The inspiration for this week's post came from a very unlikely place - The 10th episode and season finale of Ane Just Like That - the Sex and The City Reboot. Now I am not a jerk, but I will be discussing a couple of points from this season and the last episode so here is my SPOILER ALERT .... stop reading if you don't want to know what happens.
You may be wondering, what the hell does this have to do with the paranormal? If you saw the last episode, then you probably have a bit of an idea where I am going with this.
In the first episode of the series, we see the main character Carrie lose her love Mr Big to a heart attack. The rest of the series sees her dealing with grief and navigating in a World where she basically has to start all over again. There is a lot of grief of course and finally close to one year later, throwing herself back into the dating pool. After a couple of false starts, she shared a kiss with a man she had been trying to date. Later that night when lying in bed, the small reading light above her bed started switching on by itself. She would turn it off and then it would come on again. She thought it was her husband making himself known to her. She went to a repair shop to have it looked at secretly wanting them to tell her nothing was wrong with it to confirm what she felt she already knew, that her husband was trying to communicate with her. The disappointment on her face cut right through me when the repairer told her there was a faulty wire in the lamp and he had replaced it. It seemed maybe her husband wasn't communicating with her, it was a faulty wire and you could feel the sadness in response. This is until she had a dream that night about where she felt she needed to spread his ashes only to wake up to the light back to its tricks. Clearly, this was a huge source of comfort for her.
During this story arc, a conversation with her skeptic friend I guess stuck with me because it reminds me of a lot of interactions I see when someone is trying to say they feel a loved one is trying to contact them - even in what seems like weird or unbelievable circumstances.
Carrie: I think Big's mad at me.
Miranda: What do you mean?
Carrie: Well, Peter kissed me last night.
Charlotte: Peter kissed you. How was that?
Carrie: Strange to be kissing someone other than Big. But then, right after... my reading lamp... started blinking on and off. Okay. I mean, you know me. You know I'm not, like, woo-woo about stuff like this, but I think it, it could be Big
Miranda: In your lamp?
Carrie: No, coming through my lamp.
Charlotte: Well, I am woo-woo about this stuff, and I do not believe that Big would send a message all the way from Heaven that you should never kiss anyone ever again. Do you really think that's what he wants for you?
Miranda: Heaven? Seriously?
Carrie: What, are you saying there's no Heaven?
Miranda: Are you saying there is? You think Big is sitting up on a cloud right now puffin' away on a cigar?
Carrie: Well, yes, that's exactly what I'd like to think.
Miranda: Since when do you believe in the afterlife? I thought we were on the same page about this.
Carrie: Yes, we were, but in light of recent events, I've changed my vote to undecided.
Charlotte: If you can't disprove it, that means it's possible.
Miranda: I can't disprove the existence of the Easter Bunny. Wait, are we undecided about that now, too?
The conversation finishes with Carrie telling her friend Miranda:
And just like that, we have the inspiration for this post. Apart from the fact, her friend Miranda is not being a very good friend, Carrie's words resonate in a way I think many people will or at least should understand. She needed comfort and even if it wasn't his spirit communicating with her, it made her feel better. What she needed from her friend was some compassion, not a hard dose of reality rooted in her friend's different belief systems. (It was actually quite on-brand for Miranda's character to respond in a more non-compassionate way). It immediately made me think of the many interactions I witness on social media and even just in talking to people.
As paranormal researchers/investigators/ghost hunters - whatever you want to label yourself, often we come across people who themselves are dealing with some form of grief and are desperate for communication with their loved ones. Maybe the wire in the lamp was the problem, but the fact was Carrie didn't care. She wasn't out there declaring to the World that the afterlife exists or here is an amazing video of my lamp blinking on and off, but it was her being heartbreakingly honest - it made her feel better. I am making a generalised claim here, but I would think the majority of people who believe in the afterlife would think that a ghost or spirit is the soul or energy of a loved one who has passed. They often feel they are looking over them or providing that sense of comfort that even though they are gone, they are at peace, they are happy and watching down at us with a smile. It is why a person can get immediately defensive if you try to tell them, no that orb in the photo is not your loved one, it is a reflection of the flash. While you may feel you are educating this person on how something is not paranormal (something I admittedly do), all their interpretation of what you are saying is 'no your loved one is not with you'. They don't care about something being proven or debunked. They want validation that their loved one is with them. For them, it is about comfort and we don't always give the compassion that we should.
I suppose this is where we as paranormal investigators and also human beings need to read the room a little before we jump on someone about something not being paranormal. There is a big difference when someone on a paranormal investigation thinks something is paranormal compared to a person who is grieving that wants a sign their loved one is there. It can be difficult to read the room when interactions are via social media. Tone is not always expressed in the correct way in the written word and it can be taken the wrong or even out of context. Even with the kindest and greatest of intentions, things can often be misread.
It is also important to point out that compassion is different to empathy. While empathy means you are listening and you feel for the person, compassion means that not only are you listening but you are there to help. That word help stands out to me as a lot of paranormal groups and teams work with private cases and state that they do so to help people who feel that are experiencing paranormal phenomena in their home.
It seems like a compassionate act. They are wanting to help someone and travel to their home to talk to them and do an investigation to better understand what is happening. Putting aside ethics and all that stuff for a moment, while it is not a reflection of the entire paranormal field, I think we can agree that there are some people or groups that take advantage of this to simply see it as a free investigation and a way to build their public profile. In some cases, it is more about them than it is in trying to help someone who in many cases could just be trying to deal with the grief they are suffering and don't really need an investigation at their house in the first place. A lot of private cases stem from a person starting to try to communicate with a loved one at home and then feeling it has gotten out of hand. Live streaming or filming your investigation to play for your followers in a private home (even with the consent of the owners) is not really an act of compassion. The focus has now become on the reported activity itself rather than helping the person in need. In a lot of cases, they don't need a team to investigate their house, they need grief counselling to help deal with whatever it is they are dealing with and some compassion.
Before doing anything, we need to start listening to people and not just wait for our turn to talk. In some cases, much like Carrie's above, she didn't need a paranormal team to come to her house and investigate if the spirit of her husband who passed was trying to communicate with her. She just needed that comfort as it ultimately led to her being able to let go a little and spread his ashes and go on to start a new relationship. By listening and acting with compassion, you could be truly helping someone in need who feel something paranormal may be going on, and you don't need to go and investigate their home to do it. Regardless of anything, an experience someone says has happened to them whether paranormal in nature or not is something that was very real to them and in many gives them something they are missing inside. So the next time you hear from someone who thinks a loved one is trying to contact them, instead of jumping straight to the investigators kit, stop and listen, and act with compassion. While a spirit to some people is an unseen force that you is making themselves known - through to someone misunderstanding the noises of their house, to the person in need, the spirit was a living and much-loved member of the family and we need to remember that.
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