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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » The Morality of Cold Readings? (54 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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IAIN
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Have a listen to his album We Put Our Magick on You... Some incantations are made, but with some African chanting and drumming but also early prog jazz rock running through it...
Sudo Nimh
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Thomas,

I just checked out your blog and read your thoughts on The Book of the Law. You have a wonderful writing style and I found myself chuckling aloud in a few places.

Your photo shows a small statue of the Baphomet. I'm curious; do you have a routine of some sort that you perform with it, or is this displayed for the sake of emphasis regarding the blog's focus?
Magic which awakens and nourishes the divine spirit in man encourages the growth of true humanity, in contrast to the materialistic outlook which binds man to the earth.

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Sudo Nimh
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Quote:
On Mar 28, 2019, IAIN wrote:
Have a listen to his album We Put Our Magick on You... Some incantations are made, but with some African chanting and drumming but also early prog jazz rock running through it...


Sweet. I'll definitely check that out. Every so often I go on an old prog-rock binge and this is something new for me - which is always welcome.

Cheers.
Magic which awakens and nourishes the divine spirit in man encourages the growth of true humanity, in contrast to the materialistic outlook which binds man to the earth.

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Thomas Henry
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Hi Sudo,

I don't want to hijack this thread, but did want to answer your question. Would you believe I originally got Baphomet for my garden? Once s/he arrived, I thought it so beautiful, it now adorns a prominent spot in my living room as a constant reminder of the short time we're all here and how much is left to be done. So no, I do not use it in any routine...but might some day.

And thanks for your comments on the blog; I'm glad you're getting the giggles intended!

Thomas Henry
Omne ignotum pro magnifico.
prankmonster
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Quote:
On Mar 23, 2019, Philemon Vanderbeck wrote:
Not only do people want to be fooled, they do so because they want to experience the sensation of awe.

There's a great story regarding awe (and a study regarding it) that recently appeared on the "Quirks and Quarks" podcast: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/mar-9-20.......5047156


Thanks for this link. This has been my experience with human beings in general. People generally do want to experience a sensation of awe and they are willing to pay money to be fooled and experience that sensation. You can still be a skeptical human being while still experiencing that sensation of awe. The experience itself is valid and it is something they yearn for. It is a service that we provide Smile
David Thiel
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The OP had a question about how readers deal with the morality issues when doing a cold rea*.

I'm not a reader in the standard sense of the word. I offer "Impressionism Readings" as an adjunct to a staged event. I also incorporate CR techniques into nearly every other thing I do on stage from a Center Te*r to a book test. You use techniques. You watch body language. You deliver amazing information.

There can be no doubt that, when the reader knows what they are doing, the readings transcend performance and go into a much more deeply personal area. And it is also impossible to deny that when looking into the eyes of a "true believer" that there isn't some oily creature whispering in my ear that 'this person would believe anything I tell them.' It's a seductive thing...and a very powerful seduction at that.

Think for a second about a well done co*d reading. The person talking is someone you've never seen before...who knows that there was a white building in your past that was meaningful to you...and that there is someone in your life who has a name starting with an R or a J. They watch you carefully from there and go on to reveal a number of highly personal things about who you are...things you thought no one knew.

What are you going to do with this person? How can they know these things?

And if you ARE that person...how are you going to deal with that True Believer. I still recall (in vivid technicolor) the waves of guilt that washed over me when I saw my first True Believer after a performance.

What's moral?

What's immoral?

The line I draw is done like this. When the person comes to me I tell them that I am going to share impressions with them...and that these impressions may or may not be meaningful to them...but that these are the impressions I get when they come for a reading. They are free to do whatever they want with the things I am about to reveal. Then I share my honest impressions with them.

Want to run a cult? Want to use the techniques and methods that fit into a reading to control or influence your sitter? It's not your place to do that. I'd call that immoral. Sharing ideas...impressions...even those created with method and technique...and letting the sitter respond in their own way to what's been said? A fair and proper reading.

My honest thoughts shared in the hope that they may be of use in this discussion.

David
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Sudo Nimh
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Great post David.
Magic which awakens and nourishes the divine spirit in man encourages the growth of true humanity, in contrast to the materialistic outlook which binds man to the earth.

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bevbevvybev
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"When the person comes to me I tell them that I am going to share impressions with them...and that these impressions may or may not be meaningful to them...but that these are the impressions I get when they come for a reading. They are free to do whatever they want with the things I am about to reveal. Then I share my honest impressions with them."

This.
John C
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On Mar 23, 2019, Max Hazy wrote:
I don't think anybody is entitled to say how people should spend their money. For instance, I don't think people should spend their money smoking... they're wasting their money and wasting their health... yet I'm don't go out saying they're wrong and I'm right... it's THEIR money and they're entitled to spend it as they see fit. Is there a documentary against readings? I lost how many campaigns against smoke there is... hell, even in the box there are warnings and yet people go for it. The same goes for readings... if people find readings something useful/helpful/good for whatever reasons, it's their decisions after all and it's their money after all.

That being said... I do think readings can be VERY positive in many many aspects (I'm talking about "pure" readings). The reader must be cautious to not alienate people, that's the biggest concern. Now, mixing it with secret methods to secretly get information to boost the believebility might be questionable depending on how the performer go about it.

Lastly... the world doesn't want to be fooled? Really? Then I must be living in a completely different world... I see people paying to see things that "fools" all the time, mostly for entertainment. Movies (you know they're actors and special effects, right?), Wrestling, Magic, Theather, Stand Up comedy... and the list goes. Even social midia is packed with fooling stuff just for the sake of entertainment. No... what I see when I look around is exactly the opposite... the world is so filled with nasty things that the world itself is paying to be fooled.

Btw... I'm just stating a point of view... please, read between the lines what I said here... don't take everything literally because I think it would end in a pointless discussion. In the end, nobody is entitled to say how people should spend their money... it's their money after all (what I said about not alienating people should be taken in consideration, sure!).


agree!
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Stunninger
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On Mar 30, 2019, bevbevvybev wrote:
"When the person comes to me I tell them that I am going to share impressions with them...and that these impressions may or may not be meaningful to them...but that these are the impressions I get when they come for a reading. They are free to do whatever they want with the things I am about to reveal. Then I share my honest impressions with them."

This.


+ 1. Wonderful thinking!
Max Hazy
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Quote:
On Mar 30, 2019, bevbevvybev wrote:
"When the person comes to me I tell them that I am going to share impressions with them...and that these impressions may or may not be meaningful to them...but that these are the impressions I get when they come for a reading. They are free to do whatever they want with the things I am about to reveal. Then I share my honest impressions with them."

This.


+2

David nailed it.
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Arcane Grimoires Vol 2- http://www.maxhazy.com/Codex-Mentis/
IAIN
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...i am somewhat surprised that this from Bill has garnered such a small response... but then again, I shouldn't be really...and its partly why pulling together an ethics based booklet would be a waste of time!

Smile

Quote:
On Mar 8, 2019, Bill Cushman wrote:
"Cold reading threads always go mental. Fact." bevbevvybev

With that said:

I have been pondering the ethics of readings, once again, since watching and reading Sybil and have a bit to say on the topics introduced in this thread. I strongly disagree with the OP’s description of the work as not crossing lines and especially as “...positive, and he's not delving into anything negative.” Quite the opposite in my view and this is where issues of ethics are most relevant. I am not surprised that watching Sybil led Ravenspur to ask questions about the morality of readings.

I agree with Iain, Mr. Woolery, Stewart and others that this discussion is needed and its absence in the field a “sad omission.” Iain and I have briefly explored ethical readings in print together, but many of our thoughts have only been shared in correspondence. The fairly uncritical acceptance of approaches emphasized in Sybil suggest that this is a good time to say more.

I was struck by Mr. Woolery’s comment early on, “Like it or not, if you say things with confidence and they are (or seem) accurate, people will invest a certain amount of belief in what you say.” Accuracy (and, more importantly, what seems like accuracy) is achieved and enhanced via extremely effective manipulation and deception as taught on Sybil. The stated intention is to heighten belief just as Mr. Woolery describes.

I decided to share my thoughts on Sybil after speaking with a colleague, a therapist with a doctorate in marital and family therapy, about a client who became very upset after a Tarot reading. He described her as “coming undone,” when we spoke. She was ruminating and experiencing considerable anxiety two weeks later. She didn’t get a reading for any particular problem so was all the more unsettled when the psychic accurately delved into personal, negative experiences and predicted they wouldn’t be resolved in the immediate future. His overall accuracy only fueled her anxiety about his prediction, a consequence of the dynamic Mr. Woolery writes about above.

In the second reading demonstration on Sybil, Phedon elicits memories of difficult times from his sitter and then tells her he sees them continuing in the future. I can't say if this produced anxiety later on but the same dynamics are at play so the risk is real. In my opinion, this tactic certainly isn’t positive and clearly crosses a line. We don’t have to predict conflicts when there are so many other options available.

I don’t know if the reader my colleague discussed cheated to achieve the accuracy that validated his prediction for the sitter/client. We do know that Phedon cheats brilliantly to enhance both his accuracy and emotional connection to his sitters. This raises a host of ethical issues related to using deception, especially in the course of a reading. The techniques to influence emotion are particularly questionable.

Across a wide range of posters, there seems a broadly shared consensus that trafficking in tears shouldn’t be the goal of mentalists or readers. Yet a focus on at best sadness and, at worst, actual trauma pervades Sybil. This is no accident, in many instances it is the modus operandi of the methods Phedon is teaching. Heightened (negatively charged) affective states are used to make the sitters especially malleable.

One of the primary techniques taught involves the ratcheting up of negative emotions/memories to leverage and enhance a subsequent catharsis and create what I think is best understood as an "illusion of rapport." To be clear, the reactions of the sitters in the video that many people are praising are also illusions; what you see is not what the recipients of the readings are really getting.

How can it be? The sitters have been tricked into believing someone understands their deepest emotions and concerns. I suspect if they were tipped to the amount of sheer deceit used to create this illusion it would crumble hard and they'd feel betrayed. This is no small thing and I don’t see such a potential dynamic having a place in a performance and especially not in a reading. The readers I know disdain this kind of deception.

Phedon says he wants his work to be deeply emotional, cathartic and for the recipients to leave feeling better. His desired result is to relieve them of a burden. Noble goals to be sure but I don’t see them as appropriate for mentalism in the manner presented, especially conjuring with negative emotions and memories. I think the approach of building these up in order to leverage a catharsis is particularly misplaced and potentially harmful. And, as I wrote above, it can’t really achieve the desired ends described by Phedon. If this were therapy, many of the approaches taught would be considered unethical.

S.C.R.E.W.E.D. is an entire category devoted to a method of making women, and interestingly only women, dredge up bad memories and cry. That’s entertainment!

Phedon continues with S.C.R.E.W.E.D. with the woman already mentioned above and, as per the formula, she begins to cry. He tells her reliving the emotions is a good thing, she needs to remember so she can learn from her past and do differently in the future. The thing is, the only reason she is reliving this obviously bad memory is so that Phedon can teach us how to make others suffer through the same process.

The process once again involves the heightening of negatively charged memories followed by an engineered catharsis. Tears are the intended outcome.

This is made clear in the PDF. Phedon describes the reaction of a performer he obviously respects, Christophe, who says his only reservation about performing S.C.R.E.W.E.D. is the frequency of crying by the sitters. Phedon says that this is proof of the power of the routine and necessary for the ultimate catharsis. Again, that’s entertainment?

All this leads me to wonder just who the audience for Sybil really is. The methods appear to cater to performers who want to imitate the kind of experience that Stewart and others describe genuinely offering. Yet Stewart, and other ethical readers of his ilk, wouldn’t use the majority of the methods on Sybil, not with the emphasis on conflict, sadness and loss. Not with the use of deception and blatant emotional manipulation.

Many of the ideas Phedon shares aren’t the stuff of mentalism either. There is no need to harness negative, potentially traumatic memories and related emotions in the name of entertainment. Tears are no measure of our success and imagination, dreams and desires present more than enough fertile territory for performers.
RedDevil
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Iain, I thought a lot about Bill's post last night, and I can't disagree with a bunch of it. I said on my review on Penguin that the SCREWED piece was something that could be used to "mindscrew" people by people who weren't mature enough or self-aware enough to realize what they were doing. If a person didn't ask to go down this road, I don't think I could condone a reader going there unsolicited. I also said that I don't think I would ever personally use a deceptive (mentalism technique) tactic during a real reading. If I were reading in the context of an entertainment based routine, absolutely I will use peeks and gambits, but not for a "real" reading.

As a side note, the biggest thought I had about Bill's post (he is one of those greatly respected by me on this board) was not so much his argument, but rather the fact that while I couldn't argue with what he said, I still really thought Sibyl was valuable to students of reading. I still have to think about how I reconcile that. But for now, I think if I was just being bare honest, it is because the techniques are very powerful and actually work. And I am not talking about even what Phedon shared, but rather how "I" broke down and analyzed his approach. A few light bulbs went off, not on the content of his reading angles necessarily, like SCREWED which I probably would never do, but rather a couple of techniques that are content neutral. For instance, I labeled one technique as the "Triad" or "Pitch-Fork" approach (like his mantis line and then asking the querent to identify the one she wants to discuss or resonates with). I can almost bet that this technique has been done by tea and palm readers for hundreds of years, but for some reason it clicked with me after watching Sibyl.

Or what he calls his "journeys", I call what every generation of seers have been doing since the dawn of man in almost every culture: Narrating a metaphorical story or image and inviting the querent to make meaning of it. E.E. writes extensively of this in his I.R. and most good Tarot readers do the same, whether the image is on the cards or in their minds, the readings are technically "real." We don't have to lie when we say what we feel or "see" in our minds. I don't presume to tell you these things, and I have to say that your writings on reading ethics have influenced me a great bit.

My point on this first part is that Sibyl had great value for me in being a student of reading while at the same time I concluded that I could not do SCREWED, and I wouldn't use a p**K or other "cheat" to do a real reading. IN other words, I would like to think that most people would think the same: adapt the content for their own use and I guess...their own ethical stance...and leave the rest. But I know and you know I guess that that kind of thinking is naive. Because we all know that some people will watch Sibyl and run right out and ask women to think of bad relationships, etc.

And that brings me to the rub about any goal to write a book/article on "ethics of cold reading." I can't resolve it, and I don't presume to have an answer. So here a few thoughts that I submit for criticism:

1. Part of me wants to support the same thing, writing of an ethical treatise on readings. If I wrote a list of ethical considerations on readings, I would want everyone to adopt mine and agree objectively that they should be followed.
2. But we know that ain't going to happen. Human ethics don't tend to stand up to tests of objectivity very well if objectivity is defined as "most people" would agree to the truth of it regardless of their background or context. In other words, regardless of what we wrote, somebody would argue with them.
3. Part of me feels this whole discussion is a trap. The question may not be "How do I conduct an ethical reading?" The real question might just be, "Should people conduct any type of oracle/fortune reading at all?"
4. To elaborate, who of us can claim we are wise enough to conduct a reading and guarantee we will "do no harm"? There is NO doubt in my mind that Phedon Bilek would never intentionally hurt a fly. Could his reading system cause him to do so anyways? Yes. But isn't that true for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US. Even if some of us are operating under more stringent guidelines than others, can any of us say that we know for a fact that we haven't caused unnecessary harm in a querent's mind while doing a reading in the past?
5. Feeling pretty confident that no one has raised their hand to the former question, does that mean we need to ban or cease all reading activities as a whole?
6. If not, maybe we should cease only certain types of readings or books/DVD's about readings? If so, which ones? Who decides? Whose ethics do we use?
7. Part of me feels it is very ironic (Note: I didn't say "not valid") that Sibyl gains such a controversial reaction when history is littered with readers who have used the art to "purposefully" steal fortunes and ruin lives for thousands of years. We shouldn't be surprised that readings give real power over people's thoughts and emotions (and consequences), depending on the context of why the querent is sitting in the chair and what the motives of the reader are. Maybe the power of techniques shown in Sibyl is a wake-up call that this stuff can hit hard and we need to be careful with such knowledge. (that's why I thought Sibyl cost too little).

This idea could illustrate the spectrum of the place of readings:

from a "lark" for a laugh--------someone to talk to and gain empathy--------Someone who can be a catalyst to help me find my own answers (my sweet spot is here)------->someone to gain advice and counseling from-----someone to depend on as a vital ingredient for success------someone to give power over your life, which could cause financial and psychological ruin.

This brings me back to the question I asked before: Sibyl reminds us that these techniques have huge power over human beings. Are we responsible enough to use them at all?

It appears to me that readings tend to follow the way of any other tool used by humans. If they are misused, they burn you or cut you.

8. If you follow the "Misuse" logic in order to write our ethics, we then have to ask a very important question before the ethics can be written IMHO: What is the purpose of a reading? I don't think you can write ethical guidelines until you know that purpose(s). To say a reading angle is a misuse of a technique, we have to contrast it with the correct use of the technique. What is the correct use of a reading?

Any ethical guidelines would have to follow from the answer to that question.

9. Who decides the correct use(s)?

10. In the end, I think the writing of an ethical treatise on readings WOULD be a valid exercise...as long as we realize that all this effort will do is create a "school" of thought...that is opposed by either another "school" of thought....or opposed by those who don't like to go to school at all and want to **** around doing whatever they *** well please. I don't mind saying that I am one that believes school is important, and I don't believe in anarchy. I would rather "some" people agree on a safe ethic in any aspect of life rather than say "do as thou wilt." I assume the Jedi arose to make sure the Dark Side didn't get the only say. The thing I believe is important to remember is that everyone has both Jedi and Dark Side in them. Everybody. So I would hate for an author or work to be labeled as one or the other just because they don't jive with another's ethics or tastes. It's a lot more gray than that.
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Amirá
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Do for others what you want them to do for you
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Bill Cushman
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Quote:
On Apr 9, 2019, Amirá wrote:
Do for others what you want them to do for you
(Pablo, check out what I wrote in the 4th paragraph, lol!)

Yes, I was a bit surprised at the scarcity of response to my original post, followed by a long lag time again when Iain recently reposted my thoughts on Sibyl. To be fair, this isn't a thread on that release so a lot of other ground has also been covered.

Robb seemed to understand where I was coming from and expressed a similar surprise at the lack of nuanced examination of the methods taught on Sibyl. I agree with his observation, something I hadn't considered, that many approaches taught do not do a favor to the public perception of mentalists and readers.

As for writing a book or course on ethics as suggested by Stunninger, I once wrote Iain on the idea:

"It would be a really short book, just two sentences: 'Don't pretend you have real powers. The rest is commentary.' (This is a riff on a classic rabbinical story about the meaning of the Torah: 'Treat your neighbor as yourself. The rest is commentary.') Once mentalism is defined as something presented as real, or even as creating the possibility that a performance is real, I think ethics have left the building. I suppose there may be artistic exceptions to this but I don't think they are what is at issue."

I realize that is a controversial view here. David Thiel is probably the go to guy for making a good case for artistic exceptions, though I'm not sure I agree with all he wrote above. If he's saying what I think he's saying, using trickery during post show "impression readings" gives me pause.

Red Devil, thanks for your thorough analysis. As I'm sure you realize my intent wasn't a review of the pros and cons of what was taught on the disks. We seem on the same page with S.C.R.E.W.E.D, yet, with respect, I feel you missed one of my main points. It is the psychological manipulation that is explicitly taught on Sibyl that I find most objectionable. S.C.R.E.W.E.D. was just the most obvious example (even its title, especially in the context of what is taught and promoted in the effect, is problematic for me).

So let me say it again: the approach of ratcheting up negative emotions to later provide a catharsis creates ONLY an illusion of rapport and has no place in entertainment or a legitimate reading. Interestingly, I just came across a quote from Banachek that touches on this very topic:

“I think the most important trick is making it seem like I have empathy for the people like you understand. You've been there before. You know what they're thinking. You know how they feel once you get that empathy," Banachek said. "And once you get a person believing that you're empathizing with them, then you can talk them into doing almost anything.”

Or believing anything. As Banachek makes clear, this depends on using the appearance of empathy as a trick. THIS is the trick we need to most beware as I believe it holds the greatest risk for doing harm. And I suspect from so much that has been written positively about the reactions of the sitters on Sibyl that people just aren't getting this, dazzled as they seem by tears and hugs.

People generally go to psychics when they are lost, looking for some answers, some guidance, some human contact. This makes them all the more susceptible to manipulations and claims of prescience. More susceptible to the dynamics Mr. Woolery wrote about that I cited in my original post, where accurate observations (and those that seem accurate, often the result of a false sense of empathy) fuel false beliefs.

To come full circle, my colleague recently told me that the client I originally mentioned is still struggling with fallout from the Tarot reading. She was accompanying a friend, who was indeed seeking some insights, and decided to accept the psychic's offer for a reading of her own. So I suppose this could be seen as more of an entertainment or curiosity reading.

My colleague shared some insights gleaned from our conversations with the client, particularly Iain's observation that a negatively oriented reading says more about the reader than her, but to no avail. The client can't let go of how the predictions about her friend (obvious to us in the know as the result of "high probability guesses" and confirmation bias) keep coming to pass. This is reinforcing her fears of the worst predicted for her by the psychic, that her problems will be with her for a while. A fairly safe prediction from the perspective of the reader but patently unfair to the recipient.
IAIN
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I'm waiting for some "character" or other to say.. "hey, well maybe they're just psychic..."


And then just bimble and ramble their way away cos they agree with any hit is worth aiming at for the sake of ego and/or stupidity...

I'm from the view that Empathy can't really exist in the definition of the term... And unfortunately people warp that meaning...

Sympathy and compassion, absolutely...

But don't pretend you know what it's like to be homeless or survived a disease or anything else, unless you truly have... And even then, perspectives and life experiences also alter how you deal with it...
Stunninger
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Bill, you speak wonderful wisdom and continue to give me pause for deeper examination.

Up until recently, I was of the mindset that doing brief readings for entertainment was ethical. But even here I now think great caution still must be exercised. What motivates a person to seek a reading, even just a brief reading at a party? Some, I am sure, are motivated by the hope the reading will shed some glimpse into their future, even if it's first disclaimed as being for entertainment purposes only.

Something else I've been thinking more about lately, obliquely related to readings are books on positive thinking. When I was much younger, I used to truly believe I could accomplish almost anything I set my mind to through positive thinking and hard work. But what I've come to realize over the decades is that one person, with a healthy self-image and good self-esteem, who sets reasonable (for them) goals will have a very different experience with "positive thinking" and "goal setting" than a person with a poor self-image and low self-esteem, and perhaps sets unrealistic goals (for them).

I guess I'm at a place in life where I am more open and sensitive to the fact that we really don't know how what we say or do may affect another person, or how fragile they might be inside, and how we really must be very careful and proceed with caution.

Thanks for your guidance, "Don't pretend you have real powers. The rest is commentary." Honesty. I guess that really says it all.
IAIN
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People's motivations are wide and varied, and I think you can easily tell most motivations in many ways...

But mainly, you can go route one and just ask up front...
IAIN
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I'll share this from Devil May Care (written in 2016), about how you may want to use Forer statements, yet, there can be very varied outcomes of those throw away lines... Again, just to show you can't measure that you are doing no harm...

Here's some examples:
"You have much unused potential." - The person has certain mental health issues which means they feel at times that their life is nothing but that issue.

"You get a little anxious in new social situations." - The person has anxiety attacks, and though you are correct, they now worry that it looks apparent that they do so, and therefore their anxiety levels increase.

"You have sometimes told white lies to save another person's feelings." - No, but they have been lied to in a relationship, the other person was cheating on them for several months and now they don't trust anyone.

"You have been a victim of a theft or burglary in the past." - Correct, they were also beaten up or threatened and now they are reliving that time again thanks to you.

"You have a strong need for approval and recognition." - Yes. They had a terrible relationship with their parent(s). And then they died before they could reconcile things.

Some of these sound extreme, however they are also statistically viable. And, just the tip of the iceberg.
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I have no problems with pretending to have real powers, but I have my own disclaimers. It's all subjective.

I see a lot of focus on negativity coming from readings. What about positive results? Do someone here think nothing positive can come from readings? I'm not saying that's actually the case... but if it happens to be... by all means, don't do it. Imo... readings can change people's life for better... or worse. It's up to the reader.

Max
"Your method is in my opinion the very best way to do Q&A"
Millard Longman

"Max has pushed some less known and seldom used principles a huge step forward"
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Arcane Grimoires Vol 1- http://www.maxhazy.com/arcane-grimoires/apocryphal-reach/

Arcane Grimoires Vol 2- http://www.maxhazy.com/Codex-Mentis/
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