In my adult life, I have spent a lot of time and energy diving into healing and personal growth, both for myself and in supporting others. It is often a challenging journey, and especially for those who have suffered significant traumas, it can be a lifelong process. I honor and respect every single person who has had the courage to engage in the healing journey.
Healing is a privilege and a blessing that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to navigate. A privilege and a blessing. Full stop.
Those living in survival mode don’t often have access or capacity or the support to engage in the deep ongoing work of healing. Those who are living in poverty, trying to meet their basic needs. Those who are living with ongoing abuse. Those who are living in environments filled with violence. And certainly many more scenarios than I could list here. Not everyone has the opportunity to shift themselves out of the circumstances that continue to cause harm – and for the lucky ones, they may find their way out eventually. And even then, in order to heal, one needs time, interpersonal support, and access to resources (healthcare, therapy, and other helping professionals… not to mention money) in order to begin unwinding the trauma that has taken up residence within them. For those without access to those resources, the road is much, much harder.
Within metaphysical/spiritual/new age circles, I often hear people talking about how “it’s no one’s responsibility but your own to heal,” or “it’s your karma to resolve,” or “healing is a choice,” and on and on. What is unacknowledged in this kind of statement is the fierce forgetting of interdependence, the victim blaming, and the unawareness of personal privilege. Ultimately, the attitude of “it’s no one’s responsibility but your own to heal” is little more than what we hear on the regular from the GOP, in wanting to strip away important social supports… the whole “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that is beyond ignorant and toxic. The reality is that everything in this world is attached to everything else, and we must be wise enough to follow the trail back to the bigger picture and see how we’ve been stripped of our interdependence by colonization and capitalism. “It’s your karma to resolve…” is unwilling to consider the bigger picture, that people suffer in *immense* ways, and it’s incredibly painful, and there is no reason why bad things happen to good people. When we put the whole burden on the one who’s suffering, we close our hearts to the reality of their suffering because we don’t want to feel it ourselves. The very opposite of compassion. “Healing is a choice” when we are lucky enough to get out of the horrible traumatic situation, find stability and support, and have the resources to invest in healing. And instead of shrugging our shoulders when people don’t have a way to make that choice, we must do what the truly great spiritual teachers have done: find a way to make social change. I mean, look at Amma ~ she calls her devotees to contribute to humanitarian projects that make REAL change in the world… building hospitals and homes, providing care and resources, assisting people in need after disasters… instead of just regurgitating platitudes while meditating and wearing all white.
So, if you believe that “healing is a choice” it is YOUR responsibility to show up in the world in an engaged way and make the path easier for others who are suffering. Especially if you’ve been lucky enough to find your way through your own journey of healing. It is *all of our responsibility* to heal this world. Spiritual narcissism must be called out and dismantled. Spiritual bypass is the illusion of healing and growth masking unresolved trauma, and we must continue to change the spiritual culture so that people don’t believe that posing as enlightened is preferable to the honest truth of unresolved trauma. We must humble ourselves over and over again, and be willing to see where we’ve bought into such damaging ideologies, and talk about it together, and let them go.
The Law of Attraction – a barrier to true healing and change
One of the most common toxic ideologies that I encounter in my healing practice is The Law of Attraction, which has become a favorite among spiritual seekers. On the surface, it may sound empowering, as it seems to put the power for change in the hands of the individual. That falls short, though, when it also places the burden for all one’s struggles in the hands of the individual, unwilling to acknowledge the powerful systems that create inequality in our world. Individuals embrace this ideology and work on their thoughts – which in itself can be helpful – but when it doesn’t lead to phenomenal miracles (like healing cancer, transforming difficult relationships, and changing one’s socioeconomic status), the onus for failure is heaped on the individual seeker. Somehow, they must have done it poorly, or not given it enough time and effort, or something else mysterious that they can’t even figure out. Given the elusive nature of such an ideology, it’s very difficult to assess where things might have gone wrong in one’s personal efforts to change their thoughts and manifest their desires.
I once engaged wise elder Joanna Macy in a conversation about this. Her response was brilliant, and her ideas will always stay with me. The belief that one individual human can – by thought alone – influence the collective of humanity in order to get what they want is an idea that is disconnected from the reality of the interdependence of all things. The Law of Attraction is rooted in the modern western cult of independence, which arrogantly forgets (unlike animistic and collectivist traditions) that all things are connected. As systems theory so eloquently states: systems rarely exist in isolation. And one person’s self-focused thought stream, even when they spend all day meditating to the exclusion of all other action, is nothing next to collective systemic thought streams that exert massive force over our world. If manifestation thinking could solve problems, wouldn’t it have already manifested a world without discrimination, environmental devastation, war, and greed? The answer is clearly NO, because change requires engaged participation, direct action, and consistent work over generations. That is the only way to change the collective systemic thought streams. Any spirituality that suggests that disengagement and meditation alone are sufficient to make change and manifest something new is nothing more than narcissism cloaked in spiritual attire.
I have been seeing clients for years now – clients seeking ancestral healing, shamanic healing, spiritual guidance, and sound therapies – who have been gaslit through this manifestation ideology into believing there is something wrong with *them* because they have aligned with The Law of Attraction and continued to suffer and not succeed in manifesting their desires. Ultimately, the Law of Attraction is very closely aligned with Calvinism and protestant work ethic. Both ideologies detract from the very reality of the world we live in: dominant systems (driven by colonization and capitalism over many generations now) put power in the hands of the privileged few while limiting everyone else. Take people’s focus away from that power differential, and redirect them to see their own “shortcomings” – whether that’s a thought problem (change your thinking and manifest whatever you want) or a religious problem (work hard and God will favor you) – and you keep them busy looking at their own so-called failings and deflect from the power dynamic that is actually driving things at systemic levels. Again, that’s narcissism: blaming everyday people for their own failure to think or pray their way to a better life, when in fact those failures are embedded systemically by the wealthy and powerful. Whether it’s Calvinism or The Law of Attraction, these ideologies become a thought loop that is difficult to escape, one tied to a spiritual belief system that is deeply cultish in nature: it opposes critical thought, encourages self doubt, is rooted in magical thinking, and purports to hold supreme knowledge available only to devoted followers.