Dr. Jim Carpenter: You Are Constantly Having Psychic Experiences

Why Isn’t Everyone Having Psychic Experiences All the Time?

First Sight is a model and a set of theoretical ideas about psi: the collection of controversial phenomena that are studied by parapsychologists. These phenomena primarily involve knowing things and affecting things in ways that go beyond the immediate boundaries of the organism.

Perhaps you know something of these matters from your own experience. Perhaps you remember a dream in which you seemed to have been alerted in an unusually accurate way to something that developed in your life later, well after the moments of dreaming. Perhaps you and a loved one sometimes anticipate each other’s thoughts or know when each other will call on the phone or punch ‘send’ with an e-mail. Or you may know of someone who has told you stories along these lines. They happen in my life at times, and I encounter them not infrequently in my practice of psychotherapy.

The First Sight Model that I have been working on for perhaps the past 15 years asserts that a psychic connection to the world is going on all the time for everyone. If that is so, someone might ask why everyone isn’t having psychic experiences (ESP or PK) all the time?

The model also has an explanation for this. The psi-connection is innately unconscious. For First Sight, psychic engagement is not just rarely conscious, it is actually never conscious.

Then why do we ever think we have a psychic experience?

Because we succeed in interpreting some implicit expression of the psychic engagement. We notice a hunch or a shift in mood or pay attention to imagery appearing on the mind’s inner screen, or reflect on the events of a dream, and connect them to something real and beyond our sensory boundaries — something either hidden or far away or yet to happen.

In the case of PK we notice an odd behavior of some physical object, and then see a plausible connection to some inner state of desire or frustration. We can do these things on purpose, or we can just happen upon them.

Back up a bit. Why should psi engagements be expressed by such inadvertent, implicit events? Because we know that all unconscious mental processes are liable to be, and psi seems to work as just another one of those processes.

For example, this is how we know that a subliminal prime has influenced someone. It alters the probability of the content of the prime turning up somehow in the person’s spontaneous imagery or feelings or decisions — all without the person ever knowing that the prime has participated in forming those experiences!

There is another wrinkle that has to be added in. Unconscious information like extrasensory events or subliminal primes do not always enter into experience in an additive way. Sometimes they enter in in a negative, subtractive way, leading us to avoid the content in our images, etc.

This would seem to make it hopeless to know when such a stimulus is active or not, except that this unconscious decision of pro or confollows meaningful patterns that can be figured out by the right kind of research. Cognitive psychologists and parapsychologists both have been busy trying to determine these hidden patterns, and both have made a lot of progress. One fascinating thing — without their knowing it, the patterns they have found tend to look very similar!

The following experience was sent to me by an old friend in another town. Like me, she is a clinical psychologist and a psychotherapist. She has had many psychic experiences herself so she appreciates them. This one just happened to her:

“My sister-in-law Susan died on Friday following a tough heart surgery. Her daughter wants to have a big, formal memorial service complete with choirs at the church in (city X) where Susan used to be a premier soloist. She bought new suits for her boys and husband.

I knew I’d be an embarrassment if I showed up in my one dress, so I started looking for a suit I could wear. I went to all the consignment shops and even department stores to find something I liked enough to wear, all to no avail.

Yesterday morning I went to a thrift shop in (Town Y) where I ran into a client I haven’t seen in more than 10 years. She was one of my most dissociative and also psychically “gifted” patients.

At some point in the conversation I told her I was there to find a suit I could wear to the service. She said, “come over here, I see just the thing.” She pulled a suit off the rack that was perfect in every way, color, size, fit, and price.

I asked her how she happened to know to go to that suit. She said she had awakened that morning and thought “I need to take this suit to the thrift shop today to donate because someone needs it.” She had bought it some time ago, “for no good reason and never wore it” and had moments before brought it in and they had just put it on the rack. It cost six dollars. She said it made her very happy to do something for someone who had done so much for her.

This morning I ran into another patient I haven’t seen in years. She said she was about to call me, not because she needed to see me but because I was so much on her mind in the last few days. Maybe grief has opened the psychic gates.”

These are sweet and poignant incidents, you will probably agree. They are the kind of thing that makes us not just appreciate our psychic potential but deeply value it. Does First Sight help us in understanding experiences like this one?

The model says that our psi engagement with things around us is ongoing unconsciously all the time, but that only under certain conditions will it be likely to show itself in our consciousness and behavior. Even when it does, it will be expressed in implicit, inadvertent ways that can only be seen as meaningful after the fact.

The former client never knew that my friend needed the suit that day, or would someday have needed it when she bought it. She “just happened” to buy it (oddly) and then proceed to never wear it; and she “just happened” to take it to a store that my friend would enter that day in search of what she needed.

My friend wasn’t told consciously by ESP that someone would be taking the suit she needed to that store that morning, she “just happened” to choose to go there right then (and not a short time before when the suit wouldn’t have been there yet, or a bit later when such a nice suit would likely have been taken by someone else. So we see psi-expressive inadvertencies at work.

The theory says several things about when psi engagements are especially likely to contribute to our behavior.

One is if the information involved is very pertinent at that moment in time.

Another is when there is an approach to experience that is open and not overly rational or planful.

A third is when the persons involved are relatively dissociative. We see all of this going on here.

The need for a suit was urgent, especially in the context of grief for a beloved family member. The wish to help her former beloved therapist was a longstanding priority for this grateful client.


The former client was open to a rather random impulse to take the suit in. My friend, after a long search, was reduced to a rather random wandering to unlikely places, and open to such wandering. And the client is a very dissociative person. This isn’t just an odd and lovely story — although it is that. It is a sensible development and expression of our psi engagement with our interpersonal world, when viewed in light of First Sight.

And the last vignette (the impulse of someone else to call just then) shows that at a psi level our important needs are important to others, if we are important to them. First Sight says that too. Keen grieving brings up important needs.

Since I formulated the First Sight model, I became astonished (and pleased) at how much it helped me to understand and even anticipate and clarify the voluminous findings in experimental parapsychology. I go into this kind of clarification at length in areas of research involving memory, subliminal perception, extraversion, fear and so on in First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life.

All of this research couldn’t exist unless it was revealing our basic humanity, even though it is not exactly what we mean by “everyday life.” In the book I do illustrate the model’s application to our more spontaneous and natural experiences of “the paranormal.” A close look at other stories like this one can do the same thing.

When I read these stories of my friend it brought to mind a poem by Robert Graves on the subject of grief and sensitivity. It seems to have psi implications. To avoid misusing a poet I greatly admire, I give only a few lines. You can find the whole thing here:

His eyes are quickened so with grief,
He can watch a grass or leaf
Every instant grow; he can
Clearly through a flint wall see,
Or watch the startled spirit flee
From the throat of a dead man.
. . . .
This man is quickened so with grief,
He wanders god-like or like thief
Inside and out, below, above,
Without relief seeking lost love.
–Robert Graves

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