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Second Sight: An Interview with Dr. Judith Orloff

by Edie Weinstein

How would the world appear to you viewed through the eyes of a child with ultra-sensory apparatus? What if you perceived yourself to be an "emotional sponge", capable of empathically feeling the experiences of those around you? If you need not wonder but, instead, have this awareness, then you have much in common with Dr. Judith Orloff.

Her roles are diverse. She is an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and author of the New York Times and international bestseller Emotional Freedom upon which a public television special is based.

According to her website www.judithorloff.com, "She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality to achieve physical and emotional healing." Judith’s recently re-released book is called Second Sight and it boldly uncovers her journey from that highly sensitive child to a finely honed adult intuitive healing force.

This is my second interview with this fascinating woman who inspires readers, viewers, listeners and those who attend her presentations, to tap into the innate ability we each possess to allow intuition to flow.

Wisdom: In a review in USA Today, you were referred to as a "serene maverick." How does that feel to you?

Judith: It feels like I have achieved everything I have set out to achieve.

Wisdom: When I think of the word ‘maverick’, I think of a rebel who is willing to skirt the edge, not stick too much to the middle.

Judith: Oh yes. I wrote Second Sight because I wanted to bring intuition to a system that considers anything clairvoyant or psychic as heresy. I had to rock the boat. I had a lot of fear about it. It took me seven years to write the book, I had so much fear about what my peers would think. I had been in the medical system, I’ve been a doctor and I was afraid they would judge me, look down on me or criticize me. It took me a really long time to get through my fear, but once I did, I was able to find my voice with intuition and write the book.

Wisdom: What got you through the fear?

Judith: I work with my fears and I talked it out with a lot of people. One of the dedications of my life is overcoming fear. I look at it as a spiritual practice.

Wisdom: So in that way, you are being a role model for the people you serve and at the same time, you are serving yourself. Each challenge you face, give you tools to offer to them.

Judith: Absolutely. The way I teach has always been to go through something myself and to teach what I learn, with intuition and from my medical background. I combine my traditional medical and psychiatric background with my own spiritual practice of living life and getting through things and share how I’ve gotten through them. It’s not just to impart information.

Wisdom: As part of your psychiatric training, were you encouraged at all to trust your intuition, or was it just cerebral and scientific?

Judith: No, I wasn’t encouraged at all to trust my intuition. I did my psychiatric training at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and I learned that emotions had a biological basis and I learned to prescribe medication.

Wisdom: Was there a particular event that led you to become both a psychiatrist and a psychic?

Judith: In Second Sight, I talk about how in my early 20’s when I was working at Thelma Moss’s lab, I was living with my boyfriend in Venice Beach. I had a dream that told me to get an MD to have the credentials to legitimize intuition. This was at a time when I had no desire to do it. I tell that story because your mind tells you that you want one thing, yet destiny has something else in store for you. It was because of that dream I had enrolled in a course in a Jr. college to see how it would go. One course became two became 14 years of medical school training.

Wisdom: Ironically, what led you to a main stream practice came from intuition. Already you were blending the two.

Judith: Yes. Intuition led me to the heart of the mainstream.

Wisdom: I’m sure this is not a revelation for you.

Judith: No, the way you put it, though, it hit me.

Wisdom: Throughout my life, I have listened to the Voice with a capital "V" and as a psychiatric social worker, I can tell the difference between psychotic voices and inner guidance. Were there times when you questioned that?

Judith: Second Sight begins with the story of my childhood in which I was growing up in Beverly Hills with two physician parents and had twenty five physicians in my family. I had predictions about things. I would predict illnesses and deaths and earthquakes. They were all kinds of negative things, scary things. My parents forbade me to express my intuition at home. I grew up believing there was something wrong with me and I was somehow causing these things. I felt like The Bad Seed. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I wanted to write Second Sight because I knew these things happened to people; predictions or dreams or knowings. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had an intuitive gift and I needed to develop it. In Second Sight I talk about all the confusion and the turmoil and how I got involved in drugs as a way to escape my sensitivities. I’m not recommending drugs, but that’s what I did and that’s what I wrote about.

Wisdom: Who was a support for you as you were struggling through this?

Judith: In the book I talk about the period when I was using a lot of drugs, I met a guy at a party and we went to Malibu Canyon. We were winding to the top of the road and we weren’t watching where we were going. The car went over the cliff and fell 1500 feet. As we went over the cliff, I went through a tunnel. It was there I was kept safe and unharmed during this horrendous accident. The car turned over eight times and we climbed to the top of the cliff. It was in the middle of the night. We had to hitch-hike down the Pacific Coast Highway and it was after that, that my parents forced me to see a psychiatrist, Jim, the person who really saw me. In order to be whole, I had to embrace my intuition and integrate them. He was my support. I saw him for ten years and he helped me through that period and sent me to Dr. Thelma Moss, the psychologist who had me volunteer and work in her lab. That’s when I had the dream that led me to medical school. There is a chapter in Second Sight that I call "Mixing Medicine" where I talk about my work with Mobius and Stephen Schwartz after graduating medical school. He took over where Thelma Moss left off. He became my mentor and guide and taught me remote viewing and how to look for treasure and find criminals and all of that. That’s where I honed my intuitive skills.

Wisdom: I see that Thelma died in 1997, but I know she is still very much a part of your life.

Judith: She was the first authority figure, besides Jim, the psychiatrist who didn’t think I was crazy and validated my experiences. I will forever love her for that.

Wisdom: And then at the end of her life, your mom eventually came around. It sounds like it was more of a protective stance she had taken with you originally, because of her own family background with intuition.

Judith: In the female lineage chapter, I talk about how on her death bed, my mother told me all the family secrets and that I came from a whole lineage of healers on her side of the family that she didn’t want me to know about because she didn’t want me to be called crazy or weird. She wanted me to lead a happy life in the mainstream and I was never in the mainstream. I was always outside the periphery; the road less traveled. She was the middle of the road and that was our struggle.

Wisdom: She wanted you to play it safe and it sounds like you were a kid who didn’t mind getting her knees dirty.

Judith: I had my own path and it was powerful. My mother was powerful so there were forces at work.

Wisdom: How did you survive that emotionally?

Judith: Jim, Thelma, Stephen, the people who have been my support systems over the years, my loving friends and colleagues. I don’t have any fear of expressing my intuition at this point and my life is devoted to inspiring people to trust that inner voice fearlessly. I’m a very strong person and I have a very strong spirit. Luckily, it wasn’t crushed through all of that. I just did know what was important and fought for my own self. I was so rebellious early in my life and I think it helped me keep myself alive.

Wisdom: Is that your True North; your purpose?

Judith: I didn’t know that was my purpose at the time. I knew that I had to save myself and not become something everyone else wanted me to be because it didn’t feel real. That’s why when people project on me, it’s not a good feeling. People project on me that I’m this angel or intuitive who can see all and I don’t go through my own stuff. It’s ridiculous. I always try to set them straight. This is my path and my passion and I go through everything. Everyone is on the same level. That’s been a challenge being out in public. I’m just a person.

Wisdom: So what keeps you humble in the face of that?

Judith: I was so sensitized early to not being seen by my parents and others around me that I perceive as not being seen when people elevate me or distort who I am. I don’t like it.

Wisdom: How do you keep from taking on other people’s emotions either as a psychiatrist or a psychic?

Judith: I’ve worked with that over the years and I talk about it in Second Sight: "psychic empathy". I’ve taken out the word ‘psychic’ from the book and substituted the word ‘empathy’ since it is a needless resistance among certain groups and causes resistance among certain people. In this new edition of Second Sight I have written a new introduction about where intuition has gone in the past ten years in medicine. When I first wrote Second Sight, I was kind of naïve and thought "What difference does it make to use the word psychic?" It does. I don’t care if I use the words, I just care about people listening to themselves and trusting themselves.

Wisdom: There are mainstream psychiatrists who I know that are interested in your work, so it is bridging the two worlds.

Judith: That’s what my dream told me; to go into the heart of the mainstream.

Wisdom: Does it feel like a calling?

Judith: It’s a total calling. It’s my destiny, what I was born to do. I am fortunate in that I am living a life that is my passion.

Wisdom: Can you talk about "emotional vampires"?

Judith: It is where you open up your intuitive antennae and sense when someone is draining you. By trusting that, you can make better decisions about your relationships.

Wisdom: How do you disentangle yourself?

Judith: You can learn to set clear limits and boundaries with them and know who you’re dealing with and really trusting yourself. The key is not to be reactive with them, because that gives them their energy. If you are calm and set clear limits and do some shielding and eliminate those you don’t need in your world, then you can be the clear master instead of them coming and draining you.

Wisdom: Where do you find the time to do everything you do and still have ‘Judith time’?

Judith: That’s always the great alchemy; learning how to balance everything. When I’m not on book tours, I spend so much time alone in a room writing. It took me seven years to write Second Sight and I am fully prepared to devote that time. I’m very quiet and have a very deep interior life and don’t need a lot of outside stimulation. When I write, it goes on as long as it needs to go. There is also a part of me that is moved to be out in the world and speak to hundreds of thousands of people. I have a beautiful circle of friends.Do you know the poet, Coleman Barks? Coleman and I were together for a lot of years. He was very supportive and an amazing creative influence on me.

Wisdom: He is the man who translates Rumi?

Judith: He dedicated his Rumi love poems to me. I would like another relationship to come along. That is the hardest part for me, because I have so much intense passionate energy going in so many directions. It would take the right situation.

Wisdom: Anything you’d like to add?

Judith: I always felt like a ‘sister from another planet’. As a child, because I had all these strange experiences, predictions and dreams, I felt like I didn’t belong here and I wished a space ship would come and land on my front lawn and take me to my planet where I really belonged. I had a deep sense of loneliness that I lived with. I was an only child, so I didn’t have brothers and sisters, so I attuned to nature and weather and natural forces.

Wisdom: Sounds like that was your solace in many ways.

Judith: We had this little kidney shaped pool in our back yard and I would look at the reflection of the moon in it. It made me feel good.

Wisdom: What is the message you would like gleaned from Second Sight?

Judith: That these intuitive experiences are precious and not think of yourself as crazy and put yourself down for having them. They are a great gift and you have to develop and trust them and develop a circle of people who can support you in doing that. This is my most favorite book to have written. This is my heart.

Visit Judith’s website at www.judithorloff.com  

Edie Weinstein is a writer, speaker, interfaith minister, Bliss Mistress and Joy Coach. Her website is www.liveinjoy.org  

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