A few days ago I found myself in one of those slightly awkward situations… Whilst at an event, a husband and wife couple were introduced to me, their names were prefixed with the sentence “here are two people you’ll have a lot in common with Adam, they are really into past life regression too….” and then gave their names.
It is obviously far too early in our relationship (i.e. Having not even met) for me to say, but I don’t believe in past life regression and just because I am a hypnotherapist does not mean…. My thought was cut off mid-flow…
“We’re also real believers in ghosts and psychics.”
Ok, I needed some small talk before I unleashed myself upon them (you can read here for my thoughts on past life regression in depth) , it would not be fair or decent to just refute stuff from the off… So we did that. They were and are two extremely lovely and wonderful people that i could gladly spend time with, though I’d prefer to get them on my hypnotherapy training diploma and explain this stuff (albeit ‘my stuff’) for real.
With rapport established, niceities exchanged, and a couple of laughs being had, we then got stuck in to a probing conversation, my main aim being to find out about what brings people to believe seemingly unusual things.
Their belief in psychic phenomena was made evident â€œthe psychic told me things nobody could have knownâ€ was one of the first sentences sent my way as our chat progressed. So naturally, I asked for some examples of these allegedly unknowable things that the psychic somehow managed to know. The lovely lady went on to explain that the psychic had described her grandmotherâ€™s character in precise ways, though she couldnâ€™t recall an example of any specific character attribute that was so unusual about her grandmother.
More than that though, it turns out that this lady had never actually known her grandmother, just been told lots of things about her by her own Mother. Her total belief that the psychic got things right was based on her comparing notes taken at the time with a conversation she had a couple of months later with her mother. This lady had some conviction, and she was delightful in the way she explained it all, but her account was not exactly the sort of thing that would seal a victory in a court of law.
The husband then stepped in, he was also incredibly pleasant, and he told me that he undoubtedly knew that a former close friend of his who had passed away was still hanging around, and that his presence was regularly felt. So once again, I asked for an example of such an extraordinary happening. â€œWell, one day I felt like a rub on the back of my neck, and I just knew it was him.â€
What seriously, that’s it? That is the basis of your belief? I still had not given my stance on these things, and I think they were assuming that due to my introduction from the previous man and the fact that I am a hypnotherapist, that I believed in the subject with the same degree of conviction as them, it went on…
The man also told of how his daughter-in-law was given a lucky coin for her wedding by her own mother… When she showed it to her new father-in-law, he was stunned that the coin was made in the same year of his deceased friendâ€™s birth… This had to be more than just coincidence, doesn’t it?
As politely as I could, I offer up some usual skeptical arguments offered by many who question such phenomena. I did say that without firsthand experience of their situation, i could not comment with too much conviction (it was the only way of softening the upcoming verbal blows), and then went on to say that I thought they were making extraordinary claims based on very little evidence… I went on to mention the technique of â€œcold readingâ€ used by psychics and often mentioned in NLP groups as an interesting set of language patterns. I also mentioned the confirmation bias of remembering hits and forgetting misses, that perhaps the real-life information was being filtered to meet a certain desriable expectation… Though I did not dent their assuredness and I think they went off me altogether at that point.
There are now many directions this discussion could go, but I only really want to examine what it is that drives peoples thoughts in certain directions… Myself and my own stance included.
I live in a country where a large number of people still insist that Princess Diana was plotted against and killed (indirectly) by our Royal Family. Over in the US, there are large numbers of people who believe that former President Bush was responsible for the 9/11 attacks in a ploy that enabled them to start their war on Iraq. Peoples beliefs can get pretty radical, can’t they?
In much the same way that I love being a fan of obscure music bands, and dislike it when they become globally famous and everyone likes them, people like to feel special in some way. Being among the few who â€œknowâ€ that the Royal Family conspired in this way, or that the Government has some underhand things going on, makes some people feel better about the fact that they really have little or no control over such large events as wars, high profile politics and perhaps even over their own lives from time to time.
With this particular couple I got chatting to, I got the sense that the husband truly missed his old friend, and he was comforted by the belief that he was still around, regardless of the evidence being questionable to say the least. You know what? Attached to the chain around my neck is my deceased Grandmothers old signet ring. She was an amazing woman that I loved dearly and I get a real sense of her when I hold that ring and think about her. I have explored the paranormal and spiritual fields in depth and been part of many groups that have explored and believed in psychic phenomena of all kinds. That is what led me to my own thoughts in this regard.
I want to conclude today that despite my skepticism and critical thinking in relation to paranormal beliefs, there does not seem to be too much of a problem with people believing this way in order to accept comfortable beliefs that make them feel better, does it?
Maybe it is good to have a few conspiracy theorists asking questions and keeping people on their toes, and thank goodness we have the freedom to do that in our country. I wouldn’t like to see this turn into gullibility though. There are people that spend a lot of money, time and energy in pursuit of answers, they get emotionally involved and are easily taken advantage of by those that are less scrupulous (or even well meaning but self-deluded).
Soooo…. Just because I am a hypnotherapist does not mean I believe in paranormal stuff. That assumption annoys me. Though also, just because I have a skeptical perspective towards paranormal stuff, does not mean I poo-poo it all out of hand… Heck, I encounter enough people that have that attitude to hypnosis and hypnotherapy.