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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New to Spirituality?

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

Why QAnon Infected The Spiritual and Wellness Communities

Why QAnon Infected The Spiritual and Wellness Communities

Why QAnon Infected The Spiritual and Wellness Communities

We already know how QAnon spread through the wellness industry, passed along by evangelical influencers indoctrinating widespread audiences as explained by this article in Cosmo, but a lot of people are still scratching their heads about why it spread the way it did. Several people have made comments on my social media posts recently that they just can’t wrap their heads around the connection between QAnon and spirituality.

How is it that New Agers, yoga moms, Neo Nazis, Evangelical Christians, and a slew of other unlikely comrades all ended up under the spell of a conspiracy narrative that positioned a man of highly questionable character who clearly suffers from textbook narcissistic personality disorder as both a “lightworker” and the man saving the world’s children from elite Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles?

First you have to understand the different camps of people who have gravitated to QAnon. Every single person who is a part of the Qult will fall into one or more of the following categories (there may be more, but these are the ones I’ve observed):

  • Newly introduced to spirituality
  • Individualist outlook and political ideology
  • Low capacity for empathy or low emotional intelligence
  • Higher level of narcissistic tendencies
  • Low capacity for critical thinking and discernment
  • Unhealed trauma and poor coping skills

Spiritual Newcomers

Spirituality today is more accessible and mainstream than ever before, which has resulted in droves of the “newly awakened” and spiritually curious.

People who are only a few months and even up to three and four years into their spiritual journey are opening up their minds in new and exciting ways, and discovering all kinds of information that’s changing their entire perspective on their lives. Naturally, there’s a certain stage inherent in this where you’re willing to literally consider anything, including conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories are not new to spirituality. If you’ve been around long enough, you know that they’ve always been creeping around in the dingy corners, whether it’s lizard people, the Illuminati, or flat earth. There’s absolutely a conspiracy phase that a lot of people go through during their awakening process and not everyone makes it out (more on this in a bit).

Newcomers to spirituality have minds that are wide open–it’s almost like seeing the world in a whole new light–but they lack the knowledge to own their healing and as such, haven’t done any shadow work yet. Because of this, they have a low capacity for spiritual or intuitive discernment–doubly so if they already have poor critical thinking skills. This combination of open-mindedness and lack of discernment makes them incredibly vulnerable to spiritual bullshit, including conspiracy theories and spiritual abuse.

Learn how to spot spiritual abuse.

We’ve all been there. You’re just starting out, you don’t know anything, and you put your faith in people who appear to have more wisdom or more of a connection to the divine than you do, which makes you highly susceptible to influence by figures of perceived authority, such as wellness influencers, psychics, and channels. Along comes QAnon, wrapped in flowery love and light, and it’s being peddled by influencers who themselves are still in early the stages of awakening and have prematurely named themselves spiritual authorities, so newcomers fall for it hook, line, and sinker–especially if they’re already steeped in individualist political ideology and belief systems, because it’s confirmation bias, right?

Learn how to spot toxic spiritual people.

Additionally, when you first begin your spiritual journey, it can be lonely and isolating when no one else around you gets it, so you search for community online via social media. When you find a group of people who seem to be on the same journey you are, it’s validating! But this also makes one incredibly vulnerable to manipulation by charismatic spiritual leaders and influencers and their flocks of brainwashed, unquestioning followers.

Individualism: Where Christians, Conservatives, and New Agers Meet

QAnon makes itself attractive to Evangelical Christians and conservatives through individualist values and political ideology, which is where you also have an overlap with the popular but misunderstood New Age personal empowerment rhetoric, where one’s inherent worth and goodness as a human being is directly correlated to or evident by their ability to amass wealth and be successful, or in other words their God-given blessings / their hard work that paid off / what they’ve “attracted” into their life through their “positivity.”

Donald Trump is culturally associated with being worthy, deserving, and “blessed” by those who hold individualist values because he’s a billionaire (nevermind that he was born into wealth, or the shady business practices and tax evasion that helped him keep it…). The Q narrative that he’s also an undercover lightworker is the “proof” of his inherent goodness, and his outward manifestations of narcissism are dismissed and explained away as “fake news,” a conspiratorial plot against him, or just playing the part so that he can infiltrate the deep state. Hint: no real lightworker will ever consciously perpetrate acts of abuse. The label we give to people who consciously perpetrate acts of abuse is abuser.

Learn about individualism and how it shows up in spirituality.

If you read the post I just linked to, it explains how an individualist mentality, when taken to an extreme, is actually a form of separation consciousness. Those who are early in their spiritual journey don’t understand this because, once again, they haven’t been in the game long enough to have the depth of understanding of spiritual principles to recognize it.

Narcissism, Racism, and Spirituality

As I mentioned in the post I linked above about individualism, the further on the scale of individualism one is, the more self-centric they tend to be, and absolute individualism is tantamount to the ultimate narcissism. Does individualism turn people into narcissists, or do narcissists gravitate to individualistic values? Probably mostly the latter, though cultural conditioning almost certainly plays a part.

I’ve written before about how narcissists are attracted to positions of authority where they can amass groups of people to worship them, which makes spirituality a prime target. And a key trait of a narcissist is a low capacity for or total lack of empathy. What do I mean when I say a low capacity for empathy?

I mean that they aren’t able to imagine what it might feel like to be someone else, and as such, don’t have compassion for their fellow man, or feel any sense of social responsibility. The ones who can muster at least some empathy are only able to do so within their inner circle: close friends, family, neighbors. They don’t have the same capacity to empathize with strangers. In other words, they can only empathize with someone when that person’s pain directly impacts them (and their own emotions).

Some of the more extreme QAnon believers who are not spiritual (read: Nazis), and even some who are spiritual have a low capacity for empathy and, subsequently, a low emotional intelligence. This low capacity for empathy remains even after they are exposed to spirituality because they haven’t engaged in the necessary shadow work to heal their wounds.

Learn how to spot narcissism and narcissistic abuse.

Many Q influencers exhibit narcissistic tendencies and engage in forms of spiritual abuse, which means that their underlying motivation for sharing the QAnon narrative is to use it as an avenue to amass power over others and build their narcissistic energy supply. I’ve watched many of them belittle and berate their followers who question why their predictions haven’t come to fruition yet with things like, “Stop whining,” and “Suck it up,” “Either ride it out or cry yourself to sleep,” and “Stop posting whiney bullshit.”

One therapist posits that narcissism as a result of attachment wounds is the root of white supremacy. Certainly racism requires a fundamental lack of empathy, which can be present due to narcissism, toxic masculinity, or both.

This is not the first time that New Age thought and mysticism has found itself associated with Nazi-branded fascism. Check out this article by Jules Evans about mysticism within Hitler’s regime.

The Women of QAnon

Those spiritual folks who have fallen under the spell of Q who do have a greater capacity for empathy are lured in by one or both of two things:

  • the emotional charge behind the QAnon narrative of child sacrifice and sex trafficking
  • the promise of making the world a safe place

I read an oped written by a sexual assault counselor who was trying to understand how some of the victims that she worked with could possibly support Donald Trump, considering the litany of accusations against him, including the infamous recording of “grab her by the pussy.” Every single one of the survivors she interviewed told her that Trump made them feel safer.

Women who are sexually assaulted are statistically likely to have a prior history of abuse. Many times that abuse begins at home. It’s possible that a woman who’s been sexually assaulted and feels safe because of Trump’s toxic masculinity tough guy talk likely had a toxic masculine authority figure during childhood and the only thing that makes her feel safe is the idea that there’s a man around who is capable of kicking someone’s ass to protect her. The Q narrative that Trump is kicking bad guy ass all over the world and saving victims of sexual abuse, particularly children, is going to resonate with that unhealed trauma.

People who have grown up in a household with abuse are also less likely to be able to identify abusive behavior in the future, which not only makes them easy prey for the narcissists in the spiritual community, it means that they have trouble identifying red flags when they see them, which explains why these people seem to be blind to the parade of red flag behavior coming from Donald Trump and a large number of Q influencers.

False Intuition

One of the more bizarre aspects of QAnon is the number of psychics and channels claiming to be receiving intuitive information about Trump being a lightworker (I was just sent another last night). Remember back at the beginning of this where I said that not everybody makes it out of the conspiracy phase? A lot of the so-called psychics and channels that are peddling QAnon information never grew beyond this phase of their spiritual awakening (and some are just delusional narcissists).

Here’s why:

There’s a certain lack of groundedness (root chakra issues) at play with individuals who’ve fallen into the Qult which makes them extremely susceptible to fear–that lack of safety I talked about just a minute ago falls into this category. Without doing the appropriate shadow work to heal the trauma behind these blocks, these folks never develop discernment in the spiritual sense. This major lack of discernment (third eye block/imbalance) renders them unable to see things clearly or think critically. I’ve noticed that a certain subset of QAnon supporters seem to have a very weak capacity for abstract thought. They can’t seem to get beyond the details of the conspiracy narrative and see the real big picture (great video about abstract vs. narrow thought here).

The Venn diagram of conspiracy theorists and ungrounded spiritual folks who lack discernment heavily overlaps in one area specifically, which is a propensity for apophenia. Apophenia, also known as magical thinking, is the tendency to perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things, or see patterns in random data. You’ll see people in the spiritual community attributing spiritual meanings to all sorts of very common, explainable, ordinary things, like insisting that lens flares are actually spirit orbs, which is, once again, indicative of that lack of critical thinking and discernment.

Learn how apophenia plays into QAnon’s alternate reality.

Because none of these people have engaged in any in-depth amount of shadow work to heal their trauma, and subsequently, shed old belief systems and programming, they’re not truly what we might call a “clear channel” or fully in tune with their intuition, which means they can’t discern the difference between apophenia or their ego and actual intuition, and any information they may intuit will be filtered through their twisted belief system–including their political ideologies and individualistic values, as well as any mental or emotional illnesses.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 7 of Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith that discusses this:

The sixth chakra is where our capacity for discernment lies. A healthy sixth chakra (Third eye) not only accesses psychic realms, but also enables us to discern Truth.

 

Excess energy in the sixth chakra happens when energy is withdrawn from the lower chakras. Without the grounding that brings limitation and simplicity, a person can get lost in the boundlessness of the upper chakras and have no way to sort it out. They may over identify with archetypal energies and have too little personal ego to balance it. One may think they are Jesus, Cleopatra, or the next president, but have little awareness of their effect on their closest friends. The archetypal fantasies are used to buffer the weak ego and bring feelings of importance and power. They may discover some element of their past lives, and then attribute every current problem to unresolved issues from this memory.

 

As I do psychic readings in my own work, I am constantly amazed and shocked by the power some people give to a psychic reader. I am usually tipped off to a sixth chakra excess when the person sits down and tells me with wide-eyed seriousness every detail of a former reading as if it were gospel. The sixth chakra is wide open, without discernment or discrimination. It is important to remain open to psychic, nonrational input, but equally important to rationally sort through it. Lack of discernment reveals poor sixth chakra boundaries, which allow it to become overloaded.

 

This is not to deny the possible value of intuition, past life memories, precognition, telepathy, or any other psychic arts. With sixth chakra excess, however, the ability to discern truth from fantasy becomes impaired. The universality of the sixth chakra opens to the vastness on the astral plane where anything goes without the testing ground of the lower chakras. This is a dangerous state.

 

The absence of energy in the lower chakras makes it easy to come and go from the body and so this person may indeed be receiving psychic input. This does not mean that all their input is accurate however, or that the perceived patterns are getting integrated into consciousness. Such people can often become “channelers,” people who have the ability to leave their body and let other entities come through them. Opinions on the value of channeling vary from person to person. Whether the information channeled is from a separate, discorporate entity, one’s unconscious or higher self, or subject to the whim of the imagination, there is no doubt that in some cases, accurate information can come through. As with any psychic activity, there must be a testing ground that sorts through what is said with discrimination. The excessive sixth chakra wants to bypass this process.

Note: When she talks about ego, she means the ego in the psychological sense, not the typical sense in which spiritual people talk about the ego. Learn more about that here.

According to the author, upper-chakra imbalances are a result of lower-chakra imbalances. Think of the chakra system like a house, where the root chakra is the foundation. If the foundation is off, the whole house is wobbly. Our most basic survival needs and fears are governed by the root chakra, and our emotional center is governed by the sacral chakra, which is where the bocks and imbalances from emotional abuse largely lie.

When you think about the sorts of traumas inflicted socially (poverty, racism, misogyny), they mostly affect the root chakra where our sense of safety and ability to meet our basic survival needs is housed. Generational trauma (sexual abuse, child abuse, spousal abuse, parental narcissistic abuse) mostly affects the sacral chakra which governs our emotional regulation, boundaries, and relationships with others. It’s really no wonder we have a very large group of millions of people who end up projecting their own unhealed trauma onto the world around them, manifesting in a lack of discernment and critical thinking.

It’s also not a coincidence that sufferers from many types of mental illness have also experienced trauma and are drawn to New Age mysticism.

Learn more about how mental illness shows up in the spiritual community.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

All of this unhealed trauma that is likely evident in those who follow QAnon also means that many of them have unexamined coping mechanisms resultant from said trauma.

In general, there are very poor emotional coping skills exhibited among adherents of QAnon, and it’s even worse for the ones with low emotional intelligence. Their untrained, unhealed nervous systems have been overwhelmed by the stress, fear, and anxiety that has come with a global pandemic and precarious economic situation, so their unhealthy coping mechanisms are to:

  • look outside of themselves for a sense of safety (looking for a savior)
  • deny the reality in front of them (self-gaslighting, a symptom of prolonged exposure to psychological abuse)
  • and delusion (as an avenue to insulate them from having to sit with and experience uncomfortable emotions)

Throw in a highly charged election rife with disinformation and you have a recipe for disaster. These people were attracted to the Q narrative because it gave them something to focus on other than their own feelings of powerlessness and lack of control. It made them feel like everything was going to be ok, because someone else had it under control. QAnon provides all of the material necessary for one massive act of spiritual bypassing.

This New York Times article gives some specific examples of these things. 

Overall, 2020 was the perfect storm of a lack of discernment and critical thinking skills, unhealed trauma and spiritual bypassing, an openness to be led and a desire for a savior, spiritual naivety, and an individualistic culture that left millions of people incredibly vulnerable to the Q narrative. If you’ve managed to make it out of 2020 without falling into conspiratorial thought processes, congratulations! You’re a (mostly) stable, balanced, grounded human being!

The Big Reveal

I’ll be completely honest, I’d never even heard of QAnon until early 2020. I spent mid 2017 through February of 2020 in a cocoon. I didn’t even start blogging again until March, after having been silent for an entire year while I was taking care of my own mental health. I never even noticed a single influencer talking about it, mainly because I can smell spiritual bullshit from a mile a way and I never follow those who speak it.

QAnon gave us a gift, though. Back in summer of 2018, I wrote this in an instagram post:

Since the August 21st solar eclipse, there’s been a lot of triggering events in the collective that are systematically dismantling the world as we know it to make way for rebuilding new paradigm. This particular one has to do with spirituality. It kind of reminds me of Revelations when it talks about the false prophets. This energy, to me, feels like the fall of “false spirituality.” That could mean religion and other institutions, but I’m really feeling that the way it’s going to hit the New Age community is that people who have prostituted spirituality, bastardized spirituality for personal gain, are going to fall hard.

 

People are going to begin to see through the bullshit. This means anyone who isn’t 100% authentic in how they are presenting themselves to the masses, anyone who is peddling trite spiritual platitudes as a way to build their social media following or sell their wares–people are going to start to see through them.

 

I saw it like a wave…. one wave hits the beach and as the next wave comes in, it pulls the first one back and away. This upheaval makes way for the ones who have been standing in their authentic selves and their truth to come forward into the mainstream. The new wave of authenticity overtakes the old. It felt like someone or maybe more than one big name person was going to have a very public outing. A fall from grace type thing. Or, I don’t know, maybe it will be many, similar to the #metoo wave.

 

However it shows up, that feels like the theme, and it’s all related to us individually during this new moon because we’re establishing firm foundations around what we believe in, from a spiritual standpoint. It’s almost like, “This is my truth. This is what I’m carrying forward.” And that declaration allows the people on an individual level to be more discerning with where they seek their spiritual nurture. For current practitioners, it feels like a call: bring yourself into alignment. Bring yourself into authenticity. Deal with your shit… or else.

Now we know exactly who was in alignment and who wasn’t. The false prophets have been revealed, all thanks to QAnon.

I’ve already written extensively about the dangers (and narcissism) of pre-enlightened wellness influencers as well as spirituality for profit and both of those certainly play a heavy part in this. I didn’t think it was necessary to repeat it, but I will leave these posts here so that you can also read them:

Materialistic Spirituality
How to spot a spiritually immature wellness influencer

Breaking the Recruitment Cycle

In the marketing, branding, and sales world, we have this concept called a sales funnel. The top of the sales funnel generates brand awareness. The channels that bring people into the top of this funnel are TV, news, and social media. Once someone is in the funnel, you then target them with more niche messaging (via email, follow-up ads, etc.), usually via some kind of storytelling that connects one of their needs/desires to your brand. This storytelling continues throughout the funnel until you finally drive them to the bottom where they commit and make a purchase or become a client.

This is the same formula used by terrorist organizations and cults to recruit members.

Learn the tactics white supremacists intend to use to recruit disaffected Trump Supporters.

As I’ve laid out in this post, spiritually unsound influencers and evangelists in the wellness community are serving as top-of-the-funnel recruiters into QAnon. The middle of that funnel serves to radicalize them, and at the bottom of that funnel is fascism, white supremacy, extremism, and acts of terrorism. We have a collective duty and a personal responsibility to get the misinformation in the spiritual community under control.

So, as a community, where do we go from here? How do we expel the darkness?

The good thing about spirituality is that there is no central governing authority to attempt to exhort control over everyone as a group, as with say the Catholic church. Spirituality places you as the central authority, by telling you to question everything, use your intuition, and take what resonates and leave the rest.

The bad thing about spirituality is that there is no central governing authority to control the people who are clearly out of control or suffering from mental illness from naming themselves a spiritual authority and doing harm to the people who come under their influence. At least churches have a hierarchy that’s supposed to address those things (though much of the time, they just cover it up…).

Since we have no centralized, singular authority or governing body, we’ll just have to work on our collective the same way we work on ourselves. Through shadow work–as a community.

We confront our darkness, we shine light on it, and we integrate it instead of looking the other way. The radicalization is already in progress, but we can start to counter it by becoming aware and evangelizing counter-messaging, and by shutting down those people at the top of the funnel doing the recruiting.

We confront and shine light on it by acknowledging the shit show that is the wellness industry and the role that it has played in facilitating the current state of America. We stop running away from conflict and pretending it isn’t there, even if it means calling someone out on their on their abusive shit (you can also just post my spiritual abuse article as a comment. *shrug*)–or calling someone in who just doesn’t know any better.

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone has heard of call out culture, and you’re probably aware of the backlash and counter movement of “calling in”…

Posted by In My Sacred Space on Saturday, January 16, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hold ourselves (and each other) accountable: we speak up when we see someone abusing their power, we are careful of the people we support with likes, follows, and shares. If something feels off, it probably is. Do your own shadow work instead of your own research. Become trauma informed. Go deep with spiritual knowledge and integrate it before becoming an evangelist. Maintain skepticism! It’s healthy!

We integrate it by educating our community about the shadow of spirituality: the narcissistic cult leaders and their followers, the self-serving, for-profit wellness influencers, the mentally ill or ego maniacal psychics and channelers, the spiritual abuse tactics. All of it.

If you’re an influencer or practitioner of any kind, make it a point to consistently share educational information regularly and give it a platform. We cannot stay silent on this any longer. We have to make a declaration about what we stand for.

Share the shit out of information that can educate others about cult recruitment tactics, abuse and trauma, shadow work, spiritual abuse, and any other aspect of toxic spirituality.

The more aware we are of ourselves as a community, the less likely this stuff can continue to exist and spread to new people.
For those who may have already been recruited into the radicalization funnel, awareness of these tactics is likely not going to steer them away. By this time, it’s too late. If you have a close personal relationship with someone who has been recruited into QAnon (or some version of it), you’ll find some helpful tips in this interview with cult expert Steve Hassan.

I also HIGHLY recommend reading this Vanity Fair interview.

Xo,

Ash

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