Deja vu… and glitches in the Matrix.

by | Nov 17, 2020 | Blog | 9 comments

I used to watch the Matrix films a fair bit and I’m going to borrow one of their concepts for this post. The films follow a hero through a dystopian reality check, where, among other things, he learns to pay attention to the moments of déjà vu, the ‘glitches’ in the world around him. In the film, these glitches might be seeing something subtly not quite right within its own frame of reference, such as seeing the same person cross the same road twice within a few moments. These glitches are clues to a world behind the facade, a world he must learn to navigate (and conquer and triumph over, etc… )

I see glitches too. My moments of déjà vu find me looking at a scene, or participating in an event, and being suddenly thrown beyond it. And I know I’m not the only Third Culture Kid to experience this. My gaze can soften and pass through time and space to my other life, where something like this – and at the same time, very unlike this – has happened before.

The last moment of déjà vu I had was on a visit to a bit of countryside nearby. The trail ran up a hill, and the surrounding 360 degree view was stunning. Others were doing the same climb and little clusters of people congregated there, just for the view. A moment of peace, and beauty and shared appreciation of England’s green glory.

And the wave of nostalgia hit me hard. I was suddenly sad, close to tears and filled with an unexpected and long forgotten longing. An old familiar feeling to many Third Culture Kids.

I was suddenly longing for dunes. I was thrown back to the the times when our community abroad would climb the dunes in the early morning together, reaching the top and standing, in awe, at the view. The longing for a landscape I can no longer reach fills my eyes with tears even now.

One one level the glitching feels intrusive, insane, and so inconvenient! I am here, in England, with people I love, NOW. I want to be here. I am enjoying the day. I love the view.

But I loved another view first.

And so I glitch. And it’s lonely, because how can I share this? How can I share the double vision I am experiencing without wrenching those in my company from the present joy? How can I share my inexplicable sadness without communicating discontent?

Gently. Oh so gently I can hold the wave within me. I can give it boundaries, explore it and validate it. This wave cannot consume me for I am the wave and it is me. I am nostalgia personified. I am two worlds in one. I can flow between them and hold them both.

Then, secure in my compassion and care for both of my landscapes, I can share my glitching – gently, without discontent. And trusting that those I am with care more for me than the view. They can hold my experience as different from theirs. That is allowed. I am allowed to be here and there. I can ask this of them.

I am safe in these moments of déjà vu, when I trust my vision as true. I CAN see both worlds and they both exist – real in their own ways and with their own power.

In the Matrix films, the hero has a terrible choice. He must chose which world to commit to, which reality to invest in.

Reality can be less dystopian than this. As otherworldly as my dune visions seem, they were real – they ARE real. I can affirm both worlds. I can commit to myself in both.

I’m not glitching. I’m remembering all of me.



  1. Sharon Shaw

    Ooh, I was just thinking about the Matrix concept of deja vu earlier today! I love the idea that this can be the overlaying of our various lives; our various selves. The connection points that pin these lives/selves together with fixed points. For me it used to happen when I moved and met a new person who looked very similar to someone I’d left behind, or had the same name, or even something more prosaic like the same car.

    In the scenario you outline here, I find myself thinking of the parallels between the multiple communities we land on, however lightly. The people are different, but they share commonalities. The views are different, but they are both beautiful.

    • Dr. Rachel Cason

      Serendipity strikes again! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Sharon. Yes, to the recognition moments! I love this idea of parallels between communities – threads that travel across humanity. Our experiences of these parallels tell us so much about what we look for in community, in people as well as in places.

  2. Dan

    Dr. Rachel, Bingo! Hit the nail right on the head, as usual. Here’s a little paragraph I wrote for “Simroots” a few years back. From a parallel universe to yours (no dunes).


    Still Seen: Remembered Views

    Each of us can recall favorite or otherwise intense images from our
    youth. Maybe brilliantly-flowered trees or shrubs. Or something
    that really scared us–like the face a monkey makes just before it
    bites. Brush fires at night at the end of the dry season. Bats
    swarming out of the trees at twilight. Pagan villages clustered
    here and there. Hills, rocks, mountains, and valleys. Two scenes
    in particular rank high in my memory.

    The Jos Plateau, around 4000 feet in elevation, falls off very
    rapidly in some directions. The view near the escarpment of the
    high plains some 2000 feet below always gave me a pleasurable,
    wistful feeling. Almost like distilled nostalgia.

    Another intense image of Nigerian terrain rather scared me. Maybe
    partly because I was only six or seven at the time. We were taking
    our annual leave at Zagun or K’woi. Somewhere in the general
    vicinity of which ever place it was (we vacationed at both), we
    looked way down on what seemed like an abyss to me. Water
    thundered and crashed through a tumble of huge boulders. The
    immense and seemingly uncontrolled power of the surging water
    frightened me quite a bit and left on after-image burned forever
    in my mind.

    • Dr. Rachel Cason

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Dan – those early memories are so potent… we bring them with us.

  3. Tanya Wright

    This is beautiful and so spot on! Thank you for sharing.

    • Dr. Rachel Cason

      Thank you so much for reading, and for such a kind comment – I’m so glad it resonated.

  4. Antje Geiss

    Imhave had this kind of experience so often and it’s so comforting to read your words, that describe the experience so so well. There resonates a lot of love in the ability to hold space for both views, both the beauty of the moment and the beauty of the past. And It’s a key ability in my eyes to integrate and honor the tck experience
    Love, Antje

    • Dr. Rachel Cason

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Antje. Love is so often the key to holding discomfort or disorientation, isn’t it?

  5. Valerie

    So glad I’m not the only one. Thanks for sharing!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More from my blog

Third Culture Kids and Character Development

Third Culture Kids and Character Development

The Third Culture Kids I work with often feel their characters to be as fragmented as their stories. Instead of a story arch that sees a character develop over time, our stories can feel broken up, with distinct versions of our main character showing up in their different chapters. We can feel stuck with a plethora of under-developed protagonists, a sense of amorphous character ‘shape’ and unclear about our story’s direction as a result.

read more
Control and Third Culture Kids

Control and Third Culture Kids

"I feel like a control-freak!" OR "It just sort of fell into my lap..." I've heard both from the Third Culture Kids I work with, and from myself too! I've noticed over the years that TCKs can have a complicated relationship with control. Some of us (or some of us some...

read more
Third Culture Kids & Stability

Third Culture Kids & Stability

Stability. What does that word invite in you? What do you see in your mind’s eye? It’s a word I’ve had a mixed relationship with all my life. I would crave it, try and find systems or plans that would get me it, and then as soon as I had it in hand, there would rise...

read more