How to detect a psychic problem

During the week before the northern Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004, Marietta, a specialist nurse, dreamed three times about a vast wave lifting out of the ocean. “I was crying when I woke,” she said. “I had to take time off work because I couldn’t concentrate. A few days later, I turned on the TV just as the news about the tsunami was breaking. It was like someone had filmed my dreams.”

Not so long ago, if we were troubled by psychic phenomena we would go see the shaman or wise woman or even the local priest. Nowadays, it’s not that easy. And, while we simply don’t know how many mentally healthy people have run into psychic problems, informal evidence worldwide from counsellors and therapists suggests the number is on the increase.

“I’d never had that kind of dream before,” Marietta said. “Not even when my daughter was badly hurt when she rolled her car. The tsunami dreams were so disturbing. I kept seeing the children crying for help.”


What is a psychic problem?

A psychic problem is extra-sensory — that is, outside the physical and psychological realms. It does not stem from your body, mind or emotions. You have a psychic problem when you have one or more psychic experiences that disturb you and detract from the quality of your normal life.

Some psychic experiences can cause worry, stress, anxiety and, in some cases, even trauma. On the other hand, others can bring reassurance, hope and a deep sense of peace and protection.

Your psychic sense can show itself in different ways. You may be strongly connected to animals, or people, or the earth itself. Perhaps you can sense sickness and send healing. You may be able to pick up on future events or sense angels and people who have died. Or you might be able to move out of your body at will and visit far-off places (remote viewing).

Unfortunately, your psychic ability doesn’t come with a user’s manual. Just because you are psychic doesn’t mean you know how to protect yourself from being vulnerable to other people’s emotions and thoughts.


Early experiences

Psychic abilities usually show up in early childhood. “My mother only ever smacked me once,” said Alys, a childcare worker. “I was eight years old and I said I was really sad that my babysitter was going to be dead tomorrow, because she was kind. Mum was furious. The next day, my babysitter started bleeding from her ears and died in the ambulance on the way to hospital. She was only 34. Mum said I had to learn to keep secrets and nobody wanted to know these things.”

If adults react in this way, a child’s psychic sense may go underground for some years, getting closer to the surface again as they mature and leave home. Because it’s a survival skill, you’ll often find your psychic sense returns during periods of intense emotional stress. It can also be triggered by sudden danger.

Unless you were very fortunate when young to have had someone to guide you, you won’t always know how to handle your psychic sense. You may have to figure it out on your own, by trial and error. As you get older, you will probably notice that the more attention and discipline you bring to your psychic sense, the stronger it becomes and the more it grows and expands. Your trust in it also deepens.


Sixth sense for survival

Almost all of us are psychic to some degree, although psychic ability can be dampened by the many distractions in modern life. Sometimes, your intuitions and hunches can signal too faintly for you to hear them over the noise of everyday living.

For most of us, our psychic sense is a simple survival skill. It’s an extra, low-level sense and it usually doesn’t intrude on daily life. You’ve probably noticed your psychic sense tends to pop up in emergencies or when you are stressed. Being psychic even to a small degree alerts you to danger and gives you a stronger link to those you love. That not only helps keep you alive, it allows you to look after the people who are important to you.

This psychic sense isn’t something mystical or weird. We’re all swimming in an electric “soup” of sub-atomic particles that are constantly moving and sending information to each other. It’s like the background buzz of the universe. Being psychic is rather like having a radar that can pick up information that is being constantly passed around.

Because it’s out of your normal range, if you are hit by a psychic experience like Marietta’s tsunami dreams, you can find it traumatic. Currently, the medical and mental health professions generally don’t consider that your psychic sense exists, let alone that it can affect your wellbeing. So, not only are you dealing with the frightening content of the dream itself, but you may also worry you are going mad or having a breakdown.


Averting danger

Tegan, a retail store manager, lives on the edge of a national park. “One afternoon last summer, I was just so on edge it wasn’t funny,” she said. “I started getting really anxious after lunch and it just escalated. I thought I was having a panic attack. I had a nauseating headache and nothing would shift it. I was crying in the storeroom when my boss came by. She’s South American and she’s very wise. She didn’t think this was an ordinary headache. She asked me how my family and close friends were, and I said fine. And then she said how about my pets — were they OK?

“It was like a light went on. I have three cats and two dogs and an old cockatoo that used to belong to my grandfather, not to mention all the wild birds and the wallabies I feed. As soon as my boss mentioned my pets, I knew that was the problem. It was like locking into a homing signal. My boss told me to go home right away. She said I was feeling the animals’ fear.

“I raced home and when I got there I saw a thick column of smoke boiling up from the gully behind my house. My animals were at the lounge room window, panicking. I rang the bushfire brigade and all my neighbours. Some arsonist had gone down into the gully with petrol.

“As soon as I was with my animals, my headache went. No one was home that day. My neighbours all work and it’s a cul-de-sac. We wouldn’t have known about the fire until it had really taken hold. My animals got through to me just in time.”


Is it a problem?

How can you tell if your psychic sense is causing you problems? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I find some people really draining?
  • Can my dreams stress me?
  • Do I avoid being around big groups of people?
  • Am I often tired, even after a good night’s sleep?
  • Do I tend to pick up other people’s emotions and think they are my own?
  • Do certain places or houses make me feel ill or uneasy?
  • After walking through a crowd, do I sometimes feel depressed or angry for no good reason?

If you are experiencing psychic problems, you will probably answer yes to more than three of these questions.

If you have a psychic problem, you tend to worry that, first, you won’t be believed and, second, even if you are, your doctor or counsellor won’t know what to do. For want of any other option, you often end up seeing a psychic or clairvoyant. That’s not necessarily the best thing to do. The psychic you see may be well intentioned, but being psychic does not automatically make someone wise or compassionate or experienced enough to give sound direction. Psychic is not the same as spiritual. You can end up feeling more stressed and confused than ever.

For Marietta the last straw came when her doctor didn’t believe she had dreamed about the tsunami for three nights running before it hit Indonesia. “I have low-level obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” she said, “and a lot of anxiety. But just because I do it doesn’t make me mad or stupid. My doctor wanted to change my OCD medication. I’m happy to do that, but it doesn’t alter the fact that I dreamed about the tsunami. My husband remembers me waking him up and telling him. It’s like my doctor’s colour blind and yet she’s telling me red doesn’t exist. I need a way to deal with my dreams, but how can I talk about them to my doctor?”


Psychic or psychological?

How do you know that what you are experiencing is a psychic problem and not a psychological one? It’s an important question, because many of the things people experience when they are having a psychotic episode are similar. Hearing voices, having religious visions, believing one can foretell the future and sensing angels or demons around can also be experienced by people under the influence of drugs or who are suffering from psychosis.

Yet people who are mentally healthy have also had these experiences. Sometimes, the voice you hear is real or the dream you had comes true. If you are otherwise able to function well, hold down a job, have loving relationships, be actively involved in your community, have outside interests and be happy, then on the physical, emotional and mental planes, you are more than likely to be OK. Any remaining problem is probably psychic.

Carole loved her job as a beautician. She was also in a loving relationship and everything else in her life was going well. But for the past five months, she found she was growing depressed and highly emotional. Carole felt she had no option but to quit her job. Before she could resign, she had a chance conversation with a friend who worked as a therapeutic masseur. Talking to Marc, Carole realised that all her regular clients happened to be going through a serious personal crisis, from divorce and terminal illness to looming bankruptcy and litigation.

Marc told Carole about a similar episode in his career, when through physical ill-health and personal stress he had been more vulnerable than usual to other people’s energies. Marc felt Carole’s anxieties and depression were not solely her own. Carole, he believed, was also picking up worries and fears from her physical contact with her clients.

“Until I talked to Marc, I thought all these anxieties and wild emotions I was feeling meant I was on the edge of some kind of breakdown,” said Carole. “We’re not taught any different. If Marc hadn’t told me about going through the same thing, I might have quit a job I love.”

Carole found a therapist who showed her how to use guided visualisations to consciously protect herself. She also encouraged Carole to take a shower as soon as she got home from work to help clear any unwanted energies left over from the people she had seen that day.

“One of the best things my therapist suggested was that I take a reiki course,” said Carole. “That made me feel a lot more in control. I can use it to help people, even when they’re just coming to me for straight beauty therapy.”


Counselling and self-help

What can you do if you think you have a psychic problem? One of your options is to talk to a therapist who has worked with people whose psychic sense is causing them problems. Your therapist will first need to eliminate the possibility that what you are experiencing has a physical or psychological base. That means your therapist will need to have a solid background in psychology. Because psychic abilities can be stressful, you will get the most benefit from counselling if the therapist you choose also has training in managing stress, depression, anxiety, phobias and panic attacks.

If you choose not to talk to a therapist, there’s a range of practical things you can do to help manage your psychic experiences.

“My great-grandmother was Aboriginal,” said Tegan, “and I like to think this connection with animals and the bush comes from her. I’m not good at straight meditation, so I’ve taken up a tai chi class and that helps me stay calm and focused. I’ve also become a volunteer for WIRES, so I know I can help injured animals on a practical level, too. I’m learning not to react with fear and anxiety now when I pick up these feelings from animals. It doesn’t help them if I’m panicking, too.”

If your psychic sense is sometimes too strong, there are practical things you can do to help yourself:

  • Learn to use guided visualisation to create shields that prevent other people’s emotions spilling into your own.
  • Write down your thoughts and reactions to people and places, as this will help you figure out what is you and what comes from someone else.
  • Keep a dream journal.
  • Eat well, exercise and try to get some sunshine each day.
  • Stay in touch with the earth or with water by gardening or swimming.
  • Practise being compassionate: everyone you meet is a Buddha in embryo.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs, including smoking (many psychic people take refuge in smoking, which is not a good option).
  • Use your daily shower to clear your energies and send anything that doesn’t belong to you down the drain.
  • Check in regularly with your self — body, mind, heart and soul. How are you, right here, right now?
  • Surround yourself with positive, happy people.
  • Most of all, remember that your psychic sense is here for a purpose: it may be to teach, to heal, to protect or to nurture.

Marietta told her grandmother about the tsunami dreams. “She simply took me into her garden,” said Marietta, “and told me that planting and weeding and just being in the sun would help. She’s right, too. Now when I feel anxious or afraid, I take time to figure out if it’s coming from me or somewhere else. Either way, I’ve learned I can centre myself again in the garden. Just getting my fingers into the soil is almost like discharging electricity — I’m literally earthing myself.”

“Since the bushfire I’ve been slowing down and listening to myself more,” said Tegan. “I feel much calmer. I can see what’s going on around me better. Before, I was driving in the dark. Now I’ve got my headlights on.”

All names have been changed to protect privacy.

Recommended reading

Chödrön, Pema, The Places That Scare You: A guide to fearlessness in difficult times.

McTaggart, Lynne, The Field: The quest for the secret force of the universe.

Sheldrake, Rupert, The Sense of Being Stared At and other aspects of the extended mind.


Dani Falconer Flint is a psychologist working from a spiritual, whole-person perspective. She runs a private practice in Windsor and Mosman, New South Wales. M: 0414 917 979, E:


The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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