Gather round, all my psychic chicks and chicklets! Today we’re going to address one of the biggest sources of anxiety people have about consulting an intuitive: the fear of bad news.

In order to get past this fear and enjoy your session, here’s what you need to know:

I do not give people bad news. Period.

“But, Susan!” I can hear you exclaiming, “Life is not a herd of rainbow unicorns magically grazing in my garden, who shower love on everyone unconditionally, stunning them into wide-eyed wonderment with their iridescence and warm-hearted omniscience!”

I know that.

“It’s also not a palatial library with super comfy chairs all around and a cafè staffed with servers who are happy to bring everything to you as long as you’re there so you never have to get up!”

True. Disappointing, but true.

“Life is not one fantastic day after another on a black sand beach! It’s not getting to meet Bill Murray right after having the best meal of your life right after having the best sex of your life right after winning the lottery! It’s not Disneyl — “

Unfortunately, I think we get the picture. It is a universal truth that life can be difficult. We all experience suffering at points in our lives, and we all struggle to cope with our suffering. No one gets out of life alive. And anyone who tries to simplify the work that is demanded of us here on earth is trivializing the sacred nature of why we come here to be human. I know this intimately both from working with actual humans for a little over thirty years and also from being an actual human myself. I do not do the work I do to try and convince anyone that life is easy.

I didn’t say there wasn’t any bad news. I said I’m not in the business of trading in it. What that means is that there actually isn’t any bad news. There are hard things that can be ameliorated, and there are the circumstances of our lives which if we trust them, even if we don’t like them, can be the foundation of our transformation.

In the very first weeks of my work as an intuitive, I made an important decision. Hand on hip, chin in the air, I called upon any and all of the personal party planners across the veil (aka spirit guides, angels, the ancestors, Great Spirit, Higher Power, God, The Universe and Everything — I was not picky and I’m still not) and told them that I would only continue to share my gifts with the world on one condition.

I’d had my share of horrible readings by then, both by people posing as psychics and by people who were definitely gifted but who’d missed the point of a reading entirely.

My condition was that my work would never be about me and what I could do. My work needed to help people and so it would not be a performance. No smoke-blowing, no hiding behind a curtain of mystique. No dancing bear in a tutu. No drama. I would share the information I received only if I could do it plainly, in a down-to-earth manner and only if I could make it clear that what I was doing wasn’t something that only a rare few individuals could do. So that meant I needed to teach other people about their intuition too.

And what I was most clear about was this: I would only be open to receive information that was actually helpful.

Ok so it sounds like maybe I had more than one condition. But if I was in the process of formulating a mission statement I was also adamant about my bottom line.

I would assume that if I was seeing it, it was helpful. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t. I was only open for business on that basis. Got it, Universe?

The Universe, in its infinite wisdom and with its flair for very clear punctuation (!!!!), had seen fit to give me a big fat psychic surprise for my 21st birthday. One which came from seemingly out of nowhere at an impromptu celebration thrown for me by close friends.

During that evening I discovered completely by surprise that not only was I a clairvoyant but that I also possessed the gifts of intuitive empathy and mediumship. It was a total shock to me on every level. It reconfigured my entire sense of who I was and what I understood the purpose of my life to be.

Also, and incredibly annoyingly, it very quickly became clear that the joke was quite literally on me, seeing as I’d been reading everything I could get my hands on about ESP and psychic stuff since I was old enough to walk to the library by myself. That’s where I discovered there was an Actual ESP and Psychic Stuff Section. I spent voracious hours there and regularly checked out as many books as I could carry home. So when I spontaneously and very naturally demonstrated that I could do many of the things I’d been reading about for years, the distance that I assumed had existed between me and my own intuition vanished. Previously, intuition had been just a captivating subject that had been an interest of mine for years, like a hobby. But in an instant, it became the most important part of who I was. It was like the moment after a car crash, in which I looked around and realized I was okay, but all my old ideas were smashed like the totaled windshield on my formerly very practical vehicle. Covered in shards, unprotected and stunned, I was left reeling.

Because never, not once, not for a single second had I ever thought any of what I’d been reading about pertained to me.

Earlier that afternoon I’d arrived home from a lovely day in town having lunch with the family closest to me while I was in college-my grandmother, aunt and cousin. There was a surprise message on my machine that my friends M and D were coming over later that evening with a cake and presents.

I was delighted. I hadn’t seen that much of M since she and D had met-they had fallen for each other hard and were spending most of their time after work indoors if you know what I mean. Hanging out with both of them meant I would get a chance to catch up with M and meet D, who I had heard about only briefly.

What the hell was in that cake? was my first thought after we’d finished eating it. I felt very, very strange. Stranger than you’d expect to feel after eating a “healthy” birthday cake sweetened with honey. I was suddenly flushed and off-balance, I felt simultaneously weightless but also in possession of a center of gravity as dense as the moon, only it kept shifting around inside me. My palms and feet were tingling. There was intense pressure in my head that felt like a headache but that didn’t hurt.

While I opened my presents I kept a smile plastered on my face and tried not to freak out. Later when we left the kitchen to hang out in my room the sensations got stronger. Maybe I was catching the flu.

But then the movies started. I was pulled toward scenes projected into my mind like short films. The first featured a woman with a beehive hairdo chain-smoking in her kitchen. I watched her from four or five different angles. She was sitting at an old wooden table, under a bare unlit light bulb that hung unadorned at the bottom of a long cord. The windows were open and I could tell it was a warm summer day. Through them I could see a breeze move through corn fields a short distance away.

She was upset. Very upset. I could tell that a man, someone close to her, her husband–was at that moment tearing through the house in a rage. It was a typical occurrence, unfortunately. As she waited for it to either be over or escalate, uncertain of which way it would go, I felt her deep emotional fatigue. She was so very sad. All these years and she still didn’t know what to do. The weight of her struggle over decades spent not knowing how to solve it poured into each drag she took on her cigarette.

The movie drew my attention irresistibly, like the backwash from a huge wave after it crashes, grabbing at my legs, yanking me back in. I tried to hold up my end of the conversation with my friends but I kept having to pretend I was paying attention. Which is harder still when you realize you have no idea what everyone’s talking about.

The first movie faded into a second. In this one, a man, short and stocky, with a rough sort of an Ernest Borgnine look about him, moved room by room through the same house in a drunken rage. Knocking things over, breaking things, hitting at anyone who tried to stop him, bellowing, infuriated. Underneath his horrible anger was crushing self-recrimination, born of defeat and failure. His shouting carried through the whole house.“You think you’re better than me?! Do you?!?” while he rained down blows upon anyone in his way.

I snapped myself out of it.

D and M were looking right at me. What were we talking about now? How long had I been gone?

Seconds. Hours? It felt like both. I felt deposited back from somewhere far, far away, a place previously unknown and undiscovered by me and yet one that felt so close by and familiar it was as if I’d been going there every day of my entire life.

What I did next would change my entire life. I opened my mouth and told my friends what had just happened.

If that took courage, to basically admit to your friends that you were in the middle of what was probably a nervous breakdown happening right in front of them, I didn’t feel anything like the need for it. I started talking without questioning, minimizing or mocking what I’d seen. How I bypassed that cultural mandate is absolutely amazing to me. I was completely and utterly calm as I led D and M through the things I had seen and felt. I felt compelled to do it and desperate to make sure I didn’t leave anything out. D couldn’t stop staring at me while I spoke, nodding at times, transfixed, and when I’d finished, he turned to M and asked her quietly, “What have you been telling her about me??”

M just looked at him and shook her head. “Nothing,” she whispered.

But I wasn’t done. “D,” I relayed, “The next four years of your life are going to go by whether you’re in school or not. Drive a cab like your father and be proud of that. Or not. But your life is your own and if you wait for your dad’s approval to become an English teacher you’ll spend your whole life waiting for his dreams to come true first. Go to college part-time.”

And then I proceeded to describe to him the scene of his graduation ceremony at the University of Illinois. With a master’s in education. With a job waiting for him to teach high school English.

It was the best movie I’d ever seen.

For someone who had started out the day sniffling in her closet because she was completely terrified about what she was going to do after her own college graduation in eight months, plus who also didn’t feel quite ready for official adulthood generally, ending the day feeling like the punchline to a big cosmic comedy routine was not really the rager of a 21st birthday party most would expect. After M and D had gone home I started worrying that perhaps I was actually having some sort of breakdown and yet I was suddenly so exhausted, I collapsed into bed and fell into a deep sleep.

I hadn’t found it particularly comforting or significant that I had basically been directed to my life purpose on my 21st birthday, which if you think about it was actually a very cool gift.

But eventually, I’d grow to appreciate the timing.

In the context of how I saw it, D’s experience of living through a tough childhood with an alcoholic father was the kind of struggle that at the time was holding him back. But once I had been allowed to see it, and witnessed with compassion how it had affected his entire family, I was immediately given the exact information that could make a huge difference for him. He would have to choose how to react to it and what to do next. But my own shock at discovering I was a conduit underscored a very important realization that made the concept of “good” and “bad” news totally irrelevant.

What I saw, and then shared, helped D and it also helped me. It was my first experience, repeated so many many times over the years, of being part of the creation of the highest good for the greatest number. We both became aware that night of the most powerful gift that intuition can bestow, the awareness that we are all intimately known by the infinite. My guides made sure I would discover that I was gifted and could help others. D’s made sure he knew the clock had not run out on his dreams. I suppose it might have been more desirable for some if I had channeled the day’s winning lottery numbers for him, but I like to think we won a bigger jackpot that night.

When an intuitive is able to see the important details about you and your life even though there is absolutely no way to empirically gather that information, it is a spiritual experience. The power of being seen in this way opens our hearts to the possibility that we are all connected to a greater good and that our lives have meaning beyond merely enduring them. All of our lives, all of our living, all the “good” and all of the “bad” experiences, have meaning. The experience of living is our greatest teacher and gives us more power than we realize. And yes, it’s also true that all the suffering in the world on its own will not guarantee transformation or a better life for any of us. Not everyone will rise above their experiences. Some will become agents of harm as they themselves experienced.

But no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, my job is to show you that you count. You have worth. You are seen. You belong to Life. I have been humbled over and over again by the information that comes through me every day for my clients, that shows us there is a way to live productively and with full access to all the joy our hearts can stand to hold. No matter what.

So instead of looking into my clients’ lives for a map that will only take them towards the “good” and away from the “bad”, I ask for the information that will be of most benefit to them. When there is current difficulty or challenge ahead, I see the ways that can best prepare them to transform. And I always make sure to reflect back to my clients the ways that their own intuition is actively helping them too and consider this to be perhaps my highest calling.

Think about it: if I could discover so unexpectedly that I was an intuitive, if the truest thing about me was also the most unseen, if I was so completely clueless to my most natural resource, then maybe I owe it to the world to make it a little more welcoming and open on the subject, by teaching as much as I can about Actual Psychic Stuff. I’m happy to extend that invitation so we all become more intuitive, together.

Maybe we just can’t see who we really are until it’s time. When all the pieces are in place and we’re ready to go.

Looking back though, there were signs. I mean come on, my neighborhood growing up was literally lousy with rainbow unicorns.

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