Saturday, July 29, 2006

What color is your reality?

` And now for today's Bonus Post, which I must complete before the deadline of Time To Leave:

` I was just reading an interesting article by Amanda Mitchell called Strip Mall Psychics. It demonstrates two opposing viewpoints about said people, which I will briefly analyze. Because I am a) very sensitive about this, and b) extremely pressed for time, it (mercifully?) won't be very detailed.
` As I'm sure my readers know, I may be quite the skeptic nowadays, though I used to believe that I had psychic abilities. Furthermore, I had thought that skeptics were cynics who just weren't open-minded. Compared to the way I feel now, my world felt very dim...

` About the whole 'being psychic' thing, it turned out that I was the one who was not being open-minded, because I was not open to the possibility that I could be wrong about the whole thing. It turned out that there was at least no evidence that I was right - everything I experienced could be explained as being the similar to other, 'non-psychic' experiences I had.
` Since then, everything in my life has made so much more sense.

` And so, I went from being 'psychic' to being able to reason about why I would believe I was. To help illustrate my shift in mentality, there are two women who believe they are psychic, and a man who has other explanations which I can fully perceive now that I have come to accept that they exist.
` Here goes:
Myrna K. Cooke, 49, manager of the store, is a slim woman who speaks with a deep, raspy voice. She teaches classes on tarot and meditation, but one of her main duties is conducting psychic readings for customers.
“I think I first realized I was psychic when I was about 10 years old,” Cooke said. “I used to see things in the clouds other people didn’t see, and I actually had a vision at that age of another lifetime. There was a feeling of knowing things that other people didn’t know.”
` I can already tell you with my limited knowledge, this partly has to do with being fantasy-prone and to do with the logic centers of the brain being overactive, which causes people to see patterns were there are none.
` I did not have such an extreme case of being 'psychic' as a child; although at about age fourteen, I began to develop my 'magical thinking' skills, seeing coincidences as logical connections, and having mystical visions that I couldn't explain.
Molly A. Lenarduzzi, 34, is Cooke’s sister and also a psychic reader at the store. Like Cooke, Lenarduzzi claims her psychic abilities also began when she was a child.
“I had experiences when I was very young,” Lenarduzzi said. “I knew what was going on with kids at school and things, but I didn’t know what to call it. I just thought everyone knew things like that.”
` As for me, I was able to make very accurate predictions that I always regretted not following because they usually had something to do with avoiding my dad's unpredictable and explosive drunken, psychotic rages or the like.
` Since they were consistently reliable and I felt quite grateful every time they saved my ass, I really believed that they were some kind of psychic ability.
` Some of this seems to have been because I was using my common sense and other completely non-psychic abilities without being aware of it - other parts probably had to do with 'alarm systems' that woke me out of a sound sleep.
` But what would brilliant skeptical writer Michael Shermer have to say? In this article, he was talking about the time he sat in for a reading with James VanPraagh:
“I was nervous that I would be found out as someone who does not have a dead brother, to which Van Praagh claimed he was speaking,” Shermer said. “Until I remembered that it was he who was claiming to be psychic, not me, so I had nothing to fear. The reading was terrible. He was wrong about almost everything.”
` That is exactly what I've always dreamed of doing! And I would if I ever got the chance. Ambitious skeptics think alike, I suppose....
“I think there is both deception and self-deception going on,” Shermer said. “That is, I think most of the so-called psychics believe they have some psychic powers. Plus, they are also aware that sometimes they have to use trickery, which they consider to be techniques. The better the deception, the better the feedback, which increases their confidence, and so on in a self-reinforcing feedback loop.”
` In my current years (unlike my 'Believer' years) I used to perpetuate the same type of feedback loop, which was turning out to be a destructive cycle for me - not only was it causing me to be deluded and somewhat helpless, it also caused a great number of people to avoid me.
In January 2003, Shermer conducted an experiment where he pretended to be a psychic for a day. His clients had no idea, and he nearly reduced one woman to sobs with his insight.

“My tactics were rather primitive and simple,” Shermer said of the experiment. “I basically just gave a similar reading for everyone, but tweaked it here and there to personalize it for each person depending on my hunch about each of them sitting there in front of me. That is, I could size them up based on age, clothing, jewelry, etcetera.”
` Perhaps I shall someday have the gall to try that, if I can find a suitable victim.... Although, what does Cooke have to say about skepticism, when applied to herself?
“I just smile in knowing,” Cooke said. “Because they haven’t reached the place of open-mindedness that’s necessary to believe there is something else out there.”
` That's funny, because I started out being in that very stage of 'open-mindedness'. However, it turned out that, in all this being 'open-minded', that I wound up shutting out one important possibility: That there are other explanations for 'psychic' pheomena, and several at that. Not just ones that would explain my own supposed abilities, but those of others, as well.
` It just goes to show you how easily one set of occurrences can be interpreted, depending on one's tendency to be a Skeptic or a True Believer.


Galtron said...

Yeah, I knew someone sort of like that. He wasn't stupid or anything, he was just swindling himself.
It's similar to what happens when people join a cult, I think.

S E E Quine said...

` That could be a slogan for a former psychic rehabilitation center: "Proud to be out of the 'I'm psychic' cult!"

Anonymous said...

I think it is a shame that you just arrested the development of your ability like that!
Maybe if your friends had been more understanding-all I can say is that it's so sad you dont know what your missing.

---Julie M.

S E E Quine said...

` Goodness... I only wished I hadn't overlooked this comment before!
` The reason I changed my mind about whether or not I was psychic is because I have a history of being prone to self-delusion, mostly because I used to be punished every time I thought for myself.
` My psychotic dad kept telling me all kinds of things I knew didn't make any sense at all, including his paranoid allegations that everyone was crazy and trying to kill him - myself among them! - and I was forced to believe a lot of it... or else!
` Once he was out of the picture, I began picking up the ability to think critically, and I found out that much of what I believed about myself was completely baseless!
` This includes my 'psychic' ability, which unraveled during even my most preliminary self-examinations. It was soon obvious that there was a lack of evidence for any such psychicness, and 'energy healing' abilities, because I was honest with myself - I realized that I was ignoring the fact that these phenomena mysteriously don't seem to work at all unless there's another way to explain them!
` The ones that could not may easily have been coincidental: When you believe in your abilities, coincidences (which easily happen every day if you write down enough predictions and can interpret them loosely enough!) are an easy way to add to the 'hits'.

` So, the whole accepting that I possibly wasn't psychic was part of my mental healing.
` Even so, when I finally thought of other explanations for my 'abilities', I was so ashamed of myself, because I couldn't believe how utterly stupid I could have been!
` ...But now that I think about it, I had probably started the whole thing in the first place because I wanted to believe that I was special in some way by bravely developing a 'natural talent' in the face of ridicule. (It was the only constructive way I could exploit my role as a chronic victim of random attacks.)

` Since then, my life has actually made sense to me, and I am glad that I was able to develop a much more fulfilling and useful 'natural talent' that is called 'critical thinking'.
` I've used it to solve many a puzzle - the only time I am ever sorry is if I've neglected to double-check something.
` The only other thing I can think of say to you, Julie, is that you obviously don't know what you're missing!