside what is normal. So it is studying things like telekinesis and psi ability.
The question of course starts to become, if the paranormal is such a huge part of our lives and something that has essentially become normal for a person in different ways, is it still paranormal?
While I guess the dictionary argues that paranormal is defined by something that science does not recognize. It seems however that paranormal belief could be a normal part of us as humans. In the same ways many believe in a certain god, others believe in the supernatural or for a better word the paranormal. Maybe it is normal to believe in the paranormal? Studies have suggested that the belief part could be a part of how our brain works.
Paranormal phenomena are defined as those that, if genuine, would violate basic limiting principles of science (Broad, 1953). It is difficult to maintain paranormal beliefs in a manner consistent with the findings of contemporary sciences. However, paranormal beliefs (e.g., UFOs, reincarnation, psychic powers, and astrology) persist in society in spite of the best evidence against them. Paranormal beliefs among the general population are persistent according to the Gallup poll. In 1976, 17, 24, and 9% of people living in the USA believed in astrology, UFOs, and reincarnation, respectively, whereas in 1997, the ratios of believers were 37, 30, and 25%, respectively (cited in French and Wilson, 2007). The 2005 Gallup poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/16915/three-four-americans-believe-paranormal.aspx) found that 25% of living in the USA believed in astrology, 20 % believed in reincarnation, while 41% believed in ESP (extrasensory perception). Thus, beliefs in paranormal phenomena continue to be an ingredient of folk psychology.
Some studies have revealed brain processes correlated with paranormal beliefs. Citing evidence for the effects of stimulation and hallucinations caused by vascular anomalies, activities in the temporal lobe have been suggested to correlate with religious and mystical experiences (Persinger, 1983). An EEG (electroencephalogram) study revealed that believers in paranormal phenomena showed relatively higher right hemispheric activation and reduced hemispheric asymmetry of functional complexity (Pizzagalli et al., 2000). Disruptions of multisensory information integration from one's own body at the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) have been suggested to correlate with out-of-body experience, an important element of some paranormal phenomena (Blanke and Arzy, 2005).
Free will and paranormal beliefs
I am wondering if perhaps it is time to redefine the word paranormal. It seems to be more normal today rather than 'para'. Some may argue that the supernatural is more natural than super. As humans, I feel like we need to label things in order to understand them and process them. While we may not agree with certain labels, some are labeled as skeptics, some as believers. If you are in between you are a skeptical believer. If you see a ghost it is an apparition. If there are objects moved it is a poltergeist. We have throughout time labeled things that we don't understand in an effort for our brain to understand them more. No two sightings are the same. No two experiences are the same. Everything tends to be interpreted differently, experienced differently, researched, and investigated differently. It comes back to our own definition of that word ..... normal.
It is completely normal for me to spend a weekend in an abandoned building trying to find something paranormal. To my best friend, that kind of behaviour is terrifying and not normal at all. For her normal could be crafting for example. For me, I couldn't think of anything worse. Many will tell you they grew up in a house they felt was haunted and so it is normal for them to be surrounded by what are strange experiences. For myself, I didn't have any sort of experience until I was 21 so at that time it certainly wasn't anything normal in my book. As a society, it seems to be completely acceptable to believe in a form of god and practice a religion when there is no scientific evidence to suggest these gods exist. If a person however expresses a belief in the paranormal, it is still shunned by many as there is no scientific proof that ghosts exist. In a lot of ways, the belief associated with the paranormal is comparable to that of religion yet their levels of acceptance are very different.
The paranormal has certainly become more acceptable over the years and if anything is more popular and mainstream than ever before. There is so much that happens in the world that is outside of normal. 2020 is a perfect example of that. So again, maybe our definition of the words paranormal and normal needs to change. Maybe we need to accept the fact that weird stuff happens. Maybe we aren't supposed to understand it? Is that why after all these years we don't have any definitive answers? I do tend to wonder sometimes if it is something we just are not supposed to know until the time comes that we are ourselves meet our fate. Many people would question their God and ask a question such a "What is the meaning of life?". There is no definite answer here and when there is, it again is based on a person's opinions and own experiences much like a person's views on the paranormal. Many say they only truely know the answer to this question when they reach the end of their life. Maybe this is another way that the paranormal is similar to religion?
One day maybe as a society we may finally acknowledge what many have known within themselves for a long time, the paranormal is really just a normal part of our everyday life in some way shape or form.
Acceptance leads us back to that word ........ Normal
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