Disclaimer: This is not a feel good article, we are going to explore some uncomfortable territory that might trigger your defensive self, but trust me, all of this information is meant so that we can educate ourselves, be empowered in our evolution and trust ourselves more deeply 😉 There’s an expensive myth going around right now, and it’s costing many of us our confidence in our ability to be happy. To understand the myth, we must first accept that capitalization of the wellness industry inherently involves both the commodification of people’s suffering as well as frequent gross oversimplifications of complex concepts. If we can agree to start with this understanding, then the myth is contextualized and we can move forward with dismantling and rewriting its core narrative to something more realistic and accessible for all. Let’s start here:
The Myth of Universally Effective Mind Hacking
The industry of mind hacking, mental reprogramming and otherwise named methods of cognitive narrative rewriting for erasure of undesirable behaviors is massive. There is a lot to be said in favor of the often incredible methods being taught by public figures like Sean Webb, Mark Manson, Sir John Hargrave, Gary John Bishop, and many others (not even discussing in this article the sexual misconduct of some notable ’teachers’. That’s for another time).
These internet sensations teach methods of subconscious vs. conscious tweaking. Many of the methods and research used by these influential teachers are effective and useful. And tens of thousands of people have had their lives changed by these techniques, myself included. Therefore, what I am writing about in this article, is not the erasure of this industry and certainly not the beneficial lessons being shared. So, please hear me on this, I love that this wellness information is spreading like wildfire among my fellow humans.
What I’d like to offer in this piece, is an invitation to engage in conversations about the privilege that is inherently implied when these techniques are taught. Many things are assumed when advice is given from the mind over matter movement including the following myths:
- All consumers have full cognitive faculties and processes at their disposal
- All consumers have the time and energy to spend reprogramming
- All consumers have the time, resources, and energy to spend consuming the necessary information about how to do so
- All consumers have the physical ability to follow through on whatever goals the reprogramming promises to help them reach
Although we might think that consumers of wellness methods would understand that said methods are not accessible for all, after all each ‘teacher’ is speaking to his/her own audience, but it is my experience that that is not the case. I meet a lot of people who consume this content and then they either catch themselves in a sandpit of self-blame when they can’t succeed or they misunderstand others who are not being able to.
I also often meet many members of the spiritual and wellness communities around the world who display an aggressive nonacceptance of thoughts or beliefs that go against what they might hold to be true based on what their teachers’ have said. And there is often no consideration for those who live with invisible illnesses including ptsd, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, depression, bipolar, etc… It is the fanaticism that is growing within the new age spiritual communities that is not unlike what we’ve seen in all religions past that I am pulling attention to. As such, if we as teachers and thought leaders are to have the most nourishing impact possible, it would seem necessary for us to share disclaimers and explanations of concept non-universality with our students. I mean, for every wellness influencer I’ve been watching for years, I’ve maybe seen 5 of them make posts that contain important disclaimers about their work. Is that often enough? How about for every 10 advice posts we make, we provide 1 disclaimer post that helps to draw attention to underrepresented populations who don’t have access or resources to practice these things. Do you think that might have the added benefit of calling attention to the needs of the ignored people in our society? Maybe it could contribute an injection of empathy into an industry that is supposedly built on nourishment and love.
The Myth of Universal Teachings
I’d like to engage a few examples of misleading “universal teachings” that are born from useful concepts but have become overwhelmingly pervasive in our society; presented as concrete answers which inherently suggests universality. Some of these might seem obvious when laid out for you in this article, but think about how many times you’ve read a meme or watched an inspirational talk that teaches them as if they were concrete truths and it becomes easier to understand how this perception could breed judgment within spiritual and self-help wellness communities towards those who are not on board.
Happiness Is Not Always A Choice
Positive psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky’s groundbreaking research makes a strong case for our happiness being divided into three influencing categories. Researching are finding is the breakdown for influencing factors on our ability to be happy might actually look more like this:
40% Inner Narrative
10% External Factors
What if, instead of the toxic positive teachings that suggest we can think our way out of unhappiness, we teach instead that happiness is not a realistic baseline for everyone? If happiness is not a realistic baseline for you, then by teaching you to try to hypnotize your way there is just setting you up for failure. Let’s introduce an alternative approach. Maybe, your ideal baseline could be something different; something like peace, calm, acceptance, neutrality, or something else. What if we replace the desired goal of happiness with a more accessible one that matches our most natural operating state? How much less energy would it take to actually reach a successful state of being? I invite you to try it out. If you think you might be one of those humans who is 50% predisposed to not feeling happy (which is not the same thing as unhappiness by the way) try finding out if there’s another, more realistic baseline for you to move towards. (pst…just so you know…I’m definitely one of those ppl and my chosen wellness baselines instead are neutrality and acceptance).
Peptide Addiction Can’t Be Thought Away
I recently became single again. The process was painful and difficult and it set me on a path to studying the brain’s addiction to others and whether or not love itself if healthy for us. Do I still love them and miss this person, yes. Do they interact with me in a loving and healthy way, no. So I had to go through the path of discovering how it was possible for me, an intelligent and independent woman, to get so attached to someone who consistently treated me in painful ways. I asked myself these questions: How could I, a strong and mindful teacher, let my relationship with them change me and make me do things I wasn’t comfortable with in an effort to appease them? It didn’t seem rational. How could someone like me lose myself in the pursuit of serving a partner who didn’t love me back and who repeatedly discarded me in harsh and aggressive ways?
What I discovered on this journey, that has very deep implications for why many struggle with actually following through on self-improvement choices, is the physiological wormhole of peptide addiction. Not only is the brain an incredible healer, but it can also destroy itself just as easily. And peptides are only one small way this can happen. Put incredibly simply because I am NOT a biologist…lol, peptides are neurotransmitters that signal to the brain that something is either enjoyable or unenjoyable, they are emotional messengers. And our brain can easily become addicted to them. Not only that, but our brain stores addictive peptides to release later on and re-trigger the initial addiction when there is a scarcity of it. This partially explains why we get so addicted to people we love whether they are wonderful or abusive. The thing with abusive behavior, is that along with this peptide addiction, you also have the existence of the intensity of the dopamine spikes that are introduced with frequency after every abusive encounter of affection withdrawal and reconciliation. So, every time that person discards you then comes back, you experience a dopamine spike that is more addictive than the steady dopamine release of balanced love. Can you understand now one of the reasons why simple reprogramming isn’t enough to cut this cycle? Essentially, if you are trying to cut addiction to someone abusive, your brain will wait until you’re almost through the addiction and then be like…yo…remember this??? Bam, peptide release and relapse.
In cases like this, psychotherapy and other talk therapies can actually be re-triggering and re-traumatizing causing relapses. And expecting others to just get over it or shift their mindset might be an impossible ask. So, it might be better to seek out cognitive behavioral therapies instead. What I’m getting at here, is that none of these mind-hacking principles, therapies, reprogramming or spiritual principles are universal. That might seem super obvious, but trust me, some of us…maybe even you…are becoming very closed off to the possibilities that lay beyond what we agree with. We’ve labeled that choice ‘trusting my intuition’ but sometimes it’s actually just plain old close mindedness and brainwashing.
Life is complex, you are complex. And the more you get to know yourself, the comfortable and uncomfortable parts of you, the more nourishing you’ll hopefully be able to respond to yourself and others. But, it doesn’t end there. Others need to get to know you too; people you can trust to call you out and help you and walk with you. Because if you are trying to achieve wellness alone, you’ll always be partially ignorant of what you might need.
Dr. Bruce Lipton shares that 95% of our day is run by subconscious reprogramming that mostly takes place by the time we are 7 years old. The other 5% is run by our conscious effort or creative mind. Yes, we can reprogram the subconscious but it might take a hell of a lot more than just following mind-hacking principles. I want to invite you to consider this as you refine your approach to your own and other peoples’ lifestyles. Maybe you’ll give people a bit more empathy? Maybe I will…
What do I want you to take away from this article?
-Awareness…of how a nourishing thing you might love probably isn’t for everyone
-Acceptance…of others without the need to try and evaluate or analyze them (unless they actively harm you…then please do some research for your own benefit whenever you’re ready to)
-Acceptance…of yourself when you can’t do something people are telling you is possible with mental focus and shifts
-Critical Thinking Skills…question the things you accept for your spiritual or personal growth, and love yourself enough to question yourself sometimes
-Resilience…if a method doesn’t work for you, you can pivot and/or try something else without judging yourself too harshly
-Responsibility…the things we teach and the things we do and say to others can break and mislead them. Our pursuit of personal peace and evolution cannot coexist with victimizing or commodifying others unless we want to leave some serious devastation in our wake
Can you see now? We are all broken. Broken doesn’t mean messed up or worthless or useless, it means we have been affected. We are all affected by someone, by something, and by ourselves. Let’s be broken in the best way possible.
There is so much more that I could share with you on wellness and about how prolonged trauma causes excessive amygdala growth and shrinkage of the prefrontal cortex, which in turn confuses our system and requires additional support for reprogramming aside from just self-motivation. But then we might not have anything to talk about next time…
Hope you enjoyed this and please share your thoughts on wellness and share with others who might benefit…