When we talk about “psychic thinking,” we are not referring to the palm-reading, neon-sign-advertised occultist professionals you can hire to evaluate your energy and predict your future.
Psychic thinking is far more insidious than that.
Psychic thinking is assuming you know what somebody else is thinking, or what they intend to do. It is assuming that the least likely outcome is the most viable outcome, because you feel it most strongly. It is believing that you have missed out on “another life,” a path you did not choose, that you were possibly more meant for. It is believing that the person with whom you have the most electric connection is your most ideal life partner.
Of course, the way other people see us is dynamic. Their thoughts, feelings and intentions are largely if not entirely unknown to us. The least likely outcome is just that, the least likely outcome. There is no such thing as the path we could have taken, only a projection of our needs and desires onto another fantastical idea of what our lives might be. Electric connection is not soulmateship; love and compatibility are not the same thing.
Psychic thinking detaches us from reality. In place of logic, we put emotions, ones that are often incorrect, unreliable, and completely and wholly biased to what we want to believe.
Beyond being inconveniencing, psychic thinking is absolutely terrible for your mental health. Psychic thinking breeds anxiety and depression. It’s not just that something scares or upsets us, it’s that we believe that the thought must not only be real, but predictive of future events. Instead of feeling like we are having a down day, psychic thinking makes us assume we are having a terrible life.
We heard “trust yourself,” and then began to liken ourselves to oracles, that when a particularly triggering thought or feeling passes through us, it must be indicative of something more to come.
Indeed, psychic thinking as a whole has begun taking on an entirely new light because of the popularity of pop psychology, dating back to the 90s. Trust yourself, the gurus tell you. Deep down, you know the truth.
This is valid. Your intestines are literally connected to the stem of your brain; the bacteria in your stomach responds to subconscious intelligent awareness faster than your mind can. This is why your “gut” is indeed correct on instinct. But when this advice is given to people who cannot differentiate a gut feeling from a fear, or a passing thought that has no bearing on reality or their lives as a whole, it becomes a dangerous practice in which they become completely stuck and limited because they assume their random feelings are all real, and then not only real, but a prediction for what’s to come.
Psychic thinking is nothing more than a series of cognitive biases, the most prominent of which are the following:
At any moment in time, your brain is inundated with stimuli. To help you process, your conscious mind is aware of about 10% of it or less. Your subconscious mind is still paying attention, logging away information you might one day need.
However, what determines what makes it to that 10% of our conscious awareness has a lot to do with what we already believe. Our brains are literally working to filter out information that does not support our preexisting ideas, and then to draw our attention to information that does.
This means that we are subject to a “confirmation bias,” which is that we literally seek out and sort through stimuli that supports what we want to think.
Extrapolation is when we take our current circumstances, and then project them out into the future. Ryan Holiday says it best: “This moment is not my life. It is a moment in my life.”
Extrapolation makes us think that we are the sum of our past or current experiences, that whatever stressors or anxieties we are currently experiencing are ones that we will grapple with for the rest of our lives. Unable to see through the problem at hand, we assume it will never resolve itself. Unfortunately, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we are so easily defeated and exhausted by the idea that we will never get over our problems, then we make it more likely that we will hang onto them, instead of logically trying to resolve them, for a lot more time than is necessary.
Everyone thinks that the world revolves around them. You are thinking about you and your own interests all day, every day. It can be challenging to forget that others are not thinking about us with such intensity, they are thinking about themselves.
The spotlight effect is what happens when we imagine that our lives are performative, or “on display” for others to consume. We remember the last 2–3 embarrassing things we have done, and imagine that others are thinking about them actively as well. Can you recall the last 2–3 embarrassing things someone else did? Of course you can’t. Because you aren’t paying attention.
Spotlighting gives us the false impression that the world is all about us, when it is not.
These biases plus others, when combined with psychic thinking, or the idea that our assumptions and feelings about the world will transpose into reality, are harmful, and mostly incorrect. Instead of trying to predict what will happen next, our energy is better used focused intently on the moment — the infinite “now,” the mystics would say—because the truth is that the past and future are illusions in the present, and all we have is the present.
Instead of trying to use your intelligence to hack what’s next, try to get better at where you are currently. That’s what’s really going to change the outcomes of your life.