Bitter Pills

Last night while shopping, I ran into someone who represented a rather painful aspect of my past. After we exchanged (slightly chilly) pleasantries, I felt a little like I’d just eaten a tub of slightly rancid mayonnaise. Over the course of the evening I found myself recalling things that made me even more sick about the whole thing.

This morning I woke after a restless night’s sleep feeling the seeds of bitterness grow, feeling compelled to mull over the past hurts, to judge, to feel sorry for myself. And of course, as I thought about all of these things that seemed so unfair, I began to think even less kind thoughts, until I noticed just how quickly entertaining these bitter thoughts were making me miserable.

And so I tried to push those thoughts away, to think of other things only to have them sneak back in. Thoughts like “Why is life so unfair sometimes?” and thoughts of what I think would have been a more fair ending to the story. Realizing I was dealing with a bit of an inner attitude problem I contemplated. How can I ward off bitterness when I think that I have been treated unfairly?

If you push the feelings away, they just pop up somewhere else-but on the other hand-entertaining bitter thoughts creates even more bitter feelings.

After a moment of quiet, much to my relief, these words came to me…

“You are forgiven much”.

Life does seem unfair sometimes, but the truth is, I have made my fair share of mistakes and then some. If I can release myself from the bondage, forgive myself for my past mistakes, well it only seems fair that I should offer that forgiveness to others.

In the larger scheme of things, who made more mistakes? Who inflicted more harm? Who forgave more than their fair share-and is that fair? I don’t know.

And what about the people who were hurt before they even had a chance to make mistakes, what then? Why do bad things happen to good people? I don’t know that either.

What I can say is that no matter what happens in my life, I create the meaning. It doesn’t really matter what happens TO me, it’s what I do with the experience that determines the story of my life.

Viktor Frankl, my favorite existential psychologist, was a survivor of the holocaust. He lost most of his family including his wife at the hand of the Nazis. And I think many people would have given into despair after such an experience, but Viktor decided to create another meaning out of his experience, something that could benefit mankind. He wrote a famous book “Saying Yes To Life In Spite Of Everything” otherwise known as “A Man’s Search For Meaning”. Here is an excerpt from this book I found on Wikipedia…

“We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”[7]:36–38.

Bitter pills. And yet, he chose love in spite of everything.

I wish you all peace and love today.

Anna

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10 Ways To Find Your True Self

Joseph Campbell once said “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

I grew up hearing things like “Just be yourself” but I always kind of wondered what that really meant. What does it mean to be who you are, or to be yourself? Are you a rich person or a poor person? Do you drink yourself into oblivion every weekend or do you gossip about people who do? Are you a Republican, a Democrat, an Anarchist or an Independent? Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Pagan, Hindu…? Vegan, Vegetarian, Low Carb, Gluten Free, or do you order meat lovers pizza every other night? Are you gay or are you straight? What do you look like, where do you live? What is your net worth?

And are any of these things…really…you? Who are you?

The answers that we get from the masters are often cryptic and sound something like “You must find that on your own” or “look inside yourself” and you know what is really irritating about that statement is that it is true. However, here are some ideas I have for those wishing to take that journey.

1. As Joseph Campbell said “If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

Follow your bliss. Where you have passion, there lies some truth about who you are and your purpose in life.

2. Don’t be afraid to see things differently than everyone: As Albert Einstein once said “Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts”. This includes giving yourself permission to see the world differently than your family, your church, your political party, your friends and society at large. You have a brain and your unique way of seeing the world for a reason. A balanced perspective comes from many voices, not from a few people claiming to be experts.

3. Tell the truth: And the truth shall set you free. No need to apologize. You see what you see. You feel what you feel. You love what you love. And you dislike what you dislike. With truth comes passion. With truth comes electricity. With truth comes greater intimacy. I am not talking about being unnecessarily brutal. I am talking about telling it like it is, what you see from your perspective maintaining respect for the feelings of others.

4. Avoid people who drain and bore you: if possible. If you are feeling bored by someone on a consistent basis, they are not helping you to find yourself. Look for people who share a similar “bliss” as you. Start with your bliss, and you will likely find the kind of people that belong as your companions.

5. Turn off your television: If you want to be told what to think, how to feel, and what kind of persona to have, without having to go searching for it, television will give that to you. If you want to find yourself, you need a certain separation from the herd. I am not saying to never watch television, but to be mindful of the messages you are programming yourself with on a daily basis.

6. Spend time alone: Write, ponder, think and search. Think about your thoughts. Think about nothing. Watch a leaf float down the river.

7. Be a creator: Be an active participant. If you don’t like your life, change it. Make a list of what you are passionate about. What do you want more of? Build your life around that and release the dead weight. You create your life whether it is by putting it together with your own hands, or sitting on your hands waiting for others to define it for you. You choose how much you participate. Either way, you are responsible.

8. Live in the moment: Let go of the past. Let go of who you think you are. You are here, now with some time. A breath of life with a certain measure of time. Finding yourself is not about defining all the things you think about yourself. It is about learning to embrace the questions, embracing the uncertainty, the pain, the joy of being alive.

9. Laugh: Laugh at yourself, see the humor in the world. The foibles, the setbacks, the failings, the silly.

10. See outside of yourself: give a dollar to the guy standing with a sign, help someone push their car out of the road, take some time and notice the struggles of others. Is there a way that you can help your neighborhood? Your country? The world?

And there you have it. Good luck and may the force be with you 😉

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Faith, Courage

Are you stepping out on the ledge, or looking up out of a rut? Modern life seems to call people into routine, watching television, going to the same job day after day, ordering the same coffee, spending time with the same people, stopping in the same drive-through restaurant.

And all of that can kind of suck you into some sense of invincibility, like life will always be this way. Maybe there is some sense of comfort in believing that. I don’t know.

But then there are those moments when everything turns upside down and life begins to change. Perhaps you aren’t working at the same place anymore. Perhaps you have lost a friend or a lover. Maybe you have ventured into something bigger than you could have ever imagined.

Last night I watched the stars, this moment being one of those moments where many things are changing, where it takes me to that fundamental question “Who am I, and what’s it all about anyway?”. All of that false security falls by the wayside, and what I am left with is uncertainty and a vision of where I am aiming.

I would imagine that this discomfort has been the starting point of many great stories throughout human history. I think of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, though fictional, contains a wonderful metaphor for what it means to have faith and courage. There is a part where he has to go through certain trials in order to obtain the holy grail, one of them being he has to walk across an invisible bridge over a deathly high canyon. He takes a deep breath, wobbles a bit and then forces one foot forward.

Having courage does not mean that you are not scared to take that step, or to have faith in the face of those who wish to stand in your way. It means trusting in your highest vision more than living in fear. And there are some moments in life where your knees will be shaking, where you will wonder if everything you have set out to do is all in vain.

Those are the most important moments, the moments when you are being tested. How many trials can you withstand without losing your faith? How many obstacles can you overcome? Likely you have much more strength inside yourself than you can possibly imagine.

There have been times in my life when I thought to myself “I can’t handle this”, and yet here I am, and I did handle it. What means more to you, comfort or seeking your heart’s desire? Each day you make many small choices, choices that will determine what your life will look like tomorrow. And even if you are completely lost, are you not one step closer to going after what you really want?

I believe that faith and courage exists within all of us, waiting to be taken up at the most challenging times to be turned into something wonderful.

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How To Be A Winner

One day, I was running along the ocean and saw what I thought was a great white shark darting through the water by some surfers. Concerned I ran towards the beach to warn them, realizing that it was actually a swimmer who was swimming quite fast. Fascinated, I thought this must be some kind of Olympic Athlete and I ran along as he swam. A half a mile later, as he waded out of the water, I watched this phenomenal swimmer as he headed towards the shore.

As he approached, I noticed that he was probably 78 years old with a long white beard and a wooden peg leg. He smiled brightly at me and said “G’day mate!”.

My idea of what it meant to be a winner changed forever in that moment.

What do you think of when you think “winner”? Is it winning the lottery, being fit, rich, or being on top? And what if you are none of the above? I think of the parents who get really upset during their kids’ games, or the team that goes home with their shoulders down. If you think in terms of “winner”, there must be a “loser”.

And even if you are the winner for a while, there always seems to be a moment when someone else comes up behind you, and eventually overtakes you. Time to pass the torch and come back down to the ground. Some people find that quite hard.

Then there are the people who do the best they can with whatever cards that they are dealt. I have seen people do some pretty amazing things with very few cards, so to speak. Like my grammy, who whittled with one hand when she lost the use of the other. I’ve seen people swimming faster than I could with one arm, people starting their own companies with a 6th grade education, never complaining about what they lack.

I’ve heard it said “You can’t win every time”. I disagree. Your life is going to have ups and downs just like everyone else. It doesn’t really matter whether you win or you lose. What matters is that you play the cards that you are dealt with a good attitude. I think that if you play the cards that you are dealt with a good attitude, then my friend, you are already a winner.

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2012, The Titanic And Making Music

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the economy and the end of the world lately. And if you believe everything you read, at any given moment, you will feel like you are being catapulted towards some catastrophic oblivion. What can YOU do to prepare yourself? How can YOU be one of the survivors of all of the horrible things that may lurk just around the corner?

And then it dawned on me how much time a lot of us spend trying to protect ourselves and to try to fight our way to the front of the line. When you think of strength and success, what do you think of? There is this ideal of someone who is powerful physically or mentally. Perhaps someone who never shows their vulnerability. This person may have all the toys, all the money and looks that kill. This person may have all the answers, the best antivirus software, the concrete bunker full of provisions, or the most acute lawyer. Strength usually isn’t equated with a flower on a sidewalk or a wandering poet.

And then I think of the Titanic. A large ship that has been deemed unsinkable. We all want to deny the reality that we are all going to die at some point, even though we are all going down, whether it’s in 2012, a collapsed world economy, or of ripe old age in the year 2067. And then it dawned on me that it doesn’t really matter how long you live, what really matters is what you do with the time you have.

What would you think about if you knew you only had a little time left? Would it be having all the best stuff, being the most powerful or surviving for a bit longer?

If you read about the experiences of people who had near-death experiences, you will find many people realize just how upside down their priorities were. What once seemed important, falls away. What we once ignored or cast aside for the more “important” things begins to shine, the treasures in life that come in very simple packages. The opportunity to help someone by the road, the proud builder of a sand castle, the flower that grows out of the sidewalk. The gentle fall of rain and the stillness of trees. The musician that sings out by the side of the road. And it becomes apparent that innocence, trust, and compassion have always been more potent, more strong than the strongest fortress or the most clever escape plan.

When the Titanic was going down, there were many people struggling to get on one of the few lifeboats. Perhaps they were pushing others out of the way-others that would die in their place. And then there were the musicians who played their music as the boat sank.

When you die, and if you were watching yourself moving in and out of life, what part do you want to play? The one who fought and pushed all others aside and made it to the lifeboat?

Or would you stand on that sinking ship under a clear black sky filled with stars, and offer your song to comfort those around you, knowing full well that you are near the end?

Everyone has that spark of music within them. The real question is whether you choose to take up your bow and play.

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How To Really Help People

There are certain people in my life that I always wished I could help. People who seem to always get themselves into trouble. People who always seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. And I think for a long time I have asked myself this very question, “How can I really help people?”

The truth is, there are times I just don’t have what it takes. I can learn everything in the world, every therapeutic technique known to man-but I can’t give anyone the will to help themselves. I can’t change the fact that at the end of the day I still can’t mess with another person’s free will, and even if I could, why would I want to?

I want them to live, to thrive. I want them to care about themselves. I see the gifts and the potential. I want that. But that doesn’t mean jack squat because it’s not my life, therefore it is not my decision.

And I think there are a lot of people out there who want to put out the fires of their loved ones instead of watching their lives burn to the ground, only to see another fire spring up somewhere else. And that turns into a bit of a paradox because the very act of rescuing someone from their own consequences prevents them from having the opportunity to rise out of the ashes of their own accord.

But that doesn’t really help the people who love them, does it? People who hurt seeing the ones they love falling apart with nothing to do but raise their hands to the sky and hope for a miracle.

I remember a time in my life when I wasn’t making the wisest decisions. And I’m sure there were probably people out there who felt the same about me, who wanted to help me but didn’t know how. Back then, I don’t think there was anyone or anything that could have helped me as much as my suffering did. But I will never forget the few people who still had faith in me and I will carry my gratitude for them for the rest of my life.

So I guess, in answer to the question, “How can I really help people”, my answer is this. Have faith that they will learn what they need to learn in their own time, as they experience the consequences of their decisions. Have faith in the good in them, no matter how hidden. And be as healthy and happy as you can.

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Do You Care What Everyone Else Thinks?

I had this dream last night that I kept letting everyone down. I was late to a rather important family engagement because people kept approaching me to talk about the weather. I was trying really hard to be charming and funny when I did get to the gathering, only to realize everyone thought I was a complete idiot.

To make matters worse, as I was desperately trying to figure out a way to save face, this girl who used to give me a hard time in Jr. High (two decades + ago) was following me around taking pictures of my every move so she could show everyone at the party what a complete and insecure loser I truly was.

And I started to think in my dream between tears and awkward gestures of social engagement was “Who am I fooling anyway?”

I woke up thinking to myself how funny it was to remember how awful it was to try so hard to please everyone, only to fail over and over and over again.

It was a flash back in time to my early years, when I had no idea who I was, who I should be or what I was supposed to say or do. When I thought all everyone could see and notice about me was the zit on my chin or how I stammered over my words, trying to sound “mature”. I wanted to fit in with my two left feet, tripping down the sidewalk, falling down the stairs with all my books cascading down the halls in slow motion.

Probably no one from that time would have even noticed, but all my foibles seemed to loom over me like some kind of sinister prankster just waiting to coax another blush from me. Fortunately, I suppose, I embarrassed myself so many times, that my body decided “what’s the point?” and gave up blushing when I fell down the stairs, said something really stupid and poorly timed, or took the wrong turn somewhere. I took to waving it off with a smile with several eyes focused on my recent calamity.

And then there came a time, years ago when it seemed like I was letting everyone down left and right, and it seemed horrifying at the time to disappoint people. Then I realized after a certain point that if my world fell apart every time someone else didn’t approve of everything I said or did, I would spend much of my life with my world in pieces.

And so I decided to forge my own path, since no one else’s path seemed to work for me very well anyway. Once I crossed that line in myself, I realized that at times I rather enjoyed being disapproved of-that it didn’t seem to bother me much at all when other people liked me or didn’t. Yeah! Sometimes I don’t want certain people to like me. In fact, I considered it a compliment coming from them.

Perhaps God, The Universe or something out there wanted me to take myself a little less seriously…giving me opportunities for various awkward failures and socially flat moments-to a point where I just didn’t care anymore.

But how can I bring this information to someone else who may be going through what I did? Someone who is a prisoner of other people’s opinions, who just can’t stand to disappoint others?

I guess what I would say is this.

1.) You are not supposed to be liked by everyone.
2.) Failure can be really fun!
3.) I’d say be yourself, but who the heck knows what that means anyway?
4.) Just enjoy yourself and learn to love the awkward moments too. They make for the most entertaining stories later.
5.) At the end of the day, you are the only person who has to live your life, therefore, live by your own values, and work for what you really want (within reason of course). If you live to please everyone else, to live up to their standards, you will only have yourself to blame when you end up with a life you never wanted.
6.) Yes, you will survive the pain of letting other people down.

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Finding Balance

A wise teacher told me today that within each of us exists polarities. When you try to be too perfect, you set yourself up for self-sabotage. When you think of yourself in a grandiose form, you open yourself up to self-loathing. When you try to please everyone, you tend to swing to an extreme of wanting everyone to please you. When you starve yourself, you set yourself up for over consumption. When you work too hard for too long, you reach a point where you can’t work at all. When you set the standard for “good” too high, you set yourself up to be attracted to an equally opposing “bad”.

And we watch these polarities at work all around us. In movies, we witness the heroes and the villians, in religions, we see the saints and the sinners, in countries we see the patriots and the rebels, we look at people often in terms of success vs. failure, beauty vs. ugly, good vs. bad etc.

Are these labels helping anyone? In oversimplifying any human life or group, do we blind ourselves a little bit at a time? What happens when you fall into the less desirable polarity? Do you fall apart and hate yourself? Do you need to be the best of everything all the time?

And herein lies the heart of many mental health issues. Caught in what we think we should be, we lose touch with who we truly are, which is a living being so much more intricately complicated and valuable than you ever thought possible.

What are your extremes? Do you try too hard to please everyone? Work too hard to succeed? Try to look the best? Be the funniest? Have the most things?

Whatever you hold onto too tightly, seems to find it’s way just out of reach. Whatever you run from, likes to follow you. But somewhere in the middle, there is that sweet spot. Like that spot on the baseball bat, that if you hit the ball just right, it goes out of the park rather effortlessly.

Well, you may ask “How can I find the sweet spot?” Really, that’s something you have to discover on your own. But I will say this, whenever you are aiming for some “ideal”, hold it lightly and have fun with it. Know, that we all have elements of success, failure, beauty, ugliness, good, bad etc. The healthy individual learns to embrace all these parts, not just the ones he or she finds palatable. And perhaps the occasional good laugh at ones exaggerated sense of self importance wouldn’t hurt either.

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How To Be A Good American

Has anyone noticed that mainstream USA seems to encourage bigger, flashier, louder, and power hungry behavior? Has anyone noticed that convenience seems to outweigh quality and the bottom line seems to outweigh the basic rights of our workers? What’s going on here? We want to be millionaires…the easy way. We want to be more savvy, more beautiful, more foxy than the next guy. Really, are we just a bunch of fools pitted against each other in a game we can’t win?

It kind of reminds me of the story Pinocchio where all of the kids go to pleasure island, where they can do whatever they want, break whatever they want, drink, smoke, swear and carry on, then one by one they turn into donkeys (arses, a rather blunt analogy) and sold into slavery. In doing what we want, when we want, without regard for it’s affect on others, has it shackled our own hands and helped to enslave us?

Our forefathers in America had a vision for something much better than this. They dreamed of Freedom. But freedom cannot come without a price. That price was integrity, loyalty, hope, sacrifice and love.
The Declaration of Independence reads:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed…”
Many people have come to believe that patriotism means that you vote for a particular party, or that you have an American flag outside your house, or say the pledge of allegience with enthusiasm. While it is admirable to stand for something, these things are but a shadow of what it means to be an American. Frankly, I would like to see some Native American elders running the United States for a while. Perhaps then we could see some progress for preserving the land, the animals and building communities. So lately, with all of the political corruption, unemployment and desperation that I have seen, often as the byproduct of the spirit of greed and self interest, I have asked myself many times how can I help this country? Here are my ideas and I would also like to hear yours.

1. A good American sticks together. Helps each other out within and without the communities.
2. Good Americans know that what you do to others, ultimately you do to yourself. Good Americans are a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
3. Good Americans avoid borrowing money unless they absolutely have to. They forget about impressing people. They let the guy next door have a chance to shine for a change.
4. Good Americans know that evil prevails when good men do nothing. Thomas Jefferson himself said it best “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”.
5. Good Americans focus on providing value. They forget about becoming an instant millionaire. They focus on what they can offer to the team.
6. A good American seeks to act with integrity in local as well as global matters.

Martin Luthor King once said “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity”. I hope that the people who really care about this country can somehow begin to band together-that the words of those who died to deliver a message of hope and integrity will not be lost.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to help the USA help itself?

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Become Immune to Mind Control

A few years ago, I went to a seminar which was apparently designed to help people think like millionaires. I originally went thinking that I would learn how to think like a successful person (whatever that means) when a friend of mine asked me to come along. The first thing I noticed about this seminar was the length of each seminar day and lack of adequate breaks. The 3-day seminar would go from early morning until 11pm at night for the first two days and until around 7 the last day. During this “seminar” several techniques were employed to market very expensive courses to hopeful and vulnerable people. Some of these techniques included emotional manipulation, exhaustion, shaming, hypnotic suggestion, repetition, behavior modification, confusion, and patronizing parental simulations.

Naturally, the type of people who were attracted to this type of seminar were vulnerable to begin with, which made them prime targets for thought control. When they announced that the opportunity had come to sign up for certain classes whose tuitions costed exorbitant amounts of money, flocks of people literally ran to the back of the room to sign up for these classes. I sat in my chair in shock. Why was everyone else running to the back of the room? Why were there so few of us who could see what was really going on? Then again, what was I doing there in the first place?

Here are some of my thoughts about what makes people vulnerable to brainwashing, cults, mental abuse and marketing scams.

PEOPLE LONG FOR CONNECTION:

First of all, we all seek connection with each other. If you are lost, lonely, or unsettled you are like a free floating electron looking to join an atom. You are vulnerable to be sucked into the first unbalanced nuclear situation that comes along. Small children will alter their belief systems about themselves, the world and their caregivers in order to still feel connection to them-in order to survive emotionally. This can sometimes mean they turn their back on themselves, silence their own voice, and project kindness onto the cruelest behavior, just to convince themselves that they are loved. Other children decide that they will try to “earn” their love by becoming thin, rich, or successful. They may seek out love over and over again from similar people as their parents-basically their child self is still looking to find a happy ending from an unhappy early family scenario. Many people stay in religious cults out of simple fear of being excommunicated from all of their family and friends, despite their still small voice that indicates that something is wrong.

Ask yourself what lengths you would go to in order to avoid loneliness or abandonment? There lies your vulnerability. If you can embrace the pain of loneliness and hold to your convictions until you attract healthy people into your life, you can be immune to people who may seek to exploit your desire to belong.

LOOKING FOR EXTERNAL WORTH:

When people come to believe that the way to self-acceptance is through external endeavors (becoming rich, successful, having the right partner, job, even the pursuit of enlightenment) people abandon their true selves for a false self (one that relies on external factors-what eastern philosophy calls the ego), they do not understand how those insecurities can be easily manipulated by others. For example, on television commercials, we are often given the message that in order to be a good or successful (parent, employee, citizen, lover, being) we must buy their (toy, degree, belief, deodorant, dogma) again preying upon the insecurities of the condition-based ego. I also think of a person who is trying to win a lover over using flattery (you are so handsome, successful, beautiful…) or trying to control someone by punishing their ego through criticism (with the threat of degradation, separation, confirming the person’s insecurity that they are unlovable or otherwise lacking).

To put it simply, whatever condition you put on your own self-worth can be exploited by people who wish to get something from you.

At this millionaire seminar, there came time for “confessions” about our money attitude style. We all had to separate into groups and then get on stage and talk about how wrongly we have looked at money in the past. I got up on stage as directed and “confessed” my particular view on money and the main speaker glared at me and began to cut me down in front of the entire group (over 140 people in the audience watching). He was attempting to use public shaming in order to scare people away from objective or critical thinking and in an attempt to break me down. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t about to go down that easily. I smiled confidently and said something to the effect of “…And? What’s your point?” to which I got the crowd laughing. He was piping hot as I walked off the stage.

I am not saying that I am this great and powerful person. I am saying that whenever someone is using flattery or criticism/shaming in order to get what they want,  I know that the person is trying to manipulate my ego or false sense of self. If I can love myself and release myself from these false conditions, I can be the first one to laugh at myself and be free. If someone you care about tries to control you through flattery or criticism, ask yourself this question…

“If he/she truly had my best intentions in mind, why would he/she try to exert control over my ego and thus over my will?” Someone who really cares about you will not seek to control you with shame, guilt and half-truths. A person who is trustworthy will never seek to publicly shame you. A person who loves you for who you are will not use flattery or criticism to control you. When you release your false sense of self, you will be immune to those who seek to control you in this way. You will know that the shame belongs to them for stooping to this level, it does not belong to you. As Lao Tzu said “When you don’t see the self as self, what do you have to fear?”

DESIRE:

What do you really desire? Riches, a good reputation, a certain lover, things, easy weight loss, eternal rewards? The people at the seminar were going because they desired riches, financial freedom, success-which in itself isn’t a bad thing. However, when you are led by your desires, you must ask yourself to what extent will you compromise your values in order to achieve what you want. If you allow your desire to override what you deep down know is right, you have opened yourself up to being controlled.

Ask yourself these questions…Is this person promising me something that I really want? Are they saying that they are the only source to my desire? Are they telling me that nothing else matters but getting what I want?

There are many ways to get rich, lose weight, have a connection to a higher power. If a person comes along telling you that they or what they are selling is THE answer and the ONLY answer etc, be very suspicious. Every person that you come across is a human being with perceptions limited by their own experiences. We all have something to offer, and we are all a little bit limited. Anyone saying they have all the answers and know better than you are blind in their arrogance or selling you something.

FEAR:

What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of poverty, death, hell, violence, loneliness, rejection? Are you afraid that you are a bad or unworthy person? Whatever you are afraid of can be used to exploit you. People can come along and promise that what they have to offer you can keep you safe, or make you into a good person. Certainly, in some situations, it is appropriate to protect yourself, and even buy products to this end. However, if someone is telling you that ONLY their product or belief system can protect you from the dangers of the world, the fear of being a bad person, or fear of eternal punishment, they are probably either lying to themselves or lying to you.

Please understand, I am not persecuting religion in general. There have been a lot of great things that have happened through religion. I am saying to be careful when individuals or religious groups are promoting fear-based thinking. Fear and logic don’t intermingle well as when the fight-or-flight mechanism is activated, your blood floods out of your brain and into the parts of your body that help you run or fight. This is why a crowd can be so easily swayed by someone who is using fear-mongering techniques (as in witch burnings, wars, political agendas and large-scale scapegoating like the holocaust).

The more you face your fears and embrace uncertainty instead of running away from it, the less you can be exploited in this fashion.

So here is a brief synopsis of what you can do to avoid falling into someone else’s trap…

1. Choose to love yourself unconditionally.

2. Learn how to enjoy solitude.

3. Know that you can learn something from everyone.

4. Know that you can disagree with everyone.

5. Prioritize your convictions over your desires and fears. Like Jiminy Cricket sang “Always let your conscience be your guide!”

6. Face your fears, when the fears are illogical.

7. Embrace that with life comes uncertainty, and with uncertainty, comes growth.

8. Learn from people who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Once you truly realize these things, you may begin to notice subtle manipulations all around you. This does not mean the world is an evil place, it just means that the people you meet are all at different levels of awareness. I think that most highly manipulative people tend to be the most fearful and the most led by their desires. Not evil, just at their own level of blindness or denial.

Thanks for reading and make it a great day!

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