Exophoria: A new phenomenon?
A few years ago I was invited to speak at a conference in Los Angeles. At the time I had no idea what the topic would be. However, after hearing some of the speakers’ stories, it seemed like they were talking about something very interesting. They described how their lives had changed dramatically when they underwent “exophoria”. The term “exophoria” refers to the experience of having an intense emotional connection with another person or object. For example, one speaker mentioned that she felt a strong bond with her cat because he always looked after her while she was sick. Another spoke about how she could feel a deep sense of love for her dog even though they didn’t get along all the time.
The most common type of exophoria is known as “intermittent exophoria” (IEP). This occurs during periods of stress. When someone experiences IEP, they may have a strong feeling of attachment to the thing that gives them comfort. For example, if they are worried about losing their job, then they might become attached to their car which provides them with a sense of security. If they lose their job and need money immediately, then they will develop an intense desire for cars since it will provide them with immediate financial stability.
Another type of exophoria is “persistent exophoria” (PEP) which involves an emotional connection with a person rather than an inanimate object. For example, someone who suffers from PEP may find themselves developing an attachment to a stranger on the street since they are lonely and yearn for human companionship.
The final type of exophoria is known as “sustained exophoria”. This involves having an ongoing emotional connection with a person or object for a long period of time. This is sometimes called “love addiction” or “obsessive love”. The difference between this and other types of exophoria is that the symptoms never disappear. There is no “cure” for it.
Since I would be attending the conference, I decided to gather as much information as possible about these conditions. I was very surprised to find that very little research has been done on exophoria. Most of the available research only focuses on IEP whereas PEP and Sustained Exophoria are almost completely neglected. There is no information on if these conditions are inherited from parents, or how they develop in the first place. It is also not clear how many people are actually affected by these problems.
It may be the case that a lot more people have these problems than previously thought.
I decided to stay an extra day in Los Angeles in order to interview as many people as possible. The first person I spoke to was a mother who had a son who was affected by IEP. She told me that her son became excessively attached to his favorite blanket when he was a baby. He would constantly scream if anyone else touched it, even for cleaning purposes. As he grew older, the condition worsened.
He would scream and shout whenever she tried to take it from him. He would become extremely hostile toward anyone who took it away from him. In fact, he became so hostile that on several occasions he threatened to call the police since he believed that she was trying to steal his favorite blanket from him. I asked her if she ever considered getting him a new one but she told me that she did, but he would still refuse to touch it, claiming that it wasn’t “the same one”.
I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t be able to find anyone else who was willing to speak with me about this. Most people are unwilling to discuss the topic since they fear being criticized, or they simply lack the vocabulary to explain their experiences. It’s one thing to read articles online about IEP or PEP but a whole other experience to actually live with it.
I had began to think that I would have to resort to deceit and pose as a Psychology student in order to gain access to the conference, but as fate would have it, I was saved by the bell (or rather the speaker).
The speaker for the day had just begun his lecture, which was beingstreamed live online. He had light brown hair and was wearing a dark suit. He seemed to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s.
He had just concluded his introduction and was beginning his lecture. He touched upon several topics including the brain, consciousness, memory, and dreams. He also explained how all of these processes are related and affect one another. For example, a lack of REM sleep can have an adverse effect on long-term memory.
I was beginning to doze off but then he mentioned something that caught my attention. He was talking about how dreams can sometimes be more “real” than reality itself. He gave the example of lucid dreaming, where the dreamer is fully aware that they are dreaming. He then went on to mention a new phenomenon that has been observed by dream researchers: false awakening.
“A false awakening is when a person dreams that they woke up only to find out that they are still asleep.” The speaker explained.
So are you saying that people can dream while they’re dreaming?”
someone called out from the crowd.
“Exactly.” The speaker replied. “It’s all quite fascinating if you ask me. These false awakening are more common than one might think and I myself have experienced it firsthand.”
He then went on to explain how he had been dreaming of being in a classroom listening to a Harvard professor give a lecture on the brain. He explained in great detail everything that had happened in his dream, he even recalled writing down some notes.
“After I woke up I looked at my notebook and saw that there were actually notes in there, although my handwriting is nowhere near as neat as what was in the dream.” The speaker explained to the audience. “I later looked up the names of the professor and some of the students in my class but none of them were real, in fact I wasn’t even attending Harvard at the time, I was still enrolled in UCLA. It just goes to show you should pay attention in your dreams, you never know when you might be dreaming!”
After a few more “amazing facts about the brain” the speaker finished his presentation. I waited until the crowd had thinned out before approaching him.
“You know, you mentioned that you had experienced a false awakening before.” I said trying to seem as non-threatening as possible. “
Can you tell me about it?”
“Oh yes, I’m an expert on the subject now! Ha ha!” He laughed. “Let’s see, where to begin…”
He then went into how he had been dreaming that he was taking a test, and after finishing it he had looked over at the girl sitting next to him (in his dream). He saw that she was writing so he hadn’t bothered her. As he sat there waiting for his test to be collected he thought about how well the class was going and how he would definitely get an A.
“That’s when I noticed that something wasn’t right.” He continued. “There was an old style clock on the wall, the kind with the hands, and it was stuck on 11:40. What time is it now? I thought to myself while glancing at my watch. It was 8:20.”
What did you do then?”
“I thought maybe my watch was broken so I woke up to check the time, except I didn’t wake up, at least not then. What happened was I started waking up in the real world and my brain started filling in the blanks with the dream world.”
What do you mean?”
“Waking up from a dream is a slow process.” He said. “Your brain slowly filters out information until you’re completely awake. It’s a safety mechanism to prevent people from waking up in the middle of a fall and breaking their neck.”
So what happened next?”
I asked, even more interested in his story.
“I woke up and looked at the clock. It was 11:40.” He answered.
So nothing changed?”
I followed up.
He said, and then pausing for a moment he looked at me and asked “Do you know anything about Dreams and Dream Interpretation?”
“Not much, only what I’ve learned in my Psychology class.” I responded.
“Well, let me tell you, there was a reason this happened. Everything in a dream has meaning, it’s just a matter of finding out what that meaning is. In this case the meaning is obvious but we still need to go over it.”
He then went on to explain that the dream meant that I shouldn’t be taking this class because he (the professor) was giving me false information. He also explained that the girl sitting next to me represented my future wife. She wasn’t playing an active role in the dream because she existed only in my future.
“You’re wrong about one thing though.” I told him, catching him off guard.
And what’s that?”
“I’m not going to get a failing grade in this class.” I said with a confident smile on my face.
“Your right, you won’t.” He answered smiling back at me, “You’ll get a D.”
I thanked him for his time and prepared to leave.
Do you want to know what your future wife looks like?”
He suddenly asked me.
Without answering him I turned around to face him. He looked into my eyes for a moment and then down at the paper in front of him.
“Her first name is G…” He started to say, but then he looked up at me again with a serious look on his face.
“I shouldn’t be doing this.” He said to himself. “If this gets back to the department heads they’ll have my job.” He turned his head from side to side as if he was arguing with himself out loud. Finally he looked back up at me and handed me a piece of paper.
“Her first name is G….” He started to say again, and then he stopped. “Look, I’m sorry, I just can’t do this.”
He stood up to signal that the conversation was over and I left his office. On the way out I looked at the paper he had handed me and this is what it said:
Girl. First Letter: G
Every other letter in the alphabet.
So I had to start trying out names starting with G.
I ran through a few names in my head as I walked back to class wondering if “G” meant girl or if it was just a meaningless first letter. I had only come up with a few names when I ran into someone carrying a bunch of books. I had been so deep in thought that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking and we both fell to the ground.
“I’m sorry, I should have been watching were I was going.” I told the person as I started picking up the books that had fallen out of their bag.
“It’s OK.” The person responded, “These things happen all the time.”
I looked up at who I had ran into and felt my whole face turn red. It was her, the girl from the dream last night. I didn’t know what to say so I just continued to help her pick up her books. After we gathered everything that had fallen off of her, I noticed she had a couple of books in her hand that she had picked up as well.
Are these your books?”
I asked her holding up the books I was holding.
“Yes, they are.” She responded taking them out of my hand.
I couldn’t think of anything else to say so I just thanked her again for being in my dream last night and then walked away.
I had thought about talking to her during the lecture this morning, but I had chickened out. After I had finally gathered up enough courage to walk over to her, it wasn’t the right time. I would have to wait until next time.
When I got home from school I decided to call my sister to see what she thought about a girl named G.
“Well, we know that isn’t her first name.” My sister responded after I had explained the situation to her.
“You’re no help. Thanks a lot.” I said.
“Anytime, but I’m serious. If she is the girl that this professor is talking about then he would know her first name as well. Unless he can’t remember because of some senile problem or something, but I doubt that’s the case since he still seems to be on his game.”
Why would she lie though?”
“Beats me, but you know girls, they like to make stuff up. I’m telling you, I was friends with this girl when we were little and she told everyone I was her sister because we shared a birthday. She even made up a whole birth certificate with a fake date and time on it.”
“That’s pretty weird.”
“Yeah, and then that same girl stole my boyfriend in high school…even after I told her he had genital warts.”
Why would she do that?”
“Because she’s a girl, and that’s what they do. Look, I gotta go, there’s a line of guys at the door for dates tonight and I still have to pick one. Talk to you later.”
Great, now I don’t know if I can trust G or not. Well I guess I’ll just wait until tomorrow and see how things go. Besides maybe my sister is right and G was just making stuff up because she likes me. There is no real evidence that she lied about her name at all.
So I guess I’m just going to have to play it by ear.
Sources & references used in this article:
Exophoria at near in presbyopia. by JE Sheedy, JJ Saladin – American Journal of Optometry and …, 1975 – europepmc.org
Physiologic exophoria in relation to age by TH Eames – Archives of Ophthalmology, 1933 – jamanetwork.com
Differential diagnostic characteristics of intermittent exotropia and true exophoria by A Jampolsky – American orthoptic journal, 1954 – Taylor & Francis
Objective improvement from base-in prisms for reading discomfort associated with mini-convergence insufficiency type exophoria in school children. by M Stavis, M Murray, P Jenkins, R Wood… – Binocular vision & …, 2002 – europepmc.org
Myopia and exophoria by JI Pascal – Archives of Ophthalmology, 1935 – jamanetwork.com
Exophoria and refractive errors-evaluation of 250 cases by NC Gupta, RK Narang, AK Khurana, IPS Parmar… – Indian journal of …, 1987 – ijo.in
Convergence accommodation to convergence (CA/C) ratio in patients with intermittent exotropia and decompensated exophoria by F Nonaka, S Hasebe, H Ohtsuki – Japanese journal of ophthalmology, 2004 – Springer
Diagnostic validity of clinical signs associated with a large exophoria at near by P Cacho-Martínez, Á García-Muñoz… – Journal of …, 2013 – downloads.hindawi.com