Romance scams, also known as “catfish scams,” are the central theme in the novel “Chatting as Adalee.” They are also part of the plot in the second novel featuring Heidi from “Chatting,” as she becomes a support person and advocate for other victims. Reaching out is a first step, but there are also a few things to keep in mind as you help a friend or family member heal over time.
The person will go back and forth over whether or not the relationship was real.
This can be frustrating. You think they understand that what they went through was a scam, and not a real relationship. They seem to have accepted that the one they thought they loved was not real, or at least was not completely real. Then they reference the time they were “dating” that person.
Remind them as gently as possible that what they’re talking about was a scam. Never play along with the idea that the relationship was in any way real, but resist the urge to correct them harshly, laugh it off, or tease them about it. Your friend may have spent months or even years believing the relationship to be genuine.
Your friend may shed some beneficial habits or practices.
Being scammed is never a good thing. But sometimes people develop good habits or practices in an attempt to impress the person they thought they were with, or prepare for a new life they thought they would soon have. They may have begun studying a language the scammer claimed to speak, altering their appearance in a way that makes them feel more confident, saving up money, or doing more reading or studying or looking for a better job.
It can be a bit jarring when the person abandons these things as they accept they have been scammed. Keep their best interests in mind, but don’t fight them on it. Don’t encourage them to blow their entire savings account, but don’t lecture them when they realize they don’t need to save up to buy a house after all, or stop looking for a better job when the only reason they were doing so was to get money for the scammer. They need to let go of things they took on for the scam.
Expect extremes in attitudes about romance, crushes, and dating.
Once someone realizes and accepts they have been the victim of a romance scam, they often show extreme feelings about romance for a while. Some people want nothing to do with it. They do not want to meet your other single friends of the appropriate gender and orientation to date them, go out in a group, or be flirted with by anyone. In some cases, they do not even care to hear about others’ relationships or even celebrity crushes. Others become fixated on it, wanting to get out there and find a real relationship to replace the fake one right away. Both of these are normal and expected reactions.
Anger or concern for people in stolen photographs or invented stories is normal in the beginning, but should lessen over time.
Even the most levelheaded person will be somewhat disoriented and confused when they first realize they’ve been scammed. Many people struggle to accept that they never were talking to the person in photos stolen by the scammer, or that children, exes, siblings, pets, or parents in the stories they told either didn’t exist, or were very different people in reality. Your friend might express a wish to find and tell off the person in the photo, or wistfully wonder how a child or pet the scammer talked about is doing now. Gently remind them that the person in the photo had nothing to do with the scam, and had no idea their photo was even being used. Further remind them that characters in scammer stories are just that, characters, even if the scammer based them on real people in their own lives or stolen stories. As time goes on, they will learn to accept these truths.
Healing happens differently for everyone.
The healing process is going to vary depending on a wide number of factors. Most of the time, people who spent a shorter time believing they were in a relationship with someone who turned out to be a scammer are going to heal faster. Those with a lot of real friends and supportive family members may need less time. Confident people, secure in who they are, tend to move past the experience of being scammed relatively quickly. On the other hand, those who were enmeshed with the scammer for several months or even years, people with few meaningful relationships, and those who lack confidence or who have a tendency to try to be what other people want or expect rather than themselves tend to take longer. Mental health care needs vary as well, ranging from a few weeks of self-directed learning about the issue of romance scams and a little time to themselves, to regular therapy with a professional.
The wish to confront the scammer/catfish is normal. Actually attempting to do so is potentially dangerous.
MTV’s popular series “Catfish” serves others well in publicizing romance scams, educating the audience about some of the signs of romance scams, and making the public understand that romance scammers, or catfish, to use the term coined by the show’s founder, Nev Schulman, can be from the United States, or even someone the victim already knows offline. Before the show, many people believed romance scammers only existed in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Russia, where organized scam rings are based.
However, the show does an even bigger disservice by sending the message that American romance scammers are just ordinary people lacking in social skills, everyday oddballs who will make great friends if someone just sits them down, explains what they’re doing is wrong, and gives them a chance to be a real friend.
Romance scams are carried out for a variety of reasons. American scammers may be after the victim’s money, or trying to trick them into doing something illegal, as the Nigerian scammers are. Or they might be running their scams in order to lure victims for violent crime, including rape and murder. The hosts and producers of “Catfish” display alarming naivete when they check in with the scammer at the end of the show or encourage the victim to build a friendship with the scammer. The person has already been proven to be a scammer, and they are well aware that they’re surrounded by a film crew and about to be broadcast on cable television and streaming services. Nobody…including the people who make the show…have any idea what that person would have done if they’d been confronted by the victim, or the victim and a small group of their friends, alone. And they have no idea if the scammer is telling the truth about changing their ways.
Reach out to the appropriate professional if your friend harms, or expresses a wish to harm, themselves or others.
Self-harm, plans or wishes to harm themselves, and abuse of pets, children, or adult friends or relatives living in the home are not a normal and expected part of the healing process from a scam or anything else. Never brush even the slightest incident off as your friend just venting, or something that will never happen again. Contact the appropriate authorities, just as you would if the situation involved someone who is not healing from a romance scam.
In the novel, Lifting the Shadows, the main character, Brenda, turns to Wicca/witchcraft to cope with the pain of her divorce. Things do not go as hoped all the time, and Brenda finds a very unexpected solution in the end. This is probably the detail that garners the most criticism of the novel, as people insist that witchcraft does indeed work.
On the surface, they are correct. It does appear to work, but there are perfectly reasonable explanations for every supposed sign. And should anyone argue that answered prayers can also be interpreted the same way, they’re right. God…the one real God…is in control of everything, including the mundane things that happen to solve problems. But human beings can never truly gain such power, no matter how hard we try.
As Halloween draws near, it may be tempting to dabble in or explore Wicca and witchcraft, or to delve deeper into it if you already practice. But it does not work, and it does not lead anywhere you truly want to go.
Spells first appear to work because they give you something to do besides ruminate and work yourself into a panic over your problem.
“I can feel the energy of the universe shift as soon as I start shopping for supplies for the spell,” is a common claim. But the entire universe did not realign when you drove to the grocery store and bought a container of parsley because you think it wards off job loss or draws fairies. The reason you felt “the energy shift” is because you gave yourself a momentary distraction from turning the issue over and over in your mind.
Shopping for or gathering spell supplies is no more mystical and magical than cleaning out a drawer to give yourself something to do when you’re nervous, or taking a walk to the store and treating yourself to a candy bar when you’re bored. You didn’t feel the energy shift because the world jumped up to do your bidding. You felt the energy shift because you spent an hour thinking about which container of ginger was the better deal, or whether or not this shade of orange candle was dark enough for your purpose instead of allowing upsetting thoughts to run through your mind.
Spells seem to get more powerful during the casting because they’re forcing you to relax and think calmly, or become energized to solve the issue.
If you need to calm down in order to reflect and plan to deal with something, literally anything calming that encourages focus will help you. This is why everyone from pastors to therapists to teachers may suggest journaling, outlining, or writing out goals. Wiccan guides urge practitioners to visualize what will happen as the result of their spell. This works because visualizing what you want to happen is a common method of helping yourself set a goal, not because your thought patterns are rippling out to take control of the universe.
Dancing, singing, chanting, reciting spells, and other activity from witchcraft books works in the same way that yelling “I’m a star!” or “I can do it!” works to help you sell household goods or cars or win a race. You screaming has nothing to do with your talents and skills in sales or running. It just provides a burst of energy to get out there and do your best.
Once the spell is over, it works partly because you do things to make it work. You would be able to do these same things without a spell.
Take the example of a musician who wants money to purchase a new guitar. The musician decides to cast a money spell to help her conjure up the money for the instrument. It costs $600.00. Three months later, the musician looks in the envelope she dedicated during the ritual. The money to purchase the guitar is there. The spell worked!
Or did it? If you trace that musician’s behavior back over the past three months, you will probably notice she did perfectly reasonable things to save up that $600.00. The musician’s spell convinced her that she would have that guitar, so she began to do things, both consciously and subconsciously, to save up the money for it. Maybe she put $20 from each paycheck into the envelope. Maybe she decided to skip a few movies or games and tucked the money away. While it does seem like the spell compelled her to do all of this, she would have been able to do the exact same things if she had simply decided it was important to have the guitar and set a goal of saving up for it in three months.
Spells further work because you convince yourself so strongly that you changed the course of the universe, you see your spell “working” everywhere.
Think of someone you know who holds an extremely skewed view of their own physical attractiveness. In reality, beauty is subjective. There is no one person who is good-looking to absolutely everyone. But the person who believes himself to be universally appealing in that way probably behaves as though “everybody” is flirting with him. Someone asks if they can have an empty chair from his table in a restaurant, and he thinks they asked him for the chair instead of someone at the next table because he’s so handsome. The girl behind the counter smiles and says “Have a nice day,” and she’s smiling because she thinks he’s hot, not because she smiles at most people.
Spells work the same way. Once you cast a spell, you convince yourself that you did something mystical and magical so strongly, you see it working even when nothing is truly going on. If you cast a spell for travel, and you see a lot of buses, you convince yourself that it’s your spell working, because one of those buses is your future ride out of town. Never mind that your hangout is across the street from the bus station. You cast a spell for money, and every business logo with a dollar sign on it is a message that your spell is unfolding.
All spells work because all spell work contains an easy out for when it fails.
Failed plans may be attributed to any number of things. It may not be God’s will that whatever you were going for occurred in your life at this time, but that could mean many things. Maybe you didn’t get the job because you didn’t prepare adequately for the interview, and you are being led to improve your approach. Perhaps you didn’t get the job because you are truly unsuited for the work, and something better is out there for you. Or maybe you were meant to have that job, but someone else lied and cheated, but God is going to use that misfortune to do His work in another way.
In spells, failure means something you need to vanquish is working against you, or that you did not harness energy correctly, and more spell work is needed to achieve your goal. Anything you approach with that attitude is going to “work” at some point.
I cast a spell for wealth. I go broke. This means I need to cast a spell to battle the person who cast against me to make me broke. I cast a spell that blocks them. I cast another spell for wealth. I stay broke. This means I need to re-cast, harnessing my wealth conjuring energy better. Still no money. Must be somebody else out there cursing me again…or I need to re-focus that energy…or both. If I continue with this pattern, I’m eventually either going to die of old age, interpret some small money related occurrence as the fulfillment of my spell, or make some money for perfectly mundane reasons and declare my spell a success.
There’s no way for something to fail when you interpret everything that happens as a step on the path to it succeeding.
Spell casting is inherently narcissistic, regardless of the intent of the spell. This does not invite anything you want in your life.
When you pray to God, you talk to the one who created you out of pure love, a love so complete He would take the form of man and die for you. You may ask Him for things, but you understand that you get things you need to do His will, not yours…unless your will lines up with the will of God.
Spell casting is an announcement that the entire universe and beyond, all the energy out there, should alter itself, realign, change a bit, to fit your will. You are seeking the power of God. Trying to be God draws things to you that you do not want in your life, namely dark energies or entities, also known as demons, or the devil. And you do not want this type of energy around you or in your life, even if it does seem to do your bidding initially. Drawing this to you is the spiritual equivalent of surrounding yourself with people who are nice to you on the surface, but are secretly planning to kidnap, torture, and brutally murder you.
Lifting the Shadows is available on Amazon through the link under “Novels.” While the characters and the plot are fiction, the background research is drawn from more than twenty years of real experience with Wicca/witchcraft, and the results are very much real. From now until November 2, a free ebook copy is available to anyone planning to explore Wicca or witchcraft this Halloween. Emails or DMs are also welcome.
Much of the research for my second novel, Chatting as Adalee, centered around internet romance scams. These scams are always out there, and the more single artists put themselves out there, the more susceptible they are to them. You do not have to be on a dating site. Scammers lurk everywhere. Those of us who are taken are only somewhat protected, as romance scammers are often willing to adapt, and will run a friendship scam, in which they convince the victim they are like a sister or brother to them, should literal “romance” not be an option.
An internet romance scam occurs any time anyone first pretends to be a different person, or a different version of him or herself online, and then uses that created persona to enter into a fake romantic relationship (or close friendship, if need be) with someone else online. Sometimes internet romance scams are run for a general sense of revenge on the world or certain segments of the population. Other times they are run to get revenge on a known individual. Tricking a victim into doing illegal errands involving reshipping or banking are very common as well. However, the vast majority of scammers operate with the goal of getting their victims to send them money and/or buy things for them. The upheaval caused by the scam can further cause a victim to make uncharacteristically poor work and money decisions or to spend their money in ways they ordinarily would not. There are three ways a victim of an internet romance or friendship scam may lose money.
Direct Loss of Financial Resources
Losing your money and ruining your credit is the first type of monetary loss that most people think of, and for good reason. It is typically the most devastating form of financial loss. This type of loss occurs when the scammer, posing as the created persona, either asks the victim directly for money, or tells increasingly touching tales of problems with work, health, family, friends, or travel until the victim offers to send it to them. In some cases, the scammer also asks for or hints for expensive items such as iphones, laptops, or plane tickets.
The amount of money lost in this manner varies widely, from a few hundred dollars to several hundred thousand dollars. Each victim will feel the impact of their financial loss differently depending on their individual life circumstances. A man who sent his scammer $5,000 and a woman who sent her scammer $500,000 are both going to be completely financially devastated if that was all the money each had. Direct financial loss can also be the most embarrassing for a victim, as they often brerate themselves for sending money or purchasing expensive gifts for a person who doesn't even truly exist.
Friends and family members of a romance scam victim who suffered direct monetary losses will understandably be shocked, but it is important not to dwell on the amount of money lost or to add to the person's shame and embarrassment . It will be far more helpful to simply listen to the victim, and when they are ready to reorganize their finances, help them find accountants or financial consultants, craft a new budget, or make other changes in their financial habits as needed for their unique situation.
Job, Business, or Academic Loss Due to Involvement with the Scammer
Scammers know that messing with a person's daily routine is the quickest route to altering their thinking. Pushing for late night and early morning conversations, making requests to 'take naps together' in what is the middle of the day for the victim, and arranging for phone calls or IM chats during what would normally be dinner time are common tactics. These changes make the victim hungry and tired at odd times, and can cause them to have trouble focusing during their working hours. The added stress of believing that a loved one is going through the horrible stories the scammer tells can also impair their ability to function well at work. This can result in the loss of a job or business clients for the scam victim. Students may neglect homework assignments, forget to study for tests, or finish projects hurriedly because they have begun spending their study time devoted to the scammer.
Finding out that a friend has been demoted or fired, seen a large number of clients go elsewhere, or has dropped out of school because of a scammer will be unsettling. Your urge will probably be to yell out "how could you brush off your real job/degree for some person that didn't even exist?" or "well what are you going to do for money/your academic credits now?" Channel this urge into something productive. Ask the person what you can do to help, and then do what they need you to do. Two hours spent helping the person update their resume, talk to their professors, sign up for an employment service, or go job hunting is going to be much more productive than five hours of glaring at them and lecturing them on how foolish they were.
Money Spent to Please the Scammer
Scammers often give their victims little projects. They might have them read certain books, learn a new skill, or look for a new house or apartment. This is done to keep the victim focused on the scammer, and less likely to talk to friends and family who might point out the red flags. Many of the little projects scammers push their victims into cost money.
Victims may also purchase items or participate in activities that make them feel closer to the person they believe they have fallen in love with online, or begin investing in their appearance in order to look their best for what they think is a new love. Victims of friendship scams may spend money preparing for a visit, or purchasing items necessary to travel to visit what they believe is their new best friend.
Never trivialize this type of money loss, or argue with the person that what they got out of it was really very useful or nice. They need to get rid of these items for their mental health. It may seem senseless to get rid of a perfectly good set of cookbooks, DVDs, or golf clubs, or odd that a person would want to give away clothes that have garnered them compliments at work, but keeping these things around will only keep them tied to the scam emotionally. Help your friend gather up everything they bought to please the scammer and donate it to the nearest thrift store as quickly as they can. Don't argue with them if they need to cancel gym memberships, drop out of activities, or quit getting beauty treatments or other services they seemed to enjoy. It is a necessary part of their psychological healing.
In the novel “Attracting Virtual Reality,” Mindy follows a simple relaxation exercise down a frightening path, as she slowly becomes engrossed in the new age.
New Age practices are all around us. Mohawk Valley Community College regularly offers courses on things like finding spirit guides and creating change with the power of your mind. The local historical society hosts talks on Wicca. A local hotel hosted a psychic fair last fall, and a well-known medium held an event at the Stanley. Barnes and Noble filled an end cap near the college guides with a display on “modern witchcraft” for Halloween 2019.
Why are these things so popular today? What makes people, even those who may understand that one of these practices is dangerous on many levels, rush to adopt others?
Trends are often easy to thoughtlessly follow.
Our natural tendency to be social often leads us to follow fads and trends. We do things just because we see other people doing them. Even the most independent, weird, or outcast person has followed some trend or fad they have seen among some group of people at one point in their lives. Sometimes these behaviors are basically harmless. You’re more likely to dress all in black and dye your hair turquoise if all your friends have dark clothes and bright hair, and there’s nothing dangerous about that. Most people who collected things like pet rocks and Beanie Babies did it more to keep up with an activity other people were into than because they truly wanted rocks with little eyes or a mini stuffed animal collection. Girls collecting scrunchies and making weird noises because the other girls who use a popular app do it may be annoying, but it’s harmless behavior.
Other fads and trends open doors we do not truly want opened. Many people read their horoscopes, make assumptions about people based on their astrological sign, or wear occult symbols for love or wisdom without even realizing the practice has any connection to anything darker than reading a fortune cookie message or saying “Good luck!” to someone else. While no harm may come to you because of these things, it is important to remember that they are fake, and that many of those symbols and practices have a darker meaning than what you may know.
People feel powerless.
Our twenty-four hour news cycle, constant peeks into everyone else’s life through social media, and steady access to any information we want has its benefits. We have no excuse for not knowing what is going on in the world around us. We can find comfort knowing other people go through the things we go through, or that there is a different way to live out there. We can teach ourselves new skills without leaving home, or even paying out any money in some cases, a feature that has been a true blessing in recent times. We can become inspired. Many people find their voice, their mission in life, online. Some meet or reconnect with best friends, family, or the love of their life online.
It also has its drawbacks. We feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems. Looking into other peoples’ lives can lead us to feel like we don’t measure up if we haven’t done exactly what they have done. For every cherished friend or loved one we see online, there’s that person who insists on bullying or harassing other people. Some are even dangerous. We might feel obligated to be learning something new every minute, and have difficulty relaxing. Much of the information out there is misleading, bringing in a host of additional problems.
This can lead to feelings of powerlessness, to the idea that there has to be something more we should be doing, or could be doing, to reign all that in and stop it from being overwhelming. New age practices and beliefs offer a soothing balm for all that. They tell us that we have the power to draw the parts we want to us and send what we don’t want away with a flick of the wrist, a simple purchase, or even a thought.
Narcissism has gotten out of hand.
Contrary to popular misconception, following Jesus does not come with a lengthy list of things you are no longer allowed to do and no longer allowed to be or think. Following Jesus does however mean that you serve God instead of serving yourself, and serving God means loving and caring for other people. The focus shifts from “me and how I feel about everything” to “what I was put on this earth to do for other people.”
This is not the way of the world today. We dismiss anyone who says anything other than how wonderful we are with some form of the word “negative.” It has gotten to the point that people have begun demanding “No negativity!” before posting anything online they feel anyone might disagree with on any level.
New age thought fits in with this mindset perfectly. It allows us to rebrand selfish, controlling, or dismissive behavior into something noble. You aren’t going around saying hurtful things to your loved ones. You are “speaking your truth.” People who point out harmful things you might be doing aren’t having a much needed talk with you. They’re “bringing negativity” and need to be sent away. You aren’t being controlling and trying to dictate what other people think, do, and say. You’re “triggered” and therefore entitled to demand they change to suit you.
Stereotypes based on spiritual or religious beliefs or practices persist.
Consider the following descriptions of people:
Christians are all right-wingers. They all dress in the most boring version of preppy style possible. They’re prudish, homophobic, transphobic, anti-woman, and anti-science. A Christian’s idea of a wild night out is having pizza and soda at Bible study. They only listen to worship music, only watch Christian movies, and only read Christian novels. You can’t even talk to them about anything else, because they’ll just tell you it belongs to the devil.
New Age people are all liberal. They either dress like Stevie Nicks, in hippie style, or in some style inspired by punk or glam rock. They’re open, accepting, loving, and in tune with the world around them. Some of them may be a little spacey, but they mean well. New Agers may frown on junk food, but that’s about it. They party at Burning Man or Coachella or your local cool hangout. New Agers listen to and watch anything they want. You can talk to them about anything, because they not only engage with the world, they have extra insight into things most of us don’t even think about.
Neither of those sound like a perfect person, but which would you rather spend time around?
Both of those descriptions reflect stereotypes, not reality. Of course there are some Christians who think and behave exactly like that. And there are some New Age people who fit the second description. There are also liberal, open, accepting, wild, weird, creative Christians, and prudish, right-wing, boring New Agers. It is also possible for a person to appear one way, but be a bit different once you get to know them.
I wholeheartedly believed both stereotypes described above for many years. It was one of the reasons I began to dabble in the new age. It took a few encounters with groups like The Christian Left, some individual liberal Christians, and more than a few long conversations with actual new age practitioners to lead me to see the truth.
New Age practices are dangerous. It does not matter if your friends are into it, or your family members, or your favorite YouTuber…even if it’s your favorite Christian YouTuber.
Keep reading in the coming weeks for a closer examination of specific practices.
Catfishing, pretending to be either a fictionalized version of yourself or someone else entirely while online, is a central theme of my second novel Chatting as Adalee. Catfishing is otherwise known as “romance scamming,” though some catfish scammers pretend to be their victims’ friends, or even employers. The goal of any catfish scam is to trick others into believing they are involved in some type of relationship that does not actually exist, but their motives and ultimate objectives may vary.
Money is the most common end goal of a catfish or romance scammer.
The practice of catfishing existed long before MTV personality and writer Nev Schulman ever used the term. Schulman reportedly likened romance scammers to catfish because an actual catfish keeps the other fish in the tank moving, and romance scammers keep their victims constantly shifting and changing to accommodate their continuously changing stories.
The original catfish scam originated in Nigeria among gangs of organized criminals. Groups of young men gather in internet cafes in Lagos, and in other cities in the region, including Accru, Ghana. These groups of men collect pictures, names, videos, and portions of text they can use to pretend to be a variety of people. Posing as their characters, the scammers join everything from dating sites to healthcare forums to social networking sites, approaching as many random people as they can. Anyone who writes back is then manipulated into believing they have found the love of their life.
Once the target has become convinced they have met their true love, the scammer pretends to be in some kind of trouble. They may say they are in jail in Nigeria or Ghana because they were there on business and cannot pay a fine or fee, or that they are being prevented from leaving the country due to unpaid bills. The target is then convinced they must pay this money for their love so that the two of them can be together. Once the first payment is sent, further tragedy requiring additional money unfolds.
The scammer across town or across the country from the victim has adapted this tactic by inventing domestic tragedies. They might claim they need prepaid debit cards to buy groceries or clothes for a needy child, or cash to pay a bill that will not take a credit or debit card.
Some catfish go for gifts instead of money, but the idea is the same.
Whether foreign or domestic, some catfish scammers ask for gifts instead of money. They may ask for cell phones, computers, jewelry, or anything else they can use in a future scam or sell for cash.
The target may believe he’s sending a laptop to his girlfriend to help her child succeed in school, when he’s really sending it to someone he would have no interest in dating so that person can use it in future scams.
Tricking people into illegal activity is another common motive for catfish scammers.
In addition to collecting cash from their victims, Nigerian scammers are famous for reshipping scams. In this type of scam, the fake love asks the victim to work with him or her, or to do a favor involving accepting and reshipping items. They swear the items are vital for their business, but claim they cannot ship them due to illness or other misfortune. The items are really stolen, or used to hide illegal items or substances. It doesn’t take much creativity for an American scammer to adapt this one.
Some scammers ask their victims to do favors for them. Eventually, these favors involve banking. The banking transactions are always illegal. But since the victim did everything in his or her name, the victim is the one who will be held responsible for the crime.
Some catfish work with the goal of luring people into their space in order to commit violent crimes.
The Investigation Discovery Channel’s show “Web of Lies” usually profiles catfish who operate with this goal. The only difference between this type of catfish and the other types is that this type actually does show up to the scheduled meeting. This is when the victim learns they are not who they said they were, and are in fact, dangerous.
Catfish who scam people in order to lure them may be intent on committing assault, rape, or even murder. This is why it is never safe to meet anyone you only know online alone, and why it is never a good idea to pursue a friendship with someone you have discovered to be a catfish. All you truly know about the person is they know how to use a computer, and they’re willing to deceive you. You have no idea what else they may be planning to do if given the opportunity.
Revenge may be a motive for catfishing.
Many catfish don’t want anything except to watch their victim’s heart break. Scams run for revenge are directed only at someone the scammer feels has wronged them in some way. The scammer may blame the target for the breakup of his romantic relationship and feel the target deserves to have his romantic hopes dashed too. Or maybe the victim and the scammer are in a relationship, the scammer created a fake profile in order to test the target’s loyalty and love for the scammer, and the target failed the test.
Although revenge romance scams are most often planned in retaliation for some type of romantic wrong, they are sometimes used to exact revenge for wrongs or perceived wrongs in other areas of life too. The supervisor who just fired someone, the coworker who “took” the scammer’s promotion, or the customer who just makes work unpleasant for the scammer may be a target.
There are people in the world who make themselves feel better by hurting others.
Sometimes, it’s the bully shoring up his own feelings of social superiority by humiliating the “lesser” person with a catfish scam in the internet version of the old fake secret admirer note in the locker. Or it may be the person who enjoys seeing what they can make another person believe, regardless of what impact this may have on the target. This is the scammer who often responds to getting caught by swearing their feelings were real. They weren’t. The scammer continued a pattern of behavior they knew would lead to the other person’s broken heart. The only thing they were in love with was the drama they got to plan and orchestrate.
Welcome back to our series, Behind the Art. In this series, we take a novel, song, album, painting, play, comedy routine, poem, or other art work and explore the process and/or research that went into creating it.
My first novel, Lifting the Shadows, details a woman’s involvement in Wicca or modern witchcraft. Writing about the process or discussing it typically brings up a few questions…
Why are you speaking out against a religion? I thought you were liberal.
I’m a Democratic Socialist. I believe in ending abortion through increasing social programs that improve the lives of those most likely to get an abortion and funding adoption programs, not by outlawing it. I’m for gun control, protecting the rights of gay and transgender people, and universal healthcare. I side with the conservatives on Israel, and I reluctantly accept that the death penalty is all we can do in some cases, but on most issues I am indeed pretty far to the left.
Legally, I am still liberal when it comes to religion. I do not advocate making the practice of Wicca or any other religion illegal, and I don’t think it’s okay to withhold work promotions or raises or harass or bully anyone because of the religion they practice.
I just know from both personal experience and research that Wicca and other occult practices are dangerous.
Isn’t being against a religion like being racist or homophobic or transphobic?
Your race, orientation, and true gender are parts of you from the time you are created. God made you that way. The things you decide to study, the practices you decide to adopt, and who you choose to associate with and follow are choices you make out of your own free will.
My fellow liberals often like to claim they embrace and accept all religious paths. No, you don’t. You embrace and accept all religious paths that sound pleasant to you on the surface. White nationalists have their own religion. People who shoot abortion providers have their own religion. The Westboro Baptist Church, famous for claiming God hates gay people, is a religion. Would you embrace and accept those?
But transphobia, homophobia, and violence in the name of religion are clearly hateful and against the will of a loving God. What’s so awful about lighting candles and making up your own rituals?
It isn’t the candles and the rituals that are the problem. Everybody who participates in any form of organized worship, even if you simply attend a non-denominational church, listen to the sermon, and leave, participates in some form of man made ritual. There’s nothing in the Bible that says you have to stand up to eat the bread and drink from the cup in memory of Jesus. The Bible never says that you have to sing first, then pray, then listen to a sermon.
The main problem with Wicca is that it places the individual practitioner at the center of the universe. When you practice Wicca, you decide that it is your will that is to be done, not the will of God.
That said, I strongly warn against adopting any Wiccan practices for prayer. The candles and the glitter and the scented oils are all very pretty, and the self-designed rituals might indeed make prayer time fun, but it tends to become a bit of a slippery slope. This month you just liked their idea of blue glittered candles meaning sleep, so you burned one while you prayed for sleep. A few weeks from now, maybe their full ritual isn’t so bad as long as you talk to God. But you did put a lot of effort into that ritual….so you really should get what you want…..
I have practiced Wicca, and I never had any problems. I cast a spell for learning, and I did great in school. I cast a spell for love, and met my spouse. Nothing bad ever happened to me. Why do you behave as though it doesn’t work, when I know for a fact it does?
The amount of narcissism it takes to declare your own will the force that should guide the universe cannot fail to attract the enemy. There are “problems.” You just haven’t noticed them yet. Look back over your Wiccan books and materials. Notice that there are a lot of rituals designed to fight off “negative energy” and other euphemisms for the devil Wiccans pretend does not exist. These rituals are presented as though they might be needed on a regular basis. If what you do draws nothing “negative” as people like to say, then why do you feel the need to prepare to fight it?
Even if your spells seem to be “working,” that doesn’t mean it’s safe to do them, or that they draw nothing evil to you. Getting involved with drug dealers “works” to bring you money. Joining a gang “works” to gain a sense of family. Starting a fight and injuring someone on their way to interview for the job you want “works” to eliminate the competition. That doesn’t mean any of those things are in any way safe or right to do.
You just don’t know what Wicca is. Why don’t you spend some time learning about it?
Is twenty years enough time? I picked up my first Wicca book in college in 1996 and cast my first spell a few weeks later. I told Jesus I didn’t want to do this anymore, that I felt like a slave to it, and wanted to serve Him and accept Him as my Lord and Savior in late September of 2016.
Is “Brenda” in Lifting the Shadows you? Is this what happened to you?
None of my characters in any of my novels are supposed to be anybody real, with the exception of the pets, a few people who are unnamed and encountered casually by the main characters, and the character of Jennie in Mostly on the Internet (a tribute to my sister, of blessed memory: 1975-1995). Brenda is not me.
I create my characters, themes, and plots by blending bits of things that happen to me or that I observe happening to others, pieces of things I read, chunks of things I think of when I free write or take notes, and other random observations. Brenda did indeed get involved in Wicca and then get saved just like me. She looks like somebody I saw on a BBW fashion page. Her ex husband emerged from some free writing I did.
Keep reading this page for future articles about Wicca and other new age practices, scattered among the many other topics covered. . To purchase a copy of Lifting the Shadows, or any of my novels, visit “Buy a Novel” above. Today and tomorrow, help yourself to a free e-book copy.
Romance scams are the central issue in my second novel Chatting as Adalee, but even those artists who do not write about romance scams are especially vulnerable to scammers. We tend to be busy, and turn to online environments to socialize. We use our social media to promote our work.
Many have questions about romance scams, but even after those questions are answered, we still have a tendency to brush the issue off, or believe the following myths:
“This is no longer a problem. Everybody already knows about internet romance scammers/catfish. Nobody is getting scammed anymore.”
There are at least two currently running television shows devoted to internet romance scams. One is MTV’s Catfish. The other is the Investigation Discovery Channel’s Web of Lies. The topic continues to be featured on daytime talk shows such as Dr. Phil.
Many women I meet in online communities designed to introduce other women to each other for friendship report being approached by scammers. You can see a selection of the more obvious scammer accounts yourself by simply joining a few groups and checking your messages from people who are not on your friends list. Those might be pretty obvious, but people who run scams see it as a business or a side gig. They market, practice, and train others. Those same people who made you roll your eyes at their obviously fake profile and greeting are likely working their way up to one that works on at least some people.
"I was able to verify that my online boyfriend or girlfriend has nothing to do with Nigeria or any other country with a lot of organized scam rings. I went on the web site of the place they told me they worked, found a contact number, and called and talked to them there unexpectedly. That means this person is not a scammer."
The Nigerian scam is the most common type of romance scam. It is also remarkably easy to copycat. Checking email headers and cutting off all contact if the messages are found to be coming from Nigeria, Ghana, or another country with a lot of organized scam rings is an important first step, as most scams are run by these rings. But remember that "most" does not mean the same thing as "all."
Scammers can and do use some details from their real life. They know how easy it is to research someone online, and they know that some targets will research them. In order for the situation to be real, the person has to be who they say they are and their intentions must be what they state. If the person really is a tall, slender, conservative blonde named “Susie,” but her real reason for being online to get men to send her money and not to meet her future husband, she is still a scammer.
"My online partner hasn't said anything about money, shipping, gifts, or banking. They didn't even hint around about it, so this is definitely not a scam."
While the vast majority of online romance scams are designed for financial gain and/or to trick someone else into taking the fall for illegal activity, there are scammers who run scams simply to hurt people. The MTV television show Catfish features many scammers who designed and implemented an online romance scam in order to get a general sense of revenge on the world, or to punish an individual they knew for doing something the scammer didn't like. A scam occurs any time a person or group of people goes online as a fake person, including a fake version of themselves, and then uses that created persona to manipulate anyone else into a false relationship with them.
"People are making a big deal out of nothing. Everybody meets jerks online. If I meet a scammer I'll just quit talking to them."
Being scammed goes far beyond "meeting a jerk." We aren't talking about people who do things like set up pages on Facebook just to form a little clique and get mean with people they don't find interesting, or pretend they want to make a friend and then start talking about explicit things out of the blue, or who start out nice and then start picking random fights. We are talking about people who use carefully planned brainwashing methods to manipulate others for their own personal gain. That goes a bit beyond your ordinary online "jerk" or "troll." It is possible to just quit talking to someone who you realize is a scammer right away, or very early in what you believe to be the relationship, but once you have been lead to believe that this is a person who loves you and who you love in return, it is not going to be so easy to just let it go. Scammers do a great deal of emotional and psychological damage.
"I am seeing a lot of red flags for an online romance scam, but the situation could be real this time."
If you are seeing a lot of signs of a scam, then it's a scam. Pretend you hired me to housesit this Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. I promised you that I would keep the house empty and calm, and spend the time reading and watching TV, only talking to friends via my cell phone and personal laptop. When I arrive to set myself up in your guest room, you notice that in addition to a change of clothes and my hygiene items, I have also brought a cocktail dress, heels, and makeup. When you look in the grocery bags I brought "so I wouldn't eat up all your food" you find an assortment of drinks, several bags of chips, and a flyer with a special price on large orders from the local pizza place. Would you assume that I am the one housesitter who eats several times more than the average person during a weekend and likes to get dressed up in sequins to sit and watch movies alone? Or would you see all the signs of someone about to have a party in your house, and tell me you won't be needing me after all before I trash your place? Apply this same logic to your online contact's behavior. Scammers count on their targets refusing to accept the red flags that indicate a scam.
"I'm not worried. If anyone scams me, I will go after them. They do it on Catfish all the time"
Catfish has its good points, It brings romance scams to the public's attention. Most of what the show teaches is a good way to handle online relationships; look for red flags, ask a lot of questions, research the person and any places they claim a connection to, refuse to make any promises before you know the person well. However, there are two features of the show Catfish that make it difficult to watch without getting angry at the hosts.
The first is that they treat the scammer as though they are just socially awkward or struggling with mental health issues and need some help to function in the world. When you see a scammer respond positively to this type of treatment on the show, remember that this person knows they are on camera in front of millions of people during the confrontation and the followup. Anyone would say they have health problems, quit scamming people, took down their fake profile, and are working on getting help and improving their lives in that situation. Nobody watching that show knows what this individual is doing when they're not on camera. They could have taken down the fake profile they got caught with and made fifteen more.
The second feature of Catfish that is not reflective of the reality of scammers is the confrontation. It is never safe to go to anyone's house when meeting them offline for the first time, and it is never safe to confront someone you have realized is a scammer. The show may make it look like the hosts, and the client just show up while you watch, but the show is researched, filmed, and edited ahead of time by a very large crew. They are not truly walking into an unknown situation alone or in a small group as you or you and your friends or family members would be doing. If you are not seeing the warning signs of a scammer, arrange the first meetings in a public place, and stay in public with the person. If you are seeing the warning signs of a scammer, do not confront them online or offline. Cut off all contact immediately. You have no idea what they would do if someone were to confront them without the benefit of a major television network to back them up. In this way, Catfish does more harm than good.
“I have found the love of my life. Our relationship exists both offline and online. I have no desire to cheat. I am only online to make strictly platonic friends. This means I have no need to worry about being scammed.”
Scammers have no problem amending their scams to friendship scams if they think they can get away with it. All they have to do is shift the declarations of romantic love to declarations of the type of love you feel for close platonic friends and family members. The scammer might start telling you you are the son or daughter they never had, or that you are like a sister or brother to them instead of telling you that you’re the love of their life.
The rest is going to unfold in pretty much the same manner as a romance scam, with some alterations for the relationship you think you have. They’ll try to get you to send them money because “we’re family” instead of because “we’re building a life together.” They’ll want you to keep the whole situation secret because “people might think it’s weird for adults to make friends online” or “your biological siblings might get jealous.” The scammer may not be as secretive about talking to other people, but they will still want to keep you from knowing about it if they are talking to several people the way they talk to you. You’ll know something’s up if everybody they meet is “their adopted sister,” or “like a son to them.”
Talking to people we do not know well online is a fact of life today. Even if we do not set out to meet someone or make a new friend online, simply responding to someone’s comment in a Facebook group can open you up to communication with a scammer. Keep talking to people, but keep aware of the red flags, and of our own natural tendency to talk ourselves out of seeing them.
Every website is full of tips on planning inexpensive romantic evenings, looking good for your special date, and coping when you’re single today. Rather than give readers another of the same, we are going to dive back into the research from my novel Chatting as Adalee to reach out to those who may be in serious trouble this Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day can be an especially vulnerable time for anyone communicating with potential romantic partners online. The pressure to have a romantic day today can lead us to overlook red flags we normally would not have ignored. Valentine’s Day also tends to be a “special day” for romance scammers, as they have an opportunity to send gifts, make romantic promises, or offer poetry, stories, or songs than can further cloud their target’s judgment.
For all those who may be seeking or falling in love online today, and their (non romantic) loved ones who may be worried about them, let’s take a look at the top ten most asked questions about romance scams.
9. Are they going to use the pictures, chat dialogue, or other information I gave them to get revenge on me or to scam others?
We can't promise anything, but scammers almost never make good on threats to post revealing photos or dialogue to porn sites, send them to employers, etc. This would draw unwanted attention to the scammer and cut into the time they want to devote to gathering and working on new victims. Scammers are in it for their own goals.
Most scammers do collect photos and other materials to use in future scams, and some of that does come from past victims. However, with all the sources for pictures, dialogue, and other details available around the internet, the odds are very slim that your materials are the ones that are going to be selected.
10. Don't you have to be pretty naïve to fall for a romance scam?
Scammers will certainly use a naïve person's eagerness to trust others against them, but they are also ready and willing to exploit cynicism, paranoia, and any other trait they can manipulate to get their way.
Look for more information about romance scams on Artist Cafe Utica. We hope this information caused you to pause and think about any online romance you or a family member may be involved in this Valentine’s Day. Stay safe.
Online dating is the theme of my second novel, Chatting as Adalee. Meeting people online has become increasingly common, making this both a relatable topic for a piece of art and a reality in our lives.
Much of the research I did for this novel was originally done for a now defunct online romance scam victims’ recovery group. The content is re-used with permission from the last remaining members.
The eight "red flags" of a scammer are featured on almost every web site and television show devoted to stopping online romance scammers. We should all know them by now, and once a target fully accepts the fact that they were scammed, they are easy to pinpoint. Looking back, many scam victims realize they did indeed see these common red flags, but made numerous excuses for the person they thought they were talking to.
Red Flag 1: The person tells you he or she loves you within days or weeks of meeting you online and has never met you offline.
"When you know, you just know.”
Things do move faster online, and there are people who have fallen in love online. This makes early declarations of love very convenient for scammers
If this were a real person truly interested in you, they would be willing to see if a relationship might develop naturally. Tell the person you absolutely will not make a commitment to anyone you haven't either met offline at least once or talked to online steadily for at least six months to a year.
Anyone who keeps pouring on the love talk, acts insulted or hurt, or vanishes suddenly is a scammer.
"Well maybe this person just has a crush on me and is a bit socially awkward."
While it is possible to develop a crush on someone you only know online, telling that person you love them and want to build a life with them after only talking to them briefly is simply not adult behavior. No real adult, no matter how socially awkward, would respond to a crush from an online community by making declarations of love and devotion. Anyone who tells you they are in love with you, devoted to you, etc before they’ve gotten to know you is trying to manipulate you, not flirt with you. Tell the person you are flattered they have a crush on you, then add that you absolutely will not make any type of declaration of devotion or promises of love to anyone you do not know well. If the person keeps insisting its love, acts like you've hurt their feelings, makes excuses why they can't meet, or disappears, it is a scammer.
Red Flag 2: The boyfriend or girlfriend has some connection to Nigeria, Ghana, or other country with a high concentration of scammers
"The whole nation or region can't be nothing but scammers. Maybe my boyfriend or girlfriend really does need to travel to this region for work."
It has become common knowledge that any mention of one of these nations is a definite sign of a romance scam. The person just wants you to be willing to send money to that country. Call the office of a professional in your community or nearest city who works in the same field as your online love. Ask them how many times they, or the people in their corporation, have been to Nigeria, Ghana, etc to perform the type of work your online love describes. For example, if your boyfriend claims he is a construction worker traveling to Ghana to help build a certain type of building there, call some construction companies and ask how common this type of work is. You will find these types of projects don't exist. Don't be swayed if the person has sent you photos or web pages devoted to the alleged project. Do a little more online and phone research. You will find that these photos or web sites actually belong to a completely different company or organization.
Note: This only applies to the Nigerian scam. It is possible that you are being scammed by an American scammer. In this case, Nigeria or Ghana will not be mentioned, and all their professional and location details will "check out." This does not mean you don't have a scammer. It just means you don't have a Nigerian scammer. Everything else in this article still applies to you.
Red Flag 3: The person's life does not seem to match up with the life they describe.
"Well, people are complex. Everything about a person doesn't fit into a neat character description. We like different things, get in moods, delve into topics, and deal with situations that come up."
Yes, it is possible for a guy with high class tastes to also enjoy a raunchy comedy movie from time to time, and a very busy executive may have gotten a few days off, but if the person's overall pattern of living does not mesh with the situation they describe, you are talking to a scammer. It is not possible for a person to have children who never interrupt the conversation or need to be bathed, fed, or otherwise cared for. People are not highly confident one minute and suffering from low self esteem the next. They are not wealthy today and of modest financial means the following evening. Get a journal. You can use a new document on your computer if you cannot afford to buy a notebook or don't want one lying around. Write down all of these gut feelings and twinges. You don't have to tell anyone about them, and please do not tell the online romance. Just keep them for yourself, and read them over at the end of each day. You will begin to see a strange pattern. This is a picture of a scammer forming.
Red Flag 4: Your online boyfriend or girlfriend asks you for money or drops strong hints that he or she is broke or struggling financially. Health, travel, or family problems are the cause.
"What's the big deal? Couples discuss finances. They also help each other out. Even good friends do that."
This is indeed true. That’s why it works so well for so many scammers.
Couples and friends may help each other out financially, but asking your boyfriend or girlfriend or any other individual for money...or hinting and waiting for an offer... is the least effective ways to deal with a crisis or need.
Somebody who really was in trouble in a foreign country would contact their nation's embassy or ask you to make the call. They wouldn't ask you to send cash that might be stolen on the way.
A person who really did need a laptop or cell phone for their child and could not afford it could speak to a company that offered a lifeline phone or an organization that donated computers to needy children. The phone would be available that day, or shipped to them much faster than it would take them to persuade you to send the phone and wait for it to arrive.
An American in financial distress can apply for several programs, both through the government and through non-profit organizations that would be much more likely to be able to meet his or her needs than a gift from a boyfriend or girlfriend living across the country or the world. Imagine you need food right now. What would be more likely to meet your immediate need in time for you to eat tonight, a trip to your local food bank and soup kitchen, or an email or text to your partner or friend who lives in L.A. and might not even see the message until tomorrow morning?
Tell the person that you never send any money to anyone in any circumstance, even if you and your friends regularly help each other out, or if you and your ex paid each others’ bills often. Next, offer to find and send the new online love the necessary paperwork or contact information for an outside source to meet their stated need. If they greet the offer with more excuses, it is likely to be a scam.
Red Flag 5: Your online boyfriend or girlfriend sends you small gifts such as flowers, candy or chocolate covered fruit, gift cards to your favorite store, teddy bears, or small pieces of jewelry.
"See? He isn't asking me for money. He's spending money on me. That proves he's real."
That is precisely what this person or group of people want you to think. Getting little tangible items from the person makes them seem more real. These gifts also serve as a way for scammers to verify your address with the goal of asking you to receive and reship packages for them that will turn out to be full of illegal materials. Your presents were also paid for by money stolen from other victims. Refuse to accept anything sent to you from anyone you do not know well.
Red Flag 6: The person is sometimes coherent, even eloquent and sometimes appears to have difficulty following the conversation. They say "back" when they haven't told you they were leaving the computer, can't remember things the two of you discussed yesterday, or use repeated lines.
"He is under a lot of stress. I am also not the only person in his life. He is probably talking to his mother or cousin or platonic friends via IM as well."
No matter how stressed we are, we can still speak our first language. Difficulty with a language the person has stated was their native language or a language they are fluent in is a sure sign of a Nigerian or Ghanian scammer.
Scammers from Nigeria, and from the US will use repeated lines to buy time when too many victims are online at once and they need to pretend each person is the only one they are talking to. Saying "back" when they haven't left your chat, not knowing what the two of you were just talking about, or missing large chunks of your dialogue are not signs of stress. These are signs that the person is struggling to keep up with all the victims he or she is juggling, or that someone else has taken a turn at the keyboard.
Real people will admit they are doing a lot of things online or talking to other people and they will tell you if a friend of theirs wants to use their account to say "hello." Ask the person flat out what they are doing and who else they are talking to. If they "hem and haw," act angry or insulted, blame computer problems, or suddenly have to go, they are talking to people they do not want you to know about.
Red Flag 7: They want you to keep the relationship completely secret, swear you won't tell anyone they asked you for favors or money, and/or want you to spend all of your time communicating with them and them alone.
"It's romantic. My boyfriend or girlfriend is just a very private person.”
Excessive secrecy, especially about money or favors, demanding you spend all your time talking to them, and behaving with extreme amounts of jealousy are nothing more than isolation and control tactics.
Asking your partner to give up contact with anyone they have been “romantically involved” with is reasonable, unless the two of them have kids together. Demanding that your partner stop talking to their parents, always platonic friends, children, siblings, extended family, acquaintances, or professional contacts is not.
The person who tries this is not trying to be romantic. They’re not jealous because they think you’re so attractive. They just don’t want you telling anyone else about the relationship because that person might point out the red flags of a scam.
Red Flag 8: Your online boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance resists meeting offline, or makes enthusiastic plans to meet that fail to materialize.
“These things happen. He must be in serious trouble if he can’t meet me.”
By now you probably noticed that a few of these situations are strikingly similar to things that could happen in completely genuine relationships. Yes, you could fall in love online. You could fall in love fast. You could help out a very real boyfriend or girlfriend…and you could get in an accident, miss a plane, have a family emergency come up, or be broke or sick or in school or in an inflexible work situation and be unable to travel.
It is still highly unlikely that someone who has fallen in love with you and decided to begin a relationship will be completely unavailable to meet you, and what are the odds that an emergency situation would occur right when the two of you are meant to meet….especially more than once?
Anyone who cannot even meet you once to take your relationship from strictly online to long distance, or who keeps experiencing “emergencies” that occur right when you plan to meet isn’t just horribly unlucky….they’re hiding something.
Mindy, the latest character from the Tram Tales crowd to get her own novel, finds herself headed down the path of new age spirituality. Mindy reasons that she is safe because she’s not dabbling in Wicca or witchcraft, which she deems “creepy.” While the characters and plot are completely fictional, the background information for this novel is drawn from my own experiences with both Wicca and other new age practices.
Wicca and witchcraft are types of new age practices, but all new age practices are not Wicca or witchcraft. That said, they do often go together. One can be Wiccan and refuse to use Tarot cards, seek spirit guides, practice guided meditation, or read runes, but the vast majority of Wiccans and witches engage in at least some of these practices. Another person may refuse to practice witchcraft and never identify as Wiccan, but seek spirit guides, use Tarot cards, practice guided meditation, write, recite, or gather affirmations, or read runes. That person is engaging in practices related to witchcraft, whether they see the link or not.
The common new age practice of using “the law of attraction” requires the practitioner to accept responsibility for controlling everything in their life with their thoughts. This is pretty much a Wiccan spell without all the fun glitter and candles and statues and other props thrown in. And when a Wiccan casts a spell, they’re doing a ritualized take on the law of attraction.
Whether you’re whipping out the candles and the wands, calling yourself a witch, and casting a spell, or simply directing your thoughts and calling yourself “enlightened” or “seeking,” these practices are dangerous on many levels. One of the most basic dangers is the guilt and shame that comes with the belief that you can control your environment with your mind and your energy.
You begin to see others’ behaviors and reactions as a response to the “energy” you put out.
We do have an impact on each other. Jesus alludes to this in the Bible repeatedly, as he commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, treat each other the way we would treat Him, and help and serve each other. Since God is the one who created science, it of course backs him up, with our current knowledge of the brain and the mind revealing that certain chemicals are released when we feel loved, or when we feel hated, or when we think someone is going to harm us.
But we do not control each other with our minds or our energy. A person who gets near you in a crowd can certainly pick up on your sour facial expression, tense body posture, and turning away from them, but somebody who has no idea you’re even there is not “picking up” your “negative energy” or feeling down because you sent unpleasant thoughts their way. Believing everyone is impacted by your every mood and thought makes you feel responsible for others in a way you simply are not.
We see this belief in popular culture all the time, as people proudly post memes about cutting anyone who “spreads negativity” out of their life, or command others “No negativity please!” when they post something online. It stems from the belief that the “energy” a person gives off when they’re going through something less than pleasant, or the energy generated by somebody not liking something you had to say can infect you like a cold. It cannot, and you cannot “infect” people simply by having unpleasant thoughts or feeling bad about something.
You blame yourself when things don’t go your way, despite your best efforts.
One of the first things you learn when you leave all new age practices behind is that you are responsible for your own decisions, thoughts, and actions. You control the choices you make. That’s it.
New age practices tell us we can become our own god. But if you’re going to be god, you have to take on all the responsibilities of god, including being ultimately responsible for all the energy in the entire universe. Sure, you might have others who work against you. The real God has those who work against Him. That would be the devil and anyone who decides to do the devil’s will instead of God’s. But in the end, God will prevail. If you believe that you are godlike and that you will prevail in the end, then anytime that isn’t looking good for you, you start thinking you just didn’t put enough energy into it. You’re supposed to be godlike, and when you’re not, it must be your own fault for not trying hard enough.
The reason you didn’t get the job, despite handing in what you thought was the perfect resume and doing a great job at the interview, in your mind, isn’t because that job wasn’t meant for you and something else is out there, but because you didn’t will it hard enough. You didn’t cast the spell correctly. You didn’t apply the law of attraction correctly.
This type of thinking encourages you to berate yourself, and make frantic efforts to “fix” your flawed energy in an effort to better manifest your own will. Of course these efforts never truly work. You’re not God. You’re not a god. And you never will be. Your power simply isn’t that great, and letting go of the idea that it is feels like being let out of a cell you kept trying to dig your way out of with a spoon.
You feel reasonable regret and guilt over neglecting things to indulge in new age practices.
When a person accepts Jesus Christ, their guilt and shame are washed away. This means you no longer have to beat yourself up over what you’ve done in the past. You accept that you are loved unconditionally. You know that you have a purpose in this life and beyond. It doesn’t mean you will never feel bad about anything again, or that everything you do is great. Feeling bad because you did something you shouldn’t have done, or neglected to do something you should have done, is completely reasonable and even necessary to help us make better decisions in the future.
New age practices encourage us to make those bad decisions we are going to regret later. We may neglect friends and family in order to spend more time alone engaged in new age practices. Maybe we’re spending money on books, tools, and other new age paraphenalia that we know we should have spent to help someone else. Because in new age thought it’s “all about us” we become self absorbed and make decisions based only on our immediate needs. Most of us come to regret those decisions later.
Feelings of guilt and shame are just one of the many dangers of the new age practices, including the law of attraction, affirmations, and manifestations Mindy becomes involved with in the novel.
Keep reading for more insight behind the art and into the background material of my latest novel writing project.