Are You Psychic? The Sum of Intuition and Ego

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As children my younger sister would say she was psychic and tell me about her psychic experiences. I recall, for better or worse, vehemently discouraging such a line of thought. I would tell her that she is not a psychic and if she continued to say she was, then she was a liar. Dismayed, she eventually stopped announcing that she was a psychic to us sisters and maybe even stopped letting herself acknowledge so-called “psychic” experiences when she had them. In retrospect I regret my harsh and ignorant stance, but at the time (and I was a tween myself) I believed it was for her own good: she couldn’t run around in public telling people she was psychic. How would people take her intellect seriously if she did?

Now I have always been convinced that my sister may have had strong intuitive abilities for what may be beyond the five physical senses, not unlike the way all the women from my maternal line are drawn to the preternatural. My grandmother, my mother, my first cousins descending from my grandmother, and my sisters all display a heightened awareness of the logically inexplicable. But psychic?

I saw it this way: when you are a voracious reader, at some point you will want to give it a try and become a writer yourself. Likewise, if you’re fascinated by metaphysics and occult phenomenon, at some point you will want to be part of it, and maybe even convince yourself that you’re psychic. Not too different from how I try to convince myself that I’m a writer even though I have yet to publish a damn thing.

Sure, I am convinced that intuition is real. Intuition is the perception of a truth, occurring incident, circumstance, or event independent of any logical reasoning, actual knowledge, experience, or cognitive deductive process. It is synchronicity. It is a prickling of what is about to happen before it happens. It is the sensation of energies that you can’t physically see, hear, smell, touch, or taste, a sensation for when those energies are in balance and when they are out of balance, and the enigmatic knowing of how you might be able to balance it if you were to try.

Being intuitive is like being detail-oriented, or organized, or calculating differential equations. Not everybody is detail-oriented, organized, or able to do math, but anybody can be with enough effort. It is just a skill, albeit a remarkably empowering one when we use it. It might also be a trait. Some seem naturally disposed to it and others need to really work to acquire the skill. I guess somehow those who seem naturally disposed to being intuitive have come to be referred to as psychic.

My question is: where on the continuum of intuitive ability must one be for that person to qualify as “psychic”?

I have a relative who is convinced to her core that she knows who she was in a past life. However, she is unable to tell who others were in their past lives nor would she ever claim to have such abilities. I, too, like to claim I have inklings. Like my relative, these inklings pertain to me only (and maybe those I claim are my soul mates), but if a random stranger walked through the door and asked me what he or she was in a past life, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

On the other hand, a Buddhist nun I met in Taiwan was believed to be psychic and people said she could read past lives. Taiwanese folks from all over the island flocked to the temple she stayed at to consult her for past life readings. My cousin took me to go see this nun, who told me I was a philandering yet benevolent prince in a past life. Hmm. Interesting, but I have to say, I don’t quite believe her. And that’s not because I don’t like what she told me, because in fact, I think it would be way cool to be a philandering yet benevolent prince. The identity just doesn’t resonate with me at all… intuitively.

People would also say that the nun could see the future. I was 18 years old when I saw her, and at that age, of course, I was interested in my prospects in love. The nun closed her eyes, concentrated for a moment, and said that I would be facing a difficult choice and she wasn’t sure I’d choose correctly. It was still too early to tell.

Could the reading have been any more vague? I could “predict” that about any 18-year-old, male or female, and I am pretty sure that “prediction” could apply.

To my grandmother, the nun said verbatim (in Taiwanese, that is), “I see a half-rotten peach blossom.” About a decade later, one side of my grandmother’s body became paralyzed and all the relatives exclaimed, “the psychic nun was right!” Really? Come on! People are making subjective associations and seeing patterns where objectively there are none! If half of anything in their lives had gone bad somehow, the nun’s prediction would be right.

In a fun episode of Anderson Cooper 360 a while back, well-known psychic Slyvia Browne’s business manager Linda Rossi debated with skeptic and magician James Randi (really, it disintegrated into a petty schoolyard squabble; watch Pt. 1 on YouTube here and Pt. 2 here). Rossi tried to argue that Browne did not refer to herself as a psychic first, but rather a spiritual teacher. Cooper pointed out that Browne’s website listed psychic first, i.e., “Sylvia Brown: psychic and spiritual leader.” The episode aired way back when, however. And today I checked Browne’s website. It now states “Sylvia Browne: spiritual leader and psychic.” Aww, Anderson, did you do that?

Either way, are the Sylvia Brownes of the entertainment industry psychic? Or are they just masters at the power of suggestion? Since I know nothing about her, I couldn’t attest one way or the other, but she does not give off positive vibes. (In contrast, I get pretty positive vibes from John Edward, though skeptic James Randi also dogs on Edward as much as he does Browne and doesn’t discriminate between the two.)

Lately I’ve been wondering whether it takes a certain high dosage of ego to hold oneself out as a psychic. I suppose it’s not unlike the people who claim to have eidetic memories, though there are far fewer of those folks than there are people who claim to be psychic.

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