Sleep Paralysis or Spirits in your Room?
Soucouyant, lagahoo, la diablesse, douen, jumbie. Trinbago, the rest of the Caribbean, and basically the entire planet is rife with stories and legends about folklore characters – beings that tend not to have the best interest of humans at heart and operate mostly at night.
We might not all believe in (a) God, but we will readily accept the existence of malicious spirits. I am sure every one of us has a family member or friend who can relate some sort of unexplainable encounter with something from another realm. Walking across an intersection late at night and meeting a “tall, tall” man straddling the road and the only way to pass is between his legs. Hearing the sound of chains and a wooden box being dragged behind you in the dark. Meeting a bes’ ting with a big hat covering her face and a long skirt, and when you stop to buss lyrics she have a goat foot. Seeing a ball of fire moving through the air. Or being at home and seeing movements when no one else is there, or being in bed and feeling strange things happening to them. These are some of the stories I’ve heard.
Even if this hasn’t happened to many of us, several people would admit that they’ve experienced falling asleep, waking up, but not being able to move their bodies. A person is most vulnerable when they are asleep. The most obvious reason being that the eyes are closed. The body is also shut down to a certain degree and senses are in standby mode. If these malicious spirits are out to get us, the most advantageous time for them would be during this period.
So when you wake up at night and find that you cannot move, it must be a soucouyant, succubus (female demon who sexually seduces men in their dreams), incubus (male version who seduces women), or one of their cohorts that is holding you down to have their way with you, right? I’m sure you’ve heard about this before. Or maybe it is something else that is happening to you – sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis (according to WebMD) occurs when the body is transitioning between being fully awake and being asleep in either direction. This means that parts of us are awake and parts of us are shut down. What usually happens is that the mind is awake, while the body is not, hence the sensation of not being able to move. And since the mind is connected to the collective unconscious (cue Carl Jung’s theory that all experiences and definitions of archetypes etc exist on a plain that all humans can subconsciously access, and therefore joins us in the commonality of being; nothing is new, we are all the same), it is often rationalized with some type of external, spiritual force doing the restraining.
Whether you view it from a scientific or a spiritual standpoint, panic often sets in; and panic is exactly what amplifies the experience.
I have personally experienced both, sleep paralysis and spiritual subjugation. Before I continue, I must establish the fact that I am speaking from a Christian standpoint, so I believe in God as a benevolent, spiritual being and in the existence of malicious spirits as well, so to me there is some validity and truthful foundation or source for all the folklore. Or if you believe in the Matrix, they are errant programmes.
These occurrences, for me, started after I came to the U.S. in 1998. Before that, in Arima, Trinidad, the only strange night-time activity (keep it clean people) was that I sometimes left my body (another article for another time).
This is how it usually unfolds. I would be in the bed at night on my back. Sleeping on my stomach is my default position, ambien improves sleep, so my body automatically turns itself. I am a person, who, due to my ninja skills, tends to remain aware of my environment in case a bandit tries to come in and needs to be ‘folded up’ in a corner.
Anyway, I would try to turn and find myself unable to move at all. My eyes would be open and my mind would be straining, but my body would just remain immobile. I would feel disconnected from my body, even though I knew I was still breathing. This sensation would last 20 to 30 seconds; then, like a switch being flipped, things would return to normal. This would happen ever so often, and I never really mentioned this to anyone because I thought it was just me and I was going mad.
However, within the last seven years, after my mother passed, the experience has changed. It started off just like any other time so I remained calm and counted down until I would be able to move again. But time just kept going and the pressure actually seemed to increase on my body. I started to panic and decided to cry out to God. As soon as I did that the weight was immediately lifted and I sat up. From that point it has been like this. I cry out and it stops.
Maybe it is just sleep paralysis and I am trying to rationalize it based on my belief system. Maybe I am being attacked because my mother is no longer around to pray for my protection and I have to do it myself. I don’t know. But that is how the mind works. Human beings are always seeking answers and definitions. Categorizing and rationalizing life is what enables many people to function and deal with reality. The unknown is frightening. This is why when one’s body cannot move, the mind draws upon whatever system the person uses to handle life and tries to fit the experience within certain parameters.
So whatever reasoning you choose to apply to the inability to move at night, know that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Not believing in something does not mean it doesn’t exist and oftentimes the simplest explanation is best and right.
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