Balancing The Believer and The Skeptic

One of the hardest thing I’ve had to balance being a paranormal enthusiast is being both a believer and a skeptic. I grew up believing in the paranormal from a very young age. I often had things happen to me that now as an adult I am able to rationalize, while others I am still perplexed.

When I was small I had many things happen that scared me. For one, night was terrifying for me. I often had nightmares, some of which would later come true. Now many who know me now, think “…well this is weird because last we checked Anna, you were a skeptic“, and this is completely true. Somethings for me are not so cut and dry. When I was small I had an extremely lucid dream that my oldest brothers best friend was killed in a car accident. I woke up in a cold sweat screaming for my mother. Inconsolable, she came to my room in to assure me it was just a dream. Some weeks later my family is awoken in the middle of the night to my brother coming home hysterical and screaming that his best friend Edward was killed in an accident. This began a lifetime of strange dreams that would somehow come true later. Sometimes they would come true immediately, sometimes later. Paranormal? I don’t know, but it’s simply something I have not found any reconciliation for even now in my skeptical state.

Now on the flip side of things, I have had horrifying experiences I have been able to make sense of. Another situation that made night-time pure hell for me, was a life long series of sleep disruption that started at the age of 8. The first time I can remember an episode I was lying in my bed sleeping when suddenly I was awoken up to a buzzing sensation. Unsure of what was happening, I opened my eyes wide and scanned my room. I was unable to move, but I was fully aware of what was happening. My room at night was always dimly lit by a solar light that came on across the driveway on my dads wood shop. I was able to see my room and nothing looked strange despite this sensation I was feeling. It wasn’t until my eyes reach the bottom of my bed did anything appear wrong. Here stood this illuminated non-descript figure watching me. In absolute terror I attempt to cry out for my mother, but I am only able to manage a gasp. Nothing comes out. As I stare horrified at this figure, he leans in arms extended and suddenly I am unable to breathe. It’s as if he is “willing” my throat closed without even touching me.

I can’t imagine I slept well for the rest of that night, but by morning I find myself in and out, to depleted of energy to move. I still feel the traces of buzzing from the stranger’s visit. I immediately talk to my mother who tells me it was only a dream, but I couldn’t let it go. I continued to try to talk about it. It wasn’t a dream, I SAW HIM! I felt him. I remember at one point some words being thrown about concerning therapy. I stopped talking about my experiences, no one was going to believe me anyways.

These episodes occurred throughout my lifetime after that first visit. At 38, and 30 years later, I still experience them. Sometimes I would have multiple episodes in a night, sometimes I’d go months without any problems. I lived never knowing when it was going to happen.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20’s did I get my first indication of what might be happening to me. I was watching Montel Williams and the episode was about night terrors. I listened these people talk about what they went through and some nearly mirrored what I had experienced throughout my life. They began to talk about Sleep Paralysis and FINALLY, the man at the end of my bed made sense.

No doubt that my experiences were real to me. No one could convince me otherwise. But, after researching further, I have no doubts at all that my experiences deserved rational explanation. While I don’t know what triggered these episodes so young in me, or so frequently, I at least knew I was not going crazy.

While it didn’t cause me to seek out paranormal research immediately, it did spark a thought in me. How many people were going through horrifying experiences like myself, but had no way to rationalize their experiences? Today we have information readily available. We can search any symptom or phenomena and get information at the click of a button. For me, it wasn’t until 1999 that I was actually able to look up information on the Internet and research. Until then, all my time had been spent looking things up in my school library or by the chance I may have ran across a scientific journal. Growing up a small town girl with limited resources, this wasn’t very frequently.

2004 was a great year for me. Ghost Hunters aired its very first episode, and I was hooked! I thought this was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life. I couldn’t believe that people were actually pursuing what I had been researching nearly my entire life: the quest for the unknown. But always, in the back of my mind was that terrified girl who was having a rational yet horrifying experience. She was always reminding me that maybe all things really did deserve rational explanation. That same girl was often reminded that her precognitive dreams still haunted her.

There were so many things I experienced throughout my life that I have not been able to find a logical cause for. There’s been just as many, if not more that I have been able to rationalize. For me, finding that balance has always been the thing that keeps me curious. If I adamantly listened to my rational side, I would have left this behind me long ago. If I had only listened to the scared part of myself, I would probably not be here either. I’d probably be too scared to delve into such things. These two balances have managed to help me remain unbiased to most situations. I’m always trying to remain skeptical of any occurrence, but also being open to the possibilities to something more.

Skepticism is an often misunderstood quality in paranormal researchers. Many believe the word “skeptic” has a negative undertone, and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Skepticism on the contrary is the ability or willingness to see things from both sides, and refusing to draw a conclusion until all available information is given. When information is not available, we seek it. We test theories over and over until we are able to come up with the best probable conclusion.

In a group I operate, “Paranormal Dustbusters & Truth Seekers” I open my group with my view on devout believing vs. skepticism. I created this group after trying for years to fit in or participate on message boards that hosted a slough of different types of possible “paranormal evidence”. Time and time again I was berated for having a skeptical mindset on most material that came across my screen. I decided it was time to have a group that promoted critical thinking.

“I’ve always found it odd that blind believers feel that skeptics are close minded or set in their ways. Most skeptics believe in some sort of problem solving up to using the scientific method. Scientific method is essentially being flexible and open minded to all possibilities:

 Form a hypothesis

Test
Retest
Form new hypothesis, according to new data
Start over

 On the contrary with blind faith, the belief always stays the same, it seems, despite new information. This is proven to me time and time again in the way we have to explain the same things over and over again, to the point of making photos and charts because the explanations become tiresome to type out. We can very carefully, and in the most simplistic fashion, lay down facts and most blind believers will remain unwavered. To me this is the most quintessential example of close mindedness. I never understood this logic….”

Many people are immediately put off by skepticism, I believe, only because they don’t understand it. Remaining unbiased in my opinion is the only way this community will move forward. This is the only way we will find answers to the ultimate truth. Skepticism does not mean you can’t believe, it only means one should put emotion aside and look at each study carefully on an individual basis. Adopting skepticism is not dishonoring your faith, nor your beliefs. If you seek honest truth, question your experience and pick them apart. The most honorable thing we can do, is solidify our beliefs through honesty. If at the end of it, you find that you cannot find a rational explanation, it’s then we will have truly found something worth noting.

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