Getting a reading

I find myself in an awkward position on the topic of getting readings from evidential mediums. I have a love-not love relationship with mediums as a group.

I’ve been amazed and awestruck with some mediums, disgusted and disappointed with others. While I have been most intrigued by studies and demonstrations involving mediums, especially under laboratory test conditions, my heart sinks when I encounter (especially in the United States) the business model of turning mediums into celebrities who have nearly magical powers.

I’m sorry if this ruffles some feathers. However, I’ve been amazed, even irritated, that I’ve heard or seen little public pushback from supposed research or educational organizations against the proliferation of mediums with questionable ethics. Without naming names, I’m pushing back.

I’m an open-minded skeptic. I look forward to my own afterlife and to the possibility of communication with so-called spirits. However, that doesn’t allay my suspicions that some mediums aren’t conducting themselves with laudable integrity, particularly those of the narcissistic persuasion who strive for fame and fortune.

So many books, TV shows, websites, and marketing sell a mythology about what mediums can actually do. My own personal experience has not lived up to the hype.

If you’re considering hiring a medium to facilitate a conversation with someone on the other side, do you have a clear picture of what you may get for your money? The following is based on readings I had and on other people’s accounts of readings they had.

Caveat: In this discussion, I assume that the mediums are not intentionally committing fraud or trickery like cold reading and hot reading. (We’ll have that talk at another time soon.) What can you expect in exchange for your money even when the mediums are legitimate?

EVIDENTIAL MEDIUMS

Evidential mediums offer up bits of “evidence” in the form of details about the people they are supposedly bringing forth. The sitter (the person getting the reading) interprets the details the medium provides. Does the data fit the person purportedly coming through?

Evidence can be specific or vague. It can be powerful when a mediums speaks correct names of deceased people. If the medium asks if you know Fred and you have a late relative or close friend named Fred, it can feel compelling. (Again, we are not examining here the possibility of fraud, which of course would be a legitimate concern.)

The medium might throw in some extra morsels of detail about each person identified by name. Sitters determine what details are relevant and how much weight to give each one. Is the information ho-hum or amazing?

Say the medium says, “I see Fred raising a glass to toast your recent victory.” The sitter then strives to make this message fit the Fred they know.

If Fred was a teetotaler, the idea of him raising a glass would seem peculiar. Maybe the sitter has no idea what victory Fred is talking about. One might think, well, Fred didn’t drink, but maybe the message symbolizes a toast. Maybe the victory hasn’t happened yet; maybe it’s a prediction. The sitter does know Fred so that part is right; maybe the other part will reveal itself as correct somewhere down the road.

Do you see how much the sitter participates in a reading?

In my latest reading, the medium got my mother’s name right and offered a multiple choice of three name for a second person. One name fit. Several other relatives’ names or first initials were offered correctly while several more were unrecognizable. The medium accurately passed along a few supporting details about seven people. That said, many details were so general they could apply to a bunch of people. “Known for her cooking” or “loved to garden” are examples of broad generalities. The medium also brought up about 30% of items that meant nothing to me.

GENERAL VERSUS SPECIFIC

I’ve noticed in my readings that mediums often overlook the most obvious and convincing identifiers of the person said to be coming through. It would be as if Babe Ruth came through and didn’t mention anything about baseball. What? That doesn’t automatically make the reading wrong or the medium inept, but I find it strange. Would you find it odd?

In my latest reading, the generalizations fit and there were seven people saying hello. Each detail fit a specific person fairly well even though more obvious data like occupation or uncommon physical trait or big life event or meaningful snippet of trivia would have been far more convincing. Still the composite effect of getting each parent and grandparent recognizable even in a general way impressed me.

As the customer of a medium, you may not be told obvious specific details like being wheelchair-bound for seven years or having built a successful hardware business or was locally famous as a one-man band. Would you be content with “she has a nice sense of humor” or “he watches over you?” These broad statements prove little although they might be comforting.

Mediums often do not discuss the possibility that physical life memories could melt away from the ‘deceased’ as quickly as our dreams do when we wake up fast. Poof! Gone! When we wonder what mediums can do, we should account for the psychological impact of changing worlds. (See my post Psychology of the ‘Dead.’) How much does the dying process change us mentally and emotionally?

Sometimes seeming evidential statements could be playing the odds. For example, a medium might suggest that alcohol figured in someone’s death. Alcoholism is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the US. Ask anyone if alcohol was a problem in their extended family and the odds are that someone fits the bill. It would be different if the medium said, “I see a tall male with black hair who used a cane and died from complications from alcohol.”

This principle proves pretty true for all the major diseases: cancer, heart failure, depression, addictions, etc. Throw out a major cause of death and it is likely to apply to someone the sitter knows. That said, fraud may be too strong a conclusion; reliance on guessing could also explain it.

ON-THE-SPOT REVISIONS

If you are a stickler for details, somewhat skeptical, and are looking for “proof” of an afterlife in your reading, be aware that some mediums are skilled at following a sitter’s feedback to make it look as if they were right all along. This is where having a recording of the reading is helpful; you can go back to see if the medium followed your lead or asked questions to pin down a detail. (I am flat out suspicious of and would not hire any medium who does not allow recordings.)

Refining an initial statement does not necessarily make the medium a manipulator; it happens in normal, everyday conversation, too. We use feedback to clarify what we mean. But if the medium uses a clarification to claim making a hit, it’s not so impressive. For example, say a medium starts out saying something about the East Coast and you specify New York. The medium should not take credit for getting New York right because it was you supplying the precision.

As I said, we’re not considering fraud here. As the sitter, you need to decide if the information given was convincing enough. How satisfied would you be if what you get for your money is a string of general answers that you made specific with your feedback?

THE UNKNOWNS AND MISSES

Let’s say that a medium is 80% accurate. That’s usually considered to be a pretty good reading. But that also means that a medium is 20% wrong. That would be one wrong answer or suggestion for every five tries.

When a medium says something you can’t relate to, it becomes your burden to figure out if the medium is wrong or if you are wrong. Processing apparent misses can cause anxiety if you cannot place a person or make sense of a symbol, object, or situation.

If names come up that I do not recognize, it creates stress to deal with these unknowns. Who are these people? Further, not knowing which items are misses or medium mistakes can also produce anxiety.

In my case, I work hard to make sense of any apparent wrong answer I get. The puzzle may linger for days, even weeks. I don’t want to mistakenly ignore someone trying to communicate with me!

In essence, part of the contract you agree to when you hire a medium is that you’ll be confronted with 20-30% mysteries and inaccuracies. (Skeptics often say that believers forget the misses and remember just the hits, which is one reason why I transcribe my readings from recordings.)

MESSAGES AND PREDICTIONS

Plenty of books, movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos imply that mediums hear ‘spirits’ as easily as they would hear you talking with them in person or through an electronic device like a phone or computer. This creates exaggerated expectations for people hoping to contact loved ones.

I generally don’t ask for messages from the ‘deceased.’ Most messages I’ve received personally from mediums (or that I’ve heard given to others like on radio shows or platform readings) sound much more as if they came from a $10 book—platitudes, general spiritual insights, and so on. These aren’t evidential. I find asking for messages a waste of money. It eats up the clock on the allotted time and often disappoints.

That said, if you long for an answer to a specific challenge or concern, frame your query as a specific question and see what happens. Don’t just ask if you have any messages! Be specific in what you want to know. Stories abound of correct information being passed through mediums like the location of lost objects or certain mysteries solved.

However, some stories also suggest that censorship happens in ‘spirit’ communication. Direct questions are often evaded. Answers are often unsatisfying. While not said directly, spirit sources often imply that giving you certain answers is like helping you cheat in school exams. In other words, many mysteries will remain mysterious, including winning lottery numbers.

AMAZING STATEMENTS

It’s thrilling to receive a startling statement or symbol coming through that you didn’t share in any known source like social media posts and comments, obituaries, blogs, and so on. These details seemed too meaningful and too personally unique to have been lucky guesses (although coincidence is still always a possibility.)

Amazing statements are subjectively received. For example, if a medium who knew nothing about me said “cable car” in relation to a grandfather, I would find that impressive. It means something to me on several levels and is unique enough as not to be commonly spoken—not like “sports fan” or “loved to take vacations.” It’s better when the medium has previously identified whom the symbol is about, like grandfather, rather than just asking in a broad fashion, “What does cable car mean?”

Statements that take your breath away due to their pinpoint accuracy are the treasures that people who hire mediums seek. They also separate the mediocre medium from the truly talented. Mediums who can be specific and accurate are highly sought after (including for research purposes.)

MENTAL STATES OF SITTERS

It’s important to note the different needs and mental states of sitters. A person in fresh, deep grief has much different needs and wants than an academic scholar or curious researcher.

The former are eager if not desperate to hear from a deceased person. They may consciously or unconsciously lead the medium to say what they hope to hear. The simply curious tend to be more discerning and skeptical in the scientific or analytical sense. Militant skeptics often won’t believe anything.

It’s fairly common to attempt to make whatever a medium says fit one’s specific situation. A deep desire to feel that the dead are OK in ‘heaven’ may motivate some people to hear long-shot bits of evidence as accurate, not questionable. There’s also a desire among some sitters not to offend a medium by not accepting a statement as true. I’ve sometimes thought that if I reject a statement a medium makes, it’s my bad. It may offend the spirit or the medium and somehow ruin the connection with the other side.

If you are considering getting a reading, I would highly recommend first exploring the site at Windbridge.org. They have many suggestions about hiring mediums as well as cautionary advice. For example, they advise the freshly bereaved to wait a few months before seeking a reading. This allows both the potential sitter and the newly ‘deceased’ to adjust to the new situation. It also helps create a stronger connection with better results.

REALITY CHECKING

As much as I would like to trust mediumship as a profession, my confidence has not been favorably stoked, especially in the US. At best it’s highly subjective and the sitter decides what to make of the information passed along.

In reading through Facebook groups where sitters swear by certain mediums, I often wonder how they arrived at their conclusions. What standards of reality checking did they apply to the evidence the medium offered? How much did the sitter lead the medium through body language, voice inflection, and how the questions (if asked) were phrased?

Memories can play big tricks, so in my case, I rely on recordings, not on taking notes. I know I might not jot down things that do not fit or I might just get distracted from notes while trying to figure out the hits and misses. From my transcribed accounts I can go back weeks later and see if anything new occurs to me or note if something profound has happened.

CONCLUSIONS

This is my personal opinion from my experience.

It’s important to acknowledge what you hope or expect to get for your money, especially if your finances are strained and the medium charges a bundle, like $5 a minute. Will you feel satisfied or cheated?

About the best overall conclusion I’ve acquired from a reading is that “this medium said a lot of things that could suggest that So-and-So’s personality still exists in some form. This medium also said things that did not appear to apply to me or my loved ones.” It was enough to fuel my hope in soul survival but not enough to prove it. From what the medium said, I could recognize family members in a very general way, but missing were those more obvious, intimate things someone in spirit could have said to make a much more positive identity.

If your finances are limited, think twice about purchasing a reading. Go with realistic and informed expectations. You most likely won’t get the wow scenes and snappy dialogue featured in highly edited and scripted TV shows or movies. You may end up with more questions than answers along with disappointment and maybe even outrage. A better use of funds might be grief therapy, psychic development classes (become your own medium), or even a vacation where you can loosen a few notches of stress.

I think of readings more like spa days for the soul. They are luxuries and with the right medium can be uplifting experiences. With the wrong medium, they can create a really bad hair day.

NEXT TIME

I said above that I was not including the possibility of fraud, but if you are considering purchasing a reading, it’s wise to know about hot and cold reading techniques.

Stay tuned.

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