“Psychic” or “Intuitive” — Who Would Win In a Celebrity Cage Match?
Like all of us, I am frequently asked, “So what do you do?”. It’s one of those “social connector” phrases like, “Have a nice day,” or “How’s your day going today, Hon?”or “Sup!”. When we’re motivated by friendliness we employ customary ways of reaching out and broadcasting that fact. “Hey, Fellow Human. I see you there. I acknowledge you. Like me, you are alive.”
But “What do you do?” is a bit different, in that both the ask and the answer attempt to establish a social context. We’re showing cursory interest in each other, but it’s also the prelude for another level of connection. To ask someone what they do for a living is to communicate that you’re curious enough about them to be interested in their lives, but it also indicates you’re categorizing them too. “So, Fellow Human. How do you spend your time and procure your income? I’m inquisitive about you in a potentially benevolent way that may lead to connection. But before I commit to that I’m gonna have to see some ID.”
It goes something like this.
I’m asked what I do, and I answer as I more or less have for almost thirty years, “I’m an Intuitive.”
And then I wait. For the pause. Which always comes.
Sometimes it’s quickly disguised by a chirpy and polite, “Oh!”, which seems to mean anything from “How interesting!” to “I think I know what that is but I’m not sure,” to “What the heck is that?”. Sometimes people accidentally use their out-loud voices instead of just thinking it which is refreshing and charming. I always love it when that happens.
Mostly because I’m under no illusions about the world we live in, which has marginalized intuition and made it a needlessly complicated concept for most of us. When I say, “I’m an Intuitive,” it’s not meant to be deliberately provocative. Yet it can be. It causes an instant brain kerfuffle for those who weren’t expecting it, which let’s face it is most people. So out of kindness and for the sake of clarity, I’ll often add, “It’s a fancy word for someone who is psychic”.
But that can be a perilous endeavor. Because if you thought “Intuitive” was risky, “psychic” can be the conversational equivalent of that scratching noise an old turntable arm makes as it’s ripping across an entire LP. Or perhaps like the sound of a car’s screeching tires just before it slams into a wall. Or alternatively, a loud fart. In church.
For years I used to just say that I was a psychic. But there came a time when I just couldn’t do it anymore. It felt like every time I said it my forehead would light up with a flashing neon palm with the red letters P S Y C H I C inside it, and then I’d get to spend the next several seconds watching whoever I was talking to attempt to get their head around what I’d just said. As they’d wade through layer after layer of misinformation and stereotypes, ever more confusing because they didn’t seem to apply to me, I’d wait hopefully to see if they might come to the conclusion that I seemed way too normal to be a psychic.
Which not everyone is willing to do.
I say “hopefully” because in those cases where I do end up on some sort of Normal Avenue in the giant cosmic Monopoly board of the mind, my categorization as such preserves for both me and my conversational partner an opening. Which can often lead to great questions that I am happy to field. But more often it was the case that “psychic” was rejected as quickly as it left my mouth, hovering in the air only as a clear justification for their sudden doubts about my overall sanity and fitness as a functioning member of society.
I got used to the sound of a mind snapping shut.
On my website, it says that I don’t use Psychic anymore “…since it conjures up images of a boozy redhead w/a crystal ball, and that, Dear Friends, is over. (No offense meant to boozy redheads. Or crystal balls).”
I’m less concerned with keeping my hair color options open than I am about educating folks as on what intuition actually is, and how we gain access to our own abilities, thereby improving life for everyone. Stereotypes don’t help.
To a certain extent, just by living my life and telling the truth when asked, I can do that. However I am pretty passionate about making a difference when and if I can. Over the years I’ve experimented with every single way of describing my work, trying to figure out the perfect way to describe what I do. “Spiritual Counselor”? No. Has a religious connotation and I work with people of all faiths and of none. “Medium”? Majorly misunderstood and only one part of what an Intuitive’s skill set involves. “Intuitive Counselor?” Confusing. “Intuitive Coach?” Worse. “Interpreter Of The Intuitive Arts?” No, no, NO.
Air travel, funnily enough, became a fabulous practice ground. No matter what my seatmate thought about me once I revealed what I did for a living, they were without exception polite and mostly truly curious. Think about it: if you are someone’s captive audience, you want to be able to survive whatever kind of crazy could possibly be coming at you for the next several hours. Best to take it slow and steady, feign interest, and then just pretend to fall asleep after the drink service. But I also found that sitting next to a complete stranger while simultaneously being above 30,000 feet in a metal tube going very fast occasionally creates a kind of intimacy where people will share more than they might on the ground. Like an unspoken “what we talk about in the air stays in the air”. I’ve found some travelers to be more open-minded than they would have been on the ground.
I was also more relaxed in the air for exactly the same reasons. So I took a “no harm/no foul” approach, and in that sense saying what I did for a living became the great leveler. If my seatmate reacted, shut down, and the conversation ground to a halt, no problem! I’d have the next few hours to read my book or binge-watch House Hunters International. If they said, “Really. That must be fascinating,” I’d take it as an opening and prepare to spend a few minutes answering questions.
Sometimes, there were a lot of questions. And eventually a request for my business card.
Over time, “Intuitive” seems to be the job title that has served me the best. It’s the most comfortable for the greatest number. It’s still way more mysterious than I’d like it to be, but it does create access for the genuinely interested while at the same time being a very accurate description of what I do. Maybe it’s probably never going to be what you’d call a crowd-pleaser, but it doesn’t freak people out like “Psychic” does. And for some reason, if a person’s going to judge me anyway, “Intuitive” seems to elicit one that’s a little less harsh.
“Poor thing. She’s from California. They all think they hear voices at some point, don’t they?”.
Ultimately though, since Intuitive is the description I’m most comfortable with, that may be why it works so well. Because my ease with it communicates safety and normality better than words or descriptions I’m using for the comfort of others. We marginalize what we are afraid of, and then we mistrust what we have marginalized. Back and forth ad infinitim until we learn otherwise. Intuition is unfortunately held by most to be untrustworthy, impotent, and dangerously unreliable. But some of us are lucky to know that intuition is quite easily the most rock solid, powerful, and helpful part of our human capacity, one that is sorely needed in our lives and in our world. It’s my favorite natural resource.
So for now, I’m sticking with Intuitive. I keep it at the ready like a mental business card, for use at cocktail parties and meetings, intake forms and applications, first dates and of course, on airplanes. It’s easy to say, and for folks that are ready to learn more, it’s a great conversation starter.
And it may be the truest thing about me. It’s not only what I do, it’s who I am.
One last thing. My dear friend Lara gets credit for coming up with the best and most fun moniker for me that I’ve ever heard, hence the title for this series. Which just goes to show that sometimes answers come when we let go and stop struggling. Lara is a true crime author, journalist and former criminal defense investigator, and she’s also one of the writers that make up the super squad of crime writers on one of my favorite podcasts, Crime Writers On. Apparently she talks about me on the podcast from time to time. And when she does she refers to me as her friend, The Upmarket Intuitive.
I like it. I think it’s classy. It makes me laugh and has a nice ring to it. So there you have it.
Now all I have to do is test it out on my next flight to California.