CAITLIN JOHNSTONE: “32 Tips For Navigating A Society Full Of Propaganda And Manipulation”

“As Carl Sagan once said, ‘It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.'”

~Caitlin Johnstone

 

For as long as there has been human language, humans have been using it to manipulate one another. The fact that it is possible to skillfully weave a collection of symbolic mouth noises together in such a way as to extract favors, concessions, votes and consent from other humans has made manipulation so common that it now pervades our society from top to bottom, from personal relationships between two people to international relationships between government agencies and the public.

This has made it very difficult to figure out what’s going on, both in our lives and in the world. Here are thirty-two suggestions for navigating this complex manipulation-laden landscape, whether it be for navigating the manipulations you may encounter in your small-scale personal interactions, or the large-scale manipulations which impact the entire world:

 

1 – Understand the fact that humans are storytelling animals, and that whoever controls the stories controls the humans. 

Mental narrative dominates human consciousness; thought is essentially one continuous, churning monologue about the self and what it reckons is going on in its world, and that monologue is composed entirely of mental stories. These stories can and will be manipulated, on an individual scale by people we encounter and on a mass scale by skillful propagandists. We base our actions on our mental assessments of what’s going on in the world, and those mental assessments can be manipulated by narrative control.

2 – Be humble and open enough to know that you can be fooled.

Your cognitive wiring is susceptible the same hacks as everyone else, and manipulators of all sorts are always looking to exploit those vulnerabilities. It’s not shameful to be deceived, it’s shameful to deceive people. Don’t let shame and cognitive dissonance keep you compartmentalized away from considering the possibility that you’ve been duped in some way.

3 – Watch people’s behavior and ignore the stories they tell about their behavior.

This applies to people in your life, to politicians, and to governments. Narratives can be easily manipulated and distorted in many different ways, while behavior itself, when examined with as much objectivity as possible, cannot be. Pay attention to behavior in this way and eventually you’ll start noticing a large gap between what some people’s actions say and what their words say. Those people are the manipulators. Distrust them.

4 – Be suspicious of people who keep telling you what they are and how they are, because they’re trying to manipulate your narrative about them.

Be doubly suspicious of people who keep telling you what you are and how you are, because they’re trying to manipulate your narrative about you.

5 – Learn to see how trust and sympathy are used by manipulators to trick people into subscribing to their narratives about what’s going on.

Every manipulator uses trust and/or sympathy as a primer for their manipulations, because if you don’t have trust or sympathy for them, you’re not going to mentally subscribe to their stories. This is true of mass media outlets, it’s true of State Department press releases which implore you to have sympathy for the people of Nation X, and it’s true of family members and coworkers. Once you’ve spotted a manipulator, your task is to kill off all of your sympathy for them and your trust in them, no matter how hard they start playing the victim to suck you back in.

6 – Be suspicious of anyone who refuses to articulate themselves clearly.

Word salading is a tactic notoriously used by abusive narcissists, because it keeps the victim confused and unable to figure out what’s going on. If they can’t get a clear handle on what the manipulative abuser is saying, they can’t form their own solid position in relation to it, and the abuser knows this. Insist on lucid communication, and if it’s refused to you, remove trust and sympathy. Apply this to people in your life, to government officials, and to 8chan propaganda constructs.

7 – Familiarize yourself with cognitive biases, the glitches in human cognition which cause us to perceive things in a way that is not rational.

Pay special attention to confirmation bias, the backfire effect, and the illusory truth effect. Humans have an annoying tendency to seek out cognitive ease in their information-gathering and avoid cognitive dissonance, rather than seeking out what’s true regardless of whether it brings us cognitive ease or dissonance. This means we tend to choose what we believe based on whether believing it is psychologically comfortable, rather than whether it’s solidly backed by facts and evidence. This is a weakness in our cognitive wiring, and manipulators can and do exploit it constantly. And, again, be humble enough to know that this means you.

8 – Trust your own understanding above anyone else’s.

It might not be perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than letting your understanding be controlled by narrative managers and dopey partisan groupthink, or by literally anyone else in a narrative landscape that is saturated with propaganda and manipulation. You won’t get everything right, but betting on your own understanding is the very safest bet on the table. It can be intimidating to stand alone and sort out the true from the false by yourself on an instance-by-instance basis, but the alternative is giving someone else authority over your understanding of the world. Abdicating your responsibility to come to a clear understanding of what’s going on in your world is a shameful, cowardly thing to do. Be brave enough to insist that you are right until such time as you yourself come to your own understanding that you were wrong.

9 – Understand that propaganda is the single most overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of our society.

Everyone’s constantly talking about what’s wrong with the world, but hardly any of those discussions are centered around the fact that the public been manipulated into supporting the creation and continuation of those problems by mass media propaganda. The fact that powerful people are constantly manipulating the way we think, act and vote should be at the forefront of everyone’s awareness, not relegated to occasional discussions in fringe circles.

10 – Respect the fact that the science of modern propaganda has been in research and development for over a century.

Think of all the military advancements that have been made in the last century to get an idea of how sophisticated this science must now be. They are far, far ahead of us in terms of research and understanding of the methods of manipulating the human psyche toward ends which benefit the powerful. If you ever doubt that the narrative managers could be advanced and cunning enough to pull off a given manipulation, you can lay that particular doubt to rest. Don’t underestimate them.

11 – Understand that western mass media propaganda rarely consists of full, outright lies.

At most, such outlets will credulously publish the things that are told to them by government agencies which lie all the time. More often, the deception comes in the form of distortions, half-truths, and omissions. Pay more attention to discrepancies in things that are covered versus things that aren’t, and to what they’re not saying.

12 – Put effort into developing a good news-sense, a sense for what’s newsworthy and what’s not.

This takes time and practice, but it lets you see which newsworthy stories are going unreported by the mass media and which non-stories are being overblown to shape an establishment-friendly narrative. When you’ve got that nailed down, you’ll notice “Why are they acting like this is a news story?” and “Why is nobody reporting this??” stories all the time.

13 – Be patient and compassionate with yourself when it comes to developing your narrative navigating skills.

Like literally any skill set, you’ll suck at it for a while. If you learn you’ve been wrong about something, just take in the new information, adjust appropriately, and keep plugging away. Don’t expect to have mastered this thing before you’ve had time to master it. Like anything else, if you put in the hours you’ll get good at it.

14 – Find reliable news reporters who have a good sense for navigating the narrative matrix, and keep track of them to orient yourself and stay on top of what’s going on.

Use individual reporters, not outlets; no outlet is 100 percent solid, but some reporters are pretty close on some specific subjects.

15 – Don’t let paranoia be your primary or only tool for navigating the narrative matrix.

Some people’s only means of understanding the world is to become intensely suspicious of everything and everyone, which is about as useful as a compass which tells you that every direction is north. Spend time in conspiracy and media criticism circles and you’ll run into many such people. Rejecting everything as false leaves you with nothing as true. Find positive tools for learning what’s true.

16 – Hold your worldview loosely enough that you can change it at any time in the light of new information.

But, not so loosely that it can be slapped out of your head by someone telling you what to think in a confident, authoritative tone. As Carl Sagan once said, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”

17 – Speaking of confident, authoritative tones, be suspicious of confident, authoritative tones.

It’s amazing how much traction people can get with a narrative just by posturing as though they know that what they’re saying is true, whether they’re an MSNBC pundit or a popular conspiracy Youtuber. So many people are just plain faking it, because it works. You run into this all the time in debates on online political forums; people come at you with a supremely confident posture, but if you push them to present their knowledge on the subject and the strength of their arguments, there’s not actually anything there. They’re just accustomed to people assuming they know what they’re talking about and leaving their claims unchallenged, and it completely throws them off when someone doesn’t buy their feigned confidence schtick.

18 – Be aware that sociopaths exist.

There are people who, to varying degrees, do not care what happens to others, and these are the types of people who will use manipulation to get their way whenever it serves them. If you don’t care about truth or other people beyond the extent to which you can use them, then there’s no disincentive to manipulating.

19 – Be aware of projection, and be aware of the fact that it cuts both ways. 

Unhealthy people tend to project their wickedness onto others, while healthy people tend to project their goodness. Don’t let your goodness trick you into thinking there aren’t monsters who will deceive and manipulate you, and don’t let sociopaths project their own sinister motives onto you by telling you how rotten you are. This mixes a lot of good people up, especially in their personal lives. Not everyone is good, and not everyone is truthful. See this clearly.

20 – Be suspicious of those who excessively advocate civility, rules and politeness.

Manipulators thrive on rules and civility, because they know how to manipulate them. Someone who’s willing to color outside the lines and get angry at someone noxious even when they’re acting within the rules makes a manipulator very uncomfortable. Often times those telling you to calm down and behave yourself when you are rightfully upset are manipulators who have a vested interest in getting you to adhere to the rules set they’ve learned to operate within.

21 – Meditation, mindfulness, self-inquiry and other practices are powerful tools which can help you understand your own inner processes.

Which, in turn helps you understand how manipulators can manipulate you, and how they manipulate others. Just be sure that you are using them for this purpose, not for escapism as most “spiritual” types do. You’re trying to become fully aware of what makes you tick mentally, emotionally and energetically; you’re not trying to become some vapid spiritual bliss bunny. The goal isn’t to feel better, the goal is to get better at feeling. Better at consciously experiencing your own inner world.

22 – Be relentlessly honest with yourself about your own inner narratives and the various ways you engage in manipulation.

You can’t navigate your way through the narrative control matrix if you aren’t clear on your own role in it. Look inside and consciously take an inventory.

23 – Understand that truth doesn’t generally move in a way that is pleasing to the ego, i.e. in a way Hollywood scripts are written to appeal to.

Any narrative that points to a Hollywood ending where the bad guy gets karate kicked into lava and the hero gets the girl is manufactured. Russiagate and QAnon are both perfect examples of an egoically pleasing narrative with the promise of a Hollywood ending, either by Trump and his cohorts being dragged off in chains or by the “white hats” overcoming the Deep State and throwing all the Democrats and Never-Trumpers in prison for pedophilia. Ain’t gonna happen, folks.

24 – Try to view the world with fresh eyes rather than with your tired old grown-up eyes which have taught you to see all this as normal.

Hold an image in your mind of what a perfectly healthy and harmonious world would look like; the sharp contrast between this image and the world we have now allows you see through the campaign of the propagandists to normalize things like war, poverty, ecocide, and impotent electoral systems which keep seeing the same government behavior regardless of who people vote for. None of this is normal.

25 – Know that the truth has no political party, and neither do the social engineers.

All political parties are used to manipulate the masses in various ways, and nuggets of truth can and do emerge from any of them. Thinking along partisan lines is guaranteed to give you a distorted view. Ignore the imaginary lines between the parties. You may be certain that your rulers do.

26 – Remain always aware of this simple dynamic: the people who become billionaires are generally the ones who are sociopathic enough to do whatever it takes to get ahead.

This class has been able to buy up near-total narrative control via media ownership/influence, corporate lobbying, think tank funding, and campaign finance, and are thus able to manipulate the public into consenting to agendas which benefit nobody but plutocrats and their lackeys. This explains pretty much every major problem that we are facing right now.

27 – Understand that nations are pure narrative constructs; they only exist to the extent that people agree to pretend that they do.

The narrative managers know this, and they exploit the fact that most of us don’t. Take Julian Assange, perfect example: he was pried out of the embassy and imprisoned by an extremely obvious collaboration between the US, UK, Sweden, Ecuador, and Australia, yet they each pretended that they were acting as separate, sovereign nations completely independently of one another. Sweden pretended it was deeply concerned about rape allegations, the UK pretended it was deeply concerned about a bail violation, Ecuador pretended it was deeply concerned about skateboarding and embassy cat hygiene, the US pretended it was deeply concerned about the particulars of the way Assange helped Chelsea Manning cover her tracks, Australia pretended it was too deeply concerned about honoring the sovereign affairs of these other countries to intervene on behalf of its citizen, and it all converged in a way that just so happened to look exactly the same as imprisoning a journalist for publishing facts. You see this same dynamic constantly, whether it’s with military interventions, trade deals, or narrative-shaping campaigns against non-aligned governments.

28 – Understand that war is the glue which holds the US-centralized empire together.

Without the carrot of military/economic alliance and the stick of military/economic violence, the US-centralized empire would cease to exist. This is why war propaganda is constant and sometimes so forced that glaring plot holes become exposed; it’s so important that they need to force it through, even if they can’t get the narrative matrix around it constructed just right. If they ceased manufacturing consent for the empire’s relentless warmongering, people would lose all trust in government and media institutions, and those institutions would lose the ability to propagandize the public effectively. Without the ability to propagandize the public effectively, our rulers cannot rule.

29 – Remember that when it comes to foreign policy, the neocons are always wrong.

They’ve been so remarkably consistent in this for so long that whenever there’s a question about any narrative involving hostilities between the US-centralized power alliance and any other nation, you can just look at what Bill Kristol, Max Boot and John Bolton are saying about it and believe the exact opposite. They’re actually a very helpful navigation tool in this way.

30 – Notice how the manipulators like to split the population in two and then get them arguing over how they should serve the establishment.

Arguing over whether it’s better to vote Democrat or Republican, arguing over whether it’s better to increase hostilities with Iran and Venezuela or with Syria and Russia, over whether you should support the US president or the FBI, arguing over how internet censorship should happen and whomshould be censored rather than if censorship should happen in the first place. The longer they can keep us arguing over the best way to lick the imperial boot, the longer they keep us from talking about whether we want to lick it at all.

31 – Watch out for appeals to emotion.

It’s much easier to manipulate someone by appealing to their feely bits rather than their capacity for rational analysis, which is why any time they want to manufacture support for military interventionism you see pictures of dead children on news screens everywhere rather than a logical argument for the advantages of using military violence based on a thorough presentation of facts and evidence. You see the same strategy used in the guilt trips they lay on third-party voters; it’s all emotional hyperbole that crumbles under any fact-based analysis, but they use it because it works. They go after your heart strings to circumvent your head.

32 – Pay attention to how much propaganda goes into maintaining the propaganda machine itself.

This is done this because propaganda is just that central to the maintenance of dominant power structures. Much effort is spent building trust in establishment narrative management outlets while sowing distrust in sources of dissent. You’ll see entire propaganda campaigns built around accomplishing solely this.

 

 

~via WakingTimes.com

CAITLIN JOHNSTONE: “The U.S. Government Is Like A Bad Dad”

“And the mother, well like most mothers she’s in charge of managing the stories the family tells about what’s going on. Whenever a neighbor turns up wounded or dead, she’s responsible for telling the children that it was the neighbor’s fault, and their father was only protecting them.”

~Caitlin Johnstone

 

There’s a house on the block where a large family lives, and it gets pretty abusive in there. The kids hardly ever get to see a doctor and there’s never enough money for them to afford decent clothes or go on holiday, and a disproportionately large number of them get locked in their rooms as punishment for silly, arbitrary offenses which could have been prevented with a little more care and attention. They don’t get out much and they have to spend their free time listening to scripture readings about how exceptional their family is.

Looking at these disheveled, mistreated children, one can’t help wondering what’s going on with their parents. Why aren’t they providing for their kids? Why isn’t money going toward giving their children quality healthcare and education and making sure they have everything they need? Are they poor? Is there some sort of substance abuse problem?

Actually, if you look at their house you can very quickly see where the problem lies. A huge, opaque fence with barbed wire surrounds the yard, and there are many expensive security cameras scanning the scene, facing both outward and inward. All the doors and windows are barred shut and rigged with fancy alarm systems, and there’s a giant stockpile of firearms in the master bedroom.

Every spare moment of his free time, the man of the house is either coming home with an expensive new piece of home security equipment or adjusting and tinkering with the ones he already has. He can’t be bothered with his needy children, who he angrily shoves away whenever they dare approach him asking for things.

“No time for that!” he yells while piling new redundant security systems on top of old redundant security systems. “I’ve got to protect the family from all potential intruders!”

When he’s not doing that, he’s prowling around the block bullying his neighbors. He forces them to join the neighborhood watch, which he controls with an iron fist and runs around the clock. He insists that they submit to his leadership and relate to their neighborhood with the same aggressive hyper-vigilance that he has, and if any of them refuse to bow to his demands, he sets to work on grinding them into compliance.

He sabotages their investments and works to get them fired from their jobs so they won’t have any money. He circulates pernicious rumors about them to undermine the possibility of anyone coming to their aid. He patrols the neighborhood with a large loaded pistol in each hand, and if anyone so much as looks at him funny he runs up to them and points both barrels in their face until they lay down on the ground with their hands behind their head and apologize. With particularly noncompliant neighbors he’ll burst into their house late at night and beat them within an inch of their lives until they agree to his demands, then get all his other neighbors to testify in court that he did it in self defense. Sometimes he’ll even stage events to make it look like a neighbor attacked him, then he’ll go to their house and murder them in cold blood.

He is feared by the entire neighborhood, by his allies and enemies alike. The neighbors who support him only do so because he’s got such tight control over the neighborhood, and they know that their lives will be made easy if they work with him and painful if they work against him. So they do what they need to do to avoid being targeted while secretly wishing that he has a heart attack in his sleep.

“It’s either us or them,” the father often tells his family. “I need to keep everyone around us in line, because there’s no telling who might come after us. We’ve earned a special place in this neighborhood, so it’s our job to lead it.”

Once in a great while, if someone’s feeling particularly brave, they might point out that the father is constantly doing the things he’s afraid of his neighbors doing to him.

“It’s different when I do it!” he always barks in response while adding their name to his personal blacklist. “Our family is exceptional, so we’re the exception to the rules.”

And the mother, well like most mothers she’s in charge of managing the stories the family tells about what’s going on. Whenever a neighbor turns up wounded or dead, she’s responsible for telling the children that it was the neighbor’s fault, and their father was only protecting them.

“Your father loves you,” she coos to them at bedtime. “You should be grateful to him for protecting your life and liberty. It’s good that he’s so strong, because if our family wasn’t in charge it would be the Changs around the corner or the Smirnovs down the road. We should always support everything he does and never question him, and never, ever wish for things to be different. This is the only way that things can ever be. Anyone who tells you otherwise is crazy and evil.”

But the children are growing older, and some of the bigger kids are beginning to open their eyes to what’s going on. They’re beginning to realize that their father is an abusive tyrant and their mother has been lying to them their whole lives. The younger kids are still indoctrinated and put their fingers in their ears when the big kids try to tell them different, but even they are beginning to have their doubts.

And the parents can smell it in the air. They know they’re beginning to lose control over the stories their children tell themselves about what’s going on in their neighborhood, and they know it will be a problem if they don’t nip that in the bud fast. The mother suddenly becomes far more forceful with her storytelling, saying that the Smirnovs are plotting a home invasion any minute now so the family must unite against them. The father begins making stricter and stricter rules about how the children are permitted to speak to one another, locking them in their rooms if they disobey or separating them from the others so they can’t speak their mind.

It remains to be seen if the father will succeed in shoring up control of his family or not, but things have definitely changed, and the whole neighborhood is watching.

 

~via CaitlinJohnstone.com

CAITLIN JOHNSTONE: “Fight The Establishment’s Narratives — By Getting Clear On Your Own”

“Scientific research has found that astronauts suffer problems with coordination, perception and cognition when they are unable to determine ‘which way is up’ in space. There is no ‘up’ or ‘down’ when you’re outside the gravitational pull that our bodies are adapted to, so its absence sends our whole system out of whack. Navigating a society that is made of mental narrative is very much the same; if you don’t know which way’s up, you’ll get lost and confused.”

~Caitlin Johnstone

 

Anti-establishment movements are a mess. Whether they’re left-wing or right-wing, whether they’re statist or anarchist, whether they’re organized or decentralized, whether they place emphasis on official or unofficial narratives, any circle of people who are interested in opposing the status quo on a deep, meaningful level almost invariably find themselves significantly bogged down by confusion, paranoia, infighting, and misdirected use of energy.

Every day, for example, I get people in my inbox and social media notifications telling me I shouldn’t quote or share anything from this or that lefty journalist or anti-establishment figure because they’ve said something “problematic” at some point or have some kind of association with some aspect of the establishment. Rather than simply using narrative-disrupting tools wherever they come from to fight the establishment narrative control machine, I’m encouraged to isolate myself to the extremely narrow spectrum of voices which agree with my exact worldview perfectly. This kind of paranoid, self-cannibalizing mentality is rife throughout most anti-establishment circles.

This happens for a number of reasons, including the fact that the ruling power establishment will infiltrate dissident movements that it perceives as a threat with the intent of sowing confusion and division. But the underlying reason anti-establishment circles so often find themselves getting crushed by their own weight is ultimately because life itself is confusing and difficult to understand.

Hardly anyone holds a lucid and steady awareness of just how much of society is comprised of mental narrative. Most people live their lives under the unquestioned assumption that when they are moving around in the world, speaking, acting, forming opinions, having ideas etc, they are interacting with something that resembles objective reality. The truth of the matter is that most of the things which draw people’s attention in their day-to-day experience, whether it’s names, titles, news stories, political parties, economics, history, philosophy, religion or what have you, consist entirely of mental noises firing off inside human skulls.

You might think it’s a big jump to go from chatting about the sociopolitical dynamics within dissident movements to making vaguely Buddhist-sounding observations about human thought, but it’s really not. The reason our species is in a mess right now, and thus the reason movements exist which seek to change the status quo, is because so much of life is dictated entirely by made-up mental narratives which can be easily controlled by the powerful, and hardly anyone fully grasps this. If they did, the revolution against the establishment would very smoothly and quickly succeed.

Scientific research has found that astronauts suffer problems with coordination, perception and cognition when they are unable to determine which way is up in space. There is no “up” or “down” when you’re outside the gravitational pull that our bodies are adapted to, so its absence sends our whole system out of whack. Navigating a society that is made of mental narrative is very much the same; if you don’t know which way’s up, you’ll get lost and confused. Before you can see the narrative matrix clearly, you might be aware that some narratives serve power and swat at them while you’re spinning through space, but you won’t have any solid ground on which to orient yourself for the purpose of forming a clear path forward toward a healthy and harmonious world.

Your first and foremost task as a revolutionary, therefore, is to find solid ground on which to plant your feet while operating within a swirling sea of narratives and counter-narratives. Without this you’ll find yourself expending energy on ineffectual agendas, chasing shadows, attacking friends and advancing the interests of the enemy as you stumble around trying to fight a threat you can’t even see clearly. You’ve got to figure out for yourself which way’s up.

The only way to do this is to turn inward and sort out your own mental narratives in your own experience. This takes a lot of dedicated work, because there are many layers of tightly believed narratives which dictate one’s perception of the world that most people aren’t even aware of.

As soon as we’re born we are given a name which has nothing to do with the nature of the slimy, screaming naked creature which came roaring thunderously alive out of the womb. We spend our childhood being told who we are in various ways by our family, then we go to school to get taught how to think like everyone else and get labeled good/smart or bad/stupid for the rest of our lives based on how well we dance that dance. Along the ride we pick up coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of this whole unnatural ordeal, many of which become extremely counterproductive unconscious habits in later years. We pick up likes and dislikes, interests and aversions, life philosophies, religious beliefs, societal beliefs, political beliefs, all of which come together to form our worldview.

Because the foundations of our entire worldview are formed in early childhood long before we’re mature enough to decide for ourselves what a useful foundation might look like, we wind up interfacing with life through this muddled, inefficient network of mostly unconscious mental and perceptual habits which don’t serve us very well. It is with this warped, endarkened tool that we interact with the vast sea of official and unofficial narratives we are presented with in our attempts to decipher what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it.

The path, then, is to unwind this whole confused, unconscious muddle of mental and perceptual habits until we get to the untarnished blank canvass of that powerful screaming baby who first met this wild world, and inhabit it consciously. That right there is our solid ground.

Who are you? Underneath the mental narratives about who you are? Underneath all the stories, labels and beliefs? Underneath the field of consciousness full of thoughts, sensory impressions and feelings? This is the most important inquiry that anyone can possibly engage in, and it is worthy of the entirety of your focus until it’s resolved.

All of these swirling, babbling thought stories have dictated our lives for as long as we can remember, but rarely does anyone sit down and start sorting out where they come from and if they’re useful. We lug around ancient mental narratives about life, about how we should be, about how other people should be, about the best ways to find happiness, about the best ways to avoid unhappiness, and we rarely consider the possibility that we can interact with life unencumbered by that heavy load.

If you want to find solid ground beneath your feet so that you can push effectively for a healthy world, you’ve got to question every assumption you’ve ever made about yourself and the nature of the world, even your very most fundamental assumptions, because it’s all narrative. As you turn your attention toward your essential nature and away from your churning, babbling mental habits, interest and attention will move away from mental narratives and toward the solid ground upon which they appear. The mind will relax and mental narrative will take on its proper role as a tool that can be used when it’s useful and set down when it isn’t, rather than the dominating feature of every minute of waking existence. Unhelpful mental habits can be discarded, and all attempts at narrative manipulation will stand out like a black fly on a white sheet of paper.

I can’t tell you how to do this. Everyone’s path to the heart of the fundamental matter is unique, and you can only travel it on your own. I can tell you that the answer does not exist in the realm of thought, and that it is closer to you than your own breath. Sincere, dedicated inquiry into your own true nature, on your own and in your own way, will lead you to the ground on which you must take your stand in order to fight the establishment narrative machine effectively.

 

~via CaitlinJohnstone.com

DEJAN DAVCEVSKI: “3 Phrases About Love You Should Remove From Your Belief System”

Love is probably the most misunderstood subject that society likes to talk about daily. Especially the beliefs when it comes to love.

Movies, romance novels, songs, many of these things created a false idea of what love really is. There is a big confusion.

What majority of the world thinks it’s love, it is just one expression of love, a romantic aspect of love. Real love is deeper than this.

However, even for this aspect of love, people have countless false ideas and misconceptions that we would like to clarify.

Here are 3 most used phrases between people, between couples and friends, that need to be removed from the vocabulary and society’s belief system.

3 Phrases About Love You Should Remove From Your Belief System:

“They are my better half.”

The truth is they are not a puzzle piece. You are not a puzzle piece. Nobody is a puzzle piece. We don’t come together as better or worse halves of someone else. Therefore, your partner cannot be your better half. They are a whole by themselves, just like you. If you are not a decent person without them, you will not be a decent person with them either. Strive to be your better self no matter if you have a partner or not.

“They complete me.”

This implies that you are not a whole yourself. It also implies that you lack something, that you have a void someone else needs to fill. The truth is you are whole, there are just some things you believe, or are used to assume, that prevent you from seeing this. When you come into a relationship with your partner you are two wholes that create a loving space for each other to thrive. You don’t complete each other, you support each other’s wholes.

“Keep waiting and your destined One will show up.”

Many people believe that they have One destined person that will show up into their life and they will live happily after they meet. The truth is, even if there is a destined one specially put here for you, just waiting for them is not how you were meant to meet. In fact, life is not about meeting them. It should be an adventure, it should be fun. Meeting your One should come naturally if they exist. And if not, life is still much better by taking action.

 

~via LifeCoachCode.com

MATEO SOL: “11 Traps That Sabotage Spiritual Growth”

“No matter what the practice or teaching, ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate spirituality for its own survival and gain.”

~Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

 

Spiritual growth is an experience we all go through once we have experienced the spiritual awakening process. As we begin to awaken to the truth of who we are, we develop a connection to our authentic essence, higher nature or Soul.

As we progressively advance on our paths, our spiritual essence begins to blossom like a luminous flower deep in our heart. And the more we clear away the dead, gnarled and overgrown beliefs, perspectives, and emotional baggage within us, the more clearly we feel our divine essence. When we maintain our inner garden, we feel more and more love, wisdom, peace, and wholeness as our True Nature is revealed slowly to us.

Yet, like any garden, our metaphorical inner landscapes can be consumed by weeds, plagues, and forms of pollution that strangle anything beautiful we have been nurturing. Sometimes, we even sabotage the growth occurring within us ourselves, without knowing it.

What is Spiritual Growth?

“This isn’t a journey about becoming something.  This is about unbecoming who we are not.”  

~Adyashanti, The End of Your World

 

Spiritual growth is the process of awakening to your true nature, purpose, and potential. When you undergo spiritual growth you experience an expansion in awareness and insight, also known as higher consciousness. All spiritual growth has one objective: to help you embody your Soul, Higher Self or Atman. Once you are able to unite with your Soul, you will experience what is understood as enlightenment, “heaven,” Oneness or moksha.

The problem with the spiritual journey is that it is often laden with traps of many kinds. These traps are not physical, but they are instead mental and are often referred to as anti-awakening forces.

As we process life primarily through the mind, we also tend to approach spirituality with the mind. The issue with this is that spirituality cannot be contained by the limitations of thought. Once spirituality is captured within a thought, it ceases to maintain its true essence and instead becomes a constricting belief or dogma. In other words, spirituality loses its alive, ever-flowing essence once it is compartmentalized within the mind.

Think about it this way: have you ever felt immense awe and wonder in the presence of something beautiful and enchanting like a sunrise? The moment you stop immersing yourself in the feeling of the sunrise, and start taking a photo of it or describing it in a text message, is the moment you are no longer truly present with the sunrise. Instead, you are filtering it through your thoughts or through a lens of some kind. The same can be said with spirituality.

The more we use the mind to approach our Soul, the further our Soul feels. But the moment we drop our thoughts and allow ourselves to purely feel our Soul, suddenly we feel at home once again. Think of it like this: when you chase the sun on the horizon thinking you will reach it, you never will, because it is an illusion. But when you stop and feel the sun’s presence shining on your skin already, you will no longer chase anything.

It is difficult for us, as mind-oriented beings, to become conscious of our thoughts, as we have been conditioned to identify with them since a young age. But once we can observe our thoughts and how they tend to sabotage our happiness, we will experience true spiritual growth.

11 Traps that Sabotage Spiritual Growth

Below I want to share with you eleven of the most common traps that we fall into on the spiritual path. I have personally experienced these pitfalls many times, and they have resulted in a lot of pain and struggle. See how many of these traps you can identify with:

1. The trap of spiritual bypassing

Spiritual bypassing is the practice of using spirituality to avoid, suppress or escape from certain emotions or situations in life. Common types of spiritual bypassing include:

  • numbing one’s emotions through “spiritualized” repression and avoidance
  • unhealthy obsession and attachment to the positive (e.g. positive thinking) and adopting a passive-aggressive “nice” mask
  • debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow self
  • anger-phobia
  • weak personal boundaries
  • blind or excessively tolerant compassion (to the detriment of oneself and the other)
  • forcefully trying to “kill” the ego and condemning it as “bad/evil”
  • exaggerated detachment
  • getting stuck in theoretical spirituality and dogmatic beliefs about “truth”
  • denial of self-responsibility by placing it on another higher being (e.g. spirit guide, angel)
  • delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being
  • using spiritual practices to escape unpleasant emotions; for example, using meditation to dissociate from emotions, rather than transmute them

2. The trap of superiority

This manifests as the tendency to “look down” upon others who are not as “consciously advanced” or “awakened.” The trap of superiority can be seen as a subtle feeling of “being better” than others who aren’t “spiritual.” In more extreme cases, this trap can appear as the tendency to lash out at people who are still “asleep,” “blind” or “sheep” of society. This kind of reactive behavior can often be seen in people who have just “woken up” to the state of the world, yet have undergone minimal spiritual growth. We need to remember that everyone is doing the best they can at their level of consciousness. When the time comes, they will awaken too.

3. The trap of forcefully trying to wake others up

Once we have awoken out of the “matrix” it is common for us to desperately want our loved ones and fellow peers to awaken. We can see how much pain and delusion other people are in, and that riles up in us the intense desire to “show them the truth.” However, often our attempt to forcefully awaken people misfires quickly. Even though we have good intentions, our desire to “save” others causes them to backlash in ways that infuriate both them and us. The less responsive they are to our pushy attempts to “wake them up,” the more frustrated and alienated we become. Eventually, trying to force others to wake up ends up harming both ourselves and others. Not only that, but this trap generates a lot of anger and misunderstanding, which results in further ego ensnarement, sabotaging our spiritual growth. Let people wake up when they are ready.

4. The trap of wanting to help others

This trap is closely entwined with the previous trap except it is more geared towards giving others advice. There is nothing wrong with wanting to help others, as long as you respect their boundaries. But sometimes developing an expanded spiritual perspective gives the ego an opportunity to feel more “knowledgeable” than others still trapped in illusion. When unsolicited advice is given to others, the results can be disastrous (think anger, upset, offense etc.).

Wanting to help others can also be used as a way of escaping our need to help ourselves. Under the guise of being “spiritual” and compassionate, helping others can be just another form of spiritual bypassing.

5. The trap of wanting to revolutionize the world

Once we wake up to the lies and corruption present in our current societal structure, many of us want to desperately change society. We fall into the trap of thinking that freedom, honesty, and justice can be created by changing the external system. As a result, we buy into the “us versus them” and “divide and conquer” mentality that is a product of the ego’s tunnel vision. We don’t realize that we’re actually fuelling the corrupt system which depends on anger and chaos to thrive and survive. Instead of understanding that all true change comes from an internal revolution, we get caught up in the pursuit of external revolution which is fragile and transient.

6. The trap of meaninglessness

Once we experience divine and transcendent states of being in which we become One with all, we can fall into the trap of spiritual nihilism after the experience passes. In other words, once we realize, from the perspective of the Universe, that nothing we do ultimately matters because all is passing, we can fall into a depressive mindset. Using truths such as “All is an illusion,” the person who falls for this trap tends to filter life through the mind. By mentally clinging to these truths, they become beliefs that the ego uses as an excuse to paradoxically feel separate from existence.

7. The trap of avoiding everyday responsibilities

Some people get so infatuated with the spiritual path that they avoid dealing with ordinary, everyday affairs. This form of escapism can lead to leeching off others, not paying bills, evading taxes, obsessing with “living off the grid,” etc. When avoiding everyday responsibilities is worn as a badge of being consciously elevated or “more spiritual” this too is a form of egotism in disguise. Avoiding ordinary responsibilities which are not perceived as being “spiritual enough” can also be a form of distraction that the ego uses to limit spiritual growth. The more concerned and obsessed you are with living an outwardly “spiritual” looking life, the more distanced from your inner work you become. Sometimes we need to feed the sharks to keep the calm and live balanced lives.

Remember the old Zen saying: “Before Enlightenment: chop wood, carry water; after Enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” We need to be humble and recognize that ordinary daily life is the perfect place to spiritually grow and mature.

8. The trap of self-victimization

Soon after we experience a spiritual awakening and wake up to the insanity of the world, it is common for us to get stuck in self-victimization. We may start to perceive the world as a “prison” and other people as the “captives” or even “capturers.” The shock of awakening may send us spiraling into anxiety and paranoia. Inevitably, we may start feeling like victims resulting in us blaming other people and the higher powers for how we feel. The spiritual trap of self-victimization can be seen a lot on social media which often tends to become a pity party for spiritual fledglings. At the end of the day, we need to see that it is actually our thoughts that cause us to suffer, not other people or situations. Once we can take self-responsibility for our perspectives and beliefs, we can become empowered once again.

9. The trap of the Savior Complex

This trap is related to the previously mentioned trap of wanting to help others. The Savior Complex is adopted by people who feel a sense of superiority to the rest of humanity. Their sense of being “different” and more “spiritually elevated” can make them feel as though they are destined to fix the world. The Savior Complex can most often be seen within the “lightworker/Starseed/healer” circles who tend to put themselves up on pedestals, believing it is their cosmic duty to “save the planet.” This perception aligns with the belief that there is something “wrong” with reality and that other people are “broken” and need to be fixed (which is an ego perspective). This perception also reinforces the ego’s sense of “specialness” and self-importance.

The Savior Complex can go one step further and evolve into a Martyr Complex. Martyrs believe they must “bear the burdens” of others. Obviously, this is an extremely unhealthy way of living which is based on Christian conditioning (think of the story of Jesus). By “carrying” other people’s pain, Martyrs bypass taking responsibility for their own happiness and enable other people’s immature behavior. Read more about the Martyr Complex.

10. The trap of attachment

After experiencing profound and expansive mystical experiences which often come after significant spiritual growth, it is common for us to attach to the experience. It can be painful to come down from these experiences and return back to usual, unenlightened reality. We can also attach to our “stories” and beliefs about spirituality. Because the mind tries to make sense of this transcendent experience, it will often latch onto various ideas as a form of control. But the more we attach to our beliefs, stories, desires, and mental interpretations, the more we suffer. We forget that everything passes, even transcendent experiences. Enlightenment isn’t a destination, it is a complete surrender; a fundamental shift in the way we approach life.

Attachment is perhaps the most common trap that sabotages our spiritual growth. On one hand, attachment to ideas helps us to grow, but ultimately, those ideas that we are unwilling to let go of end up stagnating our growth. When ideas become protection blankets rather than catalysts for our growth, there is a big problem. We need to realize that freedom cannot be experienced through the mind. Freedom is felt when we can be liberated from attachment to our thoughts.

11. The trap of relying on external answers

As we progress through our spiritual paths it is normal, and beneficial, for us to seek out external support. Reading books, attending workshops and seminars, going to retreats, practicing holistic techniques, and getting a personal guru all help us experience spiritual growth. However, after a while, it is common for us to become too dependent on external answers for our freedom and happiness. This pitfall can be seen in many spiritual seeker’s obsession and glorification of their gurus (in other words, projecting and disowning their divinity onto another).

Eventually, as we become accustomed to constantly searching outside of ourselves for answers, we forget the presence of our own Souls. We forget that our ultimate source of guidance and wisdom comes from within us, and instead, we keep chasing things outside of ourselves that we believe will “enlighten” us.

We need to stop, pause, and reflect on our spiritual journeys. Are we seeking out first-hand experience or second-hand experience given to us by others? Don’t forget to look within for your answers as well because it is by connecting with your Soul that you will ultimately experience freedom.

Final Thoughts

In order to see through and extricate ourselves from these traps, we need to be radically honest with ourselves. We need to be willing to see that we have indeed gone astray and have fed into the ego. We will also immensely benefit from exploring our Shadow Selves and exploring our mistaken beliefs.

Don’t worry if you have fallen into any of these traps. We all become ensnared by the ego. It can be particularly difficult for us to see clearly when the ego “spiritualizes” certain beliefs and ideas. The more open, humble, and honest you are, the more you will be able to see through these tricks and liberate yourself.

Finally, don’t be afraid of the dark. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Everything, no matter how painful, is a learning opportunity. At the end of the day, your Soul is everything you have been searching for.

If you have any extra thoughts or insights about traps that sabotage spiritual growth, please share below. I would also love to hear your own journey.

 

~via WakeUp-World.com