I recently did a little post on my Facebook page asking people why they investigate the paranormal. "Was it to enjoy the experience, gather evidence, answer questions, discover history or just because it is something to do?" The great thing about this question is that it is individual to each person and there is no right or wrong answer. It is what fits each person. Sometimes it can be a little bit of a hard question to answer, especially on a public platform. Why? There is no one more judgemental than our fellow investigators - especially if we do something differently to the way they do it.
People become quite protective about their chosen area of research, something which I know I have to 'check' myself for from time to time. When you put your heart and soul into an area of research, if someone comes along doing things quite differently, it can be easy to fall into that trap where you automatically think to your "no that's not right, it is like this". If you are very spiritual it can be easy to think someone with a more scientific approach may seem skeptical or even cynical. If you take that scientific approach you may think that some people are not conducting an investigation in a methodical way in line with the scientific method and that their personal experiences don't count for anything as it doesn't offer proof. If you are on the casual side you can think that some people need to relax a bit and not take things so seriously while some of the more serious people may think that too much mucking around can make a mockery of the work. Where do we draw the line? Is there a right and wrong? Who gets to decide who is right and who is wrong when there is no regulation on the field itself?
After a while, you can see the most passionate paranormal investigators who are becoming more and more passionate about arguing about what others are doing. I do understand the frustration because I sometimes I feel it myself. I don't voice mine publicly because I personally don't feel that is productive. If we are spending all of our time arguing about the right or wrong way to do things or even just arguing, the focus on the paranormal itself starts fading and it starts becoming about the people. There are many times when a paranormal investigator who has been in the field for quite some time becomes a little bit jaded. Again I can see how it happens. The field itself is constantly growing and changing. Even in the past few years, there has been a huge shift to the paranormal becoming a more online experience. COVID happened and suddenly we were stuck at home and more than ever people found creative ways to entertain, inform and research the paranormal using an online platform. If you had told me that would be where a large portion of the field is now 6 years ago, I don't think I would have believed you. As humans, we tend to not like change. It is important not to mistake change with growth. I do believe that many within the field are always evolving and growing and I see it from the people I know and follow. I see it within myself. If you dive into the archives of the blog and look at articles say from 2015, they are written very differently to how I write now and the topics are not as in depth as they are perhaps now.
My own personal growth came from me wanting to do things my way and not what was popular. It meant that maybe I would sacrifice having a lot of followers or website hits, but it was important I was true to myself. At the time which was a few years ago now, I started writing about 'paranormal gossip about paranormal celebrities'. I had thousands of hits per day on certain articles that were akin to trashy tabloids (which I do sometimes enjoy reading) whereas my other articles were lucky to have a combined 30 readers a day. In my thinking at the time I thought, well if people come to the website for this article, they will stay and read the rest which is my 'real' work. Except they didn't because the rest of my content was very different and not what they came to the website for. Yes I had a hit on my website but for what gain? I sat back one day and thought, "what if the person I had written about has actually read this not flattering article I have written about them?" (It is quite possible that they did). Some of my articles also had me expressing very strongly that I didn't agree with certain people or topics and even though I was writing in a sarcastic tone to try and be funny, it would be easy for others to take it as me mocking them as sarcasm doesn't translate well in the written form. I had to take a long hard look at myself. Was I after webpage hits so badly that I should stoop to this level?
I took myself back to my very first investigation. The feeling I felt. I took myself back to the moment I decide to start writing about the paranormal and to when I launched my blog. I never asked anyone to share my blog because I wanted the work to speak for itself, (something I have always felt strongly about). A lot of high profile people in the paranormal field in Australia at the time wanted to support me as I had supported them and they helped to promote it. They didn't have to. I know many of them didn't agree with some of my views on the paranormal but they still supported me. I felt like I was welcomed into the field. I wanted to provide people with an honest account of what paranormal investigating is really like from my perspective. So why was I writing about paranormal gossip? What if one of the topics that some may have thought was mocking people was a topic they felt strongly about. In some ways I was publicly trashing their work without knowing it. That was never part of the plan. I immediately went and deleted every single reference to all of those articles. Some I rewrote in a way that was more understanding and open as there is a way to express that I don't agree with something without making others feel inferior. It was not who I wanted to be. It was never who I wanted to be so why was I doing it?
A few years on, things have evolved and I am writing about the things I am interested in when it comes to the paranormal and present my thoughts and theories. Does everyone agree with them? Hell no. I still don't agree with many others either. Instead of getting angry that someone thinks a piece of dust is evidence of a ghost as an example, I will write articles about the way a camera works. No matter what the argument, some people will take things on board and others won't. This is probably where the frustration starts to kick in. Those who are willing may read my article and maybe even learn something from it will read it. Others as tends to happen will send me an email with their photo or try to tell me that I am wrong and want me to scientifically explain something that in their mind is right. While it can be very tempting to argue, I just don't. I don't feel it is worth my time and where is it going to get us as a paranormal field? Instead I focus on my research. I think back to what a teacher used to tell my son when he started school. He was always concerned about what everyone else was doing. She would say "Don't worry about them, worry about yourself!". Great advice for a then 5 year old and even great advice for us adults!
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel you might be becoming jaded or one of those angry people on social media, take a moment and think back to your first paranormal experience. Think back to when you started doing what you do whether it be a blog, a podcast, a team, a researcher, an author, an academic, an events manager or just someone that is looking for answers and think about why you decided to do what you were doing. Is that person you are arguing with on social media going to further that work? Probably not, so it doesn't deserve your time and energy. Focus on the work you want to do and the way that you want to do it. Of course there are some ethical things to keep in mind as even though there is no regulation, there is a moral and unsaid ethical code that should be followed so we can't do just 'anything' that we want. As investigators who investigate ghosts, we can become quite detached from the idea of death and more specifically family members that may be around of that 'ghost' you believe you are communicating with. In the quest of many to find proof of life after death we must not forget ourselves how to be human.
I do like the phrase "Do as I say not as I do" because in some ways it can be a bit of a reality check. Many people brand themselves or at least promote a certain image of themselves within the paranormal field. Is what you are doing reflecting the way you are trying to represent yourself? In my case, paranormal gossip wasn't so it had to go. I used to be in a team years ago with others and I had to leave to find my own path of research. We found ourselves being pulled in different directions. In doing so, we all started to clash because we believed things should be done so differently and we all felt a part of us was sacrificing what we believed so that everyone could be seen and heard. Again everyone is entitled to an opinion and it doesn't necessarily make one of us right or wrong it just makes it different. When you are in a team environment, if you are often not on the same page, it can become a difficult place to be. You can find yourself sacrificing your own work and thoughts for the sake of others. A team worked well for me for many years and taught me a lot of lessons. Then the growth happened and I decided to embrace it. I decided to leave the team and go on my own path of research. It is at this point you will see a huge shift in my writing and the things I started to write about. A few years later I have honestly never been happier. I have found what I believe is a good balance between home life and going out in the field. At the time again I was out every weekend and constantly on the phone or skype with others planning or discussing paranormal things that it had a real affect on my marriage. I was making time for the paranormal but not for my husband. I have learnt that I don't have to be out every weekend investigating to do the kind of research I want to do. I have found ways to get my husband involved even though he is not into paranormal investigating. We work together on this website and while I am the writer, he is the coder who does a lot of backend work for me. It works well for us and we are really happy after 20 years together! We found a balance. I have learnt that it doesn't matter how many followers I have or how many people are reading the articles or buying books because that is not why I write them. I have to remember why I wanted to start this blog or why I wanted to write a book. It was never to get views or make money. It was to write about the paranormal. Of course if people come on board and read it is an added bonus but it is not why I do it and that brings us back full circle to the original question I asked people. While some people have hundreds of thousands of followers and others have only a few, the majority of people will still do what they are doing simply because they love doing it.
So take a moment and sit back and remember why you started that thing you are doing. Are you happy? Is there something else you want to do or try? There is no better time than now to start doing things on your terms.
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