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How to Grow Your Very Own Big Problems. Or Not.

Once upon a time, there was a little problem. Like all the other little problems, this one hoped that someday, he would grow up to become a big problem. And if he could be a really lucky little problem, he would get to join the military and might even become a Major Disaster.

He had an enormous fear of failure so he paid close attention in class, keeping his vision for the future uppermost in his mind. The first thing he learned was that his mortal enemy was the light. He would be most vulnerable in plain sight, out in the open. He must do his best to remain hidden, where he would feed on the darkness and with any luck, someday he could achieve his ultimate military goal.

His teacher said that his best chance of survival depended upon finding quiet People who had lots of carpets, under which they would stash any problems they could find. With plenty of darkness under carpets, there was always a feast fit for a king and any little problem lucky enough to live in such a place would grow very quickly in size and strength.

One day, the little problem found that he was on the sweeping end of a broom and whoosh! - there he went, tumbling and rolling well under a beautiful Persian rug. How exciting! Finally, he would have a chance to become a big problem!

He was thrilled to meet all the other little problems that were hiding under that carpet and being quite the extrovert, he planted himself right smack in the middle of all of them. With plenty of darkness to keep him well fed, he grew rapidly and it wasn't long before he felt his first thump in the head when one of the People tripped on him.

"Oh, goodie!" he exclaimed. "I'm growing up! This is progress!" And he and all the other growing little problems laughed and giggled amongst themselves.

After a time, there wasn't much room under the carpet any more. The problems had melted into one another, just like cinnamon buns that had been too close together on a pan and had risen and blended, one into the next. They had grown so large that the People had to use ladders to climb over the big lumps in the carpet.

One day, while everyone was having an afternoon nap, the growing little problem was awakened by People voices. They used words like depression, worry and fear.

"Oh, no!" he thought. "We were so close to becoming Major Disasters, and now we're doomed!"

Alarmed, he woke the others as quickly as possible. The frightened problems lay quietly while they heard words like "financial troubles" and "no work". They heard about illness and too much stress.

The more words they heard, the more the carpet was pulled back from the edges of their hiding place, gradually exposing them to the light. The unfortunate ones on the perimeter went first, shrivelling and shrinking the very moment they were out in the open.

Horrified, the not-so-little problem watched as one by one, his friends died and then vanished right before his eyes as the carpet was lifted closer and closer to where he lay in the middle. And there was nothing he could do but lie there and wait his turn.


This Psychic Will Never Want Your Business Again

As a young girl back in the Dark Ages, I experienced a rather powerful and disturbing introduction into the world of being a medium. After dreaming that my two best childhood friends were dead, I couldn't shake the awful feeling that hung over me like a suffocative black cloud as I dressed for school.

At breakfast, I told my parents about the dream and was puzzled by the peculiar expressions on their faces. My dad left the kitchen, returning momentarily and placing a morning newspaper article in front of me.

It was true. The girls were dead. Their entire family had been in a dreadful collision with a train during a blizzard.

It was bad enough to receive this shocking news. Making it so much worse was the frightening dream. I was terrified; I had no idea what to make of it. Back then, there were no psychic fairs, phone lines, television shows or books.

Over the following years, my abilities continued to develop naturally. In time, I began doing informal readings and eventually I did them professionally, including doing approximately monthly "psychic phone-ins" on the BBC as well as doing stage work as a medium, connecting audience members with loved ones in spirit. I was also a reader on one of the UK's top international psychic phone lines, which I have to say was the most soul-destroying job I ever had.

"What will happen when his wife finds out?"

"When is he going to leave her?"

"Is my idiot abusive boyfriend going to come back to me?" (Okay, my words, not theirs, but that was the bottom line of about 80% of the phone calls)

And then there was the very first call I ever received on the phone line: "Should I fold my business and go bankrupt?" Yes, really. He was fully expecting me to give him an answer (I did not - but rather, convinced him to contact a financial advisor).

I loved readings that were about mediumship - connecting people with those who had passed to the spirit world. But those calls were few and far between. And even then, there were the ones who wanted to test. "Ask him what our secret word is so I know you're not a fraud."

During the many years I did readings, I was always delighted when I could draw on my professional experience in social work and counselling, and truly help clients who were open to improving their lives, the ones who needed someone to show them options, a new perspective, help them find their power - those were the people I loved as clients. Those readings were more about guidance and direction than they were about wanting someone to predict the future and hand them the answers that they should have been figuring out for themselves.

But with most people wanting me to tell them what to do and how to do it, or expecting me to take responsibility for their major life choices, some time ago I decided that I would absolutely not do readings any more. Instead, I offer what I like to call "intuitive guidance." I use my powerful intuition as a guide while implementing my counselling skills and life experience in helping clients wade through the issues and make their own decisions.

And there's the key: Their decisions. Not mine.

I knew one lady who was going to any and every reader she could find. I told her to stop. I told her she had all the answers she already needed; she just didn't like what they were telling her to do (leave an abusive marriage). But she continued to throw her money at readers, having anywhere from five to ten readings in any given week!

Sadly, there are some unethical readers who will think of such poor desperate souls as "repeat business" for as long as possible, taking advantage of their vulnerability and distress. I prefer to be of service, to be honest, and to say something that will truly help them to help themselves - including to stop having readings every six minutes!

And although I love doing readings as a medium, if people are going to show up and test me I'm not interested. It's not a parlour trick and I'm not here to prove anything. Therefore, I will only do readings spontaneously when spirits randomly come through with a message.

Life is tough enough without giving up your control and your major life decisions to someone that you hope is accurate and ethical in offering a potential view of your future. If you're just looking for some reassurance, go to a trusted friend or a counsellor. If you want to know if you should fold your business, talk to a financial advisor or an accountant - not a psychic on the other end of the phone, for Pete's sake!

And do you really need to ask what's going to happen when his wife finds out? She's going to be seriously pissed! And if she sends him packing, he'll be so immersed in divorce hell that he isn't likely to want to be with you. After all, you will have become the scapegoat for why it all went tits up.

And no, he isn't ever going to leave her. As long as he can have his cake and eat the damned thing too, why would he rock the boat with a painful divorce, mess up his finances, and only get to see his kids part time?

If you're going to see a reader, go with the idea of seeing it as a counselling session. Look at the possibilities for your future; see what feels right in terms of the potential outcomes of your various choices. If you've found a reputable reader, you will have a compassionate and patient ear in someone who will be willing to guide you through resolving your own issues, instead of telling you what you should do about them.

Don't put your life and major decisions in the hands of someone who may or may not get it right. Otherwise, you're just asking for mountains of trouble. They don't have to live with the consequences of their advice. You do.