Recently I was putting together a 1000 piece Beetlejuice puzzle that I received as a gift for Christmas. I don’t know if I have made a mistake or if there really is a wrong piece in the box, but after a few painstaking weeks of putting it together, I was left with one space for a puzzle piece and a left over piece that just does not fit. In fact the piece left over doesn’t seem to match or go anywhere in the whole puzzle. Quite profound for me I guess because that is exactly how I feel in the paranormal field, especially in the current climate. While I have always felt very much on the outside of things, the way the field has progressed in the last few years, it seems people want entertaining videos and tik toks and hot spooky girls. These genres have come and tipped the field on its head and I have to say some of them do it so well I follow and enjoy a lot of them. I guess in a lot of ways though I feel me who dresses like a librarian and who doesn’t like to socialise with people in public and hides behind a keyboard and writes to share my thoughts, I am that piece of the puzzle that just never seems to fit and that is OK!
Anyway I was randomly googling about a piece of the puzzle not fitting. I am not even sure what I expected to find. In this process, I came across what was called the Puzzle Pieces Theory and I was immediately inspired to integrate this theory with a paranormal spin because it felt so relevant. I feel like we are all pieces of the puzzle that we are trying to put together to find the answers. From that it becomes a huge part of who we are. It turns out that the puzzle pieces theory while not specifically aimed at the paranormal can actually apply here.
The Puzzle Pieces Theory
The analogy of the Puzzle Pieces title refers to the theory that a person’s relationship personality is made up of a number of different parts. Each part reflects specific developmental events in a person’s life that have shaped their relationship personality. The completed personality can be thought of as having countours (much the way an unfinished jigsaw puzzle would have countours…and that only specific pieces are going to fit into those contours).
Puzzle Pieces and Relationship Identity
Dr. Mark Kavanaugh, Ph.D.
While the above is aimed at the relationships a person has with other people and indeed themselves, I couldn’t help but add the paranormal into the mix here. It seems so many of us are searching for one of the missing pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the paranormal. I have often said that it is more about us finding something that fulfils us within or maybe something that we need within us rather than the actual phenomenon itself. We are seeking our own answers to put the pieces together of our own puzzles.
The puzzle pieces theory Dr Kavanaugh discusses specifically states “When we go into the world seeking “partners” we seek those who are a good “fit” to these “contours”.” I suppose again here I argue that we go out into the paranormal world seeking phenomena, answers and even fellow spooksters that fit into these contours. It makes sense because often a paranormal team cannot properly function if people are not a good fit with each other (I think we have all been there and had that bad experience).
He also makes the following assumptions with his theory
- I believe that we are constantly changing and managing many aspects of our identity and self throughout the lifespan.
- I beleive that our “relationship personality” is a vital and important aspect of our overall identity development, however, different individuals will satisfy this aspect of their growth in different ways.
- I believe that there is a part of us that senses when we are in the presence of a person who matches what our “relationship personality” is looking for.
- The contour of the “edge” of our relationship personality (puzzle piece analogy) is shaped by many forces and can be changed, however, the longer we have maintained the contour of particular pieces the more difficult they can be to change.
The paranormal once we embrace does become a part of our identity. I am not just referring to gothic clothing or matching team t-shirts because it is so much more than just a physical thing (although I feel those things may be a side effect because we do tend to wear a lot of black!). It becomes a part of us and who we are. We gravitate to those that share similar experiences and beliefs because it gives us a sense of belonging whether we crave it or not. The people and the places are the contours that help us build our very own puzzle.
So much about the paranormal is unknown and I guess that is where a lot of the intrigue and mystery comes in. We start to build a puzzle and put the pieces together. It could be about a location or spirit we are trying to connect with or it could just be about us trying to understand the phenomenon itself. It can also be a way that people to process their own grief or coming to terms with the concept of death itself. In the early Victorian Era, people would turn to spiritualism and psychic mediums in order to process their grief by attempting to make contact with their loved ones. Paranormal Investigation has become the modern-day spiritualist movement and for a lot of people has almost become like its own religion to them. People sometimes turn to religion for a sense of belonging and comfort among many other reasons. In modern-day paranormal investigation, people have found this sense of belonging and comfort just from the act of participating in a paranormal investigation. Whether it helps them to validate their beliefs, or maybe it gives a sense of comfort or relief that life goes on, for many, it becomes a weekly ritual (just like heading to a spiritualist church would). A lot of people I have spoken to no longer practise the religion they grew up following. As they have grown up and lived life lessons, some have changed to another or ditched it completely. Some have adopted religion for the very first time. Many people find themselves in the process and feel like they belong to something. Maybe it is being able to talk to people about things you have seen or experienced without people raising an eyebrow or calling you weird. Maybe it is finally being able to embrace that spiritual side that was hidden away in you for so long. There are many similarities that are almost what could be described as a calling that attracts a person both to religion and to paranormal investigating. It has become our identity.
Whether it helps us to process grief or help establish our own worth, the paranormal has given us a place to be ourselves. It is so much more than ‘hunting for ghosts’. Perhaps we are really hunting to find a sense of ourselves and building that puzzle. We may not always fit but there is always a piece of the puzzle there for you.
Puzzle Pieces and Relationship Identity
Dr. Mark Kavanaugh, Ph.D.