The Real Magic of Psychics
Six months ago at Café Gratitude in Venice, California — while deliberating between an “I Am Immortal” latte and an “I Am Stellar” blue smoothie — a thought popped into my head and I blurted it out.
“I’m going to stop wasting money on psychics.”
Across the table sat my friend and fellow psychotherapist Sara, with whom I often compared notes on therapists, healers, bodyworkers, psychics, and spiritual teachers. “Totally,” said Sara. “I really can’t hear another prophecy about the man who’s coming and the perfect family I’m going to have with him. I mean, I’m 60 for god’s sake. I’m going psychic-free for a year.”
A year? Suddenly I felt depressed. And trumped by Sara. Rising to her level of liberation would mean committing to being stuck with my feelings, and the indigestible unknown — 12 months without a download of glittering hope.
Of all the healing artists, psychics are the trickiest for me, simultaneously letting me imagine a brilliant future while triggering doubt about its likelihood. And then, of course, there are the false predictions.
The last psychic I’d seen kept telling me that my father back in England was about to die and to quickly tie up any loose ends in our relationship. So I made more transatlantic calls than usual, as well as a few gentle inquiries: “Everything okay, Dad? How’s your body feeling?” My 78-year-old dad’s responses were routinely chipper: “Taken a licking but I keep on ticking!” and “Morale is tip-top!”
After Sara’s challenge, I began to sort through my rising panic about going psychic-free. Between my history in Hollywood and running in healing circles, I was always meeting psychics, or “intuitives,” and there were just so many interesting ones. It was easy to be captivated, especially since — as a psychotherapist — I was noting my own experience of becoming a little bit psychic.
In the early days of my therapy practice, I was hypervigilant about looking through the lenses of the famous psychologists I’d studied, and the prestigious mentors who had trained me. Over time, however, my own review process evolved quite naturally. Seven years into my 14 year-long private practice, I started seeing images and symbols as I was listening to the client before me. These often appeared as jokes, metaphors, or riddles — apparent shortcuts into the client’s unconscious. I would also feel my client’s stronger ignored feelings in my own body, and I sometimes heard expressions or statements that seemed to come from outside of me.
In short, my empathic imagination was blossoming, as if it had a life of its own.
While I’ve typically avoided making predictions, I have shared my intuitions with clients, and they have been well received and reportedly helpful. Increasingly, I try to turn off my mind and be open to any and all information the client may be presenting me with, following the lines of feeling itself. Yet, calling myself a psychic felt fraught with danger and potential judgment. It was the predictions that bothered me the most, or perhaps it was my own attachment to the better ones.
Predictions, in particular, seemed bothersome. I carried a mental list of all the off-base predictions psychics had delivered my way over the years:
· Dad dying.
· Mr. Right appearing.
· More money than I could dream of pouring in.
· That I was going to take a trip to Denmark/Sweden/Egypt in the next few months.
· That someone named “Babyface” was going to show up and transform my business.
Had I been stupid as to not only listen to these but also bask in messages channeled from dogs and lotus flowers, from my dead grandfathers, from Thoth, green Tara, Houdini, and Ovid? I found myself filled with such shame: What a fool I was, baring my soul to strangers in a way that smacked of casual sex. Had I been in the grip of a guilty pleasure — an addiction of sorts? Of course, I knew that desire for connection drives addiction. Working backward, what had I been trying to connect to?
Rewind to my moment in Café Gratitude. Yes, I considered not seeing psychics, but the truth was, I didn’t want to. So instead, in January 2021, I decided to go all in. I started a podcast, Sex, Psychics, and Psychedelics — Exploring Inner Liberation. Not only did I come clean about my obsession with psychics, but I committed to a year of interviewing intuitives as a way of better understanding how the whole thing works.
A few months in, I’ve learned a lot. One thing is that, unlike me, many psychics feel at home totally in the margins. All of my interview subjects have reconciled with their outsider status, rolling with the constant judgment they face for claiming their calling. All open-minded people with intuitive gifts, most of the psychics I’ve met through this project live off-grid (only a quarter have social media accounts), finding clients by word of mouth. My interviewees have all encouraged me to stay open to unseen intelligence and unexpected connections.
“How malleable is the future?” I asked Julie Hunter, a successful celebrity psychic in Los Angeles, in a Zoom interview from my closet-turned-studio.
“Absolutely malleable,” Julie said, grinning. “We make it every day.”
I loved hearing that because I’m learning that it’s not the predictions I’m drawn to — it’s not the tall dark stranger or the trip to Norway; rather, I’m drawn to the way the mystical realm triggers my imagination, and as Einstein said: “Imagination is everything — it is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Psychics are a slice of hope, a hit of dopamine: They give us permission to imagine.
There’s the creative potential of imagination and there’s also its connective capacity. Imagination is the ultimate bridge between the ridiculous and the sublime, between the othered and the honored, the offline and the online, the discarded and the appreciated. Imagination moves in all directions and takes us deep inside ourselves, and far beyond.
A session with a psychic, like any kind of healing session, is relational: The practitioner’s and client’s intentions, and imaginations, combine uniquely to create an unforeseeable outcome.
This, of course, means you should vet potential intuitive collaborators as you would vet anyone you plan to be intimate with. According to Hunter, “Ask them not just what is going to happen, but what is there to learn?” Hunter added that a client should leave a psychic session feeling more independent, not anxious to schedule the next appointment.
On another episode, psychic Jessie Morgan in Louisville, Kentucky, touched on the hopefulness intrinsic to a psychic reading: “Instead of asking ‘Why?’” he told me, “I like to ask ‘Why not?’” Because he sees the unknown as a great big treasure hunt, my conversations with Jessie Morgan have felt like playing in the stars. The aspiring psychic in me is in heaven exploring what excites, and therefore ignites, us. It seems that just as life itself produces hope, hopefulness also produces more life in us. Genuine excitement is rocket fuel.
Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron warns against forgetting to be excited and entertained by our lives. She encourages practicing the thought, first thing in the morning, “I wonder what will happen today.” Each time I visit a psychic, I find myself reminded of that wide-eyed worldview: Anything can happen.