Growing up alongside the internet has to be a very unique experience – one that is very far removed from the way my parents and others from their generation (born in the 50’s and 60’s) grew up. Having so much information at your immediate disposal is just the biggest luxury. But it can be a negative thing – what with the sheer amount of self-diagnosis that goes on – and it can also be quite overwhelming.
I follow a lot of self-help focused pages on Instagram and Twitter. People like psychologists, spiritual teachers and the like. I receive so many different messages about the way people ought to be living their lives, what counts as real living, how people are supposed to heal, that sometimes I don’t want to look at any of it.
This is in no way meant to discredit the many hours these dedicated people put into sharing their content, it’s probably more an issue with bombarding myself with too many different sites; but I think there’s something important to be noted here. And it’s that the people who run these sites are simply that – people. Like you and me.
Psychologists don’t know everything. Spiritual teachers might not always say things that resonate with you. I had a counsellor briefly when I was 15 and I found her to be virtually useless. I remember bringing up the scary concept I was grappling with that perhaps my Dad was schizophrenic. I remember her response as clear as day, with a furrowed brow and condescending look: “Maybe he was just doing his best”. This was not what I needed to hear, confused and depressed, at the very beginning of my journey of unpacking the years of emotional abuse and enmeshment that permeated my childhood.
Something I’ve spoken about on my blog before is the brilliant self-help resource Moodjuice. Throughout my struggles with mental health, I’ve completed the resources on both anxiety and depression. One thing that these two resources have in common is the exploration of the idea of black and white thinking. This is a form of absolutist thinking that leaves little room for the grey area between concepts. For example: “If I do ‘x’, people will think ‘y'”. This kind of thinking is very limited and also can be conducive to stress because it can leave the thinker feeling trapped and stuck in a self-imposed ultimatum.
It’s healthier, in my opinion, to use the words “might” and “maybe” when examining potential outcomes and situations – and also to incorporate positive, self-affirming statements about ourselves. For example: “If I go to this event on my own, some people might look at me and wonder why I’m alone, but others might not notice at all and there might be some people who respect me for having the confidence to go alone. It’s brave for me to do this and giving myself the opportunity to explore things that I enjoy is a really positive thing.”
I’m bringing this up because lately I’ve seen a lot of diagrams from people in the self-help community that revolve around black and white thinking. Some examples of this that I have seen are: “This is meditation; this is not”, “Safe people vs unsafe people”, “what ‘healers’ do vs what ‘healers’ don’t do”, labelling people as toxic and non-toxic rather than the dynamics themselves. In all fairness, if I have seen any of these posts that I haven’t 100% agreed with and have commented my thoughts, they have always been met with understanding and/or more clarification.
Although I understand that these diagrams can be helpful and are an effective way of putting information across in a digestible way – I think they contribute to a dichotomy. A perceived dichotomy of people who are “woke” and people who are “not”. I’d like to add that I’m aware that the slang term “woke” has strong links to, and perhaps originates from, African American cultures; and that it is used to highlight racism and social injustice. However, the word “woke” can also be used in a broader sense to mean conscious and self-aware and, more spiritually, enlightened. And it’s in this context that I’m using it.
I don’t like this whole idea that some people fit into this echelon and some people don’t. And I think that’s what these diagrams can unwittingly put across. I have no time for elitism when it comes to self-help. I wrote about this in regards to clean eating and junk food, which you can read about here if you’re interested. I think these diagrams can both isolate those who are still struggling with self-destructive patterns and inflate the egos of those who do feel able to regularly meditate, do breath-work, journal, exercise, eat healthily, always practice setting healthy boundaries; along with, of course, making time for relaxation and – oh! – how could I forget the time-consuming process of manifesting a perfect future?
People who are struggling with unhealthy patterns need persistent but gentle nudging – not to be made to feel as if they cannot be part of this self-help club if they don’t follow ‘x’ amount of steps (okay, maybe that was black and white thinking 🙄).
I also believe that no amount of reading and researching and self-analysis can make up for synchronicity. Life teaches us lessons when we least expect it. Little realisations come seemingly out of nowhere. Inside all of us is an a priori, innate wisdom that cannot be taught – and we should trust in that. And if there is a destructive pattern recurring in our lives, perhaps it is because we have not yet learned the lesson it has to teach us.
I say this in particular because my persistent habit of self-imposed sleep deprivation, or cyclical exhaustion as I call it, has been at the forefront of my mind lately. I’ve bombarded myself with a lot of self-help material throughout my life but I think this particular issue is beyond that realm. It’s between me and me. Only I can dissect it and figure out what’s causing it. The feeling of sheer exhaustion and relief that comes from my head eventually hitting the pillow at the end of the day is unmatched. I don’t want to be awake enough to feel anything. For whatever reason, I don’t want to sit with the emotions at the end of the day. I’ve carved a new neural pathway that depends on this exhaustion, depends on the late nights and the chaos it injects into my life.
I’m working with being okay with whatever stage I’m at in my life, including this one – which I suppose, to a certain extent, includes abusing my body. A shift in consciousness – eventually leading to positive change – that is happening slowly, is still happening. Putting too much emphasis on changing ourselves can cause us to neglect the opportunity to love ourselves as we are right now. I trust that whatever lesson I need to learn will arise and that the experience I’m having right now is the one that I’m supposed to be having.
Thanks for reading!
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx