Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Let’s talk about fear.

In New Age spirituality, fear is probably the most demonized emotion. “Stop living in fear!” everyone likes to preach. And, you know, in some instances, this is a good thing to do. How many opportunities in life do we miss because we were simply afraid to take the risk and instead, stuck to our comfort zone?

In this case, the whole False Evidence Appearing Real narrative is somewhat correct. When we are afraid of failure, rejection, pain, of not being good enough, etc. it keeps us small. When we’re afraid of the boogeyman and things that go bump in the night, it keeps us on edge. Religion has used fear of Satan, Hell, and demons as a mechanism for control for centuries. All of these fears are based in total illusion or superstition with no foundation in reality.

Learn why fear-based beliefs are a distortion.

But there’s another kind of fear that has every basis in reality which serves as a biological survival instinct: fear of actual real and tangible danger. Like physical pain, without this evolutionary protection mechanism, the human race would be extinct. Fear in the face of clear and present danger is what keeps us alive.

Could you imagine telling a child not to look both ways before crossing the street because it’s considered “living in fear”? How about intentionally exposing yourself to a potentially deadly virus because wearing a mask was “living in fear”? Or maybe attempting to take a selfie with a wild buffalo at Yellowstone? You catch my drift. These are Darwin Award-worthy acts of stupidity, not conquering fear for any useful reason.

There’s a marked difference between fear-based beliefs and belief systems and actual bodily self-preservation.

Learn more about the difference between fear and danger.

On Pushing Through Fear and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Some people pride themselves on getting out of their comfort zones, and certainly, if you do what you’ve always did, get you’ll get what you’ve always to gotten. But like anything, this all depends on context.

If you’re talking about doing something you’ve never done before, like uprooting your entire life to move across the country with no safety net, and that scares you, that’s an opportunity you might miss because of your comfort zone. It might be worth the risk.

If you’re talking about doing something you’ve never done before that might actually violate your personal values or expose you to harmful relationship dynamics, that’s a whole other ballgame. That’s risky behavior because you don’t recognize risk when you see it.

Sometimes our comfort zones exist because we’ve been severely traumatized, and pushing ourselves out of them too fast, too soon is just like the trauma that created them in the first place. This is harmful.

Sometimes, because of abuse, we don’t actually fully understand what our comfort level is. We ignore our discomfort because that’s what our abusers taught us to do, and when we come up against some similar, subtle, but potentially harmful experiences, we stick around too long, not realizing what’s happening until it’s too late.

Those with people-pleasing or codependent tendencies are not great at recognizing risk or when their boundaries are being violated, and a lot of folks think that pushing through this is somehow conquering their fear in the name of spirituality.

If you’re a recovering people pleaser, or have a history of trauma and abuse, I urge you to ignore the comfort zone messaging on Instagram when it comes to really personal things like relationships, sex, and things which are directly tied to your physical and emotional well-being.

Fear isn’t all bad. Fear is a useful emotion that alerts us of danger. Fear only becomes detrimental when it becomes overprotective.

Pay attention to your discomfort. Explore it. Honor it. Sometimes it’s all in your head. But sometimes it’s there for a reason.

Xo,

Ash

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Narcissistic Empaths and the Narcissist / Empath Relationship

Narcissistic Empaths and the Narcissist / Empath Relationship

Narcissistic Empaths and the Narcissist / Empath Relationship

You’ll find a lot of wildly popular information on the internet talking about the relationship between narcissists and empaths, and how these two polar opposites ends up attracting each other.

However, you may recall in a previous post where I wrote about the Law of Attraction, I pointed out that the perception of opposite energies attracting is an illusion. According to the Law of Attraction, like energy attracts like energy. So how can two seeming opposites such as a narcissist and an empath be alike?

Like Attracts Like or Opposites Attract?

First, we need to review what like energy attracts like energy actually means in terms of Law of Attraction:

If we want to truly understand the law of attraction, we have to understand it in energetic terms: heavy energy attracts heavy energy. Lighter energy attracts lighter energy. The vibrational frequencies of the energies are a match.

 

Duality comes from the illusion that there exists a lack of love. We call that illusion fear (not to be confused with danger). Fear-based energy is heavy and dense. Thus, fear-based energy manifests as spectrum of polarity (duality).

 

For example: total control and total submission exist on the same power spectrum and they are both symptoms of a heavier, “negative,” fear-based energy, one being a hunger for power, and the other being a state of feeling powerless. Thus, these two energies attract because they are the same fundamental energy expressing itself on a spectrum, and give the illusion of opposites attracting.

 

Learn more about the Law of Attraction

Next, we have to establish what an empath is.

When most people on the internet are talking about empaths, they are actually talking about codependency. I think there’s a great deal of nuance involved in this, and people often lump several categories together. I tend to see these broken down like so:

  • There’s psychic empaths, which are people who physically experience other people’s emotions and energy in the environment around them (also known as Sensory-Processing Sensitivity or a highly sensitive person (HSP)) ;
  • There’s people with empathy, who have the emotional intelligence to understand how another person may be feeling;
  • And then there’s people who are codependent, who may, but don’t necessarily, have either of the aforementioned abilities.

What’s the difference between all of these things?

Psychic empaths/HSP appears to be biological in nature–you’re born that way (and it exists in non-humans as well). Emotional intelligence/empathy is cultivated and nurtured through our environment. Codependency is a learned coping mechanism/survival strategy when healthy emotional intelligence is not cultivated or nurtured–it mimics real empathy but in an unhealthy way.

A person can be codependent, have empathy, and be a psychic empath, or a person can be codependent, have little emotional intelligence, and be a psychic empath, or they might be a perfectly healthy, empowered psychic empath with a high emotional IQ.

Me, personally… I’ve always been HSP, but I have not always been emotionally intelligent. Not even close. I had to learn how to cultivate emotional intelligence on my own. I taught myself how to feel and how to empathize with other people. In some ways, shutting off one’s ability to empathize might be a reaction to being HSP in an abusive world. The pain of living in this world is too much for a developing, sensitive nervous system to process, so it becomes numb in order to function normally.

Learn about these three types of empaths.

The kind of empath that is most often drawn into relationships with narcissists are typically codependents, who may not actually be empaths at all, but rather… covert narcissists.

Narcissists and this kind of “empath” exist on opposite end of the same spectrum. Indeed, some research suggests that the only people who can stand being friends with narcissists are other narcissists.

Everybody’s A Little Bit Narcissistic

The next thing that is important to establish is that narcissism and codependency are a scale. Literally everyone has some narcissistic traits, and we all probably have some codependent tendencies. Some people are more narcissistic than others, and some people are more codependent than others. The extreme ends of those scales are where you’ll find the hardcore narcissist and the narcissistic empath.

Defining Traits of Narcissists and Narcissistic Empaths

The defining characteristics of both narcissists and (narcissistic) empaths/codependents, etc. are:

  • Lack of boundaries
  • Lack of a true defined self/identity
  • Dependent on others for validation / overly concerned with what other think
  • Lack of true self-awareness or awareness of one’s motivations

In this way, these two types of personalities are two sides of the same coin–and of course all of this exists on a scale/spectrum, so it’s to varying degrees of intensity.

A codependent or narcissistic empath gives all of their boundaries away (thus, no boundaries), and a narcissist disrespects all boundaries (thus, no boundaries), which is why they tend to “attract” one another, and why overt narcissist parents create covert narcissist or codependent children.

Both are overly concerned with the appearance of perfection, people pleasing, and deriving validation from another, it just manifests in slightly different nuances. Both constantly conform to others’ expectations, but it seems codependents focus on the individual in front of them, and narcissists focus on the collective’s.

On the extreme end, both lack a deep level of self-awareness, have a desperate need for attention, both engage in emotional manipulation, but one is more overt, and the other more covert. Both have a tendency to victimize themselves as well, which is why the whole “narcissists attract empaths” trope works so well–it allows the narcissistic empath to play that victim/martyr role and wear the label of “empath” like a badge of honor.

And finally, narcissistic empaths don’t actually have real empathy–they imitate empathy as a means of manipulating others into giving them validation. Their primary concern is still themselves, just like any other narcissist.

Learn more about narcissistic traits and abuse.

Out in the wild, these covert narcissists would be considered energy vampires to the tune of Evie Russell, from What We Do in the Shadows.

Spoiler alert: in true overt/covert narcissist fashion, Collin and Evie start dating.

Narcissists Are Not Attracted to Empaths

Narcissists are not attracted to empaths. Narcissists are attracted to people with weak boundaries and people-pleasing tendencies, which, as we’ve already established, is not an empath, it’s a codependent.

Narcissistic empaths are attracted to other covert narcissists, and by the way–a narcissist can display both overt and covert narcissistic tendencies, they don’t have to be one or the other.

As I said earlier, everyone has some narcissistic traits, and we all probably exhibit some codependent tendencies. Some folks might rank higher on the scale than others, and that’s where you find seemingly good people being attracted to seemingly bad people… except that’s really just our own lack of self-awareness around our own narcissistic tendencies being mirrored back to us by the person we’ve identified as “the narc.”

Narcissistic education coaches on Instagram are often people who have experienced narcissistic abuse, and when they haven’t fully healed from that abuse, they are usually still writing from a place of wounding and blame and have a tendency to dehumanize the abuser, which then creates an entire culture that writes off wounded people as irredeemably toxic, which naturally creates even more wounding.

They also tend to give really bad advice to the people they’re allegedly trying to heal, because they, themselves, haven’t yet worked out how to heal, such as telling their clients, “You don’t love them. It was just a trauma-bond.” This is actually a form of gaslighting. Coaches don’t know you and they don’t know whether or not you really loved your abuser or not, and they have no business telling you that you didn’t. What they should be telling you is that you perhaps have an unhealthy attachment to said person, and teach you how to compassionately detach without abusing yourself or vilifying anyone.

I’ll never tell an abuse victim that they deserved what they got or that it was their fault, because none of us ever asks to be abused. Healing is a process as well, and we don’t need to make excuses for our abuser’s behavior, nor do we even have to forgive them. But that doesn’t mean we get a free pass to abuse them in return.

Learn why you don’t manifest abuse.

Narcissistic abuse victims often gaslight themselves and bury their feelings as a coping mechanism to detach from their abuser. The unfortunate side effect of this is that they shut off their own empathy toward that person, and the one thing that defines a narcissist is a lack of empathy. So the irony is, you end up becoming just like them, which is why abuse is a cycle.

At some point, in order to truly heal, we have to recognize that abusers were, themselves, abused. And while we don’t have to excuse their behavior, or even forgive them for what they did, we do have to try to understand how they became who they are, if for no other reason than to ensure that we, ourselves, do not become the thing we despise. When we bring ourselves back to a state of empathy and compassion, it opens a path for our own healing as well as one for the abuser, should they choose to accept it.

Xo,

Ash

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Are You Awake or Just Woke?

Are You Awake or Just Woke?

Are You Awake or Just Woke?

There’s a new documentary making the rounds now about social media’s effects on society. I also caught the follow-up of Plandemic which was trying to paint a similar picture (that Google is run by evil people who want to brainwash you into believing whatever they choose to show you). The idea is becoming very popular, so I wanted to talk about it for a minute and pose a couple of philosophical questions.

The Social Dilemma

Everyone reading this probably believes in the concept of the Law of Attraction: that what you believe in/think about, you manifest. In other words, whatever you are, you get more of, until you change what you are.

This is not entirely different from how social media and Google algorithms work. Whatever you click on, you get more of. Until you change what you click on. I’ve worked in some form of digital marketing pretty much since Twitter was invented (2007 or so) and as part of my job, I’ve had to understand the how the algorithms work and keep up with how they’ve changed-both for the delivery of ads and organic growth of business pages on Facebook, and for the delivery of ads and organic rankings of websites on Google.

I’ve known for years that whatever I click on (and especially whatever I share), I’m going to get more of, so I only click on the things that I want to see more of. That’s why my instagram feed is full of A-frame houses in Norway, cat and bird videos, and the occasional inspirational quote. I specifically do not click on all of the Tik Tok videos of teen girls with giggly boobs doing dances in bikinis because I DON’T want more of that (and yet they keep making them… lordt).

I also know that some influencer or coach somewhere is probably going to end up in my feed at some point because they’ve created an ad that targets people with interests similar to that of their target audience. And sometimes I appreciate that because it introduces me to new people. But most of the time I roll my eyes because those people are hypocrites in some form or fashion.

It’s not a secret or a conspiracy that Facebook, or Twitter, or any other technology platform has tried to hide from anyone. There are people who literally make their living by writing article after article about how these platforms work and teaching small business owners how to use them. If you truly want to understand how it works, you don’t need to watch a spooky conspiracy “documentary” (I use that word loosely because Plandemic is not a documentary, its propaganda, which is another word I do not use loosely. It literally meets the definition of propaganda).

Just like with the Law of Attraction, my social media feed and Google searches show me the things I’ve already been thinking about, searching for, and clicking on. In other words, they mirror back to me my version of reality, just like the law of attraction does.

At what point do we stop blaming things outside of ourselves–evil cabals of cannibal celebrities, the deep state, or Google’s algorithm–for the consequences of our own actions (or inactions)?

At what point do we start making active and logical decisions about the information we choose take in?

People want to say “SOCIAL MEDIA IS CONDITIONING YOU TO THINK THIS WAY!” But the reality is that it isn’t. They are allowing themselves to be conditioned by the information they are choosing to engage with–by not engaging in a critical thinking process.

Are You Awake or Just Woke?

In spirituality, we have this concept of living consciously and being “awake” verses living your life asleep. One of, if not the most common misconceptions I see the “wake up sheeple” crowd make is believing that being awake means that you are “woke” to the ills of the world. That’s not what being awake means at all. Not even close. It also doesn’t (only) mean that you are aware that there is more to the universe than what is physically in front of it. It’s deeper than all of these things.

Being awake means living your life with conscious intention.

It means becoming aware of your subconscious patterns and habits, and learning to recognize when you are slipping into them. It means recognizing when your emotional reactions are driving your behavior. It means recognizing when your shadow-self is taking over. Only when you are awake and aware of your own shadow can you see the world objectively enough to be truly aware of what’s happening around you.

Humans really like to blame anybody and anything other than themselves for how they think–and sure, when we’re kids, we are conditioned by our parents’ beliefs and our society and culture because we don’t have any other point of reference. It’s only when we grow older, get a little more experience under our belts, and see more of the world that we (hopefully) begin the process of expansion.

People who have truly done their inner-work to deprogram themselves and heal their trauma, who have learned the principles of non-attachment, who know their spiritual values, and use those as a cornerstone to anchor the kind of reality they choose to create will actively employ those things as measures against what they will perceive as Truth and what will not. Additionally, because they’ve done the work on their own ego, become happy with themselves and no longer have the need to be liked, they’re less likely to go along with what others say as a way of people-pleasing. As such, they are far less susceptible to group think. And that’s what it means to be conscious. 

Know Thyself

Non-attachment is very key, because it keeps you from latching onto information simply because you WANT it to be true (and just because you want it to be true–i.e. it confirms your own biases, etc.–doesn’t mean that it is). Non-attachment allows you to look at and evaluate information from various angles.

Knowing your values is what helps you determine if a person/thing measures up to your spirituality. My personal core values are:

  • Integrity
  • Authenticity
  • Vulnerability
  • Knowledge
  • Empathy
  • Connection

Does the source of the information that I’m reading come from someone who is authentic, has integrity, shows vulnerability, or a deep knowledge and understanding about something? Do they have empathy? Do they care about the whole? If the answer to any of those questions is no, or I don’t know, then those are red flags.

Finally, critical thinking is the most obvious and important way to gauge information. But what you will find is that people will use spirituality to bypass critical thinking (this is another form of spiritual bypassing, particularly if the critical thinking piece is going to catalyze inner-growth). As we’ve discussed previously, critical thinking means objectively measuring and weighing the validity of new information, and non-attachment and the values test are tools for critical thinking.

In summary, my main point with this post is that we need to start taking personal responsibility for the information we consume, and the people who claim technology is brainwashing them (or anyone) are not doing that… because they don’t want to be responsible for themselves. Being responsible for yourself is hard. Being responsible for what you think and believe, on the surface, is super easy, but as we know from shadow work, it’s probably actually one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.

Xo,

Ash

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How To Know If A Spiritual Teacher Is Credible

How To Know If A Spiritual Teacher Is Credible

How To Know If A Spiritual Teacher Is Credible

The concept of credibility came up in my post on critical thinking and spirituality yesterday. I think part of our issue today with all of the misinformation floating around is that a lot of people don’t really understand what credibility means. Today I’m going to give you a rundown of what makes someone credible in the realms of science and journalism, and how to apply that to spirituality.

For those who may not know me, my current day job is as a marketing director and science writer/editor for a private research university on the East Coast. I write about and promote scientific research across the gamut of science and engineering, including quantum mechanics and computing, biomedical engineering, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity, robotics, data science, electrical and computer engineering, and environmental science. I graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism–one of the top three programs in the country–in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a minor in sociology. I worked for four years at various advertising agencies as a writer and account executive, then I moved on to the tech realm for another seven years where I helped develop, brand, and market social media platforms, apps, and other technology-centric businesses. I also did a six-year stint volunteering for an animal welfare organization in one of the most impoverished cities in the country helping them with marketing, branding, and other external communications. And finally, most of you know me because I’ve been writing a little spirituality blog for the past six years.

These are my credentials. Credentials are what constitutes credibility in a specific area. My credentials provide me with at least some credibility in the areas of journalism, animal welfare, not-for-profit marketing, social systems, constructs, and behavior, science and technology, marketing and advertising, and spirituality, as these are areas that I have years of direct experience in, as well as an educational background.

In the world of academia you have to have A LOT of credentials to be considered credible, especially in science due to the technical nature of the subject matter. It’s not enough to simply have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or chemistry–that makes you credible to the layman, but not to other scientists and engineers. To have credibility among other scientists and engineers, one needs to have at the very least a Ph.D. in the subject matter in which they are attempting to speak on, and people with Ph.D.s who work in academia are quick to tell you, “I can’t speak on that. I’m not an expert in that area” when it comes to media inquiries. I work with a guy who is developing a mask that’s made of anti-viral materials for potential applications with COVID, and he can’t (and won’t) speak to the efficiency of regular medical masks, because his expertise is in chemically-based materials (materials science), not disease transmission (virology, epidemiology, microbiology).

Most folks with a Ph.D. spend their lives studying one-two specific problems that fall within their general area. For example, I work with a quantum physicist who specializes in quantum entanglement. Everything he does is relative to entanglement and nothing else. Another quantum physicist works in the area of gravity. He only researches theories related to gravity and nothing else. Another quantum physicist I work with researches ways to engineer quantum computing technology. He only researches quantum computing and nothing else. The guy who does quantum computing doesn’t consider himself an expert in gravity, and the guy who is an expert in gravity doesn’t consider himself qualified to speak about quantum computing, even though they both have a Ph.D. in physics. The guy who is an expert on quantum entanglement? His work overlaps both areas. This is why scientists often collaborate–they bring in people who have the same level of expertise as they do, but in a closely related area.

To be honest, though, lots of people have Ph.D.s and some are really good at what they do and others not so much, just like any other vocation. What makes a scientist with a Ph.D. highly credible is how many peer-reviewed papers they’ve published, the prestige of the organizations from which they’ve been awarded funding, the amount of funding, and the impact factor of the peer-reviewed Journals they’ve been published in. Science and Nature are the holy grails of science publications. If you make it in there, it’s really special. (Peer review means that your published research is sent out to a group of other scientists with expertise in your same area, and they try to disprove your findings. If none of them can disprove your findings, your work is considered good until some other research comes along that refutes it. This is the scientific process at work.)

Scientific misconduct–a.k.a. faking or stealing your research results–does happen occasionally within the scientific community, as well as flukes and accidents, and that’s why the peer-review process exists. It’s meant to be a filter to catch anything that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. If a scientific paper has not been through the peer-review process, it’s considered far less credible than one that has, because it hasn’t been put to the test.

In the scientific community, when someone has engaged in scientific misconduct, they lose any and all credibility. How can anyone ever trust what you’re saying if you’ve lied about your results, stolen another researcher’s work (which they’ve often been working on their entire adult lives), or constantly put out sloppy test results? This is the problem with Judy Mikovits (Plandemic). Mikovits lied multiple times in her documentary, she also lied about her research, and she stole research. Even though she has a Ph.D., she’s not considered a credible source by anyone in the scientific community (note the publication of this article is 2011, years before Mikovits went viral) due to all of the above, and her research results having been refuted by peer-review. No one could replicate it, and for science to be proven, it has to have a repeatable result. (It is worth noting that since writing this blog post, Mikki Willis, the man who directed Plandemic and interviewed Mikovitz on camera, was identified as one of the rioters who mobbed the Capitol building on January 6th, 20201. Willis can be seen in the video footage on several news networks standing in the middle of a group of people chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” He was also captured on video speaking to other members of the mob by reporters from the New York Times.)

As a journalist writing about science or any other subject, you have to be able to digest and understand what the experts are talking about, but you, yourself, do not carry the credibility in the subject matter–the credibility lies with the people you interview. That’s why you interview subject-matter experts. For you, the credibility comes with whether or not you are presenting the information from the interview accurately, within its proper context, citing credible sources, and presenting the information in a balanced way (i.e. presenting multiple, and especially opposing perspectives on an issue). Anything that doesn’t do this can be considered biased.

Credible sources for a journalist would be people with academic credentials, credible eye-witnesses, business people with many years of experience, etc. It’s a journalist’s job to check and verify the credentials of a source. It’s also that journalist’s job to cite that person’s credentials in the story. A journalist should also directly verify every piece of information included in an article before it’s published.

It’s an editor’s job to ensure that this happens and that all quality control measures are in place prior to a publication–similar to the peer-review process. It’s also their job to make sure a piece is marketable to their target audience. Is this content the audience cares about? Is this something they’ll want to read? Is this a headline they will click on?

If a journalist repeatedly publishes content that doesn’t meet good journalism standards, they risk losing their professional credibility. If an editor repeatedly allows content to be published that doesn’t meet good journalism standards, they risk losing their professional credibility. A couple of editors at the New York Times have recently resigned after publishing articles that they DIDN’T EVEN READ. (You had ONE job…literally, what are you being paid for?)

It’s no secret that certain publications prioritize pandering to their audiences above good journalism. We all know exactly which publications those are. Everyone likes to blame the media, but the truth is, if the audience didn’t click on it, read it, and share it, it wouldn’t make money, there wouldn’t be a market for it, and it wouldn’t happen. Marketability is everything. The media gives people what they want. And people want information that reaffirms their (often biased) worldview. It’s precisely why they read those publications, specifically, in the first place. If you cared about non-biased news, you’d read NPR all day every day, avoid 24-hour cable news networks, and that would be the end of it. (As an aside, documentaries are not necessarily a source of unbiased material, as documentary makers are film-makers, ultimately for entertainment purposes, and under no legal or moral obligation to present an unbiased story and often make documentaries to tell a very specific narrative.)

That now leads us to spirituality… how does one deconstruct their worldview from being so biased? Self-awareness and shadow work! There’s lots of spiritual teachers out there that can help you do that, but how many of them are credible?

Spirituality isn’t something you can really learn from getting a certificate or taking an online course. I personally don’t trust people who tout those kinds of credentials, because experience is hard-earned, and it’s the only thing that gives us true spiritual knowledge. You also can’t go to school to embody spirituality. So what about people who woke up one day and suddenly started channeling? Isn’t that a god-given gift for them to use? Honestly, no. And this is where we come back to hard-earned experience.

The measure of a credible spiritual teacher is the depth of shadow-work they’ve done on themselves.

Shadow work doesn’t happen overnight or when you complete an online course, it happens over the course of a lifetime. You’ll be able to evaluate a credible spiritual teacher because they will embody the following qualities and behaviors:

A good spiritual teacher has been through hell and come out the other side, humbled. A good spiritual teacher has the ability to see situations (and the world) from multiple angles and understand how everyone arrived at their conclusions, but also see the middle ground. A good spiritual teacher knows they are never done learning. Most importantly, a good spiritual teacher doesn’t avoid discomfort, confrontation, or negativity, but handles those situations constructively and with grace.

Not only are these qualities to measure a spiritual teacher by, they’re qualities to measure a good leader by. These qualities are what gives someone’s character credibility. You can have professional credibility and you can have intellectual credibility, but as a spiritual teacher, if you don’t have credibility of character, you really have nothing, because character is the thing you are building through self-awareness, and it’s the thing you are becoming an expert in through your own healing process process.

Xo,

Ash

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Are You A Critical Thinker?

Are You A Critical Thinker?

Are You A Critical Thinker?

I posted a poll in my Facebook group a couple of weeks ago asking which topics people would be most interested in having me write about, and critical thinking within the context of spirituality came out on top by far. I think it’s an especially important topic in this day and age when there’s so much misinformation swirling about on the internet. Consider this your crash course in the foundations of critical thinking.

Critical thinking: the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

Critical thinking is our weapon of discernment against a lack of self-awareness and unconscious behavior both within ourselves and the world around us.

We can define unconscious behavior in the world around us as:

Herd mentality: the inclination for individuals within a group to follow along with what the group at large thinks or does. It is also known as mob behavior, group mind, group think, crowd psychology, and other similar terms.

Groupthink: the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.

Simply having the same beliefs as another group of people isn’t bad, and it doesn’t mean you’re a sheep. Holding those beliefs without having any self-awareness about why, where they came from, and having spent little or no time engaging in the exploration of opposing beliefs (from unbiased sources), is what makes people sheep.

We make the assumption that critical thinking is about evaluating and judging the world around us, but it’s just as much about, if not more, evaluating and judging the way we SEE the world around us – that’s where we develop objectivity. Critical thinking and self-awareness aren’t necessarily the same thing, but critical thinkers tend to have self-awareness as a prerequisite.

Example: If you still hold the same political beliefs as your parents did before you, as well as the majority of the people who live in the region where you grew up and/or currently reside, or if you still see yourself as the same person now that you were when you were 20, or if you still maintain the same religious ideologies that you were taught as a child – that might be a red flag that some self-examination is required.

Spirituality catalyzes evolution. If you haven’t evolved in the most deeply rooted, fundamental ways that you perceive the world around you, something’s not clicking.

Only when you’ve developed the ability to be self-critical can you truly think critically about the world around you.

That’s what real spirituality–specifically shadow work–teaches us to do.

Attempting to deconstruct the world around you before deconstructing the world within you will not bear any meaningful fruit, because everything will still be a projection of the unexamined internal self.

I’ve often touted the notion that humans are not logical beings, but rather, rational beings. We create rationales for what we believe, but those rationales are not always logical, nor will they ever be if we have yet to examine ourselves deeply.

If you trust everything you see around you–question yourself.

If you are suspicious of everything you see around you–question yourself.

No one should ever always be on one end of a spectrum. Ironically, conspiratorial thinking is a prime example of herd mentality and groupthink. It’s just one that’s dressed itself up in a facade of faux critical thinking (that doesn’t actually think critically). It values the perception of critical thinking, but embodies few, if any, of the actual practices involved. Why?

Critical thinking requires taking in a multitude of perspectives. It requires doing research AND trusting experts. It requires observing all possibilities and making a sound judgement based on factual evidence.

A fact is defined as: a thing that is known or proved to be true. In science, a fact is a repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experimentation or other means), also called empirical evidence. In the most basic sense, a scientific fact is an objective and verifiable observation, in contrast with a hypothesis or theory, which is intended to explain or interpret facts.

Critical thinking underpins the scientific process. The scientific process accepts nothing that can’t be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. It withholds judgement until there is enough evidence to support a conclusion, and it literally offers up its hypothesis to a community of experts to be picked apart, critiqued, and dismantled in every way possible, until the majority of experts agree that it stands up to scrutiny well enough.

That’s exactly how you think critically.

A critical thinker is not:

  • A  lone wolf (because critical thinkers value the perspectives of others, especially those of experts).
  • Simply someone who has different ideas than everyone else (because who think logically often arrive at the same conclusions).
  • Someone who thinks differently than what is popular (because sometimes what makes the most logical sense is also widely accepted among groups of critical thinkers).
  • Simply someone who does their own research (because critical thinkers recognize when other people know more than them about a given topic).
  • Someone who only accepts the ideas and opinions of a single group (because critical thinkers evaluate all perspectives within reason).
  • Someone who denies factual evidence (because factual evidence is how we measure the world objectively).
  • Someone who dismisses expert opinions (because critical thinkers know that experts know more about a subject than they do).
  • And most importantly, a critical thinker is not someone who refuses to accept new information once it’s been presented (because critical thinkers measure their opinions objectively, and objectivity requires the acceptance of factual evidence, especially new factual evidence).

Conspiratorial thinking has a tendency to dismiss factual evidence in favor of conjecture, and will constantly shift and change its theories and hypothesis to fit the narrative (i.e. coming up with excuses as to why something didn’t play out as predicted) or deny evidence altogether as being false. Unlike a real criminal investigation, which looks at factual evidence first and then pieces together a story based on the evidence, conspiracy theory begins with a narrative and finds circumstantial evidence to support the theory while ignoring anything that discredits it. It’s the exact opposite of a criminal investigation, and the exact opposite of critical thinking, because it’s attached to an internal belief rather than an objective observation.

But, you say, spirituality teaches us to question everything and believe nothing! It tells us to find our own truth! How can spirituality and critical thinking co-exist?

Like I said–spirituality tells us to first examine OURSELVES above all else. And until we think critically about ourselves, we will never be able to think critically (or objectively) about the world around us. It is only after questioning yourself first, and then the world around you, can you see things objectively enough to find your own truth.

Xo,

Ash

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Do We Manifest Abusive Experiences?

Do We Manifest Abusive Experiences?

Do We Manifest Abusive Experiences?

If you’ve been in spiritual circles for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard some form of the idea that we create our reality, and we manifest our experiences, and as such, we must take responsibility for ourselves and our experiences in order to create the outcomes we desire.

This concept becomes dangerously twisted, however, when applied to victims of abuse such as sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, rape, and systemic oppression. That doesn’t stop many well-meaning spiritual people from using it to dismiss and otherwise invalidate the very real experiences of abuse victims. I’ve come across some form of it a lot over the course of my spiritual development, particularly in the early stages, including touting it as channeled information from spirit guides, etc.

At the time, I wasn’t educated enough on the subject to know better, and I took the word of psychics and channelers. Having had many years to grow in understanding and develop spiritually, I now realize how this is an over-simplification and only serves to damage and shame victims of abuse.

Some of the forms of this message have been:

 

  • Your souls contracted for this experience.
  • Your thoughts create your reality, therefore, your victim mentality created this situation.
  • There’s an energy exchange between abuser and the abused, and if the abused wasn’t putting out that kind of energy they wouldn’t attract this experience.

I’d like to break each one of these down and explain why this is misunderstood and damaging.

“Your souls contracted for this experience”

If soul contracts in these situations are such a thing, then it is a contract to bring light to these dynamics so that they can be healed and ended. That does not mean that we simply dismiss it as “well, you signed up for this” and forget about it. It means that it’s a contract between all of us on earth–the person observing abusive situations–and the people specifically involved as well, and their dynamic is meant to teach us empathy and what it means to protect the vulnerable, so when someone dismisses abusive situations in this manner, they are not only enabling abusers and hurting victims, they are also engaging in spiritual bypassing by using spirituality to avoid having to feel uncomfortable emotions, which would be the catalyst for empathy.

“Your thoughts create your reality, therefore, your victim mentality created this situation.”

As I’ve said before… a victim mentality only exists when the abuse is imaginary… but even those victim mentalities are often rooted in real trauma and abuse. In that case, we must go back to the source.

A person’s first experience with abuse can never be the result of their own thoughts because the experience has never entered into their awareness. Especially when we are children, we haven’t yet fully developed a sense of self–our brains don’t even finish forming until we’re 25–and we are at the mercy of the adult/child power dynamic. Therefore, any abuse perpetrated on a child by an adult can never be the result of law of attraction. Children don’t have the luxury of making their own decisions, much less forming complex belief systems about being victims. They do, after all, only come to believe they are the source of their abuse after the fact, and as adults, spend years unlearning that shame.

Abusive experiences and patterns are almost always ancestral, handed down from one generation and forcefully inflicted onto the next. By simply incarnating into that ancestral line, one will experience that abuse. This, you might call a soul contract. But soul contracts are not only meant to be experiences, they are meant to be opportunities to heal. As an observer of that contract, you become a part of the collective contract and you are offered an opportunity to heal group karma that enables abusers through rape culture, systemic racism, and other destructive social climates.

By telling someone that they manifested their abuse, you are absolving the abuser of accountability, and thus aiding in the manifestation of that experience by contributing to global karma that perpetuates those experiences.

“There’s an energy exchange between abuser and the abused, and if the the abused wasn’t putting out that kind of energy they wouldn’t attract this experience.”

With regard to there being an energy exchange between abuser and the abused–what this really means is boundaries.

People can only abuse you if you continue to allow it, and often times that requires learning to uphold and maintain healthy boundaries. But many times, power dynamics make upholding boundaries extremely difficult. It’s called abuse because the person or group who has the the most power is using that power to abuse a person or group who has less of it. This, too, is ancestral, because the only way a person or group obtains more power than another is by accumulating it over time (the only exception being a parent/child dynamic in which case it exists from the moment the child is born).

Who allowed that person to accumulate that power, unchecked?

Who continues to enable them to wield that power without consequence?

The answer is the collective. The family members who don’t speak up or step in. The friends who never say anything. The “good” cops who don’t report the bad cops. The people who say “boys will be boys.” The well-to-do family who protects their sons and daughters from the consequences of their actions.

All of the people who see this abuse taking place and say nothing? They are just as responsible, because they allow abusers to avoid being held accountable.

You can’t tell someone that they’ve manifested their own oppression or abuse without pointing the finger at yourself for being a part of the collective that allows it to continue.

So… let’s shut this toxic shit down wherever we see it. Okay?

Xo,

Ash

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