Jane grew up in a nice family on the right side of the tracks. She went to a good college and her social circles include lots of wealthy people and a network of helpful connections. Jane is in her twenties, and like most of the people her age she wrestles with issues of low self-esteem.
Then Jane joins a spiritual community and gets introduced to the concept of manifesting. Jane is taught that manifesting is the process by which our vibration attracts the things we want into our lives.
Jane is happy to hear this because it fills the self-esteem gap she has been feeling. Now she can take credit for all the good things in her life instead of chalking them up to luck or circumstance.
That’s where privilege comes in.
Privilege is like a blank check that gets put in your wallet without you knowing, and manifesting is cashing that check.
Is there anything wrong with cashing that check? Absolutely not, but we need to remember who wrote it. When we think we “attracted” or “manifested” everything in our life we make ourselves better than other people who aren’t as successful (because clearly their vibration is low) and we experience less gratitude.
We also engage in the insufferable process of thinking that the only reason people don’t have what they want is they aren’t thinking positively enough, or they don’t have a vision board.
Am I saying that our lives are predetermined and that there’s nothing we can do to change? No, but I am saying that while there are ways we can affect our lives, there are also a whole lot of underlying forces that have gotten us to where we are today, and if we don’t acknowledge those, we’re going to look like an asshole.
Spirituality and Narcissism
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying people who identify as spiritual tend to be more narcissistic. This isn’t a jab at spirituality, it actually makes sense. Spirituality has grown out of a need to balance out organized religion, because religion (in most Western cultures) is defined by values like humility, sacrifice and obedience. While there is nothing wrong with those values, when taken to an extreme there arises a need for greater self-expression, freedom and individuality.
That’s why spirituality stepped in.
Religion — You owe everything to God.
Spirituality — You are God.
Religion — You are human, God is divine.
Spirituality — You are divine, just like God.
Religion — Love God.
Spirituality — Love yourself.
Religion — It’s not about me.
Spirituality — It is about me, and that’s okay.
Before we go on I have to define what I mean by spiritual. I’m pointing to a sub-culture that’s formed and is rapidly growing in the United States and other areas of the world. This sub-culture is typically identified with things like yoga, Burning Man (and all associated festivals), eastern religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc…) and many self-development programs. While I can’t outline everything that spirituality is and isn’t, if all that gives you a clear idea of what I’m talking about, then that’s what I’m hoping for.
So where do we go from here? If spiritual people tend to be narcissists and manifesting can be used as a way of taking credit for things we didn’t necessarily do, what’s the point?
I’d like to introduce a phrase that might make some people cringe (especially if you’re a narcissist).
There but for the grace of God, go I.
While I certainly think religion has it’s share of problems, I think this phrase — which is often found in Christian circles — is something we spiritual people could really use more of.
There but for the grace of God, go I — and no, I’m not talking about our inner divine goddess, I’m talking about the kind of God that is not you. You are not involved. Okay maybe you need to replace the word “God” with Gaia or “the universe” or whatever — but do whatever you need to do to stay with me.
Consider these two statements.
I manifested that.
There but for the grace of God, go I.
Which one feels better? Actually, maybe a better question is “what medicine do you need”? If you’re a overly humble person who is constantly deflecting compliments, sacrificing yourself left and right and afraid to take credit for anything, then yeah — maybe “I manifested that” is empowering, so try it out.
But if you’re like most of the people I know (and yes, I’m one of those people), then maybe adding a little humility to your morning Bulletproof Coffee might be just the thing you need.
Instead of proudly declaring on Facebook that you manifested that new job, why not give humility a shot? Maybe instead of “yessssss, I am the world’s most powerful manifesterrrrrrrr” you could instead write something like “I feel so incredibly lucky — I don’t even feel like I completely deserve this new job, it’s a dream come true”.
So yeah, manifesting is a “thing” but who is really doing the manifesting? Is it you? Is it not you? I think the answer is both. When I see people declare that they’ve manifested everything in their life, I want to cringe, just like when I see people reject all forms of praise or credit.
The Human Paradox
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty damn lucky, and totally fucking awesome. Both are true. My opinion about what it takes to live a happy life is that we need to both acknowledge this paradox and calibrate for our own personalities, which is easier said than done.
They say the three greatest mysteries are a fish unto water, a bird unto air, and man unto women. Oh wait, no — it’s man unto himself. Yes. And that’s why it’s so hard, we need to see the water we’re swimming in, we need reflections from friends that aren’t just bullshit projections, and we need to have the courage to take the medicine that we need.
So if you’ve been manifesting your way through life, try seeing yourself as not at the center of the universe. And if you’ve been cowering through life as a servant of everyone but yourself, maybe try putting on a spiritual cape and getting worshipped at a Tantra puja.
It sounds so simple, but the problem is we don’t do this (me included). Tantra pujas are full of narcissists thinking they need more adoration and Christian churches are full of people-pleasers trying to serve other people more. It’s insane.
Go to church, and go to Burning Man. You can do both! I guarantee you that if you went to Burning Man and found the Christians there they would be total bad-asses. It’s because they’ve figured out how to get the best of both worlds.
You can too.
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