Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
In my studies of psychic people I have come to understand that we are a minority group with the same pressures and problems of other minorities.
This is important because people who are members of a minority that is abused and misunderstood are more prone to depression than other groups. Dr. Stephen Goldstone, a physician who operates a predominantly gay practice in New York City
noted that it’s no surprise that gay men and lesbians identified depression and mental health as a major concern, given the daily challenges that they face. Living openly or closeted each bring their own pressures that can affect a person’s health and it can stem from a sense of isolation that so many feel, he said. 
You can easily substitute psychic for gay in the above paragraph. Living openly or closeted each can bring their own pressures that can affect a person’s health? Yup, that’s us. Gays and psychics, in fact, have a long history of supporting one another.
The comparison of gays and psychic people is a useful one:
Like gays, psychic people have the option of hiding who they are from the general public. There are no physical features of psychic people to give them away and the only way for people to find out is if the psychic gives away the secret.
Psychic people are unfairly portrayed as incompetent and flaky, crazy and deluded. Much as gays had to deal with a psychiatric evaluation as “abnormal” at best and “sexually deviant” at worst in years past, psychics have to deal with the same level of misunderstanding at present. In the field of psychology, it is assumed that there is something wrong with us. As I pointed out earlier, the pejorative term “magical thinking” is tossed around.
Psychic ability has been pushed underground and off to the fringes for the most part, with high profile psychics facing intense criticism and ridicule from the fanatical atheist James Randi and the pseudo skeptical organization CSI.
Most professional psychics toil in obscurity in an unregulated industry dotted with incompetence and the occasional outright frauds. In the public’s eyes, they all tend to get lumped together. Like many small business, most fail within a couple of years to get established and the psychics move on to more profitable professions. Some stick it out and go on to have successful, if unremarkable careers. Psychics are limited in where they can advertise; not every publication will take their money because of their fringe status.
Moving away from professional psychics, another area where psychics struggle, just like gays, is that they have to find health professionals friendly to them. Not just anyone will do. If a psychic person confides a psychic experience to a doctor, he/she does not want to come away with a handful of anti-psychotic medication. The doctor has to know the difference.
Similarly, psychics in need of therapy will often have to search for psychic friendly therapists who will calmly accept psychic ability and its presence in treatment.
Both gays and psychic people tend to not advertise who they are for fear of disapproval, waiting instead to find out “who’s cool.” It is all very isolating and mentally unhealthy.
Like gays, many psychics suffer from self-loathing due to non-acceptance by authority in our society. Many people keep their psychic abilities secret due to fear of losing their jobs or status or both. They don’t want the “crazy” label.
Both have organizations pitted against them. Gays have the evangelical Christian churches trying to “pray away the gay” and psychics have JREF and CSI and their satellite skeptic groups trying to paint them as frauds or delusional. Both the Christian and the atheist organizations come from the standpoint that they are “helping.”
Interestingly, both the fundamentalist Christian and skeptic organizations rely on pseudo-science, hypocrisy and double standards to achieve their goals; the difference being that skeptics have far more support from the scientific community at large. I forgot to add, evangelical Christians aren’t exactly our friends; they think we’re in league with the Devil or something. They do respect psychic ability though, so I suppose that’s a positive of sorts.
Both gays and psychic people have responded to their outcast status by banding together. The New Age movement and Gay Pride demonstrations are examples of this. But also, there are the specific blogs, web pages, forums and magazines that are devoted exclusively to these specific groups. Neither group is organized in any hierarchical way and there are no defined leaders.
I think that the comparison stops there. We do not fear for our physical safety; there are no bands of psychi-phobic pseudo-skeptics (I just made that up.) roaming the streets with baseball bats at night looking for Astrologers to beat up. And we don’t have AIDS to worry about.
Psychic people are drawn to areas of medicine that meets the needs of their particularly sensitive physiology: massage, natural medicines, homeopathy, psychic healing and acupuncture to name a few. It is not an irrational rejection of modern medicine, but rather a preference for methods of treatment that are less aggressive and with fewer side effects due to an innate sensitivity. In general, psychic people are going to be better suited to a holistic approach than the general population.
The whole idea of being a part of a minority is a foreign one for me, but when I line up the facts I find that I have a hard time disputing them. I mean really, how many times have I heard psychic people speak wistfully of the day when psychic ability will be normal and accepted? That is the talk of people who wish that they were accepted and the only reason they would be talking like that is if they weren’t accepted. when you’re not accepted, you’re a minority.
When it comes to dealing with outright hate and ridicule, it really matters where you live. A psychic friend of mine in rural Georgia with evangelical Christians has to basically keep his mouth shut to avoid real trouble, while I live in one of the most psychic friendly areas in the U.S.: The San Francisco Bay Area. I can and do bring up psychic ability to a wide variety of people and I have never had much of a problem with it. Skeptics are generally too polite to confront me to my face mostly because there are so many psychic friendly people in the area.
On line though, the situation is different. Of course it depends on where you’re hanging out and what you’re talking about, but if a psychic person is sensitive to criticism, they cannot post their comments just anywhere. Many limit themselves to sites that are friendly towards them before they’ll venture to communicate and for some even that is too much. Skeptic abuse is common enough that I had to post rules for skeptics on my site and so did Winston Wu on his forum for SCEPCOP.
I have my e-mail address on my website and for some people, that is the only way they feel comfortable. It prevents them from being exposed to the on line hatred or from exposing their name for search by an employer.
When I first started blogging a few years ago on DailyKos I was also intimidated by the inordinate amount of skepticism, but my sensitivity has been offset over the years by getting emotionally tougher as I’ve gotten older. I stuck with it and learned what I needed to in order to hold my ground. That was what led me down this path in fact: the skeptics. I needed to learn whether they were right and in the process, a whole other world opened up for me. And I learned that they were completely full of shit.
I remember the irony of it on DailyKos; these were liberals committed to calling out Republicans on their nonsensical talking points and demanding facts, all the while spewing skeptic talking points and avoiding the facts. It was as if the mention of psi flipped a switch inside of them and all their brains fell out.
I’ve come to understand that it is time to redefine what we’re dealing with:
I know that skeptics don’t see themselves that way and I understand their reluctance to take on that label, particularly when they see themselves as defending rationality and protecting the public from scams, but is what they’re doing really any different from scores of other conservative people who have calmly explained why other groups needed to be marginalized? I don’t think so.
When skeptics claim that psychic ability doesn’t exist, what does that say about us? That we’re either frauds or feebleminded? An attack on psychic ability is actually a very personal attack on us.
And as a result, many of us have had to hide our ability and have not been free to be who we are. We live in a society that only allows us to operate on the margins and dismisses our abilities as mere “magical thinking.” I am tired of it.
What all of this means is that we are just like every other minority group. Nothing is going to change until we make it happen. We are not fighting the slowness of the advance of science, we are fighting bigotry.