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The Shadow of Self-Empowerment

The spiritual field, the psychology field, the life coaching field, the self-help field and the self-development field are all aimed at teaching the public some version of self-empowerment. And this, is a very good thing. Self-empowerment is a pivotal element of wellbeing in life. At the very same time, there is a dominant shadow lurking within the teachers of self-empowerment. One that has become like a collective illness. And one that can easily infect you. Today, I’m going to expose this shadow to the world, so that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that something very, very harmful is very, very good. 

In order to see this shadow, we need to get very honest about what drives a person towards any field that promises some form of self-empowerment. The answer is some form of powerlessness. At its root, to have power is to be able to bring about what you want. So, what makes people go towards any field that promises self-empowerment is that they are having an experience that is unwanted and they do not know how to bring about what they want instead. It is pain that drives them. 

Now let’s go to a deeper layer of truth. The absolute number one thing that causes pain and suffering for people (in other words unwanted experiences) is other people. This means that the very factor that makes the vast (and I mean vast) majority of people go towards any field that promises some form of self-empowerment is powerlessness relative to other people. And the teachers in these fields, are no exception. They are simply the people who have found self-empowerment philosophies and beliefs and strategies and techniques that make them less powerless. Especially less powerless to other people. And they are now teaching these things to the rest of the world.

And because of this, there is the shadow that is lurking. And the shadow is this: The drive to not be powerless to others can lead us straight into the illusion and glorification of independence. And by doing so, fall into an ego trap. A very well disguised one. We can become disconnected under the guise of being more connected. And perceive ourselves to be more in alignment the more out of alignment we are.

The teachers in the fields of spirituality, psychology, life coaching, self-help and self-development etc. have experienced relational trauma. This is trauma within the context of human relationship. This means they did not feel safe in some way with people. And when this is the case, depending on other people and potentially even being deeply connected to other people is experienced as very, very unsafe. It is only rational then to go in the direction of finding ways to not depend on other people and even to not be deeply connected to them. These ways can look like beliefs, philosophies, techniques and strategies. 

Let’s look at some of these beliefs, philosophies, techniques and strategies that can serve as a tool of disconnection, a trapping of the ego, and a venture into the absolute illusion of independence.

The concept that everything you need, is within. The practice of non-attachment. The philosophy that the entire world is merely a reflection of the self, so you have control over everyone and everything outside of you. The technique of using positive focus as a means to create your own reality. The teaching that the only love you truly need, is self-love. If you want to learn more about this one, watch my video titled: Debunking The Self Love Myth. Substituting your connection with physical beings with a connection with nonphysical beings, something you can imagine to be reliable. Techniques that are designed to help you to be unaffected by what people do and don’t do. The philosophy that how you feel and your well-being is not anyone else’s responsibility, it’s your responsibility. The idea that you don’t need to feel lonely if the whole universe is inside of you. The belief that emotional dependence is the opposite of emotional strength. The teaching “do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” The practice of not depending on anyone for anything you can do for yourself. Any self-care practice. The practice of reframing, which comes from the idea that happiness has nothing to do with anything outside of us, only on the way we see the things outside of us. The practice of disidentification. Only learning from plant medicines, not people. The philosophy that all the answers are within. Emotional self-regulation. Practicing affirmations. Mirror work. The practice of taking 100 percent responsibility. Acclimatizing oneself to being alone. Techniques to improve your self-confidence. The teaching that people who are meant to stay in your life will stay, so don’t bother over the ones that go. The idea that what other people think of you is not your problem, it’s theirs. The philosophy that a person has to be whole in and of themselves and happy on your own to be in a relationship. And the list goes on. You can probably add a thousand more yourself.     

Hopefully something you noticed is that even truly beneficial beliefs, philosophies, techniques and strategies can be twisted and distorted by this shadow.         

In these fields, teacher and student alike, so many people were absolutely failed and harmed by other people. And it is so tempting to use beliefs, philosophies, techniques and strategies that feel empowering because they remove any dependence on others or need for them. And then to justify it as being right to do so, simply because it feels less painful and feels more empowering. This doesn’t mean it is actually true or is actually healthier. For example: When a person is abandoned again and again, it feels more empowering to simply accept that people will always come and go in your life. So, to not become attached to them and simply form an attachment to source or God or an imaginary friend, which believe me, many people’s concept of their spirit guide or their angel is simply that. When a person is drowning in the confusion of painful family dynamics where their best interests were never cared for, it feels more empowering to become an expert on human psychology, sort people into definable groups and find ways to master self-care. When a person is emotionally neglected, they will end up suffering from a deprivation of all the things they need to feel good emotionally. And yet, there is no one there to help them. And so, the only hope left is to turn to self-help, where it feels hopeful to read a sentence that says “the root cause of emotional dependence is low self-esteem. Fix your self-esteem and you will not need anything but the security you feel within yourself.” When you have been bullied and felt berated and undervalued by others all your life, it feels empowering to read a sentence that says “The only person who can pull you down is yourself.”  

The problem is, these shadow-laced beliefs, philosophies, techniques and strategies will infect the people who come across them. Why? Because they will immediately appeal to anyone who experienced similar relational trauma. Even very unhealthy things will register as empowering, because they remove the dreaded “other people” factor of life. They eliminate the feeling of powerlessness and unsafety we have about others.

When it comes to any belief, philosophy, technique and strategy or practice, we must get ourselves in the habit of looking at the potential downsides and negative consequences, along with the potential upsides and positive consequences of it. As it applies to anything that brings us towards self-empowerment, we must be very, very careful that it does not serve as a tool of escapism from our fear of other people. That it does not disconnect us from others more. And that it does not bring us away from of the absolute reality of interdependence.       

You currently live in a time when the world is infected. It is infected with the sickness of the illusion of and glorification of independence. You are living in a time when all forms of dependency are seen as weakness and deficiency. This is an absolute travesty seeing as how, as a person, you are a relationally dependent species. Your wellbeing depends on the quality of your relationships… Relationships upon which you can depend. And you did not come here to deny your humanity or rise above it. You came here to integrate your humanity. This means, you must caretake your humanness. And caretaking your humanness means developing deeply connected relationships with people, relationships that are interdependent. The exact opposite of independence. It is also a travesty because independence is an illusion. There is no such thing as complete self-sufficiency and independence from that which is “other”. You live in an interdependent universe and are currently participating in a consensus reality. This means, you are here to master relationships. And you cannot be independent, even if you were desperate to be. You are part of a web. Every part of that web effects every other part of that web. And it is up to each one of us whether that effect is positive or negative. 

The sweet spot of health in this universe rests squarely in the center of two truths. We live in an interdependent universe, where our needs come to us through other people and things. As people, we need deeply connected, interdependent relationships with other people in order to thrive. At the very same time, we can be committed to self-empowerment. Self-empowerment does not inherently imply detaching and doing things despite or against others. We can practice the art of self-love and self-integration. Our relationship with ourselves and our ability to bring about what we need and want; (ie: self-love and self-empowerment) will not make you independent. Instead, it will reflect out in your reality in the form of symbiotic relationships. The idea of interdependence and self-empowerment are not a contradiction.   



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