Saturday, January 23, 2016

The 6th Sense in Your Plotline: Psychics 101 for Writers

English: Energy Arc, central electrode of a Pl...
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Fiona - 
I would like to introduce a friend of mine. I will call her "Winter". Like many with psychic abilities, Winter prefers to remain anonymous because she holds an executive's job and there is a stigma to having 6th sense abilities. Winter has inspired many of the scenes in my Lynx series. 

Lately, I have been reading a lot of works that include 6th sense abilities and thought a writer's primmer might be helpful. 

Winter, would you tell us about your psychic strengths and back ground (in a general way).

Winter - 
Hello! Growing up I was a very emotional tween and teenager. I never knew how I would feel or what was causing me to feel, but it was all so intense and exhausting. I remember my mom saying to me, "This isn't the real you." But I didn't know what she meant.

Years later, in my twenties, I learned that I was an Empath and Highly Sensitive Person. An Empath is someone who doesn't just empathize with someone else's plight but who actually feels their emotions in his or her own body, often confusing them for his/her own emotions because they are so vivid and real (an Empath can't tell is she's angry or if that guy next to her is angry). A Highly Sensitive Person is someone who is sensitive not only to other people's emotions, but also to the energy of the environment around you.

Being psychically aware of both my environment and the people around me was draining, exhausting, overwhelming and made me feel crazy until I learned how to manage it.

Now, I would say that being able to pick up on what people are feeling and the general vibe of any situation or environment is a strength that serves me in everything I do in life, as long as I'm able to stay in a neutral observer role and witness the information instead of experience it in my body as if it were my own.

Fiona - 
You are also clairvoyant can you define that term and give us a list of other abilities someone might experience as a 6th sense?

Winter - 
Clairvoyant means being able to see energy and pictures in your mind's eye that give information about a situation or person. Some of the other ways of processing 6th sense information could be a strong knowing in your gut or mind without being able to say how you know it, hearing information in your mind, empathy which I mentioned already. Also information could come through dreams or through objects or places that hold an energetic impression. Also someone might experience the ability to give others healing energy.

Fiona -
Here's a short list of some skill set terms your character might have developed so you can do your research (with folks who actually have the skills). 
  • Reading auras - Perception of energy fields surrounding people, places and things
  • Auto-writing - Writing produced without conscious thought.
  • Astral projection also called OBE or out of body experience - in which an "essence" or "soul" becomes separate from the physical body.
  • Clairvoyant - to see
  • Clairaudient - to hear
  • Clairsentient - to feel
  • Divining - Gaining insight into a situation, most commonly through a ritual or use of a tool such as a pendulum or cards
  • Dowsing - Ability to locate objects, sometimes using a tool called a dowsing rod, pendulum etc.
  • Energetic healing (such as Reiki) - Healing by channeling energy. This is often accompanied with information such as clairvoyance, clairsence, or clairaudience.
  • Channeling (medium) - Communicating with spirits.
  • Premonition and precognition - Perception of events before they happen.
  • Psychometry - Obtaining information about a person or object, usually by touching or concentrating on the object or a related object.
  • Remote viewing - Gathering of information at a distance.
  • Retrocognition - Perception of past events such as crime scene investigators. In my Lynx series, Lexi's mentor uses retrocognition to solve crimes.
  • Scrying - Use of a reflective item to view events at a distance or in the future. Crystal balls, puddles of water, mirrors can be used for srcying, for example.
  • Telepathy - Transfer of thoughts, words or emotions in either direction.

Using the sixth sense is on a continuum. Some people, like yourself, Winter, are born with or grow into their psychic abilities. Some are jarred into their abilities from a traumatic experience. In most people I speak to, it's not a "gift" at all. Being psychic is quite overwhelming and invasive. Some people will think they are going crazy and self- medicate with alcohol and drugs to make the feelings go away, others like Lexi in my books, and you in real life, train and practice to understand their abilities and use them proactively. Can you discuss training?

Winter -
Sure. I was motivated in my 20's to start training because I was so uncomfortable and unhappy. I started with something simple - meditation. I found that making quiet space every day helped me start to be able to tell the difference between what was mine, and what feelings belonged to others. I started studying with different teachers to learn as much as I could and find techniques to try to manage what was happening to me. There are teachers out there approaching this stuff from every angle, and now that we're all online it's easy to find a teacher or class or book or exercises that you can experiment with on your own. There's no one practice that fits all - it's going to vary based on your particular situation and what works for you with your lifestyle and maybe even belief system/religion.

What was helpful for me personally was studying how energy moves around the environment and in the body with a Qi Gong teacher and then further with the Reiki system. I found the Reiki principles to be particularly helpful as a guidance system for how to handle tricky situations I found myself in with too much information about other people and places. And my daily meditation practice has been a centering force in my life. I start every day with meditation so that I know what is "me" and can hold onto that awareness as I move throughout the world. Also included in my daily meditation is an important aspect that I consider as essential to well being as brushing your teeth: a practice of grounding, helping the body connect to the earth and feel safe and deliberately releasing all the energy that isn't yours that you've picked up through your daily life.

I believe the key to managing your sixth sense is trial and error and experimentation until you find practices that work for you. Then practice them every day, but also give yourself permission for your practice to evolve as you evolve.

Fiona - 
You've read my Lynx series and while I pushed the envelope in that Lexi is visibly physically hurt when she connects with the victims she's trying to help, this does happen in true life. Can you talk about taking on other's pain?

Winter -
Thankfully, I have not experienced the degree of physical damage that Lexi experiences in my life, but you're right that without the right "tools" people can inadvertently take on other people's pain.

When we haven't built up the psychic muscles to keep ourselves distinct from a person we are trying to help (or who just happen to be in our proximity), we can get overwhelmed and all the signals crossed so that we are feeling their physical discomfort and pain as well as their emotional pain and suffering. We might actually be such great "healers" that we allow others to consciously or unconsciously use us as a vessel for dumping their pain, so they feel better. 

This is how ancient/traditional shamans worked - sacrificing their own well-being for another's. While noble, this is not necessary for helping others. In fact it really ends up being unhealthy and detrimental. There are other ways of helping others that don't come at a cost for you personally. I loved how in the book series Lexi is eventually exposed to more advanced ways of working with her psychic abilities that weren't so painful for her.

Fiona - 
When you read a book or see a show that includes a character with psychic abilities - what do you see often portrayed incorrectly?

Winter - 
Hmm great question. What comes to mind right away is a show I loved, where I feel the character was portrayed correctly! It was called Ghost Whisperer with Jennifer Love Hewitt. In the series, she faced many challenging situations, but she always knew that she was safe and could yell STOP to reign in the visions she was receiving when they were too intense and painful. She trusted her abilities, and while they sent her on adventure every episode, her faith and confidence in herself was very empowering to watch as someone with six sense abilities.

A lot of what is portrayed incorrectly is how otherworldly information is communicating with us - it's not usually big and dramatic and furniture moving type communication. It's a hunch or a whisper or an insight that gives us a subtle clue, and then we can use our tools (like meditation, or oracle cards or pendulums etc... ) to dig in for further information. We are detectives a lot of the time. Also characters with these abilities are often shown as evil or using their abilities to hurt others, but I believe most people with a six sense want to help themselves and their families with the information they receive. They just don't always know how.

Fiona - 
How does someone with psychic abilities use the information they receive?

Winter - 
How we use the information we receive from our other senses is an important topic. Most of us are compassionate people, and we want to use it to help others. But we have to be very careful to stay neutral and allow others to grow or heal at their own pace. We have to be careful we don't become invested in changing someone or their situation because of the information we have received, as a lot of the time it is not about us. And we have to let others have their own journeys.­­­ Sometimes we receive information that it's just not our place or the right time to share with someone else. Or sometimes they just aren't ready to receive the information. There's a lot of moral and ethical gray area here about how to proceed. ­­­­­

Fiona - 
Along that vein can you talk about psychic ethics and why they're important? I remember a scene from Practical Magic where the woman is warned by the aunts that a love spell "making" a particular person fall in love with them was a bad idea.

Winter - 
Yes! I agree with the aunts on that completely. As human beings we have free will - to grow, to heal, to learn our lessons, to love etc... Trying to put our own agenda on another person is manipulation and unethical. It interferes with how the Universe works. 

Our jobs are to become the best versions of ourselves, not to change others. That never goes well whether manipulation is done psychically or verbally or abusively, the energy becomes warped and twisted and it's just not going to produce the results someone hopes for, even with the best intentions. A better approach to a love spell or healing would be two parts - to focus on removing barriers inside yourself to falling in love or being healed - and to open yourself up to receiving the love or healing you desire in whatever form the Universe finds fits you best. Then you are not manipulating free will, and you are focused on yourself. The Universe brings you the solutions when you are ready to receive them.

Also when it comes to healing, one important thing to know is that healing is not the same as curing. We can sometimes help others heal by sharing information, love, compassion, even healing energy - but it is a healing on an energetic or spirit level. The free will is still here - the journey that person's spirit chooses may or may not include the curing of the body or saving of the life, and we can't force an outcome we prefer.

Fiona - 
What did you hope I'd ask but I didn't? What w
ould you like writers to know when they write a character with psychic ability?

Winter - 
Well one thing I'd like writers to know is that not all of us with psychic ability are easy to spot. We aren't all wacky, burning incense, dressed in robes with moons and stars on them ­and known to be eccentric or weird. So many of us have regular jobs, do normal things like go to gym, try to figure out what's for dinner, and pay the bills. 

This private other side of us isn't apparent to most people meet us. We don't divulge or let people in on this side of us, unless its absolutely necessary or we trust and know the person is open minded or has similar abilities. Look around a room and there is probably someone in there with psychic abilities that you would never have guessed.

Fiona - 
It's true, if you met Winter, you would never guess how much she can know/read about you. Luckily, she is highly ethical. Is your character equally ethical with their 6th sense?

As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


  1. This is a fabulous summary. Thank you, Fiona.

  2. I wrote a character (Esta Dukes in Finding Esta) who was not only empathic and psychometric, but also carried spirits in her mind. Only two though - no room for more :) And her psychometry was severe enough to warrant the wearing of gloves and clothes to cover her entirely. Clearly, this is an exaggeration of the reality, but it was a dark fantasy tale. This is a great post for my research folder! :)