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Tuesday January 4, 2005: Psychic Predictions 2004

       It's that time of the year when the tabloids list their psychic predictions for the upcoming year.  From http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/predictions-2004.html  comes the following: 

       "Gene Emery, a contributor to Skeptical Inquirer magazine, has been tracking tabloid forecasts for 26 years....

        "Actually, the truly unusual predictions of major news events almost never come true, and this year has been no exception, said Emery, who has been using the predictions to search for a psychic -- any psychic -- who can really predict the future.

         "Not only did the psychic forecasts fail to foretell what would happen in 2004, the psychics continued their tradition of missing the major events that did make the headlines."

        I tend to ignore these yearly psychic predictions so completely that only now do I realize how little constructive thought I've given to the subject. I'm not surprised that most professional psychics make off-the-wall predictions, though it surprises me that they couldn't hit some events just by chance. I've always thought the element of chance is why there are so many predictions about when the world will end -- hope springs eternal that someone may hit it right and, in the last few minutes of existence, be able to jump up and say, "I told you so!!" Oh joy! Isn't that worth the humiliation of making scores of wrong guesses?

        Why would professional psychics keep making public predictions when their failures can be so accurately traced? At first I'm thinking it's all about the free publicity: a cheap way to make themselves known, to attract more customers. Presumably clients don't do any research to determine accuracy, or else have incredibly short memories. At least, those are the first reasons I think up to explain why anyone would trust the reading of his or her future to someone who can't prophetically hit the broad side of a barn.

        With more thought, I figured some readers may forget the predictions but later recognize the name, or -- even more likely-- the unsuspecting are impressed by the psychic's press releases, which now claim 'nationally recognition.' It doesn't take much to spin an impressive resume. I knew one individual (from classes I taught) who later went the professional route and proudly sent me his press release. The claim of "Internationally Recognized Speaker" surprised me until he explained he'd given a lecture in Canada (a trip which must have taken a few hours out of his day, including drive time). Now, he could claim international status because he'd given talks in two different countries. Wow, how impressed I was -- not.

        Oddly, I'm more frustrated (dare I admit -- angry) with people who keep these publicity-driven psychics in business. Before I go further, I want to say I've had a few dear friends who used their psychic powers to supplement astrology or card readings. I'm not against occasional readings when problems cannot be sorted through using regular means. It is always possible that a reading may provide insight into another way to approach the problem. My friends were not the flashy, "let me tell you about the discovery of Atlantis" type of psychics. They did not set up hot lines, nor go around billing themselves as Samuel the Psychic.

        My psychic friends rarely did their own readings. They were content to take their own future as it came. They'd been seeing future events since early childhood, and they did not develop the talent with the idea of making their life easier or more financially rewarding. The painful part had been discovering, often at a tender age, that most people they were close to and cared about, did not want to know specific details about the future. I had one relative who'd occasionally ask people first if they wanted to know what she'd just seen about their future. Close family members (used to her predictions) always shouted "No!!" -- quickly exiting the room, hands over ears. 

          People who go to future tellers or psychic readers want to hear that their hopes and dreams for a better future will come true. If you're going to make a living as a professional, you know the rules. Tell the paying customer they will come into money, or discover a new love interest, or travel to far-way places. If there is to be bad news, remember that clients expect to hear of vague possibilities which can be side-stepped because of the forewarning. No one wants to hear "Someone's going to stab you in the back and you'll never see it coming," or "This year, you're going to lose everything you hold dear," or, "Your dog is going to die," or even, "It will be another boring year at a dead-end job."

        Psychic hot lines are an even worse waste of money. The paying customer doesn't even see who's making the prediction, and yet, for some reason, this creates more belief in the psychic's ability.  I am always amazed to hear of people spending hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars a year, calling psychic hot lines. Why would you believe that some bozo on the other end of the phone, who is probably getting paid minimum wage and has a script to work from, can make all the right decisions for you?

        Here's my bottom line for all psychic predictions or readings: even if you could prove that the person you are working with is truly psychic, why spend your hard-earned cash paying someone else to tell you how you should live?  Make a New Year's Resolution: quit being a wimp and take responsibility for your own life.

        Not happy with the way things are going? Figure out what you have to change to become the kind of person who deserves a better life. Wishing and wanting and getting psychic confirmation does not make up for hard work and personal honesty. Afraid of the future? Learn to deal with your fears and get past them. Then you don't need to keep running back to be reassured by someone with a financial incentive to make you feel better. Uncertain what decision to make? Make a list of pros and cons, talk it over with a counselor or specialist, talk with friends who are familiar with the situation and your past history, learn to trust your own intuition.

        People have the answers to their questions -- within themselves or within their environment. I think the professional psychic predictions need to be put on the same page as the comics where we can all get a good laugh; the psychic hot lines need to be put on hold; and we all should get on with life.

Posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 05:26AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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