Monday, August 12, 2013

The "Médium's" Advice

Last week I had coffee with a colleague to talk about some issues that affect our profession. We're both involved in our professional association and we're planning some promotional activities together.

But before we got into talking business, we had our own little "meet and greet" since we don't actually know each other that well. I asked him how he got into our profession and he responded with a long and interesting story--at least it was interesting for someone like me, who's in the same field.

There was, however, one thing he said that really struck me, and that perhaps might interest a wider readership:

Back many years ago, my friend was at a crossroads in his professional life and he knew he needed to make a major change. He knew someone who was, as he said in French, a "médium". Yes, it's the same in English: a medium.

As I type this, I can imagine my husband--a scientist and a confirmed atheist--rolling his eyes. And honestly, I wouldn't blame him. Oh, BTW, I am a confirmed agnostic: no one will ever succeed in convincing me that God really does or doesn't exist. You can't fabricate belief. Either you have it or you don't. I just think that, as Shakespeare had Hamlet say in the eponymous play, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

So, back to the medium...

Basically, the medium told my friend that he should ask for guidance every night before going to sleep. Simple as that. He was not telling my friend to consult the "spirits", the "long-departed" or anyone else, for that matter. He was suggesting that my friend open up his mind to his own subconscious world--actually to his own wisdom-- in order to find the answer. This idea really struck a chord with me.

Now that I'm there myself, I realize that the "mid-life crisis" is not an invention of the media or advertisers. I'm feeling it very strongly myself. It has manifested itself in many ways in my life, the most recent and frightening being my Graves disease relapse, which did a huge number on my self-esteem and indeed my relationship with reality. The Graves is under control, but the feeling that I need to make a big shift is still there.

So now, every night as I go to sleep, I'm asking for guidance. I'm not asking anyone in particular (well, sometimes I speak to my late mother...). I'm just asking to find my way. Any results? Definitely too early to tell. This will probably take a long time and results will probably be in no way related to my nightly request. Who the heck knows. I just want a change.


  1. You're right, mid-life crisis is a very real thing! I have a friend going through it right now, and I am just starting to feel the edge of it myself. What you said is accurate... 'relationship with reality' and all. I hope you find your way. Change can be a very good thing.

  2. Hey, I have counted my infrequent forays into meditation to be highly productive in a yielding-answers kind of way...
    (Need to do it MUCH more often)

  3. Hmm...most Existentialist philosophers and writers would argue, perhaps, that you are copping out, or taking a convenient psychic detour to avoid your confrontation with human existence as meaningless and absurd. Thus you may be deceiving yourself about a universe which is, ultimately, completely indifferent to human existence.

    On the other hand, as humans we believe LOADS of miscellaneous concepts without ever encountering (personally) any evidence to support our beliefs, including so-called scientific truths. We take a million or more ideas as REAL and valid, in other words, based mostly or only on the words and descriptions and testimonies of others to whom we have as members of social and cultural communities given over our trust and our power of choice as individuals based on mere hearsay, or on the majority consensus, or on various other kinds of FAITH. In other words, most of our so-called knowledge really represents BELIEF that cannot be carefully or systematically or objectively verified by individual human beings. As humans, we tend to LOVE to believe that we KNOW how existence "really works"; indeed, we seem to need to believe that existence (and/or "reality") are KNOWABLE. The alternative idea---that existence remains a mystery about which we humans feel compelled, nevertheless, to fabricate complex stories (to provide us with seemingly rational and plausible explanations, etc)---offers a very different kind of comfort (or despair) yet ultimately demands that we take responsibility for our own beliefs by CONSCIOUSLY living with (and accepting) the consequences of those beliefs.

    I used to believe that humankind would be better off without religion, for instance, in light of the many tragedies and great suffering that religious dogmas and practices have inflicted (historically) on humanity. Eventually I came to realize that for many people (not all people) religious belief remains the only means by which ethics and morality (deciding which are good and bad behaviors/values, simply speaking) make any REAL sense (impact) for them. I came to understand that Humanistic values and ideals (based on rational arguments, for instance) hold little attraction or power to influence the moral choices of many people. Without maintaining a strong belief in a God (an ultimate Authority Figure) who has the power to reward and punish people for their behaviors, I often suspect that even our most rational forms of moral reasoning about human behavior would hold sway only insofar as our legal systems could enforce penalties for moral infractions.

    Any way. I too find that one reaches a point in life when the cultural fictions (no matter how widely adopted and accepted) fail to serve the individuals' needs to sustain a life that not only FEELS meaningful and rewarding, but is also experienced as morally tenable. Granted, some folks might just need to rationalize social injustice and to justify their own positions of privilege and power so that they never feel obligated to participate in social or political change beyond making showy, superficial, philanthropic or charity-based gestures designed to alleviate any lurking sources of guilt.

    On the other hand, asking for guidance from an undefinable source may provide one with a daily reminder that no one person can ever be expected to possess all the "right" answers or the salient knowledge that may be required to identify and/or choose the very best options among those available to each person; hence, the practice may thus prove to be mostly an exercise for acknowledging and affirming one's own humility, limitations, and imperfections---in that case, I can envision many potential benefits arising over time, including the development of greater compassion and forgiveness for one's own (and others') so-called "mistakes" as well as the enhancement of critical insight about the complexities and limitations of human "choice" within diverse social contexts.

    1. H&F: I always appreciate your deep insights. Really.

      Val and Lyn: thanks for acknowledging my struggles and responding.

  4. Midlife crisis is not only not an invention, but there is loads of psychological theory to support it. One of the best known is Erikson's psychosocial stages and "generativity vs. stagnation" tends to cover this point in our lives where we look back and start to think about where we've been and where we are going. The media may play on this, but it is real.

    Regarding mediums, this person is advising that we look to ourselves for what feels "right." It is tapping into our "gut" sense of what is best to do and most people ignore this in favor of what they are least afraid of. Part of the midlife crisis experience is understanding how much you've done which is not in accord with your true desires and was done to acquire security (usually in the form of money) or to avoid risk (again, avoiding what we fear). We do this at midlife, in part, because it is the point where we have to move ahead as we have or take a new path. It's the last stop on the train of life before it's too late to change tracks. We can move ahead as we always have, but we may experience great regret.

    This was, in large part, what brought me home after so many years. My husband had a dream, and I could not face the idea that, 10 years from now, he'd be 60 and look back on the dream he'd never pursued and know that it was pretty much too late to start. We chose generativity instead of stagnation, but many do not.