Coping mechanisms are strange, often costly things. They serve a good purpose, but at times they can slip out of our control and mutate into things that we think we’re using to better and protect ourselves, when really they’re contributing to the damage. I know a few people who are hurting, confused, unhappy, feeling entirely lost, and are coping by attempting to find the easy, unlocked door out of pain. I get it – more than you might think I do. We all want concrete reasons for things. These people are smart, and important to people, and loved, and supported regardless of any questionable decisions they’ve made. But they are weak-minded. Now, being weak-minded is a temporary illness, one which can be cured through an individual’s hard work and acceptance of reality. And because we care, sometimes for people to regain sight of reality, they require a much-needed swift kick in the pants.
New Age systems and mindsets are a bubbling crock of plasticky nacho cheese dip. You really think you want cheese dip, and it tastes sort of like cheese dip so you’ll probably keep eating it for a while. But it will never be real cheese, it’s not good for you, and will never give you the fulfillment you’re looking for. New Age methods and ideas make up theories about imaginary energy and power, and then convince people that they have control over things they do not. One of my favorite examples is crystals. Crystals don’t do shit. It doesn’t matter how much you power them up by the light of the blood moon. They are rocks. They sit there. They do nothing, and have no mysticism or power. They are affected only by a strong enough force which can change their location or composition: things like a strong wind, or erosion. They’re pretty, yes. But they’re still just stupid rocks.Someone has convinced these people that forcing life’s weirdness into neat little imaginary boxes will help you feel better, or that objects or fake energy manipulation will give you a leg up in solving life’s problems. That person is a misguided or mal-intentioned asshole. They are either delusional, or they want your money. Probably the latter. Oh? You already paid $2000 for a course in Finding Your Inner Goddess? Shit, well it looks like you’re out $2000, and gained nothing but a whole lot of made-up crap that manipulates your emotions to make you feel better about losing $2000.
There is a difference between spirituality and commercialized spirituality, and it’s time to learn the difference. Spirituality is when you find methods and ways of thinking that help you to be or become whoever you want. It can help you through difficult times, and help you maintain a positive attitude. Commercialized spirituality is when you find methods and ways of thinking from a self-help book, or an internet article, or some lady at a Renaissance Faire, or anyone who claims they’ve discovered something new about things you can’t see, or figured something out about life. They want attention, money, praise, and devotion. If their methods temporarily help you, then they will absorb your glowing reviews and continue to spew forth bullshit and unsubstantiated claims. If their methods do not help you, then you’re clearly not doing it correctly. You have a lot to learn. How about you purchase these weekly reiki sessions? That will surely clear the invisible wisps of bad energy they see floating around your head. Oh, you don’t see any wisps? That’s because you must not have the gift. Only they do, so you’ll just have to take their word for it. I hope you’re seeing the issue here. Hint: it’s not your wisps.
Say the money doesn’t matter at all though. For the sake of argument, let’s say all the self-help books, blessed crystals, Inner Balance Retreats, Chakra readings, and tarot cards are all free of charge for life. There’s something I want to say about all of them: I get why people think they’re cool. I understand the appeal. The idea that this gorgeous, shiny, multi-faceted crystal could hold unrealized powers is an AWESOME concept. The idea that there’s another realm, or plane, that’s full of unknown energy that we could discover and harness for ourselves is COOL. It’s a combination of beauty, an unexpected object, and an impossible benefit to the possessor, which is fascinating. This recipe has done insanely well in literature and movies of the last 100 years for a good reason. The Philosopher’s Stone, Draconite, The Necklace of Harmonia, The Flying Dutchman, Pandora’s Box, The Book of Thoth, Lembas bread, Mead of Poetry, the list is endless. It’s a concept that’s been used since storytelling first began, since the first myths were spoken, and since humans first wanted to try and rationalize things that happened to them. They are beautiful descriptions and fantastic stories. But they are not real. Objects do not have inexplicable power. Magic does not exist, no matter if you call it astrology, reiki, meditation, healing stones, or raindances. I wish it did, because the world would be far more interesting, but it doesn’t.
So what’s the problem? If people like those ideas, then why not just let them have it? Are they hurting anyone? The answer is yes, they actually are – they’re hurting themselves, and by proxy, their relationships. They have taken these mythical concepts and twisted them together with their own unhappiness and pain as a coping mechanism. And they’ve convinced themselves that it was a good idea. Somewhere deep down they know it was an awful idea, and it’s all just a waste of time. They’re stuck in a cycle of trying one new trend or system or ritual after another, and it’s all a bunch of lunchmeat that distracts from the real problem: themselves. They are ignoring the causes of their pain and the root of their problems, and are trying to smear a magical salve over it by rearranging their furniture or carrying the right stone around their neck. They are avoiding putting in the work to process how they’re feeling, fix relationships, acknowledge their own mistakes, and talk about the things that hurt in order to truly start healing. It’s not that their energy flow isn’t right, it’s that they are complacent. It’s time to come back to the reality of being a human, which is that you’re going to get hurt sometimes (sometimes by ourselves), and it’s awful, but you process and you grieve and you get over it – that is the way to “inner peace” and “balance” and mental and emotional health. You will not achieve those things by burying yourself in empty promises and mystical cards.
An important study was done recently, by some very intelligent and astute people. They realized there’s a problem in our society today: the quickly expanding production and acceptance of bullshit. The entire paper can be found here, and I encourage you to read it. But the concentrated point is that people are startlingly gullible, and easily convince themselves that there is higher meaning to be found in meaningless things. An example from analysis of literature:
“As noted by philosophers studying the topic, the bullshitter oft has the intention of implying greater meaning than is literally contained in the message, though the nature of the intent can vary. For example, the literary critic Empson (1947) describes the use of ambiguity in literature, including a type of intentional ambiguity used by poets in which a passage ‘says nothing, by tautology, by contradiction, or by irrelevant statements; so that the reader is forced to invent statements of his own . . . ‘”
If you are highly susceptible to bullshit, my friend, it does not mean that you are stupid. It just means that you fell into a hole, and you need someone to turn on the light and help you throw away the plasticky cheese dip. People who have not thrown it away sooner have held onto their newfound beliefs and rituals because they are scared – understandably so. But the hatred and judgment they believe they are feeling, or will feel from those who love them, is manufactured by their own fear. They are afraid of being wrong, and being ridiculed for admitting it. Perhaps most nerve-wracking of all: they are afraid of being loved and accepted, because that opens the door for them to soften, become vulnerable, and reciprocate.
Cheese Dip Friends, we will not shun you, we will not insult you, we will not berate you. But we see that you’re clearly struggling. Everyone does except you. It is your job to take a sledgehammer to your own walls. Those walls are not for us to try and climb over, because you will make them increasingly higher the closer we get to reaching you. It is your job to self-regulate, accept yourself as a fallible human, and accept our support of you in the dark times that you’re in.
It is terrifying to announce to people that you no longer believe in the thing you preached so hard about.
It is terrifying to embrace the idea that the only thing that can better your life is you alone, with no magic, no prophetical cards, no crystals, and no books to tell you how you should course-correct.
It is terrifying to release the death-grip you have on your pride, because your pride is the shield you use to keep people at a distance that’s comfortable.
It’s terrifying to let go of all the reasons and meaning that you’ve created and believed, and to realize that there aren’t any reasons for things sometimes.
But all of those things aren’t nearly as scary as the possibility of living in a dark, disquieted state just because you believed a bunch of new age lies. Throw away the self-help books, bury the crystals in the dirt, and throw the tarot cards into the fire. They will never help you, but the people who care about you will.