When you enter the paranormal field, there is a wide range of information all around you. More so, there are a lot of opinions around you as well. When talking about most paranormal things, a person's opinion comes from their own experiences and belief systems. While there is certainly a wealth of information and guidance they can provide you, it is important for you to develop your own thoughts, ask your own questions and do your own research. Don't strive to be one of the pack. Think for yourself.
I am sure it will come as no surprise to you that there is a cognitive bias called The bandwagon effect. A cognitive bias is an error in the way that we think. It means we are not necessarily thinking with a clear mind. Our experiences, our beliefs and our intentions all influence the way we think, the way we make decisions and the way we interpret our surroundings. Just the fact that we believe in the paranormal makes us biased. When it comes to the bandwagon effect, think of it like a herd or pack mentality. Typically when you are surrounded by people who think a certain way, you tend to influence each other and all end up thinking the same and even believing in the same things. Individual thought becomes a group thought. Did you ever hear the phrase 'If they jumped off a cliff would you do it too?'. I know my parents used this one on me quite a few times! The bandwagon effect alludes to this way of thinking.
It is something that is most common in political settings and movements but really applies to anything. People when in big groups especially over long periods of time, tend to align their beliefs and thoughts to match those of the group. It can be as simple as barracking for the same sports team as all of your friends just to fit in. If you are in the minority, psychologically it can be difficult to speak up and be heard. It is sometimes just easier to go with the flow and hence you are jumping on the bandwagon. On a psychological level, it may not be something you do intentionally. You may not even realise that you have started doing things the way the rest of the group does. This is because you are unknowingly conditioned to do things the way the people around you do them. At some sort of level, we all just want to fit in (whether we say we do or not it is something that we are conditioned to do).
I think we can all agree that certain areas of the paranormal can become quite cliquey. Different groups of different beliefs tend to stick together. Now of course everything I am about to write is generalised and not directed to any particular person or group. It is just a general observation. An example and one I have personally encountered is that a lot of spiritual people tend to stick together and don't like to engage with me or allow me into their circles as I have a more sceptical approach. On the other hand, you have a lot of investigators who say they look for the rational first and will completely ignore the spiritual groups as well. Then you have the rest who are in between sort of open to everything. In some of these circles, if you express an opinion different to theirs, you are automatically labelled as a hater and shut down. They are so strong in their belief that anything different to their way of thinking is wrong. For a lot of people wanting to fit in, (especially if you are in the early stages of your paranormal career), it can be easy to not speak up if there is something you don't agree with. It can also be very easy to slowly adopt that way of thinking.
When you are in a paranormal group for example, the people in it usually think in a similar way. You kind of have to or being in a group just doesn't work out. I know many years ago when I first started out, I felt like I wasn't qualified to have an opinion. I was surrounded by people who had been investigating the paranormal for years. I wanted to learn as much as I could so I would just watch what they did and in a lot of ways, I started to adapt to their way of thinking because at the time it was all I knew. If I questioned something that was against someone else's belief, I was told I was wrong and I would just blindly accept that. I mean if they have been in the field for 20 years and I had been in the field for 2 minutes, they should be more qualified and knowledgeable than me, right? Well, that is how I thought at the time. I would do the things they were doing (even if I didn't agree) because that is how they believed it should be done. I was basing my own opinions on the paranormal using their experiences and beliefs instead of my own. In fact, in the first 12 months of investigating the paranormal field, I wouldn't even call myself a paranormal investigator because I didn't feel qualified to do so.
It took me many years to find my voice. If you have followed this blog from the beginning (almost 9 years now) you will have noticed a massive change and a massive shift not only in how I write, but what I write about. In order for me to find my own voice, I had to go solo. I became aware of how much I was being influenced by the people around me. I became aware that the information I had been told from day 1 was based on others' personal experiences. Often people couldn't actually tell me where a theory had come from, it was just what investigators did, usually because it was emulated from television. One of the perfect examples is the concept of the Singapore Theory - the act of doing something familiar to connect with spirit. No one that I asked could tell me where the theory originated or why it was called the Singapore Theory or could really answer any questions I had about it. This is because it was just what paranormal investigators did.
It was time to start my own path and find my voice. It of course was not without consequence. Sometimes people don't like when you find your voice. It is one way to find who is with you and who is not. Ego is a very damaging thing. It is a trait you will notice a lot in the paranormal field. Usually, those with the biggest egos are the ones that are leading the charge of a certain bandwagon. With many of them it is all or nothing. You are either with them or against them.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Surround yourself with the right people. The people that will allow you to ask questions. The people that allow you to think, in fact, encourage you to think. The people that will listen. The people that will not make judgements when you express an opinion different to theirs. These people are out there. This of course also doesn't mean that we shouldn't be held accountable for our actions. It doesn't give us a free license to just do or say whatever we want at the expense of others because we think different to them.
The point here is don't do something because it is the popular thing to do. The things you do should be because you think there is a reason for them. So many times when it comes to paranormal investigating, we mimic what we see on television, often because it is all people know. I have done it so many times myself in the past. It is almost impossible not to because we all have to start somewhere. It is how we learn and in a way it is also how we find ourselves. We learn what works for us and what doesn't work. We learn what we think about a situation and we even have our own experiences. We need to own our beliefs will influence how we move forward. Let your thoughts and your voice be heard and let it guide you on your path of paranormal research. At the end of the day, life is too short and if you are not enjoying what you do and you feel like you are just following the pack or not allowed to speak, you must remember you are in the drivers seat. Don't be afraid to speak up. Don't think that you have to dress a certain way or that you have to be into certain things to be able to investigate the paranormal. Sometimes people have this perception that you can't be an investigator if you are not in a team. They may think you have to wear Black, listen to heavy metal music and watch Ghost Adventures every week. While this is a perception many have, it is not true at all. Hell I even wear dresses to investigations. Take that generlisation! Paranormal investigating can be whatever you want it to be. Question everything, even what you think you know because you could also be wrong too! When it comes to the people around you, if a person isn't willing to stick with you and your opinions, do you even want them to stick around? We don't have to agree, but we can be kind and respectful.
Remember it works both ways as well so you need to also encourage those around you to speak up. People are shy - especially if it is their first time. I can't tell you how many times on a tour I have had people come up to me privately to tell me something they felt or witnessed because they were too nervous to speak up in front of the group because they didn't want to be wrong or judged. Make people feel safe and that it is safe for them to think and question things. Let them try things their way or make suggestions. We can't be educated if we don't ask questions and have intelligent yet respectful debates about topics.
In all honestly, over the last 10 years or so, my role within the paranormal field has changed quite dramatically. I started in teams, and I have been on my own for the large majority of my time because I couldn't quite find my place. More than ever I feel quite a disconnect from the current paranormal field and that I don't belong because I think so differently to what I see online. In hindsight, I am not sure that I ever felt like I fit in and perhaps that is the whole point. We flock to the paranormal field because we have always felt like outsiders in some way and once we dive in we find that this feeling is still with us. Maybe it is because ultimately people have an unconscious bias to fit in and as much as a person tries to, they just never will.
We need to show each other that the greatest thing about the paranormal is not being normal and not being confined to tick certain boxes. When it comes to the paranormal, question absolutely everything, even yourself.
Cover Image: Photo by el jusuf: https://www.pexels.com/photo/musicians-performing-on-stage-14311022/
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