You know that feeling when you arrive in a place you’ve never visited before and it seems somehow familiar to you?
Or something happens and you swear the exact same thing has happened before.
Yeah, that’s déjà vu, and it’s not what we’re talking about here.
In fact, jamais vu (never seen) is the complete opposite of déjà vu.
It’s the feeling you get when you go somewhere or experience something that you’re already familiar with, but in that moment, it’s completely new to you – like it’s your first time.
Some people have experienced this when they say a word that they’ve said a million times before, but suddenly think that it’s the weirdest-sounding thing ever. Say “rhythm” aloud a few times and think about how freaking weird it sounds, seriously.
Others have totally blanked on their pin numbers after using them daily for a decade, or forgotten which hallway to take at work or school.
Just for a moment, it’s like the slate has been wiped clean and that hallway is undiscovered territory.
How This Can Be A Cool Thing
When and if you’re ever in a situation where you experience jamais vu, instead of freaking out because you “should” recognize your environment (or the dish you’re eating, or anything else of that ilk), take a deep breath and be present.
You now have an opportunity to experience something for the first time – again – and possibly make new, special memories, rather than glossing over them.
If you’re visiting a place and all of a sudden it feels like you’ve never been there before, try not to freak out! Instead, really take some time to look around and soak in all the details.
Have you ever visited a new place while on holiday and been so blown away by its beauty that you honestly couldn’t understand why the locals don’t walk around in awe and wonder at all the gorgeousness surrounding them?
People who live in places like Florence, Prague, and Paris are used to the architecture, sculptures, etc. all around them. They’re not new or cool or beautiful: they’re just there, and they see them every time they step outside.
Visitors are blown away by all the awesomeness, and take in every architectural detail on the buildings, every carved fountain, every carefully cultivated garden bed.
Jamais vu has just made you a tourist in your own backyard, allowing you to experience a place like it’s totally new to you.
You can have a blissed-out moment of childlike wonder as you look around and see – really SEE – everything around you.
Not taking anything for granted, not just glazing over or walking along with your eyes glued to your phone. How many details would you normally ignore entirely?
The same thing goes for a situation where you taste a dish for what seems like the first time, even if it’s supposedly an old favorite.
Many people seem to have forgotten how to really savor a meal. We hoover food into our mouths whilst watching TV, or mindlessly chop and chew and swallow without savoring anything.
Take your time.
Really enjoy that cup (or glass) of whatever you’re drinking. Breathe in its scent, swirl the beverage around in your mouth and see if you can identify different flavor notes.
If you’re eating a meal, close your eyes and really focus on each bite. Note the different textures, temperatures, how the ingredients play off one another. No two bites are ever the same: what do you taste in this one? How about the next?
It’s absolutely possible – likely, even – that your memory about the place or meal or whatnot will return shortly, but just for a moment, you can take the opportunity to experience the familiar as though for the first time.
That’s a rare and beautiful gift, and if you can move past the temporary discomfort and really immerse yourself in the experience, you may find some profound new beauty in what you had always taken for granted.
Just as a small side note: Jamais vu can occasionally be linked with forms of epilepsy and amnesia. If you find that you’re experiencing it more often than you’re comfortable with, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk to a healthcare provider about any concerns.
Have you experienced jamais vu before? When did it happen and what did it feel like? Leave a comment below to share with others.