You couldn’t tell by looking at me, but I moonlight as a tarot card reader for a 1-800 network. Honestly.
A lot of people are surprised by this tidbit of information whenever they hear it — apparently most of us think the majority of psychics own hundreds of cats and reek of patchouli. But it’s been a good source of income for me for about a year now. Everyone has their own opinion about cards and clairvoyance, but in my world, these things are simply tools to help us along the highway of life.
My opinions on the matter aside (believe me, I’ve had the “it’s real / it’s not real” debate one too many times with family members and annoying strangers alike), I’ve recently noticed a psychological trend that’s made me rethink the way I convey information to my clients.
The company I work for has a place for callers to leave feedback: Did they like the session? Would they call that specific psychic again? Most successful readers on the site have a mix of people who completely stand by their predictions, along with a few very unhappy campers. Clairvoyance, it seems, is not an exact science.
But the readers with the highest scores? The ones who have queues around the block for their services and who make more money in an hour than I make a week? Their feedback is suspiciously one-sided.
“Bless you! You seem so connected to him! I was an emotional mess when you called and now I feel so much better. I’m still waiting on your long-term prediction, but I have faith in your predictions. Thanks.”
“This lady is my favorite..she is still predicting marriage proposal in december and i keep telling her no way…lol and if its true..all of you will know now that i have invited her to the wedding if it happens..may my dreams come true and may she be right in her predictions…love you, your the best.. “
“So supportive even on my worst days she has the magic to pick me up. Though timing has been off, I believe with my heart and soul that the time for my dream to come true is very close, she feels and I believe her. She has never steered me wrong.”
All of these comments, plus hundreds more that basically say the same thing, come from one of the highest-rated readers on the site. None of her customers seem to have any bad news to report; and even when the “timing” of the predictions is off, clients continue to believe that the good news is the real news.
Now, I’m not here to call this reader out — it’s a jungle out there and us card slingers need to stick together — yet I can’t help but wonder if her clients love her because she always tells them the truth, or simply what they want to hear?
And if she does purely tell them what they want to hear — if it gets them through hurricanes of emotion, even for that one nigh — is that such a bad thing?
A study published in Addiction Research & Theory (Shepherd, 2009) cites research claiming belief in the supernatural, while possibly helpful when “life seems random, chaotic and uncontrollable,” doesn’t necessarily mean a believer has weaker coping skills than a non-believer. But, continual usage of psychic hotlines could be classified as an “addictive” type of coping.
In my world, it means that while people who believe in the idea of psychic phenomena aren’t any less intelligent or less rational than non-believers, there can be an addictive quality to hotlines. And it’s true. The same people call again and again and again, over and over, making sure that the good news this one particular well-reviewed psychic told them doesn’t change. They start to believe the outcome predicted with such force by their advisor is the only outcome they can mentally handle.
And so the question transforms… If this popular psychic is telling her clients only what they want to hear, and they believe her outcome is the only one they want, and it helps them breathe easier for a certain amount of time but then doesn’t pan out… What becomes of the eager client? Are they more damaged and potentially in more mental trouble because their wishful thinking didn’t manifest, or would their emotional barometer basically end up in the same place, had they never been told any news?
Without any kind of research, there doesn’t seem to be a way to answer this question, but it does bring up an interesting thought: if given the choice, would most of us ask for the truth, or the rose-colored version?
Shepherd, R.-M. (2009). Dangerous consumptions beyond the grave: Psychic hotline addiction for the lonely hearts and grieving souls. Addiction Research & Theory, 17(3), 278-290.