Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
In October of 1989, the World Series was on TV, my wife was home and my mother showed up for a visit right on time, at around 5pm. Then it hit. For the first few seconds, it was just another earthquake, but it quickly grew stronger and I knew something was up. I calmly grabbed my wife and mother and pinned them in the front doorway of our home, which was all I had time for. As the house shook violently around me I looked around. I really wanted to see the earth move in waves. I’d heard so much about that and really wanted to see it. I watched a plant fall off of the TV, which was moving, but had not fallen. About the only thing of visual interest was my mother’s van out front, which looked like it was dancing a jig. And then just like that the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake was over.
Why was I so calm? My former sister-in-law, also psychic, was an airline stewardess who experienced not one, but two emergency decompressions on separate occasions while working flights. Same thing. She was as calm as could be both times and wrote some pretty snarky letters hilariously explaining the experiences. Oh, and she saved someone who was choking to death at a later date.
Are psychic people, who are often mentally and emotionally all over the place disposed to be clear headed during emergencies?
I’ve brought this up occasionally and I’ve gotten responses that sure enough, there seems to be a link between psychic ability and calmness in a disaster.
Now the obvious psychic response to disaster would be to not to be there in the first place, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence and at least one study to suggest that this happens:
W.E. Cox, in a well-known study (1956), analyzed the number of tickets sold for 28 passenger trains that crashed between 1950 and 1955. He found that the trains that crashed always had fewer people than similar trains on the same day of the previous week. The data was also analyzed for weather conditions, and number of sold tickets on the previous day, week, and month. Because every statistical result can be explained as random fluctuation, the author calculated the probability of accumulating the same statistics randomly. This probability was less than 1/100. In other words, we can say with 99/100 certainty that people really have – and use – their psychic intuition to avoid dangerous situations.
Precognition, however, is not the topic of this post. Recently I stumbled onto an article titled “How to Survive a Disaster.” There was one small portion that caught my eye because it is relevant to psychic ability. In particular, this paragraph is one I found particularly interesting:
The prevailing psychological explanation for these kinds of behaviours – passivity, mental paralysis or simply carrying on as normal in the face of a crisis – is that they are caused by a failure to adapt to a sudden change in the environment. Survival involves goal-directed behaviour: you feel hungry, you look for food; you feel isolated, you seek companionship. Normally, this is straightforward (we know how to find food or companions). But in a new, unfamiliar environment, particularly a stressful one such as a sinking ship or a burning aircraft, establishing survival goals – where the exit is and how to get to it – requires a lot more conscious effort.
What I want to address is what happens when a psychic person finds themselves in the middle of a disaster. I have received a lot of anecdotal evidence that psychic people do not have typical or expected responses. According to John Leach, about 15% of people involved in a disaster will immediately act rationally and in their best interest.
He has studied the actions of survivors and victims from dozens of disasters around the world over several decades (and as it happens he was present at one of them, the fire at King’s Cross underground station on 18 November 1987 which killed 31 people). He has found that in life-threatening situations, around 75% of people are so bewildered by the situation that they are unable to think clearly or plot their escape. They become mentally paralysed. Just 15% of people on average manage to remain calm and rational enough to make decisions that could save their lives. (The remaining 10% are plain dangerous: they freak out and hinder the survival chances of everyone else.)Passivity, mental paralysis and denial are, from anecdotal reports, not characteristic behaviors of psychic people in an emergency. Rather the opposite. Calm, focused goal oriented behavior as well as an immediate grasp of the severity of the situation seems to be the norm. Why? Wouldn’t we expect the most stable, take charge extroverted leader type to be the best prepared? Perhaps not.
Disasters require mental and emotional flexibility. (A better word is “lability.”) The faster you can change your mental and emotional state of being, the better -because time is not on your side.- The people most equipped to change their focus will be those who are already good at it. To be quick at changing your mental and emotional state requires that it not be all that stable in the first place, which is why people who others may consider to be a bit crazy may have an advantage in life threatening situations.
It would be interesting to do personality tests of survivors of short, sudden catastrophic events and find out where, approximately they fit on the Myers & Briggs Type Indicator. My guess is that the vast majority would be NF type personalities with INF personalities being predominant.
Another possible explanation is that these are people for whom the inner environment is more dominant than their outer one. So when the outer environment changes rapidly, it does not overwhelm them. Still another, more cynical explanation is that being psychic might be traumatic enough in itself that psychic people are already desensitized to the point that a disaster doesn’t represent that much more of a leap. It would be an interesting area to study.
I have long wondered about this strange ability to remain calm and focused in the face of a physical emergency I’ve heard so much about it and this is the first time I’ve ever found a way to make sense of it. The idea of emotional and mental lability being necessary components of disaster survival makes the whole thing fit together, although it remains to be seen if this will ever be shown scientifically.