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June 3, 2015

5 Potentially Hazardous New Age Myths.

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From the countless “spiritual” websites, Youtube videos and infographic memes that cross our social media channels daily, to the glowingly fit, Sutra-spouting vegan teacher at our local yoga studio, the abundance of uplifting and life-improving information available to us at this time is astounding.

Even Siri can provide bits and pieces of life advice when requested.

However, spiritualisms, metaphysical truths and platitudes which are intended to uplift can also be used to shut us down in the name of higher consciousness.

I’ll never forget coming face to face with the many ways I was using my spirituality as a defense. Years ago, I walked out of a metaphysical lecture on a mind-blowing high until I discovered that my new and pricey business investment—a smartphone—was awash in a water-bottle failure at the bottom of my bag. My stomach sank. I cringed as waves of shock, panic and profound disappointment coursed through me, and I scrambled to figure out how I was going to stay in touch with people in my life and keep my business afloat. And because there was no “cloud” then, it was likely all my newly transferred contacts and photos were lost as well.

“This is a test,” I thought, trying to remain tranquil by holding on to all I had just learned about quantum physics. But that was the moment I realized that all the spiritual knowledge in the world wouldn’t circumvent my emotional experience, and that I couldn’t use it to placate myself.

1. “Everything is an illusion,” or The Myth that Metaphysical Truths are Actually Useful in Everyday Living.

When you experience loss, when your heart is broken, when an important venture is thwarted or anytime some form of devastation visits, any reference to our earthly existence as being an illusion, how The Universe is perfect, or any form of higher belief, is usually irrelevant. The drowned-phone drama was a test for sure—and it was in how resourceful I was going to be in replacing it without destroying my credit and keeping my business intact.

David, an app developer, struggled with an illusion of his own. He looked at me pleadingly, threw his hands up, and shook his long-haired mane. “I can’t believe I’m letting this upset me,” he mused, as if he should be able to rise above being impacted by a powerful tech reviewer, who diminished the project he spent the past 18 months focusing on, believing in and toiling over, by suggesting that his new product would only be utilized by “tweens at best.”

“I know I’m not supposed to let it hurt, but it does.”

David works hard at maturity and self-knowledge, but here he was using his spiritual knowledge against himself. It is bad enough to feel bad about a bad review without having to complicate it by piling on more lousy feelings. David was blaming himself for having a reaction, thinking mistakenly that if he were more evolved, he could avoid the impact. Relate? David is operating under the spell of another profound new age misconception:

2. “No one can hurt you unless you let them,” or The Myth of Invulnerability.

I see sensitive people struggle with this one all the time. Perhaps the fabled level of spiritual development where events, people, and conditions don’t hurt us does exist. But I don’t know anyone who genuinely lives in that world. Strength, as I see it, lies not in achieving a state in which people can’t hurt us, but in acknowledging that we are and can be hurt by others, and choosing to love, speak our truth and live large anyway.

At this point you may be onto the fact that in our puritan and new age culture, pain is a sign of failure. Maybe this is why true intimacy is becoming so uncool. It leaves us too vulnerable to hurt. I mean, yes—thank god for Melody Beattie, who coined for us all the term “co-dependent” in the mid 1980s, to address that needy form of disempowered relating that keeps people locked in destructive relationship patterns. And it’s great that the schmaltzy line from the movie Jerry Maguire, “You complete me” no longer represents the way we approach relationships.

However, even as we relish in the fact that each of us is whole, it seems that the pendulum against dependency is swinging too far in the direction of isolation.

Perhaps as a way to deny our true needs for contact and prevent us from the entanglements that could result in bruised hearts, people are veering towards a state of complete independence, proving we don’t need anyone else by engaging in limited, virtual, super casual and non-committal ways. The DIY or “Do-it-Yourself” culture; the sort-of-friends-with-benefits hook-ups, and the career-comes-first-cool-cat stereotype all perpetuate:

3. “You don’t need anyone” or The Myth of Independence.

While we may not need another to complete us, we still need other people for a variety of very natural and healthy reasons: we need emotional connection, we need touch and we need to share resources and skills for those things we cannot manage on our own (profound thanks to my dear hairdresser).

We need people who will be there for us in a crisis, and we need to give as well. The myth of complete independence over inter-dependence perpetuates chronic loneliness, and is a double-edged defense for those who could benefit from but are terrified of intimacy and therefore attempt to rise above it.

And speaking of intimacy, I just read a well-respected spiritual teacher’s definition of love. While I’m all for people stepping into their authority and sharing what they know, a lot of people profess things they believe, or would like to believe, stating them as fact. This teacher’s lofty and poetic treatise about love turned out to be pretty trite: love has no bounds, we are all one, and our very human and conditional ways of loving another aren’t really love, because love exists beyond all of these ways we try to express it. Is it true? Who knows. Is it useful to couples, parents, singles struggling in relationship? Not really.

In his attempt to define love, he was practicing what I call:

4. “Love is…” or The Myth of Certainty.

How does this teacher know exactly for sure what love is?

Regardless of how many years I’ve been studying human relationships from the sidelines as well as from deep within the trenches, I couldn’t attempt to define for certain what love is. What I see is that it is different for each, and it changes with time. Love is sometimes a feeling, sometimes an action, sometimes a choice, and occasionally a “walking away.”

It is always elusive, a mystery, popping up in unusual ways in unusual configurations. Parental love, teacher love, romantic love, animal love, idealized love, friendship love…so many different forms, styles and paths of loving. Who can really say what it is and isn’t on an empirical level?

These kinds of declarations—not only about Love, but also about truth, thoughts and karma attempt to reduce our complexities and untamable urges into some kind of digestible package. They negate the messiness, variety and the mystery of life and love.

Another popular myth that arises in the face of hardship has to do with responsibility. Responsibility for your actions is a mature discipline and perspective that can enlighten you to the behaviors that work for and against you. But I’m not so sure we’re responsible for circumstances outside our sphere of influence.

It’s true, there are people who move from one chaotic life event to another and you think—clearly this person thrives in a state of emergency and has something to do with the repetitive chaos in his or her life. But would you think that of the people of Nepal, or insert national tragedy here? What about someone who lost their child in some sort of accident?

I’ve heard people accuse those who have life-threatening illnesses such as MS or cancer of choosing or causing their disease—a supposedly empowering belief that seems rather cruel.

The final potentially hazardous myth is:

5. “You are responsible for everything that happens to you” or The Myth of Control.

This can be a shaming way to respond to life’s unbearably unpredictable nature.

Every human has their own ways of coping in a universe in which random, horrific things happen to both good and bad people. The Myth of Control is one way that people can feel a sense of choice and even superiority in the matter of our frailty.

When we honor our quest for knowledge but surrender our need to know everything, when we drop our need to be above needing and to maintain emotional control at all costs, we are left with humility and wonder. And, perhaps, a greater understanding of why we need each other to get through it all.

What are some other new age myths that work against the freedom they are purportedly promoting? Which of these resonate with you?

 

 

Relephant: 

New Age Bullsh*t Generator.

 

Author: Blair Glaser

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Isabell Winter/Unsplash; cdoohinz/Deviantart

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Shailesh Jun 14, 2015 10:29am

Such a Beautiful Article… These are all concepts and Ideas that cannot be generalized. Everyone has their own journey and the whole point about the New age is to be Dynamic and be open to change

There is your Truth and there is my Truth,There is no Universal truth

Don Jun 10, 2015 1:23pm

. Blair,
The answer to the questions your raise depends somewhat upon whether one blieves they are a spirit,
or a body.
1.If a spirit, nothing can hurt a spirit, it is invulnerable, can't be physically hurt.It can be contacted
via communication. If it considers itself totally independent, isolated, it only exists as a trace of it's former
being or knowing, due to the non-participation-not really with us, not helping anyone or anything, and not learning either, pehaps even thinking they know it all. 🙂
2. If a spirit, it can't be "touched." It can be contacted via communication, thus involved and/or denatured from it's
original state of serentiy, which can then lead to emotions such as grief,even fear, IF it forgets that it is a spirit, in which case it could instantly recover, or take steps to recover with the help of a sane friend, trained in such matters.
Grief, fear, and hostility are examples of temporary insanity. .
3. Yes, interdependence is the correct existence, via exchange that is positive, helpful, or thought be so by the
considerate healer, based ;upon what they think is true help. Certainty is not available in therapy, if in any field.
4. Love is best described as the distance one would like to be away from another, and/or willingness to share
the same space, or not. A better term for love would be admiration, or affinity. with agreement and connection that
does not lead to the mess you refer to. The "mess" is caused by miscommunication.
5. A sane spirit would not surrender it's basic need to know everything, but it would not crave to know, obsessively.
It could just decide it knows, function accordingly, and be prepared to change it's mind when more data is available.
Patience in this area would be divine behavior.

Thank you for the questions.
Note: one could conclude that you caused your wet phone by failing to predict the failure of the seal of the bottle of water. The question is, who else could you blame, if you must place responsibility elsewhere. Also note,
blaming oneself, and remaining "guilty" is definitely insanity. Guilt is resolved by putting your confession
in writing and sharing it with that sane friend that you either exchange with, or pay for the relief.

Don Jun 10, 2015 12:49pm

Dear Blair,
Here are some helpful viewpoints re: the discussion/disadvantages you raise, which seem to be
about philosophy rather than therapy.
1. A spirit, spiritual being IS invulnerable. Nothing can physically hurt a spirit, any more than your wet telephone was in pain. Neither are alive-both are quite dead, that is, not biological. Spirits experience moods, including grief, but
there are ways to climb out of grief and return to sanity and serenity.
2, A spirit can't be touched. It can be contacted via communication, unless it has decided to be completely out of touch, isolated, individuated, not participating, thus not actually existing other than as a vestige of when they did participate.
3. Love, and all of it's variable definitions, are best termed as "affinity," which is a measure of how close one feels, how much of your space you are willing to share with that other spirit.

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Blair Glaser

Blair Glaser, MA, LCAT is a psychotherapist, leadership mentor and organizational consultant who delights in helping people stand in their personal and professional authority. She has worked in private practice for seventeen years and with leaders and teams in prestigious organizations such as JP Morgan/ Chase, Miller Howard Investments and Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. Her articles on modern love and business practices appear on her blog and on mega-sites such as The Good Men Project, The Huffington Post and YourTango. Blair lives and works in “the most famous small town in America,” Woodstock, New York and frequently commutes to New York City. You can find more about her work or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.