Segueing from Jesus cheaters to other kinds of spiritual mindfuckery today, Gia wrote earlier to ask about certain New Age concepts which insinuate that pain is a decision. You don’t have to choose pain. She writes:
As I try to heal in the most graceful way (suppressing my revenge fantasies) this is what I am struggling with…
Like many of you, I buy self-help books, read blogs, watch videos. One of the major shifts for me has been on a spiritual level (not religious – more like healing circles, meditation, reiki etc.) and it’s been really helpful. However, I found that the message that keeps coming up is about the ego.
“If you’re suffering, that’s your ego – you’re not really hurt” or “You’re creating your own pain, no one can actually hurt you unless you allow them to.” Or “If you truly love someone unconditionally, they don’t need to love you back.” Somehow, these concepts have made me question the validity of my feelings. Are they not warranted or allowed? I feel guilty that I feel sad, hurt and angry. Am I only doing it to myself? So wait, HE didn’t cause my pain – it’s my ego? What the hell?
Can you offer any insight into the belief that we create our own pain regardless of the actions of others? I’m really struggling with this one.
Ooh, that’s some tricky mindfuckery there. Don’t blame the cheater — blame your own ego!
It reminds me of that tomfoolery that generations of older, cruel siblings perpetrate on younger siblings, where you grab their arms and make them hit themselves. “Hey! Quit hitting yourself!” (whack!) A classic schtick illustrated nicely by these cartoon monkeys below.
Did you know that recent neuroscience shows that social pain (rejection, exclusion, romantic break ups) activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain? If someone cheats and betrays you — it hurts like a motherfucker. Chumps all know this. And guess what? Your body knows it too. It feels PAIN because it is PAIN.
If you got mugged, and your attacker pistol whipped you, no thinking person would say “That pain you’re feeling is a choice. Are you feeling concussed? Well, you should choose not to feel that way. Change your thought patterns and let’s skip the trip to the ER.”
No. You’ve been attacked and injured and it HURTS.
Now then, how you recover from that assault is a matter of personal resiliency, and I think this is the point on which the New Agey crap gets confused. Pain is not a decision. Pain and suffering are facts of life. Injustice is a fact of life. How you get through those experiences are a matter of character and tenacity.
To say that we choose pain is to say we’re complicit in creating that pain. That is bullshit. That denies basic human frailty and vulnerability. It’s hubris to think we alone control all of life’s unpleasantries and if we just led our lives correctly we could avoid muggers in dark corners who want to assault us and steal our wallets. We do our best to protect ourselves and use common sense, but no one is immune from Bad People.
Remember, you only control YOURSELF, you don’t control other people. Superstition (ahem, some New Age shit) likes to sell the notion that you can control outcomes through witchcraft and ritual. For example, if I rub the magic unicorn horn seven times and never step on a sidewalk crack, I will never be mugged. Or if my chakras are aligned properly and I eat enough kale and forswear gluten, I will avoid cancer.
Now, when a bad person fucks with you, you can respond a number of ways. This is where personal choice comes in (you’re controlling YOU). You can blame yourself. (I only rubbed the unicorn horn six times. Damn.) You can become agoraphophic and never leave the house for fear of muggers. Or you can say “Fuck YOU mugger! I will not let you rob anymore of my life or my sense of personal safety!”
If you take the Fuck You Mugger option, you have to face and wrestle with your fears, and live your life in spite of the pain. You don’t let the pain control you. You acknowledge the pain, but you don’t let it rule you. There is a life out there and it’s not all muggers. You intend to enjoy it. And maybe you’ll take a couple self defense classes and learn how to kick people in the solar plexus for good measure.
So that’s the answer to the bullshit of “pain is a choice.” No, pain is not a choice. How you respond to pain is a choice. Pain is fucking REAL. To deny its existence is to deny the injustice that created it. And to minimize the bravery that it takes to live your life in spite of pain.
Now to the unconditional love garbage. “If you truly love someone unconditionally, they don’t need to love you back.”
This is a moronic notion of love when applied to people. However, you can unconditionally love inanimate objects. I love cookies. They do not love me back. (Clearly, you should see my thighs.) You can love the Red Sox unconditionally. Doesn’t matter how many times they flub it, your love is unswerving. The Red Sox do not win pennants depending on your love. They are oblivious to it. But you can enjoy the glory of being part of Red Sox nation with all the other people engaging in this one-sided love affair.
When you love a narcissist, you are signing up for this inanimate object love. You can love this thing who doesn’t love you back. You can be one of a legion of adoring fans engaged in the one-sided love affair with the Great One. But most people do not find life as a satellite a satisfying, healthy sort of love.
Grown up love IS conditional love. Grown up love is reciprocal. Grown-up loves says if you abuse me, you’re out. Grown up love values itself and demonstrates its worth through conditions. Like fidelity and honesty. Narcissist love says “I’m okay with a lopsided investment. You love me and I’ll let you be in my orbit, deal?”
Healthy people NEED someone to love them back. Healthy people do not love into the void.
You want to “choose pain”? Love a narcissist. Tell your New Age gurus to put that in their hookahs and smoke it.