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Sleep Paralysis – A Paranormal Phenomenon?
Hypnagogic and hypnopompic experiences (HHEs) accompanying sleep paralysis (SP) are often cited as sources of accounts of supernatural nocturnal assaults and paranormal experiences. Descriptions of such experiences are remarkably consistent across time and cultures and consistent also with known mechanisms of REM states. A three-factor structural model of HHEs based on their relations both to cultural narratives and REM neurophysiology is developed and tested with several large samples.
One factor, labelled Intruder, consisting of sensed presence, fear, and auditory and visual hallucinations, is conjectured to originate in a hyper vigilant state initiated in the midbrain. Another factor, Incubus, comprising pressure on the chest, breathing difficulties, and pain, is attributed to effects of hyperpolarisation of motor neurons on perceptions of respiration.
These two factors have in common an implied alien “other” consistent with occult narratives identified in numerous contemporary and historical cultures.
A third factor, labelled Unusual Bodily Experiences, consisting of floating/flying sensations, out-of-body experiences, and feelings of bliss, is related to physically impossible experiences generated by conflicts of endogenous and exogenous activation related to body position, orientation, and movement. Implications of this last factor for understanding of orientational primacy in self-consciousness are considered. Central features of the model developed here are consistent with recent work on hallucinations associated with hypnosis and schizophrenia.
Sleep paralysis consists of a period of inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep onset (called hypnogogic or predormital form) or upon awakening (called hypnopompic or postdormtal form).
Sleep paralysis may also be referred to as isolated sleep paralysis, familial sleep paralysis, hynogogic or hypnopompic paralysis, predormital or postdormital paralysis.
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"Old Hag Syndrome" sometimes referred to as "Night Hag" is another commonly used term for SP among many different cultures mainly in the western world. The term Old Hag is probably derived from a couple of sources, one being the word for Nightmare; Night -of course, we know this already, Mare being derived from the old English term Maere meaning demon or incubus (an incubus is believed to be a demon that visits during the night).
Other sources as listed by Dr. J. A. Cheyne, University of Waterloo Psych. Dept include German mar/mare, nachtmahr, Hexendrücken (witch pressing), Alpdruck (efl pressure), Czech muera, Polish zmora, Russian Kikimora, French cauchmar (trampling ogre), Greek ephialtes (one who leaps upon) and mora (the night "mare" or monster, ogre, spirit, etc.), Roman incubus (one who presses or crushes) ge, (evil spirit or the night-mare--also hegge, haegtesse, haehtisse, haegte); Old Norse mara, Old Irish mar/more.
Victims of "Old Hag Syndrome" awake to find that they cannot move, even though they can see, hear, feel and smell. There is sometimes the feeling of a great weight on the chest and the sense that there is a sinister or evil presence in the room. And like the above reader, they are often quite frightened about what is happening to them.
The name of the phenomenon comes from the superstitious belief that a witch - or an old hag - sits or "rides" the chest of the victims, rendering them immobile. Although that explanation isn't taken very seriously nowadays, the perplexing and often very frightening nature of the phenomenon leads many people to believe that there are supernatural forces at work - ghosts or demons. The experience is so frightening because the victims, although paralyzed, seem to have full use of their senses.
In fact, it is often accompanied by strange smells, the sound of approaching footsteps, apparitions of weird shadows or glowing eyes, and the oppressive weight on the chest, making breathing difficult if not impossible. All of the body's senses are telling the victims that something real and unusual is happening to them.
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The " old hag " syndrome or incubus etc does intrigue me, and I don't think it could be totally dismissed because there is so much we can't possibly explain for sure, but it does seem rather unlikely.
They can 'suggest.' They can preface their claims with 'My theory is ..'. That's fine. But when people presume to claim 'This is the way it is and there can be no other way ' ---- well, I naturally suspect those people of being know-alls or suffering from power and control issues and I don't appreciate their attempting to exercise their need for power and control in my life
The word " mare " comes from the Anglo Saxon meaning " to crush " and the term " nightmare " means the crusher who comes during the night "...
Maybe just a co-incidence but hey, who knows ??
Ancient Western literature also seems to be littered with mythology-enshrouded examples of the hallucinations associated with sleep paralysis, all centred upon a named shape-shifting being of some sort that attacks in the night. One such creature is the Incubus (Latin), described by Kiessling as a half-man half-beast entity which attacked in the night, and whose name gave rise to the word night 'mare'.
Other equivalents for this oppressive chest-crushing creature include 'mar/mare', (German), 'maire' (Old English), 'mara' (Old Norse), 'ephialtes' (Greek), 'muera' (Czech), 'cauchmar' (French), 'pesadilla' (Spanish), 'zmora' (Polish), and 'mar/mor' (Old Irish). Apparently the Europeans had more than one breed of these creatures: in Germany there were also the witch pressers ('hexendrücken') and elves ('alpdruck'); the Greeks called theirs 'pnigalion' (the choker) and 'barychnas' (the heavy breather).