Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Psychic ability waxes and wanes according to the emotional state of the the psychic person. Various emotional factors, especially confidence affect the ability.
I can hear the collective “Well duhhhh!!” in the background, but sometimes it’s important to examine things in detail so that later when we’re focused on something else we’ll remember when we need to. Sometimes explaining something that we already intuitively know helps.
For example, the idea that confidence affects ability is nothing new. This is apparent in absolutely every sport at every level of competition and cannot possibly be in dispute. Players who have confidence in themselves perform better, players who don’t perform worse.
There are also plenty of examples that the level of training has an impact on the ability of people to perform despite their confidence level; so we would expect a person with a high level of training to have less variation in their performance level due to confidence than a person of lesser training. The military relies on this. Highly trained troops can be expected to perform at a certain high level even when they have never been in combat.
Conversely, poorly trained troops lose confidence quickly and their level of confidence is quite variable.
Ok, you’re wondering, exactly HOW does this relate to psychic ability? Well, to do that I’m going to beat the sports analogy to the ground, pummel it, kick it and pick it up again and slap it around.
Imagine you’re shooting baskets from beyond the three point line. You’re not an experienced basketball player and the balls you’re throwing might as well be bricks, banging off the rim or missing the basket entirely. You’re feeling frustrated, so you calm down for a moment and then try again. Swoosh. One more time. Swoosh. You try again. Swoosh. Three times in a row you get the ball in the basket. What happened was that you relaxed just enough and stopped trying so hard. Your body responded and suddenly you’re making your shots.
“That was lucky.” Says a skeptic in the background. “No,” you insist, “I relaxed a bit and suddenly I was able to make it. I could feel the difference.”
“I don’t think so” says the skeptic. “Prove it. Do it for me.” You try, but alas, now you’re thinking again. Clunk, clang, thud, all your shots are now missing. You’ve lost the touch.
The skeptic smiles, “I didn’t think so.” he says. and he walks away.
This bothers you, but now he’s gone and you go back to shooting baskets. A little time goes by and then swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. They’re going through again. You call the skeptic back to show him. Clang, thunk. It doesn’t work again. He shrugs his shoulders. “Thought so.” and walks away.
No one would have any trouble believing that this happened playing with a basketball. The player wasn’t very good and he was taking low percentage shots. The way this scenario played out is entirely predictable and the skeptic probably seemed like a jerk to you. That is because you know all you need to know about shooting a basketball from a long distance. You might not know the percentages, but you know that someone will probably miss more than they succeed. You know that if they don’t have a lot of practice at it under pressure situations that they are likely to fail miserably if they are stressed.
You probably see where I’m going with this. How does this apply to psi? Let’s see:
1. Psychics are mostly untrained or self trained. What training there is has no accreditation, no no accompanying history or tested methodology. There are no established benchmarks and no teaching standards. It’s the wild west out there. We don’t know how good psychics are supposed to be or how good they can be. How is a psychic supposed to know that they are “good?” missing seven out of ten will make you a very good batter in baseball and fill you with confidence, but what if a psychic misses this many? How does that stack up? My point is that without benchmarks or objective standards of any kind, what kind of confidence is a psychic going to have in his or her skill?
What if the basketball player in the scenario above believed that to be successful they had to get a basket every time?
2. Experience. According to Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers for someone to be tremendously successful at their chosen task, they need about 10,000 hours of training of some sort. That works out roughly to ten years. It is extremely difficult to get 10,000 hours of work at psychic ability because of the lack of incentive. What exactly are you training for? What use is it? Doing psychic readings is fine, but it’s not much of a moneymaker and doesn’t really address the full extent of psychic abilities. It’s more intuitive counseling than anything else. Without a genuine professional field to work in, there is no impetus to work all that that hard at it. We would not have truly incredible basketball players if there wasn’t millions of dollars at stake.
3. Emotional support. In the scenario above, the basketball player received no emotional support. Or did he? Society at large supports playing basketball, no matter how good you are at it. No one cares if you miss, it’s considered part of the process. The person playing knows this going in. He’s seen other people playing basketball, he knows that it’s possible to get the ball through the hoop on a regular basis and that if he’s successful enough at it, he’ll be recognized for his skill. He’s familiar with the ball, he’s familiar with the court and the hoop and so is everyone else. That’s why he could stomach still tossing the ball after the skeptic left. No one is arguing that the ability to throw a basketball into a hoop is not real. Psychic ability has no such support.
There is one more part to this. Psychic ability has one more aspect that while not unique to it, matters far more than with other skills. It’s the Yoda thing. Do without doing, try without trying, let The Force move through you, etc. We all know this a bit better by its sports term: “being in the zone.” It’s also been referred to as intention without striving. Part of achieving this is simply experience, but the other part is that conditions have to be right, especially when experience is lacking.
What makes this especially knotty with psychic ability is that it’s not just the mood and beliefs of the psychic that matters, but also of the those around him/her. Psychic ability involves opening up oneself to those around him/her and that means that the line of separation between thoughts is much thinner. This is referred to in parapsychology as the experimenter effect.
The use of psychic ability also opens up the psychic to their own deeper emotional state which they may have been blocking as is normal for pretty much everyone. Any agitation that the psychic feels will come right to the surface and interfere with whatever they are trying to do.
What I’ve shown here is that when we perceive psychic ability as we would an ordinary skill, what we find is that the conditions for success are far from ideal. The general lack of prolonged and methodical training, lack of benchmarks, lack of societal understanding and other criteria unique to psychic ability combine to make this ability far more susceptible to various emotional states than other skills. In other words, it’s amazing that anyone succeeds at all.
Once psychic ability becomes accepted and mainstream, and there’s money in it, I think we’ll see a massive jump in what people are capable of. I of course, don’t expect to be one of them. It will be the young people who will grow up never imagining that psychic ability once had such a stigma attached to it. Just think of me as one of the psychic snowplows.