As paranormal investigators, the majority of us belief in different ways that there is something paranormal out there. Some people seem confident they know what it is, while others are open minded to a range of possibilities. It is all based on our own experiences and beliefs. Myself, I believe there is something out there and something happening, I just don't know what it is and sometimes I don't even know what I believe because it is constantly changing. We know about this thing called unconscious bias where our belief systems influence the decisions we make at a unconscious level meaning we don't even know we do it. It makes a big difference to the way we investigate the paranormal. If a person is skeptical, it too will influence the way they investigate the paranormal. While a 'believer' will be looking for evidence that the paranormal is out there, a 'skeptic' is more looking for evidence that it is not. We also tend to have certain expectations, particularly the more we investigate the paranormal. While we may say to expect the unexpected as certainly there can be a lot of surprises, we also have to wonder if sometimes we fulfill our own prophecy when it comes to finding or experiencing something paranormal. Our expectations drive our actions to confirm our belief. In essence, the way we investigate is not only influenced by what we believe, but it can also influence the outcome. If we predict we are going to find something paranormal, we usually do. But is it really paranormal or is it a case of self fulfilling prophecy?
In simple terms, a self fulfilling prophecy is a prediction or an expectation that comes true simply because of our belief in it.
One of the classic examples of a self-fulfilling prophecy comes from the Greek story of Oedipus. In the story, Oedipus’s father Laius is warned that his son will eventually kill him. To avoid meeting this fate, he abandons his son and leaves him to die.
Oedipus was found and raised by foster parents, under the assumption that they were his real parents. One day, he is also confronted with a dire warning—that he will kill his father and marry his widowed mother. Of course, Oedipus has no wish to kill the man he believes is his father or marry the woman he believes is his mother, so he abandons his home and foster parents and heads off to the city.
In the city, he meets a stranger and ends up in a fight with him. Once Oedipus kills the strange man, he marries his widow. He later learns that the man he killed was his actual father and that his new bride is actually his mother. By trying to avoid fate, both Laius and Oedipus manifested the prophecies.
This compelling tale helped the self-fulfilling prophecy become a popular trope in literature and film, but it’s also a much-researched concept in psychology.
Oedipus (source Wiki Commons)
A great example is if you are due to go out and meet some friends for a drink. You don't really feel like it and you tell yourself you are going to have a bad time. When you get there, you focus on all the things you dislike about being out and unconsciously ignore all of the good things that are happening. You have your mind set that you are going to have a bad time so you end up having a bad time. Raise your hand if this has happened to you! (I can think of so many examples because when I get in my head I don't want to do something or go somewhere, my mind is made up).
You could apply the logic of self fulfilling prophecy in a few ways when it comes to the paranormal. The first would be that obviously by going into an investigation thinking you are going to get evidence of something paranormal, when you are reviewing your audio, you are looking for reasons to 'fulfill' your prophecy. You may be unknowingly misinterpreting sounds that you are think are great EVPS. You may be unknowingly missing natural explanations because you are so focused on finding something paranormal. Maybe you are not really trying to debunk or explain things because you found what you were looking for. This is where that unconscious bias comes in. The good news is being aware and applying critical thinking can make a massive difference here. I know myself and I will be the first to admit it, I get really caught up in the moment if something is happening on an investigation. I get excited and I tend to go with the flow and see where it takes me. It usually isn't until afterwards I take a breath and then really think about what has happened and then go through the steps I go through to potentially explain or recreate something. I used to get really embarrassed about getting so excited about something only to realise a few minutes later it was nothing to get excited about. I guess in a lot of ways it shows my passion and love for the paranormal. Maybe it also shows my belief in the paranormal and how easy it would be for that to lead me. In that moment, I am well on my way to fulfilling my prophecy. We all have different beliefs and different ways that we investigate the paranormal. By at least taking that step to stop and think about things is the first step to not prematurely fulfilling that prophecy. On the other hand, sometimes we go into an investigation and think we are going to come out empty handed. I know I have done this too on many occasions. Afterwards I will be chatting to someone else that attended and I will say 'nothing happened'. They will then usually give me a whole list of things that are potentially interesting. I however had it set in my mind we weren't going to find anything that unconsciously I was ignoring what was going on around me. My prophecy of nothing happened came true because I wasn't looking for it. Sometimes we go in wearing blinders and we are not fully looking at things properly or objectively whether we believe or not, it is important to look at all angles and be open to different possibilities - even those we may not believe in.
The next way I am going to apply this to the paranormal is kind of from a bit of a different angle. Instead of misinterpreting things because of what we believe in, what if our belief is what actually makes it happen? What if it is like some sort of psychic projection? I have talked in detail before about the Philip Experiment where a group of parapsychologists claimed to of created a spirit by the name of Philip simply by thinking about him. They made a fake back story and drew a picture of what he looked like and thought about the things he might like down to his favourite song and as a group their thoughts collectively made 'Philip' come to life. I have talked about applying this to our investigations, especially on public tours. I will use my beautiful Annie from Black Rock House as an example. She is said to be a spirit at Black Rock House. We take a group into her room. We greet her 'Hi Annie' because it seems she didn't realise she had passed away and was angry that no one was paying attention to her so now we greet her (as do all of the volunteers who work there). We then talk about her backstory and what she likes and what she dislikes. We then ask her to come forward and say hello and almost confirm her story (which we are unable to validate historically). We have given the group all of the information they need to know about Annie and then we ask them to ask her to come forward. Much like the Philip experiment, is their collective thought making 'Annie' come forward? When we think about self fulfilling prophecy, if we go into an investigation expecting to communicate with a certain spirit, does our belief somehow make this happen? Are we causing our own paranormal activity? Does us just believing in spirits make them appear when we go looking for them on some sort of psychic projection level? If people can unknowingly create their own poltergeist in their regular life, what are they capable of creating when they go looking for something paranormal?
I also like to apply this way of thinking when it comes to fear and negative energy. For those that work on private cases, often when you are asked to help someone out, they are in a negative headspace and often have a lot of things happening in their life. Sometimes there is even a lot of clutter around the home. When you are constantly in this negative headspace, that negative energy is pouring out of you. Think about when you are around someone that has a very negative attitude or just seems negative. We all have basic empathy, and then there are empaths who will feel it at a much deeper level, however most of us can feel when someone is being negative. Think about if they are in they house in this small space in their negative space with all that negative energy coming out. If they believe something paranormal is happening, they are fueling this with their negative energy. I even feel like I have experienced this myself to the point I had a cleansing done (and I am not someone that has cleansings). It was like I was surrounded by a black cloud of negative energy and it seemed like it manifested into something more. I felt like I was under attack and the more I believed it, the more experiences I felt I had. Was my belief fueling this negative energy? The same thing can be said about fear. If you go into an investigation scared and thinking you will be harmed or going to be scared, you will likely freak yourself out. I have seen people scream at the sight of a K2 meter going off. They have literally psyched themselves out before they even began. If I look at the spiritual side, many believe that their fear again fuels negative energy.
We can't help the way we are wired. It is how our brain works. We can be aware of things to a certain extent but ultimately we tend to act on our instinct. Our instinct is influenced by our belief systems and contributes to this self fulfilling prophecy. If we take a step back and think about things, consult our peers (who will have a different perception) and look at things objectively, it may tell us a different story. At the end of the day, if you do find what you are looking for and you can eliminate these things, it makes this all the more compelling!
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