As you may know, I used to unquestioningly believe in the power of "energy". I became an atheist long before I became a skeptic. I still "knew" that there was an energy force in the universe, that we reincarnated after death, that there was justice in the form of karma, and that people could be healed by energy.
I never had any reason to doubt my beliefs. In fact, I had a lot of selective bias that showed I was pretty good at giving readings (I didn't know it but I was good at warm and cold readings), and I was very good at doing energy healings. People told me they felt better just talking to me. Now I know that just paying attention to people can be help someone feel better. I did reiki healing which is very comforting. I would pay a lot of attention to a person and really listen to them compassionately. The placebo effect did the rest.
Long before I discovered skepticism I heard something about the power of suggestion, so without knowing I was doing science (roughly) I tested out the claim that energy healing is all about just making people feel cared for and is no better than placebo. I "turned off" my healing hands (reiki) several times and people still thanked me and told me I gave them a wonderful healing.
That's when I started getting out of it all. I realized I was just doing therapy for people, and that it was psychological and not "magical" so I gracefully extricated myself from the spiritual community.
I had many friends in the spiritual community back then. Most of them stopped talking to me when I stopped giving readings and healings. One woman, we'll call her Barbara, kept asking me for readings. She would call me all the time, every few days, asking for advice. I am horrible at confrontation, so after trying to tell her I didn't do readings anymore, I broke out the cards and went ahead and tried to help her. I did my best, but I started to feel more and more uncomfortable as time went on.
She seemed to think my advice was great, but as most people who seem to seek readers and psychics, she never actually followed any of it (a very interesting phenomena, if you ask me). I kept trying to stop doing readings for her and she kept asking for more.
Suddenly about three years ago she stopped talking to me. Honestly, I was relieved because I was just starting to learn about skepticism and critical thinking.
Well, this Christmas, Barbara emailed me out of the blue. I waited a few days then replied and apologized for the delay in my reply because my water heater had died and had to be replaced. She came back with the "fact" that Mercury was in retrograde and that's why it had died, but all was well now that is was direct again.
Part of me just feels sick talking to Barbara again. I am reminded how gullible and naive I was to think I had spiritual "abilities". I don't know why she contacted me. I have a feeling she wants help with direction in her life. But now that I'm a full-on die hard skeptic, practicing critical thinker, and 7th degree black belt atheist, I can not possibly ever do another reading, knowing it is just a placebo.
Did I mention she's a devout Catholic too? She is. She doesn't know I'm an atheist either.
So here is where I ask you your opinion. How would you talk to Barbara? Her second email to me was overflowing with spiritual mumbo jumbo like color therapy, energy healing and astrology. As I said, this makes me very uncomfortable. Every thing she said was linked to some kind of spiritual woo.
Would you keep talking to her? Would you go so far as to give her readings? Would you tell her you've moved on? Would you explain the evidence lacking in what she believes? Would you try to educate her? Or something else that I haven't even thought of? I am very interested in your advice! If you want to reply privately, you can email me. Or leave a comment below! :)