Do you remember the first time you felt you were not alone? Your stomach felt a bit off, the hairs on your arm stood up, you had goose bumps, maybe you felt a little anxious or weird but you were overcome with a weird sensation that you were not the only person there and that someone or something was trying to make contact with you. I am guessing the majority of you have felt this at some point as it is usually the catalyst for you to start investigating the paranormal. What happened? Why did I feel that way? What was trying to get my attention? What did they want to tell me? How can they do that? Is there life after death? And the journey begins. I know this is how it happened for me. After my first paranormal investigation, I felt all these things and decided to go further and several years later I am still here. While my quest has not changed, my perception of personal experiences did. Alot of it has to do with my debunking investigative style. While someone was feeling a certain way, if I was not feeling it too, it is very easy to sit back and think to myself, they are faking it or maybe they are just tired. It's dark they didn't really see that, their eyes are playing tricks on them. Maybe the dust in the room is affecting them etc. We certainly should be vigilant, especially when someone is claiming that something is happening and try to back it up with equipment or something, but I was reminded during a recent investigation that a personal experience is just that ...... it is personal to you and may only be happening to you. While it is not something that can be submitted as evidence of the paranormal, the person who has had said experience is likely changed forever and that is something that no amount of words or debunking can take it away from them and nor should it.
I will be the first to admit to you that my investigating over the last 12 months has changed considerably since we started doing events for the National Trust of Victoria. I have almost felt a little bit more like a tour guide than an investigator searching for evidence. Hundreds of people have come and gone and while most people are amazing and honest, there are always those you sit back and watch and think what is going on. They over exaggerate everything they feel is happening, make everything about them and make themselves the center of attention. It makes it hard for myself and everyone else in the room to believe that something is perhaps happening to them. They however believe that it is happening to them so who am I to tell them it is not? It is important to note that not everyone is like that. You have the people that come through who are anything from first timers to people who just love the paranormal. They are usually the quiet ones just standing their observing and taking the experience in for what it is. They walk into a room and again they may feel or see something. Sometimes seeing their reaction is priceless and it is almost an honor to share the moment with them. At the time I am still not feeling what they are experiencing, but to them it is very real and they are having their moment that is going to kick start their journey into the paranormal. So again, who am I to tell them what they are feeling? The honest truth is, I don't know what they are feeling. I don't know what they are seeing. I am not them and only they can answer that.
A personal experience is not evidence of the paranormal and most people out there arent claiming that it is. Being in the mode I have been in over the last 12 months, I will admit that perhaps sometimes I am a little judgmental of people and the authenticity of their experience. Again quite simply because it wasn't happening to me at the same time. I guess it is like anything - if you don't have a photo of it or if you didn't post it on Facebook - how do we know it even happened? You have to take someone's word for it and sadly these days in the paranormal field, someone's word is not enough anymore and a person's experience is often discounted. I am a big culprit of that judgment at times and openly admit it. I will however never tell someone that it did not happen to them. If I can't explain it or i am skeptical I just sort of say 'ok that is interesting'. If I can offer some sort of explanation to it I will tell them 'this could be a factor' because that is my job as an investigator. It is up to them if they choose to take it on board or not. I do admit in their defense however, sometimes you just kind of know what it isn't even if it is a possibility.
On a recent investigation - (OK it was last night), I had a personal experience that only happened to me. It took me quite off guard because it has been a really long time since I have felt even a tingle and I was in an area I think I could set up and sleep for the night. I have never had any sort of experience in there, it is not a scary building by any means and up until last night was not really an area I thought much of in terms of investigating. I felt things, I lost my nerve at one point and I even saw things that I could not explain or debunk and that has stayed with me. As a person who can usually find the rational for everything and is pretty good at debunkng, I couldn't debunk myself. No one else felt what I was feeling and no one saw what I was seeing because they were looking in a different direction. It was my personal experience and suddenly I had become that person that I sometimes judge. It was great for me in a couple of ways. First of all, I have been telling everyone for the longest time I needed something to happen to me soon to set off that spark again before I became a complete skeptic because I was honestly heading in that direction. Second of all, it allowed me to relate to everyone again and remember what it is like to feel or experience something and believe that even if no one else was experiencing it, I believed what i was experiencing.
It brings me to the final point. A personal experience is personal to the person. Sometimes they can't explain it. Sometimes they may not want to explain it. Sometimes it can shake a person to their core because it challenges their belief system. You do not have to be a medium or a sensitive to experience something. It can happen to anyone and it will happen when you are least expecting it. I do actually tell people who are looking desperately for an experience that in that frame of mind, it probably won't happen. I do believe that if 'they' want you to know they are there, there will show you when they want you to feel it, see it etc. It's on their terms and not yours. A genuine personal experience for most people who are not mediums or sensitive are few and far between so it is something that maybe you don't want to just write off. I have honestly had maybe about 5 over the last few years of being out there almost every weekend. When you investigate the paranormal, I do believe that you become a little bit in tune with the energies and learn how your body adapts, and it also means you know yourself pretty well. You know what natural things affect your body, you know how you react in certain areas or under stress. No one knows you better than yourself. People always say that your body is the best piece of equipment you can use and in a lot of ways that is true. Sometimes it is OK to just go out there and see how you feel and how you react. While it is not something you can present as evidence who cares. Sometimes like me, this is the kind of thing you need from time to time. A reminder why you are doing it and to humble you not to judge others as much. Just because something is not happening to you, the person that it is happening to believes it is. It is personal and it should be thought of as just that.
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