Spirituality & Victim-Blaming: Exploring Our Desire for Control

This morning I listened to a talk on Radical Forgiveness. I was enjoying some of what the author was saying, but this part pissed me right off:

“When I first started to do this work, I was working with people who have cancer. It’s well known that people who tend to get that are people who have a hard time processing their feelings. They tend to repress them, and they have a hard time forgiving.”

Now, maybe I’m just oblivious to all those studies that have linked cancer to repressed feelings. Last I knew, anyone could get cancer and certain things put you at more risk. And repressed feelings happen for a whole lot of people, welcome to society. Why the need to take a good idea of radical forgiveness and make it somehow relate to a disease that many people fear? Many teachings by famous authors seem to take this route of turning otherwise mindful and loving practices into magic tricks that can help you avoid certain fates. I think it comes down to a built in desire for control, which we can become more aware of. When we are more aware of it, we can notice that moment when we start blaming victims out of our own fear and shift that into actual compassion.

Drawing Correlations is Natural

People seem to be natural experts at coming up with ways of understanding the world and drawing correlations between one thing and another to avoid suffering and danger. If awesome things happen the two times I wear a necklace in one month, it becomes a lucky necklace. If I have a bad day, maybe it’s because of the food I ate. I draw connections all the time for myself to search for control.

The way that some spiritual circles draw these correlations and connect them to huge topics like cancer, accidents, or other forms of suffering has irked me for some time because even though the intention is not to place blame, it shows up like a shadow whenever someone needs to prove that their particular magic trick is working. They can have their idea for how to avoid suffering, point to someone else in a less desirable position and say “See? What I’m doing is clearly working because I’m not over there right now.”

The quest for control leads us to blame no matter how you cut it. If you are manifesting your dreams and they are all coming true, and your friend is having a horrible year of lost jobs and broken relationships, then logic would have it that your friend should simply make a Dream Board or whatever and start manifesting like you are. Because if you are in control of your good life, your friend is in control of hers as well.

Lack of Correlation & Control = Scary

It’s rather scary to think that sometimes, shit happens and it’s unfair and there is absolutely no way of preventing it or finding a pattern. It’s much nicer to feel like there’s some control and a solid reason.  You are born into devastating poverty? It’s probably past life karma, or else you just haven’t read the freaking Law of Attraction enough times. You have cancer? Maybe you should try letting go of your trauma or avoiding GMOs. You have depression? Just start thinking positively, you’re attracting too much negativity, man.

Of course we all want to be healthy as long as possible. Of course it’s nice to think that if we have it good right now, there’s a reason for that and we can somehow prolong it. Of course it’s fun to feel like we can attract what we want. But in the end, the body breaks down, no matter how much you manifest health and well being. That’s a natural part of life, and it’s the one thing that we know for certain. We can have compassion and love for others much more effectively if we aren’t in a state of blaming them or holding them responsible for their suffering just so that we can feel in control of ours.

Day to Day, not Life or Death

It’s okay for an idea to be a great idea without it also being a way to escape certain types of suffering or death itself. Learning to forgive is awesome, but it doesn’t guarantee you a life without cancer. When you say those two things are correlated, you are making people responsible for the condition they are in. Being aware of your thoughts and intentions is cool, but it doesn’t mean that you can avoid relationship issues and accidents. Pretending those things are correlated is putting the responsibility of disasters onto the people who suffer through them. For your end of the correlation to work, ugly stuff has to happen on the other side.

Personally, when I implement an idea into the day to day, it’s a lot less stressful or fear-based than when it feels like life or death. If an idea is presented to me and instigates that desire to find causality and correlation in order to avoid certain types of disasters, I would like to be more aware of the blame that inherently arises as soon as I think I have that alluring kind of control. Because without that sense of control, I do have a lot more compassion and vulnerability towards life in general.

How about you, do you think that what that guy said is as infuriating as I do?

Do you feel like you control and are responsible for the things that happen to you? Do you feel the same about others?

Did you take some time to gaze at the sky today?

 

Why I Love Loving What I Hate (AKA, Reality Doesn’t Pick Sides)

A lot of my favorite people had a hard time growing up. Some of us were made fun of by our friends, some had abusive family situations, some suffered real hunger and fear of imminent death and some suffered with extreme states of mind.

A lot of my favorite people have learned from these struggles, and have found a way of becoming inspiring because of it. And some of them are going to someday, I can feel it.

Recently I told a friend that I felt really confident about my new job. He suggested to really savor the feeling and write about it because “someday, you might really need it.” When my ravenous insecurity hits, I want to remember how it felt to feel confident and capable.

In the spirit of that encounter, I want to share something that I’ve been feeling good about lately, which is my ability to identify, appreciate, and learn from my hatred of some things.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my studies of academia and real life, it is that things are rarely black and white. One person full-heartedly believes one thing and someone else believes the opposite, and reality has never once really chosen a side. It has a compassionate ear in both directions to anyone who cares to listen.

So, my hatred of things is something that I’m pretty sure is not ever completely accurate. My insecurity, fear, anxiety, and repulsion is often times a red flag for me to look closer.

“I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight… I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

What’s really going on here? I mean, really?

Oh, right, reality doesn’t pick sides. It just is. Lots of things at once, like a minestrone soup. You can eat it in many ways. Maybe you eat the carrot pieces first because you want to get them out of the way before you get to the chunks of potato, or maybe you eat all the noodles first because you love them and want to throw away the rest anyway. Who knows. There’s lots of ways to eat it, and it’s all there when you care to look at it. If you try eating it in a new way, something new may emerge. Maybe you like carrots more than you used to when you slow down and savor their flavor, maybe the taste of asparagus is exactly what you needed. Can you even put asparagus in soup? Anything’s possible.

The more curiosity that I hold towards things that are unappealing, the more that I learn. I learn about my fear of a certain type of situation, I learn about what other nuances exist in it. This helps me when I want to write fiction, it also helps me when I want to work with people who have more extreme fears, anxieties, phobias and repulsions than I do.

We can all relate to each other. It’s really not that hard. And yet, it’s scary. It’s scary to relate to someone with depression when you feel as if you are happy. What if they bring you down? Well you know what? If you are avoiding relating to that person, I would question the authenticity of your happiness all together. Happiness based on protection from the things that are quote-unquote “not happy” is not any type of happiness that I would want to be a part of. No siree.

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
Pema Chödrön

So as I step into a feeling of confidence with my job, and take a gentle inventory of the most useful things I have to offer myself, my curiosity about my hatred is one of my top faves. At least for now.

What about you, have you learned from hardship in your life? Do you feel like it has made you a better person in the long run?

Do you like relating to people with love even if they are in a hard place in their life right now?

I’m curious. As always, thank you for reading. You guys truly rock.