Update On Erin Pavlina, And Why I Disagree With What She Does So Much

August 7, 2009
Estimated reading time:
12 minutes

I thought I should do another post about Erin Pavlina, because the earlier post I wrote about her was a little stream-of-consciousness, but despite that it's the third result in google for a search for "Erin Pavlina", so I feel I should justify my comments a little. (It also annoys me that my blog is higher in a google search for her name than for mine, but whatever).

On the earlier post I received two incredibly contrasting comments. The first was this one from Sue:

Hi, I am totally mortified to admit that it is clearly me, not Erin, who is the crazy person. Because Erin has $500 of my money and I am still wincing from the pain of being ripped-off by paying for one of her psychic readings. I wish I had done more research before I went through with it – the problem is that people paying psychics are vulnerable and really want to believe in this bs. Usually I am a rational person but I got totally duped by the false promises on her website. So I would be grateful if you would please publish this comment as a big warning to anyone thinking of buying a reading from this lady – DON’T DO IT!! It feels like rape.

And another from Ellie:

I have to say I have had two readings with Erin and both have been accurate and helpful (including making contact with deceased relatives Erin didn’t even know existed) – a far cry from what Sue refers to here.

So how could two people feel so differently about the same process? And why does that process cost up to $800 for just an hour of Erin's time?

To demonstrate this, I will now do a psychic reading of you. Yes, you, the reader. It will be a long and detailed reading. I'll show you how amazing a psychic I am, even though I'm not in the same room, and for some of you, not even in the same country. Here it goes. By the way, I''m assuming that you, like the majority of my readers, are in university or college, or have recently graduated - if not then email me about a private reading. It's only $200, and I accept payment by PayPal and all major credit cards. So, without further ado, here is my psychic reading of you.

You are a person prone to bouts of self-examination. This is in sharp contrast to a striking ability you have developed to appear very socially engaged, even the life and soul of the party; but in a way that only convinces others. You are all too aware of it being a facade.

This means that you will often be at a gathering and find yourself playing a part. While on the one hand you'll be talkative and funny, you'll be detaching yourself to the point where you will find yourself watching everything going on around you and feeling utterly unable to engage. You'll play conversations back to yourself in your head and wonder what that person really meant when he said such-and-such - conversations that other people wouldn't give a second thought to.

How have you learned to deal with this conflict? Through exercising control. You like to show a calm, self-assured fluid kind of stability (but because this is self-consciously created, it will create bouts of frustrated silliness and a delight in extremes, or at least a delight in being seen to be extreme). You most easily recognize this control in how you are with people around you. You have learned to protect yourself by keeping people at bay. Because in the past you have learned to be disappointed by people (and because there were issues with you adjusting to your sexuality), you instinctively keep people at arms' length, until you decide they are allowed over that magic line into your group of close friends.

However, once across that line, the problem is that an emotional dependency kicks in which leaves you feeling very hurt or rejected if it appears that they have betrayed that status.

Because you are prone to self-examination, you will be aware of these traits. However, you are unusually able to examine even that self-examination, which means that you have become concerned about what the real you is. You have become all too aware of facades, of sides of yourself which you present to the world, and you wonder if you have lost touch with the real and spontaneous you.

You are very creative, and have tried different avenues to utilize that ability. It may not be that you specifically, say, paint; it may be that your creativity shows itself in more subtle ways, but you will certainly find yourself having vivid and well-formed ideas which others will find hard to grasp. You set high standards for yourself, though, and in many ways are a bit of a perfectionist. The problem is, though, that it means you often don't get stuff done, because you are frustrated by the idea of mediocrity and are wearied by the idea of starting something afresh. However, once your brain is engaged you'll find yourself sailing. Very much this will likely lead to you having considered writing a novel or some such, but a fear that you won't be able to achieve quite what you want stops you from getting on with it. But you have a real vision for things, which others fall short of. Particularly in your academic/college situation, you are currently fighting against restraints upon your desire to express yourself freely.

Your relationship with your parents (there is a suggestion that one is no longer around, or at least emotionally absent) is under some strain. You wish to remain fond of them but recent issues are causing frustration - from your side far more than theirs. In fact they seem unaware of your thoughts on the matter. Partly this is because there are ways in which you have been made to feel isolated from certain groups in the past - something of an outsider. Now what is happening is that you are taking that outsider role and defending it to the point of consciously avoiding being part of a group. This will serve you well in your creative and career pursuits. You have an enormous cynicism towards those who prefer to be part of a group or who exhibit any cliquey behaviour, and you always feel a pang of disappointment when you see your 'close' friends seeming to follow that route. Deep down it feels like rejection.

However, for all that introspection, you have developed a sensational, dry sense of humour that makes connections quickly and wittily and will leave you making jokes that go right over the heads of others. You delight in it so much that you'll often rehearse jokes or amusing voices to yourself in order to 'spontaneously' impress others with them. But this is a healthy desire to impress, and although you hate catching yourself at it, it's nothing to be so worried about.

There's also an odd feeling that you should have been born in a different century. You might be able to make more sense of that than I can.

There are some strong monetary shifts taking place at the moment. Both the recent past and what's in store over the next few months represent quite a change.

You have links at the moment with people abroad, which are quite interesting, and will look to yield worthwhile results. You're naturally a little disorganized. A look around your living space would show a box of photos, unorganized into albums, out-of-date medicines, broken items not thrown out, and notes to yourself which are significantly out of date. Something related to this is that you lack motivation. Because you're resourceful and talented enough to be pretty successful when you put your mind to things, this encourages you to procrastinate and put them off. Equally, you've given up dreams a little easily when your mind flitted elsewhere. There are in your home signs of an excursion into playing a musical instrument, which you have since abandoned, or are finding yourself less interested in. (This may alternatively relate to poetry and creative writing you've briefly tried your hand at and left behind you.) You have a real capacity for deciding that such-and-such a thing (or so-and-so a person) will be the be all and end all of everything and be with you for ever. But you'd rather try and fail, and swing from one extreme to the other, than settle for the little that you see others content with.

Conclusion: It's very interesting doing your reading, as you do present something of a conundrum, which won't surprise you. You are certainly bright, but unusually open to life's possibilities - something not normally found among achieving people. I'd say you'd do well to be less self-absorbed, as it tends to distance you a little, and to relinquish some of the control you exercise when you present that stylized version of yourself to others. You could let people in a little more, but I am aware that there is a darkness you feel you should hide (much of this is in the personal/relationship/sexual area, and is related to a neediness which you don't like).

You really have an appealing personality - genuinely. Many thanks for doing this, and for offering something far more substantial than most.

So how was that? Accurate? A load of nonsense? If you're a normal, fairly intelligent young person, you will undoubtedly have found, like I did, that at least some of this applies to you. Yes, sometimes I can be a little self-absorbed. Yes, I tried to play the guitar and then got bored of it, and gave up. Yes, I'd like to think that I'd rather try and fail than settle for less. And like most people, I have "links" abroad.

But do you see the problem with this? Most of it is so general and generic, that if you really wanted to believe it, you could. If you really wanted to believe that I was psychic and performing an excellent reading of you, you could take the phrase "links abroad" to mean any number of things. Maybe you have relatives abroad, or colleagues from work, or  you recently went on holiday, or you're just about to go on holiday, or that your girlfriend is half-swedish. It could literally apply to almost everyone, if they wanted it to.

Similarly, who hasn't at one point in their life tried to play an instrument or some other creative exercise? Who isn't a little disorganized sometimes? Who hasn't felt a little odd or disconnected in a social situation before?By now, you've probably worked out that I'm not a psychic. This reading was in fact copied from Derren Brown's book Tricks of the Mind (which I'd highly recommend, by the way), and is an example of the Forer Experiment.

Forer administered a personality test to his students. Rather than scoring the tests and giving individual assessments, he gave all the students the exact same analysis copied from a newspaper astrology column. The students were then asked to evaluate the description on a scale of zero through five, with five being the most accurate. The average evaluation was 4.26. The experiment has been repeated hundreds of times since 1948, and the average remains about 4.2. The Forer effect shows that people tend to accept generalised descriptions of their personalities without realising that the same evaluation could apply to nearly anyone else, because people want the results to be true.

And do you see how someone could make this reading even more precise in person, with a number of probing questions? By saying things like "I'm getting an indication that you can be a creative person", and guaging the person's reaction, you can make it much more accurate. If they agree with you, you can go more along this line and say something like "yes, you like to express yourself creatively, through music or writing or something similar" which has every chance of being correct. If they don't think they're particularly creative you might say "well, not obviously, but you have a creative side of you that manifests itself in other ways. For example, you often come up with a solution to a problem that others don't see", or you could even say "well, you have a creative side that you're not fulling embracing, which you need to do". The possibilities are almost endless.

And to use these skills, as Erin does, to dupe people into thinking that they can contact their deceased relatives (for only $797.00 an hour!) is dishonest, exploitative, and disgusting. To offer someone false comfort about a terrible event in their lives, and charge them up the ass for doing so, is horrible.

Admittedly, it may not be that Erin Pavlina does this intentionally. Let's look at the alternatives for what might be happening here:

  1. Erin uses cold-reading techniques to give the outward appearance of being a psychic medium, and all the content on her website and her blog is carefully constructed to uphold this appearance, as people will come to her already believing she is psychic, making her job much easier as a result, as they will mould what she says into something that fits their reality.
  2. Erin believes what she says, and thinks she is psychic, as do others. She is quite intuitive and can, for example, tell if things are bothering someone, and can be a comfort to them. She's not psychic at all, but sometimes she gets lucky with the things she says.
  3. Erin can literally contact the dead, psychically read people, and everything she says is absolutely true.

Which do you think is more likely?

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