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The Dark Side of Self-Help

No, it is NOT all your fault

"Judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree and it will believe itself stupid for the rest of its life" - Albert Einstein

The foundation of the entire self-help/personal development movement that began back in the 1980s was a major step forward in human psychology and emotional health. Prior to then, the possibility that someone could overcome difficulties, limitations and tragic life events, was the stuff of heroes, movies and myths. Not for the everyday person like you and me.

Something shifted in this time and the realm of overcoming our own limitations became a widespread, accepted possibility. It brought with it a great promise of personal growth and a clear step-by-step process for achieving wealth, happiness, success and all the goodies of life.


It grew from a couple of books on a shelf in the back corner of the bookstore to a multi-billion dollar industry of books, programs, courses, audios, videos, coaches, schools and eventually entire radio and video channels.


In all this enthusiasm there was a major thing that was overlooked. We were all quite naive about the depth and tenacity of our personal and cultural conditioning. And so, while we all, with sincerity, took on the task of improving ourselves, some rather old and nasty assumptions still lingered deep in our unconscious and it didn't take long before they once again began to arise.


We made a noble attempt to improve ourselves and our circumstances but failed to realize even a fraction of the promise.

What happened?


We ran straight into the old pattern that has been around since Eve and Adam had that snack. GUILT!


Guilt, self-blame, judgment, discouragement and a resurgence of the kind of self-punishment that has been with us for a very long time.


In a study at Harvard a few years back, they tested the efficacy of positive affirmations. It turned out that, if the individual already had high self-esteem, the affirmations gave them even more. But, if they did not have that level of self-regard, they actually got even more down on themselves.


When we are children, vulnerable and dependent, we take in and embody everything our parents teach us, both directly and energetically. To a greater of lesser extent, everyone was taught that there were things wrong with you that had to be fixed. We accepted this true and strove to meet those standards set before us. We did not have the capacity to discern whether or not our supposed flaws were simply what our parents, and the culture at large, found unacceptable. And the message was clear. You are not OK as you are and need to be improved.


Fast forward, to you adult life and doesn't that sound a whole lot like the mantra of self-help?


What if there never was anything wrong with you but who you were was simply unacceptable to those around you? As Albert said in the opening quote "Judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree and it will believe itself stupid for the rest of its life."

Let me say that again... what if there wasn't then and isn't now anything wrong with you? Can self-help fix something that isn't broken? You could, quite literally spend your entire life looking solutions to the flaws in you and never succeed, simply because there aren't any. You would walk the self-help treadmill and we all know how far you walk on a treadmill.


The spiritual path takes a completely different approach. It starts from the assumption that there is nothing wrong with you. You are NOT broken. And it sets you on the path to discover who was there before all the conditioning and mistaken assumptions ever happened.


This is the journey within, the spiritual journey. And, while its premise is very simple, you are quite alright just the way you are, accepting it, in the light of a lifetime of believing otherwise is a challenge. None the less, that is exactly the challenge I am inviting you into.



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