I never imagined that, at age 31, I’d be anxiously chewing my nails to stubs while taking a phone call with a psychic across the country. And I certainly never expected that I would be waiting for her vision for my future to come into view with all the faith in the world. As a skeptic who never agrees with her horoscope and can see through a psychic’s schemes, it had never before occurred to me use these resources for the good of my love life. Maybe I just didn’t want to know the answer. But in an age where many turn to astrology in lieu of religion and psychics as alternatives to psychologists, I decided to use myself as a guinea pig to evaluate whose opinion was worth hearing — and endeavored to keep an open mind.
As a thirty-something in a serious relationship, I get a lot of questions from friends and married couples alike about my future. While it’s very clear that I’m on a path, and while I have a pretty good idea where it’s going – I don’t know for sure. I’ve been in relationships in the past that I thought for sure would go one way, only to go the other. With youth on my side, I never worried about timing — I could afford to let life happen. Now, though, as the people around me pair off and reproduce, and my own desire for a family has come into view, I’ve been tempted to call up on someone who believes they know more than me. Having little experience with either form of alternative guidance, I made an appointment with a psychic and an astrologer. I had but one question: is this it?
“People are attracted to psychics and astrologists because they’re looking for answers to help them feel more comfortable in a time when structure is not promised.”
All morning leading up to my call with the psychic I was nervous — the kind of nervous you feel when you’re waiting for a test result. This fact alone made me aware of something I wasn’t expecting: I was prepared to believe in the answer, and I was scared that the answer might not be what I wanted to hear. In the beginning of the call, the psychic shared some generic musings. “You’ve had a lot of heartache,” she said. I nodded, sure. “You’re very intuitive, and your spirit guides tell me you already know the answer to the question you’re asking,” she said, unexpectedly prompting my stomach to slump and spoil.
And then she told me the thing I most dreaded hearing: my current boyfriend wasn’t my soulmate. At first her words lassoed my breath, but anger and disbelief filed in soon after. I was sitting in my car for complete privacy, as my boyfriend was just inside. I was talking to the psychic on FaceTime, so I was forced to watch her watch me pretend to be unfazed by her vision. I adjusted my hat and faked an itch. The stupid little rectangle at the bottom of the screen with my tiny, pixelated face told me exactly what I needed to know: I was disappointed and uncomfortable. I wanted to get out of the car and end the call, but I managed to stay calm, quiet, and still and she continued. She couldn’t say why, but she did say she was certain that he wasn’t my person. She went as far as to say that if I did choose to stay with him, we’d build a broken home. I didn’t know what to do with that information. I partially wished I’d never inquired and partially wished she had a different opinion. The second we hung up, I got out of the car, took a breath in the wind, and let my face drop. But then I shook my head and wondered: What does she know? Without her face on my phone screen, her abilities were more deniable.
For the first time since the Age of Aquarius, millennials have resurrected the zodiac. And if the rising popularity and ratings of shows like “Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry” and “Long Island Medium” tell us anything, it’s that psychics have shaken off their stigma and been brought forth into the mainstream with the help of millennials, too. To unpack this data a bit and wrap my head around why millennials are looking up instead of out, I reached out to Alex Lash, Psy.D. With a sobering tone, Lash explained that the resurgences stem from the unsettled nature of our current cultural environment. “People are attracted to psychics and astrologists because they’re looking for answers to help them feel more comfortable in a time when structure is not promised,” she said.
Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett at Clark University has written prolifically about emerging adulthood. According to his research, our generation’s trajectory is unlike any other, so our ability to see the future is more complicated. Because of this, it’s harder for us to turn to our parents and teachers for valuable guidance. On account of this unique position, we’re on a hunt for answers with a thirst like no other generation.
Psychics and astrologers offer something that doctors do not: instant gratification. We pull up a seat at a table covered in tapestry and leave with answers. “Boom, there’s your future,” Lash said of the fast-paced interaction. Thanks to a theory called “confirmation bias,” which I’ll get to, the answers we walk away with from the psychic’s table are not invaluable, and they’re possibly not all that different from what we might derive from therapy.
Post misfortune-telling, I picked a series of hot-air fights with my boyfriend. I cycled between shunning it, believing in it, and fearing it. Then, I booked a session with a renowned astrologer for the next day. I needed a second opinion, and the concept of having my future mapped out seemed a bit less overwhelming. Maybe the psychic was picking up on my insecurities rather than my actual storyline? Surely an astrologer wouldn’t make that same mistake, having a chart to follow and all.
After nearly 80 minutes of date suggestions and profound insight into my soul — is it very Capricorn of me to not believe in astrology? — he asked if I had any questions. “You never mentioned my love life or future family,” I said, utterly terrified of what would come next. I was sitting on the floor next to the Wi-Fi router out of fear that the call might drop, and I was wearing headphones with the volume up so I didn’t miss a word. “That’s because I can’t see it,” he said matter of factly. “What do you mean?” I pressed. He elaborated, “There’s literally not a single thing in your entire chart that suggests that you’ll get married or have a family.”
The heat of the phone blazed against my flushed cheek. First I’m with the wrong guy, now there is no guy. “But what if that’s what I want?” I asked. “Oh, you can have it all if you want it; my job is just to tell you what will come most naturally to you,” he said. Translation: it won’t come easy. “The white picket fence is not for you; it will restrain you from what you really want,” he went on.
I realized then that although I had never yearned for the white picket fence, or even necessarily a traditional marriage and family structure, I do want some version of it.
I went into this endeavor hoping for an affirmative confirmation bias: confirmation of my own existing beliefs. I wanted to be assured that I was on the right path, that my relationship would lead to marriage, kids, and the whole parade of adult milestones. But the truth all along was that I already knew — as much as anyone can know — that I want to stay on the path that I’m on. And though it would have been romantic to have some validation from the stars, the most profound validation came from within.
“If it takes a psychic to challenge your stance or an astrologer to make you defend your values, then your sessions were worth it,” my personal therapist told me after hearing about my week of magical thinking. “But another way to look at the disappointing feedback from these sessions is that your belief in the relationship did not wane.” And really, it didn’t. For me, my bias revealed my truth.