Friday, May 12, 2017

The Paranormal: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water

By now if you've been reading this blog from the start, you ought to be able to recognize some basic trickster-type elements within paranormal accounts. More than a few people have written in about identifying these divisive, derailing aspects early on in an effort to sidestep them in their own experiences and research. Is it possible? I would say yes. But, it requires you to often step away from whatever you're studying or investigating to regain perspective - and that ain't easy.

Here's a good analogy: You want to see the pretty fish in the water. But the water is rippled, and while you can see the quick silver flashes of movement, 'going in' would offer a far better view. So you stick your head and face into the water.

There the silver flashes of movement become form, color and take on a whole other life. It's so engaging that you're pulled in. Every scale is so perfectly aligned. The eyes look at you curiously, and then quickly descend into the murky water as another comes up to your face to have a look. You are enraptured. Beautiful.

Oh yeah. You're also drowning. But it's easy. You still feel engaged. You've become so obsessed with the fishies, you've forgotten where you are. You've lost all perspective. You have two choices - come up for air, right now, or suffocate. 

Drowning in astonishment
The fish are of course, whatever paranormal phenomena you're trying to examine. They are so ill-perceived through the ripples of ambiguity the enigma is wrapped in, that you wind up going underwater (or becoming semi-obsessed with solving the mystery).  You go all in. There is the spot where this phenomena seems to want you to be. This is the best vantage point for you to be in, by virtue of how it presents.

This can be a dangerous place for investigators. It's not only a place where you become enraptured and more prone to belief rather than facts. It's the old issue of wanting it to be true, or wanting it not to be true. You can also in some cases find yourself in situations you didn't bargain for (i.e. having strange events happening to you rather than you studying someone having them. More on that in future posts)

For many, this is obsession. The obsession is to my eye a part of the nature of the phenomena upon engaging with it, or the study of it. This goes far beyond the desire to solve a mystery. Seasoned investigators will know precisely what I'm talking about (even though few will admit it - the late Dick Hall and I spoke about this at length). The obsessive nature of the study is well known and I've even written about it even in regards to those looking to debunk a case or it's promoting personalities. There's a tendency to prove or disprove far beyond doubt - and often light years past what is required for debunking. 

A good chunk of UFO investigators and 'researchers' (armchair or otherwise) are drowning. A major portion of the ghost research community have succumbed to an acute lack of oxygen (see: facts) and can now tell you not only that the ghost is real, but why the ghost is there, what they want and how they can send them on to the other side. All without determining what the 'ghost' The lack not only of critical thought, but the complete abandon of genuine curiosity and the subscription to absurd beliefs is astounding in ghost circles. If you pay attention to some of the more vocal personalities in that community it's almost comedic. Of course the UFO field and it's personalities aren't really much better.

This begs the question: does the marginal personalities that the field(s) seem to attract allow for dismissal of their investigative results? No. In fact, you sometimes find that the more marginal, haphazard and disorganized a team is, the more likely they are to get phenomena to appear. Because, the phenomena is surrounded by these traits. The self-negation aspect comes into full swing here - you can't take their evidence seriously because of how chaotic their investigation method is, and how they are all predisposed to jump to paranormal conclusions. The evidence no matter how compelling on it's face, remains cloaked in ambiguity.

Can well organized and level headed teams get results as well? Sure. But we know that structure, routine and stability are antithetical to the paranormal. One might expect to see less results in such a team. They may be organized and structured, and still be put into very liminal situations to obtain interesting results. How they proceed from there may dictate their success.

Back away and separate - you'll gain perspective
How to avoid drowning (or losing the critical thinking faculty)? Make a habit of backing away somewhat frequently. And not just backing away, but moving your attention into another interest altogether. This may sound simple, but when you ask investigators to do this, they find it to be amazingly difficult.

I liken this a little bit to what we've spoken about at some length here: ritual. Detaching yourself from this pursuit is needed to 'ground' yourself once again - well outside of the proximity of where you've been in trying to study the phenomenon - ensconced in liminality and anti-structure. Get yourself back into routine. When you come back to the case study you're undertaking in a week or so - I guarantee you'll see things much clearer. But, you have to detach from it completely. Don't dwell or ponder on it - let it go.

For ghost hunting groups? After an investigation, the team should go out and eat together. Don't discuss the night's events. Make that a rule. The act of eating, drinking, even smoking are affirmations of life. You've just spent the entire night supposedly searching for the remnants of the dead. The ritual of feasting grounds you, and draws that line between the perceived dead and the living. Remember, "you shall not pass" - but I'm not talking about the dead following you home. I'm talking about the line of demarcation between the liminal, the anti-structured, and the routine needed to gain perspective and keep critical thought. You'll find the events of the night are easier to let go of after eating, talking and laughing with your friends. Conflicts that may have happened during the investigation should be far easier to blow off. If not, voice them after the food an drink are gone.  But realize, and know, that you putting yourself into the paranormal's surrounding effects by trying to study it - will result in conflict of one kind or another. Recognizing this is often the first step in resolution before it becomes an issue.

It all sounds simple doesn't it? But you'd be surprised the amount of ghost groups that conduct an investigation to disband after, go home and head directly to bed. Think of it like swimming and getting directly into bed without changing. You're laying in it. This gives you time to dwell, ponder, which leads to obsessing...and along the way you lose the critical facilities that you rely upon. Ancient people's held ritual and drew lines between them and odd phenomena for a reason. Even though we may not know what it is, or how it works, it's worth taking their lead - they enacted such things after seeing these kinds of conflicts and turmoil.

To fail to disconnect periodically from these studies is to become less critical of it. I saw some years ago, prolific writer Nick Redfern say something akin to that his writing is a job and he treats it as such. He doesn't live for the subjects he covers, and he more or less admonished those who do the dance 24/7. Perhaps this is why Nick hasn't gone off the rails as so many others in the UFO and paranormal fields do. This is not an endorsement of everything Nick writes, but rather how he conducts his research efforts. He uses structure.
Ritual is still here. It just changes form.

And this is really one of the keys to sidestepping that effect as near as I've been able to figure out. But the important thing to remember is that this isn't a psychological effect on only a subset of people. It happens to everyone from the novice to the PhD, to the skeptic (notice that some of the proposed skeptical explanations to paranormal events are almost more ridiculous and far reaching than the original claim itself is?) and on to the field researchers. You do not see this kind of obsession and loss of critical thought (or on this scale) in any other field of inquiry. I'll go out on a limb and say it again: this seems to be a unique factor/effect in the paranormal fields, and seems to be within the framework in which the paranormal operates. To relegate the effects to mind / psychology is to ignore the overwhelming amount of people affected (and the predictability of it), in addition to the other consistencies we've spoken about on this blog. Psychology is ill-equipped to handle or explain the effect.

In the end, is the detachment 'ritual' going to work 100%? I can't say that. Again, if you're looking for consistencies in the nature of paranormal effects - you're in the wrong place. I will say this: if you're honest with yourself and earnestly try to put detachment and separation lines into practice you'll note the difference in those who don't. I encourage you even to try an experiment with your group: try separation actions with half your team and let the other half do what they want. Have them investigate the same case. Note the reactions and collection of data. Who had more success? How were the results or collected data parsed out and interpreted between the two groups? I think you'll see interesting outcomes.

I should note this is only one aspect to try and sidestep. Conflicts are going to happen, trolls come out of the woodwork in he paranormal, and you'll see that ordinarily sensible people will unable to grasp basic concepts (which I encountered a great example of on a Facebook thread as I wrote this post). It's how you recognize, identify and deal with these things that ultimately keep you on the rails of progress (or the attempt at such) or derail you into chaos and petty conflict that get you nowhere in actually studying the phenomenon. At that point you're just embroiled in verbal blood sport - you're not actively doing anything you set out to do - study the paranormal.

Let me know how these things work for you should you decide to put them into practice. 🔻


  1. Excellent blog post Jeff, and again you hit the proverbial nail with this. I know exactly of the obsession you speak of at one time I refereed to the Phenomenon as my mistress or vice versa. The conflicts as well, which are inevitable I have witnessed over and over again and have been sadly a part of them.

    Grounding through taking a break and focusing on the "normal" is something everyone who is trying to study this needs to do. Grounding is an apt word here.

    And yes, a bit of a synchronicity between my post poem/image "Find Me" and your blog. Interesting... :)

  2. I am loving the fishes analogy. I have a science background so appreciate the rational approach to the unexplained. However, I've encountered those that are "drowning", they do not seem to realize it and are less than pleased when you point it out.