Friday, February 24, 2012

Combining The Paranormal and Psychology Guest Blog with Ann Gimpel

The Paranormal and Psychology

Wikipedia defines Paranormal as “a general term (coined ca. 1915–1920) that designates experiences that lie outside the range of normal experience or scientific explanation or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure.” In this rather hard core definition, werewolves, vampires and other mythical creatures do not meet criteria to be considered paranormal. Paranormal refers to one’s experience of unusual phenomenon, rather than the unusual phenomena themselves. I found that out firsthand when I submitted a werewolf short story to a paranormal magazine. They loved the story, but informed me the topic didn’t fit the paranormal genre.

Psychology is the study of the mind. Because the mind is capable of a great deal, including madness, it’s a pretty broad field. The two come together in a highly specialized field called parapsychology. Those of you who are old enough might remember a television show called The Sixth Sense. It starred Dr. Michael Rhodes, parapsychologist. A university researcher, he was always hanging about in graveyards, crypts and other spooky places doing parapsychological research and solving mysteries. The series only ran for a couple of seasons. I think Night Gallery might have bought it for reruns.

I bet if we were all together in a room and I asked how many of you have had paranormal experiences, between a third and half would raise your hands. These types of things are really fairly common. Interestingly, children have far more in the way of inexplicable experiences than adults. This is because, by the time we’ve grown up, most of the magic’s been drummed right out of us. I’m always grateful whenever I go to a science fiction and fantasy convention and see hordes of adults dressed up like their favorite SF/F characters. It gives me hope that imagination is still alive. At Norwescon last year, I had dinner next to a Klingon family. Mom, Dad and two children all dressed to the gills, including blacked out faces and pointy ears.

Aside from Dr. Rhodes, what is the nexus where the paranormal and psychology come together? To address that, we need one more definition. The psychotherapy relationship is one place where clients can experience unconditional positive regard. No topic is off limits. Nothing is too bizarre. I’ve told clients for years that it’s their hour. They can bring up whatever they’d like. If they want to tell me about their dead Aunt Sara and her nightly visits, that’s just fine. If they almost got into an automobile wreck at exactly the same moment a dear friend died, that, too, is fair game. Part of what psychology does is help people put life experiences into some sort of perspective.

The depth psychologists, like Jung, were intensely metaphysical. He wouldn’t accept anyone as a patient who hadn’t had their astrological chart done. Jung would study their chart, looking for points of concordance between the potential client’s planets and his own. Keep in mind, Jung was an MD. He graduated in 1900 and went to work in an insane asylum long before we had decent medications to quell the severely mentally ill. The only weapon in his arsenal was talk therapy and he had lots of extremely ill patients who got better. In his later years, as his reputation for dream analysis grew, he was able to focus exclusively on private patients and left the asylum behind.

In recent years, psychology has moved away from the paranormal. As third party payor systems (e.g. your insurance company) have proliferated, no one wants to pay for extended depth-oriented analysis. What insurance wants is a highly-structured, time-limited, cognitive-behavioral approach, which works fine for a certain type of client with a particular type of problem. Unfortunately, no one approach works for everyone. We are all individuals. Some of us are more metaphysically oriented than others. Some of us lead with our feelings. Some with our minds. What used to be an intimate relationship between therapist and client has morphed into a ménage á trois: you, me, and your insurance company. Probably time to move on before someone kicks the soapbox out from under my feet!

Circling back to the title of this blog post, psychology is the study of the mind. Paranormal refers to something unusual perceived by the mind. Looking at it that way, the two fit together nicely. I’ve found my psychology background incredibly useful writing science fiction and fantasy. I was the kind of kid who thought monsters lurked in the closet. Now they hang out under the bed. Nothing like the dead of night to stoke one’s imagination.

Tell me your paranormal experiences. I’d love to hear about them.

Psyche’s Prophecy

Book One of the Transformation Series
By Ann Gimpel

What if your psychotherapist could really see into your soul? Picture all those secrets lying hidden, perhaps squirming a bit, just out of view. Would you invite your analyst to take a peek behind that gossamer curtain? Read your aura? Scry your future…?

Classically trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Doctor Lara McInnis has a special gift that helps her with her patients. Born with “the sight” she can read auras, while flirting with a somewhat elusive ability to foretell the future. Lara becomes alarmed when several of her patients—and a student or two—tell her about the same cataclysmic dream.

Reaching out to the Institute for answers, Lara’s paranormal ability sounds a sharp warning and she runs up hard against a dead end. Her search for assistance leads her to a Sidhe and ancient Celtic rituals blaze their way into her life. Complicating the picture is a deranged patient who’s been hell bent on destroying Lara ever since she tried to help his abused wife, a boyfriend with a long-buried secret and a society that’s crumbling to dust as shortages of everything from electricity to food escalate.

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Psyche’s Search

Book Two of the Transformation Series

Born with the sight, Laura McInnis is ambivalent about her paranormal ability. Oh it’s useful enough some of the time with her psychotherapy patients. But mostly it’s an embarrassment and an inconvenience—especially when her visions drag her to other worlds. Or into Goblin dens. In spite of escalating violence, incipient food shortages and frequent power blackouts, Lara is still far too attached to the comfortable life she shares with her boyfriend, Trevor, a flight attendant who lost his job when aviation fuel got so expensive—and so scarce—his airline went out of business. Forced to seek assistance to hone her unusual abilities in Psyche’s Prophecy, Book I of this series, Lara is still quite the neophyte in terms of either summoning or bending her magic to do much of anything.

Reluctantly roped into channeling her unpredictable psychic talents to help a detective who saved her from a psychopathic killer, Lara soon finds herself stranded in the murky underbelly of a world inhabited by demons. The Sidhe offer hope, but they are so high-handed Lara stubbornly resists their suggestions. Riots, death on all sides, a mysterious accident and one particular demon targeting her, push Lara to make some hard decisions. When all seems lost, the Dreaming, nestled in the heart of Celtic magic, calls out to her.
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About the Author Ann Gimpel

Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Two novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, and its sequel, Psyche’s Search, have been published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing, a small press. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)


Ann Gimpel, Author said...

Thanks for hosting me today, Roxanne.

Roxanne Rhoads said...

When I was young I wanted to be a para-pyschologist- however when looking at colleges I didn't see it listed in any of the catalogs ;-) so I settled on psychology as a major. That worked for awhile then I realized I couldn't listen to people whine all day as a therapist and since I was a mom becoming a hard core researcher was out too- so I ended up falling back on my first love and calling- writing. And switched to being a communications major. Psychology and parapsychology still fascinate me though.