Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

A concept I’ve seen a lot over the ten years I’ve been involved in spirituality is this notion of “victim consciousness.” It’s the term that New Agers like to use to describe anyone who seemingly isn’t taking 100% full responsibility for their experiences.

Some ways I’ve seen this used include (these are direct quotes):

“Blaming another is forfeiting your personal power.”

 

“Dear Black People…Why do I say ‘All Lives Matter? instead of ‘Black Lives Matter‘?…Because the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ DISEMPOWERS YOU. It is keeping you chained up in victimhood.

 

Sex you regret is not the same thing as Rape. Accepting yourself for making a decision you regret is key…not venturing into a Victim identity. Women don’t realize that Victim Culture has robbed them of all sovereignty.”

 

“Yes we need to learn but if traumas don’t require a lesson then how do you come out of victim consciousness?” (In response to the statement “Not all traumas were caused by mistakes that require a lesson to avoid repeating them. In fact, most serious traumas weren’t mistakes on the part of the victim. They weren’t events summoned by their unconscious or their karma to teach them something they need to learn. They were victimizations. They were attacks.”)

Learn more about why we don’t manifest abuse.

These people think that acknowledging when another person or group of people have violated your personal boundaries and your OWN SOVEREIGNTY is “victim consciousness.” In other words…they think that telling someone that what they did to you was not okay is being “a victim.” That’s not victim consciousness, that’s victim shaming, and it enables abusive behavior to continue unchecked, and it empowers abusers because it protects them from consequences. It places the full burden of responsibility for abusive behavior on the person who is being harmed.

When you’re at home minding your own business and someone bursts in through your front door and shoots you, that’s murder and nobody says, “Don’t blame that guy who burst in through your front door, or you’re forfeiting your personal power.” Well, unless you’re Black, the person who murdered you is a police officer and your name is Breonna Taylor.

So why does anyone apply this shit to rape and racism? Because that’s what narcissistic abusers do. They gaslight their victims into believing the abuse is their fault, thereby absolving themselves of any responsibility or accountability.

People who believe they must make themselves accountable for all of the times they’ve been victimized are usually victims of narcissistic abuse and suffering from codependency. People who tell others that they are accountable for all the times they have victimized said other are narcissistic abusers, and when this is being done utilizing spirituality as an excuse, it’s called spiritual bypassing.

Learn more about narcissistic abuse.

Who does have a victim mentality?

There actually are people out there who have victim mentalities, or victim consciousness–whatever you want to call it. And the irony is that those people are often the abusers, themselves.

Victim mentality is a key indicator of narcissism. If the narcissist can make their victims responsible for their actions and emotions, then they aren’t responsible for doing anything wrong.

How do people develop this kind of victim mentality? By having the same thing done to them by other narcissists.

When a person is constantly gaslit to believe they are responsible for other people’s attacks, they may do one of two things: accept that responsibility and become codependent, or deny that responsibility and see every attempt to hold them accountable as an attack, thus assuming an actual victim mentality. And once that line is crossed, they move from being an abuse victim to an active abuser, because they begin using the same gaslighting tactics on others to protect themselves that were used on them to begin with.

Learn more about codependency and narcissism.

How can you avoid true victim consciousness?

Know your boundaries and understand what healthy boundaries look like for others. Abuse occurs when boundaries are crossed, and knowing those edges inside and out will help you understand when abuse is happening, and when it isn’t, and that nuance is the difference between actual abuse and a victim mentality.

Learn more about the nuance of boundaries and bypassing.

Xo,

Ash

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The Fine Line Between Boundaries and Bypassing

The Fine Line Between Boundaries and Bypassing

The Fine Line Between Boundaries and Bypassing

A while back I posted a story to my instagram saying that I wanted to start a game called “Boundaries or Bypassing?” where I’d have people submit screen caps of influencers blocking followers and saying it was “setting boundaries,” and we’d examine whether or not this was actually the case. That’s where the idea for this post originally came from.

The fact is, a lot of people are really terrible with boundaries, and a lot of people use boundaries as an excuse to avoid being held accountable, so we’re going to dig into that today.

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are defined as:

A psychological or physical demarcation that protects the integrity of an individual or group or that helps the person or group set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity.

In other words, boundaries are a set of internal guidelines you create (consciously or subconsciously) to promote a sense of internal safety and protect yourself from harmful people, behavior, and situations. The more conscious one becomes of what their boundaries are, the more likely they are to enforce them, and the more likely they are to maintain a healthy emotional state. To some degree, you can think of boundaries as your personal emotional and physical comfort zone.

Boundaries are also reflected in society through expectations of how one should behave in social situations as well as through laws and various other safety nets and measures.

How we define our personal boundaries is entirely dependent on societal expectations and how we were raised, but generally speaking, most humans have at least the same basic boundary requirements.

Boundaries and Abuse

Childhood abuse and societal trauma greatly impact our sense of personal boundaries as well as our ability to consciously enforce them. Those who have had their personal boundaries violated at a very young age, whether emotionally or physically, may overcompensate with extremely rigid boundaries, or, exhibit no real sense of when their comfort zones are being intruded upon by another person or situation. A person may also exhibit both types of boundaries in different situations, for example, upholding extremely rigid emotional boundaries for themselves, but not respecting the boundaries of another person in an equal manner.

People with no respect for another person’s personal boundaries and a pattern of violating those boundaries are considered abusers. Abusers often become abusers because they, themselves, had their boundaries violated as children and have never developed a healthy sense of where another person’s boundaries lie. Enmeshment is also common among those who did not learn healthy boundaries, and they may often engage in unhealthy, emotionally clingy, controlling, or manipulative codependent behavior.

A healthy sense of boundaries respects the line between “you” and “I,” and recognizes where “you” end and “I” begin. Healthy boundaries are also incredibly sensitive to power dynamics to ensure that the person or people in positions of power uphold and respect the boundaries inherent with those positions.

Learn what spiritual abuse looks like.

When a person has a history of abuse and has developed extremely rigid boundaries, they may be triggered by seemingly small, innocent things. In these instances, the person may not have yet established a clear boundary between themselves and others in regard to emotional responsibility, and as such, may project undue blame for their emotional state onto others.

Likewise, a person with a history of abuse that has developed extremely weak emotional boundaries may take on responsibility for the feelings of others and and attempt to manage those feelings by altering their own behavior. We call this people pleasing or fawning behavior. This is a coping mechanism often developed in childhood to protect themselves from someone with an explosive temper or an overly authoritative figure, such as the individual with rigid boundaries described above.

Abusing Boundaries

Now that we know what boundaries are and what abuse of boundaries looks like, we can dig into the ways some people may abuse the concept of setting a boundary as a form of emotional or spiritual bypassing.

Emotional bypassing is when someone attempts to avoid unpleasant emotions. When a person uses spiritual concepts to avoid those emotions, it becomes spiritual bypassing.

Here’s where things get tricky: people with rigid boundaries are often more reactive to unpleasant emotions than someone with a healthy sense of boundaries, or even someone who is used to taking on the responsibility for the emotions of others. As such, people with rigid emotional boundaries are more likely to engage in emotional bypassing, because the unpleasant emotions (typically feelings of guilt and shame) trigger a trauma response and bring forward unhealed emotional energy from their childhood.

This is the person on social media who shut down or block anyone who disagrees with them, challenges their ideology, or otherwise reflects back to them any of those buried feelings of shame.

When these folks are in the spiritual community, they’ll often say that they’re “just setting a boundary,” or even accuse the other party of “projection” but the reality is that their boundaries are an overcompensation that is preventing them from healing and personal growth.
This is especially problematic when the person in question is in a position of power or authority within the community, because their (unhealthy) behavior is setting an example to their followers.

I watched an example of this unfold last summer on Instagram with The Holistic Psychologist, Nicole LePere. Nicole has 3.3 million followers who look to her as an authority on spiritual psychology. During the racial justice protests, many influential figures on social media made statements in support of racial reckoning and of commitment toward examining their own racial bias. Nicole remained noticeably silent.

 

A client of Nicole’s, a Black woman, contacted her expressing her disappointment on the subject. Instead of demonstrating that she was paying attention to the conversation happening around her, or allowing the interaction to alert her to the possibility that she might need to pay attention to that conversation, Nicole remained tone-deaf and treated the client in question like she would any unhappy customer, further demonstrating a total lack of understanding about bias in general, as well her own, and a general unwillingness to examine said bias. Nevertheless, the client gave Nicole the benefit of the doubt, assuming she would now put in the effort to educate herself and her audience about the importance of the matter.

 

Instead, Nicole made a single post acknowledging the racial justice movement, made no indication of a commitment to understanding bias, no effort to educate her audience, and continued with business as usual.

 

The unhappy client then made a public comment on one of Nicole’s posts, and made a public instagram story about her experience. Other women, both Black and White, began confronting Nicole in the comments sections of her posts on the matter, many in perfectly reasonable tones and language. Nicole began blocking them all, including the original client, claiming she was “setting boundaries.”

I’m 100% certain that in Nicole’s mind, she was simply setting boundaries, which demonstrates a lack of self-awareness and total ignorance to the importance of examining bias. As a spiritual psychologist, this is incredibly problematic. You cannot teach something effectively if you haven’t attained any level of mastery. It also demonstrates a very real disregard for the things happening in the world around her, as well as a disregard for the lived experiences of her potential clients. You can’t expect to create a safe environment for your clients of color if you are not willing to examine and dismantle your own bias, and you can’t expect to be trusted if you’re not also willing to put in the work to make society a safer place for them. And finally, it sets an incredibly poor example for the 3.3 million people who are looking to you as an authority.

Learn about bias vs. bigotry vs. racism.

It would be one thing if she were to accept accountability and listen to the chorus of voices who were (and still are) trying to wake her up to herself, but instead, she continues to shut down the conversation and avoid it using boundaries as her shield. This is a clear example of spiritual bypassing.

What happens when you resist a lesson the universe is attempting to teach you? The problem persists. And it grows. The longer Nicole continues down this path, the more people are talking about it, and the more awareness is spreading. Other influencers have picked up on and joined the conversation in calling her out, some of them with their own audiences of nearly a hundred thousand.

This dynamic isn’t new and I’ve seen it all before. This is why I say that one sign of a spiritually immature wellness influencer is if they have an army of haters trolling their social media posts, or if they’re engaging in an online feud with another influencer. It’s typically indicative that there’s some kind of shadow energy being manifested that they are refusing to look at, and if that influencer’s entire platform is built around being an authority on doing shadow work, that’s a big problem!

Nuance Is Important

Naturally in some cases, there’s other reasons a person may be setting a boundary in that moment.

When it comes to social justice, I often see people take an all or nothing approach. “You must join us or else you’re with them.” Yes, in general, silence is complicity, but as with everything, there’s always exceptions. I saw some unnecessary and downright dangerous shaming happening last summer as well. Another mental health influencer I followed told her 60K Instagram followers that their mental health wasn’t an excuse and if they had PTSD, they needed to suck it up. And she brands herself as Trauma-Informed.

A few years ago I had someone convey a similar message to me when I was in the midst of an emotional breakdown/dissociative state where I could barely form a coherent sentence and spent most of the day laying in bed staring at the ceiling. I couldn’t have formulated a complete thought on anything of significance if I wanted to. I was physiologically incapable and every ounce of mental energy was spent on holding myself together. I have memory loss from that time period and also experienced a severely traumatic event which was not public knowledge.

Unlike Nicole, I also wasn’t carrying on with business as usual on my platform. It was public knowledge that I was going through some shit and my writing topics–however infrequently posted–shifted to an internal focus, and changed to self-reflection and processing my experiences. My blog became more of a personal journal at that point. I cocooned from literally everyone and everything–including the news–for nearly three years. I also stopped writing completely for almost a year.

I tried to explain to this person, as best I could with my limited capacity to think at the time, that I could not do what she was asking me to do. And that led me to have to set a boundary.

Also unlike Nicole, I wasn’t engaging with other influencers on Instagram promoting questionable ideologies that alluded to violence, anti-semitism, white supremacy, and QAnon.

How To Avoid Spiritual Bypassing

You can ask yourself a few questions and take a few actions when setting boundaries that can help you determine your motivation:

  • Pause and examine your emotional state. Ask yourself what emotions you are feeling. Name them. Is there shame underneath?
  • Which person is in a position of power in this dynamic? Is it you, or is it the other person?
  • Is the person triggering this feeling attacking your character (shame)? Or are they holding you accountable for your actions (guilt)?
  • Are you attempting to bypass accountability by setting a boundary? Or are you setting a healthy boundary because someone is actually shaming you?
  • Does this situation remind you of any past instances where you were abused? Does it evoke emotions from a painful memory?
  • Does setting a boundary result in the harm of the other person? (Healthy boundaries never harm someone else, even though an abuser will perceive it as such.)
  • Does NOT setting a boundary result in your own harm?

Answering these questions really requires us to dig into the nuances between shame, guilt, accountability, and what belongs to us and what doesn’t. They’ll give you a really clear idea, though, of what appropriate boundaries look like.

Xo,

Ash

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On Cancelling Cancel Culture

On Cancelling Cancel Culture

On Cancelling Cancel Culture

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “cancel culture,” and I’m sure you’re aware that it’s yet another aspect of the perceived culture wars in America. There’s been a lot of national discussion and politicization around the concept, and I see support for the idea of cancelling cancel culture seep into the spiritual community in various forms, usually under the guise of “everyone is on their own journey” or “we have no right to judge another’s path” or something like that.

That said, I also notice that a lot of people talking about cancel culture don’t seem to actually understand what it is and they’re making a very dangerous conflation that, in the end, would rob a great number of people from an opportunity for spiritual growth, perpetuate division, and is antithetical to one of spirituality’s main goals: unity consciousness.

Let’s explore!

What is Cancel Culture?

Cancel culture (also termed “call-out culture”) has been generally defined as many things, including, but not limited to:

  • Online or public shaming
  • Deplatforming people with ideas that are deemed unpopular or harmful
  • A form of social ostracism where someone experiences real consequences for their thoughts and opinions, such as losing their job
  • Censorship

There’s a lot of sociological nuance involved around these subjects which I find to be severely lacking in public discourse, and that’s partly the reason why I wanted to touch on it myself.

A lot of people are not going to like what I have to say about this, particularly people who think that cancel culture inhibits free speech, discussion, and debate.

People in positions of power who knowingly espouse ideologies, beliefs, attitudes, and biases that are directly harmful other groups of people should absolutely be canceled. People in positions of power who unknowingly espouse ideologies, beliefs, attitudes, and biases that are directly harmful to other groups of people and who refuse to educate themselves about why those things are harmful should also be cancelled. And in fact, the US Constitution has already cancelled a lot of those people, which we’ll get to in a minute.

This is the paradox of tolerance: The one thing a tolerant society cannot tolerate is intolerance. If a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized and destroyed by the intolerant.

In other words, if we ever want to build a society that is tolerant, free, and healthy, we need to stamp out intolerance wherever we see it, because if we don’t, it perpetuates itself and continues to drive division.

But before we can do this successfully, our entire society needs to undergo a massive education about what intolerance actually is. The rest of this post is what that education looks like.

The Dangers of Cancelling

There’s a couple of really harmful side-effects of cancel culture that need to be recognized and taken into account. A common instance of canceling involves someone digging up and exposing a video or written piece by someone from several years ago expressing cultural beliefs and opinions that are not deemed acceptable by today’s standards.

This is harmful for a number of reasons. For one, society and culture are changing rapidly. It may not look like it in the moment, and certain themes are changing slower than others, but overall, the world is definitely not the same place it was 20 years ago. Need proof? Just watch any comedy movie from the 90s. A good chunk of the jokes and many of the social situations that were made light of in those movies would never see the light of day by today’s standards. And that’s a good thing, because many of them were socially harmful to vulnerable groups like women and LGBTQ+.

Pop culture’s vast evolution of the last 20 years is a reflection of the evolution of our society. We’ve all grow and changed, too, and for many of us, our core views have as well. When we judge someone by a video or something they wrote years ago without taking into account their views today, we risk ostracizing people who may have actually already grappled with their discriminatory beliefs and attitudes. We have to be willing to give people the opportunity for growth.

A second major danger with cancel culture is how public it is. Many times, cancel culture leads to doxing. If you’re unfamiliar with doxing, it’s the practice of finding private information about someone and publishing it for all to see. Doxing in and of itself may not necessarily always be bad, but it’s extraordinarily bad in cases of mistaken identity where the wrong person is identified, or the person is doxed for something that is completely unproven. This has led to completely innocent people receiving death threats and harassment.

We can’t operate under a mob mentality, even if and when we have good intentions.

Misconceptions About Cancel Culture

Now I want to talk about all the ways that cancel culture is being used as an umbrella to shield deserving targets from the consequences of their actions, and subsequently rob them of an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Since the summer of 2020, we saw people being fired, losing corporate sponsorships, and experiencing other consequences of violent and racist behavior. There have been many people labeling this as cancel culture, and it absolutely is not. Why?

Businesses in the US, both private and public, are given the discretion to hire and fire who they want, for whatever reason they want, so long as it doesn’t discriminate against those individuals on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, color, or national origin. By this same law, those businesses are legally bound to protect their employees from discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, color, and national origin.

Another driving factor in who a company hires (or fires) is company values. Company values are the foundational beliefs and qualities that a company holds which direct everything from company policy, to product development, to branding, to company culture. If an individual who works for a company exhibits behaviors that are out of line with a company’s values, the company has every right to let that person go (again, so long as it’s not discriminating against them based on one fo the things outlined above).

So when you have individuals on video exhibiting violent behavior or expressing “opinions” which are clearly rooted in subconscious bias or bigotry, one must assume that this person is bringing those same behaviors and opinions to work with them every day, and that those behaviors and opinions have already created a hostile work environment for other employees. The person expressing those opinions then becomes a liability to the company, because they are opening the company up to a potential discrimination lawsuit, and it’s in the company’s best interest (and the company culture’s best interest, and the other employees’ best interest) to eliminate that liability.

If they had expressed any of those “opinions” or behaviors within the walls of where they work, they’d be fired. And by displaying those opinions and behaviors publicly, on video (fully knowing they are being recorded), they are demonstrating that 1) they are unconcerned if anyone finds out and 2) they are knowingly bringing attention to themselves, their behaviors, and their opinions in such a way that it doesn’t matter if they are in a work environment or not. They’ve made their conduct public knowledge and damaged the company reputation by association.

These people aren’t being “cancelled.” They are experiencing the real-world consequences of their attitudes and actions. Actions have consequences. It is the epitome of entitlement and privilege to believe that one is somehow exempt from being held accountable for those actions.

The same goes for celebrities losing endorsements, for companies pulling funding, etc. etc. They have the right to dissociate themselves with anyone or anything that is not in alignment with their company/brand values, or anything that would create a hostile or discriminatory work environment or culture.

All of this applies to social media companies as well because they are businesses, too! A social media company crafts a set of terms and conditions for the usage of its platform that is in alignment with its company’s core values. So if a user of that platform violates the terms and conditions, they are also out of alignment with the company’s core values, and the company has the discretion to suspend or ban that user. As long as there are no government regulations place on that industry’s standards and practices, they are free to do whatever they want.

A lot of people (mistakenly) believe their First Amendment right to free speech somehow entitles them to free speech in the corporate realm. It doesn’t. You know why?

The United States Supreme Court has given corporations (most of) the same constitutional rights as people. That means that they are just as protected by the First Amendment as you are, but with the additional regulation that they cannot discriminate based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, color, and national origin.

All the first amendment means for you, as a person, is that the government can’t legally censor you. A business can censor you all day long as long as you’re standing on their property, be it physical, digital, or intellectual. So all of those people talking about how Orwellian it is for Twitter to be able to deplatform Donald Trump? They’re totally confused. 1984 was about government censorship, not corporate censorship, and Twitter has had the power to do this all along because America’s disdain for corporate regulation gave it to them.

This also applies to business-to-business companies and publishing houses. If a person or company is utilizing a service provided by another company, and it violates that company’s terms of service or core values, the company providing the service has every right to discontinue the contract. The Supreme Court set this precedent when it allowed a Colorado bakery to deny service to a gay couple on the basis of religious/moral values, and it also applies to businesses who refuse to serve anyone not wearing a mask, and business who chooses to end their contracts with politicians and celebrities who do and say anything that business doesn’t want to be associated with.

There’s really no other way to say it: if someone’s beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and actions are in any way based on conscious discrimination or subconscious bias, you’re not protected by the First Amendment at work because it doesn’t cover hate speech, the business itself has the exact same constitutional right that we all do, and it’s in direct conflict to the The Civil Rights Act, which protects vulnerable populations from discrimination at work.

The fact that a person isn’t aware of their subconscious bias or how it relates to their beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and actions doesn’t matter. That’s a personal problem because they refuse to educate themselves, not the law’s problem.

The law exists specifically to protect vulnerable populations from people like them, so by continuing to publicly espouse those ideas, they are in fact cancelling themselves, because the law has been the law since 1964, and their ignorance of it (and of their own bias) does not absolve them from their actions.

What is Bias?

Time for another sociology lesson! One of the biggest issues we have regarding sexism and racism is that no one understands what bias is…so I’m going to break it down for you.

Racism/Sexism, bigotry, and bias are three separate, but interrelated things.

The “isms”–racism and sexism–are the systemic power dynamics which one race or sex holds over another. We live in a world that was built specifically to oppress women and people of color, and while we have created some laws and enacted certain reforms in an attempt to rectify this, much of the structure is still at work. The people who benefit from maintaining this structure the most are white and male (and cisgender, heteronormativ).

Anyone who defends or upholds this structure, be they bigoted or biased, are considered racists and sexists. This is why we say that a person of color can never be racist: they do not have the societal power to systemically oppress white people–because it lies with white people. Likewise, women can’t be sexist. Reverse racism and reverse sexism are a structural impossibility, because a group of oppressed people simply do not have the collective systemic power to oppress their oppressors. When people talk about reverse-racism and reverse-sexism, what they are actually talking about is bigotry.

Bigotry is an overt prejudice, or an openly hateful attitude toward someone of a group other than yours. Women who hate men are bigoted toward men and get their own special label as well: misandrists. Black people who hate white people are bigoted toward white people. And likewise, white people who hate Black people are bigots, and men who hate women get their own special label: misogynists. People often use the term racist when talking about bigots, and indeed, racist does encompass bigotry. White supremacists are both racists and bigots. Not all racists, however, are bigots.

This leads us to our third category: bias. Bias is a covert or subconscious prejudice against other groups to which you do not belong. Everyone is biased. Literally everyone, regardless of your sex or skin color. You have subconscious programming (i.e. beliefs and attitudes) about everything. Those racists who are not bigots, but still defend and uphold the white power structure? They’re biased. The sexists who are not misogynists who defend and uphold the male power structure? They’re also biased.

These are the white people out there who think they have to be burning crosses to be racist and have absolutely no idea that their behavior is, in fact, biased (and racist). These are the men out there who think that they love women and also think that women should take cat-calling as a compliment, and the white people who keep insisting they aren’t racist and yelling “all lives matter.”

These actions are what we call microaggressions and they create a climate of hostility within our society. This is where the most confusion, and the most insidious abuse in society lies, and it’s the kind of thing that the concept of anti-racism is meant to tackle.
Bias is baked into our society, because our cultures themselves are built upon socially accepted stigmas and stereotypes that subconsciously program us with beliefs and attitudes about certain groups of people. Those stigmas and stereotypes are fed to us every day through our own media and culture.

As noted earlier on, as a society, we are becoming more conscious of these stereotypes and how they are portrayed and slowly beginning to make change, but it’s going to take a long time to dismantle them and subsequently deprogram our society.

Racism and misogyny can also be internalized by those who are victims of it.

Because of these pervasive, subliminal messages we receive from society, many people who are actually oppressed by these concepts end up internalizing them and viewing them as “correct.” Women who say things like “I hate feminists” have internalized misogyny. Black people who are against Black Lives Matter have internalized racism (and are often trotted out as the token examples of “This Black person who agrees with [insert covert racist concept here]”).

Why do these things become internalized? As noted earlier, a lot of it is completely normalized within our culture itself. Professional dress codes at work, for example, are inherently more rigorous for women than men, because women are expected to wear makeup, jewelry, heels, and dress up, whereas men only have to put on a pair of slacks and a collared shirt. If a woman were to walk into a job interview with no makeup, no jewelry, wearing a pair of slacks and a casual dress shirt, she wold automatically be judged more harshly than other women who wore makeup, because that’s what our entire society as a whole expects. And that’s a double standard.

It’s all of these double standards and subconscious biases that have the most insidious effects on the individuals subjected to them. It’s why women disproportionately struggle with body image and eating disorders. It’s why Black people are disproportionately arrested, convicted, and incarcerated.

What’s it all got to do with spirituality? I’ll tell you: spirituality is the examination and subsequent integration of the subconscious aspects of ourselves. The very nature of spiritual self-inquiry requires us to examine our subconscious bias.

Spirituality devoid of anti-racism work is not spirituality. Spirituality devoid of anti-misogyny work is not spirituality. It’s spiritual bypassing. The same goes for every other bias you may hold, whether it’s bias toward LGBTQ+, ableism, ageism, xenophobia, or any other kind of ism. As a spiritual person, it is also your duty to help liberate the people who are oppressed by these systems.

Calling Out vs. Calling In

Now that we’ve established what is and isn’t cancelling, and what the grounds for it are, let’s talk about the appropriate way to go about it. Cancel culture is also known as “call out culture,” and lately there’s been some counter movement toward something called “calling in” instead of calling out.

Calling Out: the practice of issuing a direct challenge or criticism of someone’s words, attitudes, or behavior.

Calling In: the practice of engaging in thoughtful discussion about someone’s behavior, asking questions, and attempting to understand their perspective and gently call their bias into question.

Calling out and calling in are both necessary and useful tools for social change. You just have to know when is the right moment to use each one.

Calling out is necessary when someone is in a position of power or authority and they are abusing that power, or they are exhibiting overt bigotry, and even in some cases of covert bias. If we don’t, they continue to abuse that power and authority and harm others, even their own followers in the case of social media influencers. We enable them when we say nothing.

Calling in is useful when it’s obvious that the person is simply ignorant of their own bias (which is literally all of them) and that person is not in a position of power or authority where their behavior can be directly and immediately harmful. It’s easier to call in people who are on the same level as you, with regard to power balances. It’s harder to call in people who are above you. It is absolutely your responsibility to call in people who you are in a direct position of authority over.

As we established at the beginning of this post, some people, especially in the spiritual community, think that calling out is akin to public shaming, and therefore, invalid. Let’s clarify that shame is about who you are and guilt is about what you did. You can call out a person’s actions without shaming them as a bad person. Shame and guilt are naturally occurring human emotions and as such, serve a purpose to motivate us to do better when it isn’t being used by an abuser as a tool to manipulate.

Using spiritual concepts to avoid feelings of guilt or sitting with shame is spiritual bypassing, and not confronting harmful (bigoted or biased) messaging, attitudes, and behaviors when you see them is what allows these structures to continue.

It’s just as important to be aware of your own motivations for calling someone out. Are you doing it to shame, or are you doing it to protect the vulnerable by raising awareness?

 

Xo,

Ash

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Look up the meanings behind commonly used spiritual terminology and concepts in the Spirituality Encyclopedia.