The author of this fascinating piece quit the practice but leaves the reader – us in this case – wondering if she still believed she possessed some power to read the future or the inner-struggles of her customers.
“The range of problems faced by people who can afford $50 for fortune telling turned out to be limited: troubles with romance, troubles at work, trouble mustering the courage for a much-needed change. I heard these stories so often I could often guess what the problem was the moment someone walked in. Heartbroken young men, for example, talk about it to psychics, because it’s less risky than telling their friends. Sometimes I’d mischievously say, ‘Let her go. She’s not worth it,’ as soon as one arrived. Once I heard, ‘Oh my God, oh my GOD!’ as an amazed guy fell backwards down the stairs.”
She explains her start in the practice beginning with studying astrology and the tarot. She signed up for a year-long course at the Sydney Astrology Centre, where she learned how the planets and their alignments vis-a-vis the birthdate of individuals could reveal much.
Her conclusion after studying the mystical methods of the astrologer? “Astrology is one big word association game.”
Her appreciation for the life of a fortune teller waned with the realization that no matter what she foretold and no matter how vague her readings, customers readily made all of the mental associations to give truth to her predictions.
“What broke the spell for me was, oddly, people swearing by my gift. Some repeat customers claimed I’d made very specific predictions, of a kind I never made.”
It is a fascinating article, in part, because she does not conclude the ability to read people is bunk. She found a talent for evaluating what and how people asked questions that gave away what they wanted to hear. In essence, she discovered cold reading but without an intention to defraud.
We couldn’t help but be reminded of a great book by Ian Rowland, The Full Facts of Cold Reading. While the author of The Guardian article apparently stumbled upon the tricks of honest and dishonest practitioners of Cold Reading, Mr. Rowland provides a crash course chocked-full of secrets and methods.
Check it out in The Guardian here.