The Pop-Psychology Perversion

How many times have you heard someone say:  “You just need to accept it” or “You just need to accept yourself.”

Yes, we do need to accept certain things, and we do need to accept ourselves, as we are, at any given moment.  This does not, however, imply that through acceptance we then give ourselves permission to remain in stasis, smile and shrug when we perpetuate bad behavior while hiding behind pop-psychology’s perversion of the concept of acceptance.

While it is key to accept ourselves as we are, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t bound by a power greater than ourselves, to change those things within ourselves that are less than desirable; things that, when they appear, have the ability to hurt others.

Too many times I’ve heard other people say “well, that’s just the way I am.  If you want to be with me, you just need to accept it.”  There are two things in that statement that send me heading for the hills.  First, the speaker is blithely stating that he or she has accepted their character flaws and intends to do nothing about them.  Second, the speaker is telling me that I, too, need to accept those flaws, and ignore them, regardless their detriment to me, if I want to be a part of his or her life.

Does anyone besides me see anything wrong with this?

It’s a perversion of the Serenity Prayer.  This prayer, when we speak it, is a request for help  to accept that which we cannot change, to change that which we can, and the blessing of wisdom to know the difference between the two.

I’m a veteran of 12 step programs.  I started long ago when it was rather harshly stated to me that I had all the character traits of an Adult Child of Alcoholics.  I had no clue what this meant.  I was given a clue and thank GOD I had enough glimmer of sense left in me to feel horror that I was perceived this way.

I went to AA to learn who my parents and various members of my family were.  I went to Al-Anon to learn to cope.  I went to ACoA to learn who I was.  I went to all three to grow and change.  I was horrified that someone I respected and loved saw in me all 15 of the characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics.  I’m not horrified now.

It stands to reason, given that I was raised by an alcoholic and a co-alcoholic, and that alcoholism was the syndrome du jour for my step-mother’s family.  My mother died when I was 2, and my father remarried shortly after, needing a mother for his 4 children.  I was the youngest.  I grew up surrounded by alcoholics and their enablers.  Then, when I was in my early thirties, my aunt, who had 9 years sober in AA, and who I respected and loved, brought me up short.  I was 32 when I went to my first 12 step meeting.  I’m 50 and haven’t stopped.

I learned through these programs that it was essential to acknowledge and accept, but that it was also essential to come to know myself well enough, to face the pain instead of running from it, and through that knowledge, to change those things about myself that I KNEW were awful, and that I thought I hid oh-so-well. 

It’s a long and painful process, and it’s a process that never ends, because through it we experience growth and through growth, we are always faced with choices.  It’s very easy to make the wrong choice simply because it’s the easiest choice to make.  I did that many times, until I learned that choice is not all about ME.  It’s about anyone who might be affected by my choice and in making choices I must consider all those who will be impacted and what that impact will be.  Many times, a choice I wanted to make would hurt others, and in learning to consider others ahead of myself, I learned to make the hard choices; the choices that might make life more difficult for me in the short-term, but which would protect others from certain damage.

Pop-psychology, in the form of many therapists and best-selling, self-proclaimed “gurus” tell us that we must always “look out for number One.”  Yes, we must.  I agree.  I disagree with their definition of “Number One.”  “Number One” is not ME.

Do you know what “Number One” is?  It is Love.  Pure and simple.  Pure and complex.  Pure and painful.  Pure and uplifting.  Pure and rewarding.  Pure, patient, and giving.

If you believe what pop-psychology tells you, then you are likely believing that “Number One” is you.  That’s the biggest lie of the last 2,000 years.  Some say Christianity and religion is the biggest lie.  It’s not – it is only a lie when it is perverted by humankind.

With the exception of one, Satanism, all other faiths I have encountered have, at their foundation, the premise that humankind must love one another.  We must give selflessly and without expectation of gifts in return.  We must also use the wisdom of our souls to understand the difference between giving selflessly from an abundance of love and blind faith to the control of something man-made.

We are told we need to have faith in ourselves above all else, that we must take care of ourselves before we can possibly take care of another.  Lies use a seed of truth for their foundation.  Lies take that seed and carefully craft it into something believable, yet false.  That is the purpose of a lie.  Lies are told with the intention of gaining control, of deliberately deceiving one or many in an attempt to make the liar more than he or she truly is.  Lies are told, perpetrated, fed and then, when they are big and solid enough, used as a foundation to trick humanity into believing what another power-hungry and greedy human being wants us to believe.

We all know the truth.  We were BORN with the truth.  It is in our souls.  Western civilization has been brainwashed to believe that we are not capable of seeing truth for ourselves; we are taught that we must look to other human beings who have somehow been imbued with “authority” and “wisdom” to guide us toward the truth.  We allow ourselves to be guided like sheep, even when the terrain feels unfamiliar and rocky; when it feels dangerous and just plain WRONG, we follow, because we have been taught to follow.

We are taught to sublimate our intuition; our higher knowledge; that still, small voice that will speak to us when we drop the defenses we’ve been taught to raise against it.  What is that still small voice?  Some call it God, others call it The Holy Spirit.  Many call it their Higher Power.  Some call it Allah.  Some call it Buddha.  Some have many names for it.  The name doesn’t matter.  A rose, by any other name, is still a rose.

I respect all religions whose foundation is one of uplifting humankind, of uplifting the spirit, of teaching and spreading love.  I do not respect, and in fact I abjure and abominate those religions that speak to uplifting the EGO, to personal preservation regardless the damage done to others.

I view pop-psychology as one of those religions.

I believe we are here, as human beings, to do as much good for our fellow humans as we possibly can do.  I believe it is the REASON we are here.  I believe our souls have been commanded to do this and  I also believe that we have been given the frailty of human form to test our ability to perceive and tread the high road.

My faith lies in eastern philosophy, because it is there that I find the foundations for Western Christian faith.  I do  not disrespect or denigrate Christians  who truly walk their talk, because the teachings of Jesus Christ, for those who have read them and have not perverted them to their own ends, are souls who have accepted their human frailty, who have set about changing that which they can change, without a need for manipulation and control, and who give of themselves  to others selflessly and with a never-ending abundance of love.

Read, if you will, 1 Corinthians 13, from the Christian New Testament:

<< 1 Corinthians 13 >>
American Standard Version

1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
2And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor , and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

4Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil;

6rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth;

7beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.

9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;

10but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things.

12For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.

13But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Love never fails.  Never.  Humans fail.  When we do what we do and it is done with LOVE, we will not fail.  The burden is upon us to recognize and understand ALL our actions and to use the wisdom present in ALL our souls to determine whether our choices, before we put them to action, are choices made from within pure love, as defined above.  Love of self is not love.  It is ego.  We love ourselves when we love others.  We help ourselves when we help others.  Pop-psychology would have us believe it is the opposite:  that we cannot love others until we love ourselves and that we cannot help others until we help ourselves.  Pop-psychology fails miserably as a guide for life in that it makes no mention of the fact that we can NOT love ourselves until or unless we love OTHERS first.

Be very careful when you use the word Love.  It is a powerful word and it is not one to be bandied about lightly.  It is a word, in all languages, that is fraught with bogs, mires and quicksand.  Love is a concept, and while a concept can be defined, the definition is generally defined by humans with a self-serving end in mind.

The next time you reach for a self-help book, or you go in search of help online, stop, walk out of the bookstore, walk away from your keyboard, and sit in a calm, quiet place for an hour.

It is best if you can be some place where the sounds of human invention do not intrude.  No music, no cars, no fans or electric or electronic devices.  Find a creek or a stream in the woods and sit on the bank.  Listen to nothing but the ambient sounds around you.  Let no thought enter your head.  Breathe deeply, drop false defenses in the sure knowledge that you are safer without them,  and let the still small voice grow to a roar.

When it does, you will hear what it is you need to hear, and it will be truth.

That truth will have nothing to do with the pop-psychology dogma that commands us to to selfishly guard our love, keeping it to ourselves; hoarding it so that we can become “better” people.  It has nothing to do with the concept of “ME” or “I.”  It has everything to do with “We.”


5 thoughts on “The Pop-Psychology Perversion

  1. Aww, thank you, Zala. I simply wrote what I felt compelled to write. Last night, I was thinking about some feelings I had regarding a new volunteer at the concert venue where I volunteer as a merchandiser. The new volunteer was driving me insane. She was brand-new, had never done the merchandising but she immediately set about telling me I was doing it wrong. She was so adamant that I was doing it wrong, and so intrusive with what she thought was the right way to do things that I started to knee-jerk. I walked away for a minute and came back with the realization that I had a choice.

    I could either simply nod politely and let her do it her way, and if her way brought us the results we needed, then the good of the many would be met. Or, I could choose to fight her; I could choose to get the promoter involved, thus causing more problems and humiliating the new volunteer. I know from experience that doing something that will cause humiliation to someone who is positive they are right has repercussions that will echo for a long time to come.

    So I chose. I stepped away and let her do it. When the receipts didn’t add up, and I saw her frustration build, I simply stood on my tongue. My instinct was to get in there and just “get it done.” Eventually, she went in and got the promoter and proceeded to blame me for screwing up the receipts, for not training her properly and for not helping her. I know the promoter very well, and she knows me. She knows that I know how to train and merchandise. I just kept silent, even though everything in me was screaming to jump in and defend myself.

    The net of it was that the promoter told the new volunteer that it wasn’t her place to tally receipts on her first day, that it was her job to WATCH what I did and DO as I did, and then if she had questions to ask me, not to simply “barge in like a bull in a china shop.” What I didn’t know is that the promoter had heard the entire situation as it went down. She’d seen me walk away, and seen the look on my face. She simply waited, knowing what I would do, and that eventually she would be called in by the new volunteer to help sort things out.

    After things were sorted out, and before we left the concert hall, the new volunteer came up to me and “apologized” by saying “I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I am. You’ll have to get used to it if we’re going to work together.” I simply thanked her for her help and left.

    This started me thinking about love and acceptance and the role pop-psychology has played in teaching us that others simply have to “accept” us if they want to interact with us. It’s taught us that it’s okay to be a pain in the ass to others, and that it is incumbent upon those others to find a way to work with US, rather than us changing those things that have proved hurtful to others in various situations.

    We’re taught to believe that we’re perfect just as we are; that we should NEVER change and that if someone has difficulty interacting with us because of our own character flaws, it’s not our problem.

    I say it IS our problem, if what we present is detrimental to another.

  2. Whew, what an experience! I so admire your ability to stand on tongue – I’m still learning how to do that 😉
    It’s unfortunate tho, that Ms Newbie fluffed an opportunity to learn from a life-situation and how to work with others :-\ I wonder if she’ll ever be able to curtail the bossiness and stop tromping on boundaries?? It’s *NOT* OK to be a PITA to others.

  3. Well, you do have a way with words Ms. P…And omg~ the most amazing patience in the world! There’s no way I could watch and let someone like your new workmate do what she did- not in a million years. I understand your method- I’m just someone who would outright say to that person what your promoter said- ending with, “the way you are? You mean the way you’re a pain in the arse??” Yeah, in a joking way, but I tend towards honesty from the start. Possibly said they could run their idea past the promoter (to avoid an immediate confrontation)- but again, everyone has their way/style of dealing with co-workers, eh?
    (PS- I’m also a veteran retail/merchandiser- so I know where you’re coming from).


  4. Thanks, Tracy. I’m really not the most patient person in the world. I work at it. I had to really fight myself in that situation to keep from telling her to just effing back off and let me do my job. Since we were both volunteers, I figured I’d give her an opportunity to show just how much she’d “learned” from watching. Sometimes you just don’t have to do a thing. 🙂

    I also know that telling her off would only have been me, fulfilling a less than noble desire to prove MYSELF right. I didn’t need to prove that to her. I knew I was right, but even so, it was difficult to tamp down that knee-jerk response of telling her to sit down and shut up.

    I have my doubts as to whether this volunteer will be back. She complained the entire time about the distance she had to come to do this, even though she rode with her husband, who does it every week, since he’s one of the volunteer sound guys.

    Karma’s a bitch and I have her on speed dial. The thing to remember is that we create our own karma and before doing anything in a situation it’s always good to step back and ask yourself “do I have karma in this situation?” If you do, and you react in a fashion that could truly hurt someone else, you’ll deal with it later, in some other form, only much worse.

    I had karma in the situation. I knew that taking my frustration out on her wouldn’t do me a bit of good in the long term. All it would do is relieve immediate frustrations, but it would ultimately make the situation worse. so I just let her flub things, with the thought that if she didn’t flub them, then maybe we DID have a new way of doing them.

    It ain’t easy being patient. If it was easy, everyone would be that way, all the time. 🙂

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