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Wednesday September 22, 2004: The Problem with Professional Psychics



          I listen to a lot of audiotapes at work, and grabbed an old one yesterday: THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD: SCIENCE AS A CANDLE IN THE DARK by Carl Sagan.  Carl is too much of a skeptic in some areas (obviously, he's never had inner experiences). I do agree with his thoughts about pseudo-science, that if one never questions where or how flaws in our interpretations may show up, we are likely to have numerous errors in our conclusions. This seems a good time to discuss professional psychics.........

            First off, I've had a few friends who were professional psychics. On the other hand, I sure as heck wouldn't spend money on telephone psychics, and I don't bother with daily newspaper horoscopes. There are some professionals who are ethical, who use astrology charts, tarot cards, and other methods to focus their own innate abilities. These individuals will readily admit to the client if they are having a non-receptive day.  

           Astrology, tarot, numerology:  Anyone who makes their living from readings is aware that the typical client wants to hear good news -- improvements in relationships, career, and finances.  Throwing in travel to distant places also goes over big. Professionals find some way to give paying clients what they want. Do certain personal facts make it seem accurate? Be aware of a well-known study in psychology -- one can create a blanket personality description that fits the vast majority of the audience. Even when told that specially created 'readings' are based simply on knowledge of basic human tendencies, people will swear it's personally accurate. This means that even if you believe in your psychic reader, you still have to sort out what information is relevant and what is generalized fluff.

            Do you get a reading in hopes of hearing positive outcomes? Some skeptics claim the value of a psychic reading is par to that of buying a lottery ticket because you dream of becoming independently wealthy. I can't fault the need to escape mentally for a few minutes into dreams of a better future. Just decide how much money it's worth for those moments of escape. Don't be content to wait for a better future to come along. Look for ways to become worthy of stepping into a better life.

 Do readings warn the client of possible dangers? Refocusing the client's attention on everyday life has a certain value, as does the 'confirmation' of bad situations that the client probably already knows about but is afraid to face. Again, how much is it worth to have someone else tell you what you might be able to tell yourself? Often people short of funds will chose a psychic or tarot reader over a professional counselor. Some will end up spending more money than the cost of a counselor. If money is an issue, it might be better spent buying a book on relationships, finances, or health. You might also check books out of the library. Avoid becoming dependent on psychic readings, meaning anything more than one reading per year.

My main concern is not with the professionals, but the reasons why people spend time and money.  You're in big trouble if you're using the reading to avoid making your own choices.  If you're unhappy or bored with your current life, figure out new goals. Think about changing your current attitudes towards unpleasant situations. Learn to develop your own intuition.  Don't rely on others to do your work. If you're faced with too many options, or feel you aren't seeing enough options, then a reading may provide more direction--just don't rely on the reading to provide THE direction you should follow.  There are professional counselors who may provide better and more realistic options.

             Mind reading, psycho-kineses, spoon bending, etc. There have been numerous articles or exposés about the tricks of the trade used by stage professionals. Most of these tricks are designed to amaze and offer no value in terms of improving your life. Accept them as entertainment, not as proof of mysterious powers. 

         Ouija boards, séances, channeling the dead:  Most of these seem to be just reassuring people that something exists beyond death, and that the dearly departed are safe and doing well. Haven't religions have been telling you that all your life? If someone else tells you, "Uncle Harry says he's fine and not to worry or feel guilty anymore," do you really gain new or better information?  How are you ever going to know the person channeling isn't using the same stage tricks used in mind-reading acts? If they are psychic, how are you ever going to know if they are picking up Uncle Harry, your memories of Uncle Harry, or your strong emotional need to hear a specific message?

What about seeking advice from the departed? Can Uncle Harry tell you how to invest your money, or if you should sell the house and move to the West Coast? Don't kid yourself about the departed making better judgment calls now than while they were alive. Again, my problem is with living people not taking responsibility for their own lives. If you always went to Uncle Harry for advice, I bet you can pretty much tell yourself how he would have answered. 

Once a loved one has died, wish them well, remember the good times, and get on with your life. Death is a thin veil that separates two different levels of existence. If you feel there were things left unsaid, then write letters or talk to the deceased, and have faith that they are aware of your message. If you feel guilt, then realize that the departed are fine, and that your priority in today's world now centers on resolving your guilt feelings. If you cannot resolve your guilt without action of some sort, then use the memory as motivation -- go out and help others who are still living. Remember this is your life, not an exam in grade school where you can get another kid to pass you the answers. One of the main points of living is to find your own answers.


Posted on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 at 04:58AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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