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We Want to Believe: Is That a Problem?

We all have beliefs. They give us purpose, they guide us, and keep us in line. Our beliefs often form the foundation of our personality and sense of self. In the paranormal field, many of us proudly state “I want to believe” in life after death, UFO’s, bigfoot, magic, and so on. We get it printed on posters, t-shirts, buttons, and stickers. We proudly display our desire to believe but is this in error? Should we reconsider our “want” to believe? 

Beliefs are important to human society. Most of our beliefs are learned from our family and community. They are ingrained in us from an early age. Beliefs, once formed, are difficult to change and therein lies the problem. In order to fully investigate the world, we have to be open to all possibilities. One of those possibilities is that those strong beliefs could be wrong.  

Having a firm belief in something that you may discover to be wrong makes it less likely that you will pursue the evidence needed to understand the truth of a situation. It is easy to accept “data” that supports your belief while ignoring information that may challenge it instead. In the field of ghost hunting, belief in the afterlife is often rooted in our spiritual beliefs and we often have no desire to have these beliefs challenged. What happens to your understanding of self in the world if there is no afterlife, no angels, no demons, no spirits, and so on? What if death just means you are gone? It’s ok if these questions are uncomfortable to think about. Mankind has an innate desire to survive and that includes surviving past death. Not just as a memory but as someone that can watch over, guide, and protect our loved ones. 

It’s important that investigators be willing to analyze a situation with an open mind. You must recognize that you have beliefs that may color your view of a situation so this needs to be articulated clearly when you are working on a problem. I like to speak openly with my teammates about any “paranormal” situation we encounter and evaluate all of the possible scenarios. I’m known for saying things that challenge their beliefs and making statements that are frustrating because they “want” to believe. 

You must acknowledge that your perception is colored by your belief and be prepared to discuss the possibility of being wrong. If the goal is to make progress in fully understanding paranormal phenomena, we must be willing to challenge our own beliefs and question everything, no matter how hard or frustrating that may be. Blindly following our beliefs does not lead to answers, just more of the same that we have experienced over the last 150+ years of investigation. 

I’m not saying that you can’t have beliefs. Beliefs are important but to be a good investigator, you have to be prepared to put those beliefs aside for at least a moment to see things clearly. While I understand the appeal of “I want to believe”, I think the more appropriate phrase in investigation should be “I want to know.” Let’s focus on being a community of knowledge seekers and not just believers. 

Until next time, Happy Hunting!

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