“Laws of the Universe”, “Objectivism”, and tough talk (or “Why I’m Critical of Secular Self-help”)
Spinning off of https://erictb.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/why-im-critical-of-christian-self-help-teaching-part-2 where in some of the comments, I went into a tangent about secular self-help teachings; and https://erictb.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/backlash-against-the-nice-guy-in-light-of-virgin-rampage which also touches upon this.
It’s like a total “objectivism” (Rand’s well known philosophy named for this is the political version) I’ve been seeing a lot, that makes a point to totally disregard people’s feelings and tear into them with the “truth” of what they must be doing wrong if they are in a place where they’re not satisfied in life.
It’s obviously the same philosophy used by conservatives who try to blame the poor and other struggling classes for their own financial problems, and insist the rich are all where they are because they did everything right. They were even “smarter”, or “better than you” at “providing value”.
It’s also the secular counterpart to the “Christian victory” teaching, and basically, health & wealth as well, where there are “laws” established which if one follows, almost guarantees success, and if one is not successful, it is all their own fault, and not only that, but they need to be curtly motivated with cutting rhetoric, whether (from the Christians) “you’re sinning by holding on to your fear and anger and not ‘trusting God'”, and from the secularists” “you need to get off your a___ and do something”, or “stop whining”, “you did it to yourself”, “you think the world owes you something”, “your disappointment is that you’re mad at yourself for not doing better”, etc. and always the comparison about how miserable they’re making themselves, while the speaker while perhaps once being that way, now has it all together, and is above these people wallowing in their misery.
So to start, here is the world’s counterpart to the “divine laws” regarding our “attitude” that Christians appeal to:
You’re going to get the EXACT energy back from the universe that your put out in it.
Have you ever noticed that the same people who constantly stay mired up in negativity, hate, anger, fear, despair, and doubt a lot of the times tend to be the same EXACT people who spend most of their lives being sick, miserable, depressed, or are always complaining about one thing or another not being right in their lives?
I honestly think most people who make those actions a habit are addicted to those negative feelings and secretly love being the victim, and wouldn’t know what to do with true inner peace if it came up and kissed them on the cheek.
Nowadays, I avoid that kind of energy in people when i see it coming. I used to try to take it on as some kind of ‘ people fixing project’ but not anymore. i have learned to silently pray for folks from a distance, help wherever i possibly can- but son, i gotta keep it movin’ or else that type of energy will attempt to attach itself to the next available empty vessel. if you don’t believe me, just try being in a good mood and have an uplifted spirit and go visit someone who is negative, they will drain every last bit of your energy- and you’ll leave feeling exactly the way they feel.
For years I thought this world owed me something and was going to lay it at my feet because i was deserving of it, boy was i ever wrong.
I’m glad i finally figured that out otherwise I might be sitting around crying victim, making a ton of excuses, and blaming the world for my shortcoming.
Remember, start changing your energy from negative to a positive and watch your life change for the better.
It’s a law of the universe.
(And I had just been given that “universal law” line by someone else in person, a week before seeing this. [original comment last July] The same people who have trashed theism’s “absolute truth” now give this other philosophy that title, and just as dogmatically as the most fiery preacher of old).
Several people in the comments agreed, as they always do with these types of statements posted on social media; which are numerous, and from almost every “friend” at one time or another.
But I can’t help thinking “where is all of this positive energy” in the world, then? Where is all of this “peace”? Only inside of people, but then the only thing that comes outside is all the stuff you see in the world of people? All the backbiting, fighting, robbing and cheating, etc.
I grew up hearing this stuff preached, in the very act of spewing a lot of negativity and not even being able to practice it onesself (which I was told was “no excuse” for my own response to the mixed message; the very failure to “practice what one preaches” the Church is universally decried for by these “secular” adherents).
The whole “I once was that way, now I’ve pulled myself out of it, compared to all these losers out there who still think that way”. The whole argument would be nothing without all these “others” (whether directly even mentioned or not) to compare to. Getting that kind of “counsel” always felt to me like rubbing in how far I fell short, and need to go to get to that person’s position. And they would keep gloating of how “hard” and slow it is; all the “steps”, and trial and error, etc. (And then in cases like my father, he really did not have it all together at all, but ended his life in almost the sad state he kept warning me about!)
I like how the Bible puts it (which even Chrstians who get caught up in these teachings, or political rhetoric ignore): “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7)
People at work (a heavy STJ environment, and a lot of these sentiments reflect an STJ “SiTeFi” functional perspective: Si memorized “concrete” facts +Te external impersonal decisions based on fact + Fi internal sense of humane worth)* where things often go completely awry, affecting all of us who depend on schedules, often spout this “positive attitude”-“don’t let it sweat you” attitude; and I know good and well they are likely going home and taking it out on their families, because I’ve seen it myself.
*(Ni “internal sense of conceptual meanings” can be substituted for Si, giving us talk of “the universe” not based on more solid fact, which you’re likely to hear from the similar NTJ’s).
It’s all the same shadow projection for the sake of the almighty Persona, that the world has correctly pointed out in religion. They’ve only stripped it of “eternal Hell” (“Hell is what you do to yourself here on earth” is their mantra), and basically ended up taking the same stereotype of a “cruel God” they’ve condemned in religion, but stripped Him of any personal characteristics, calling it “the universe” (whose “laws” seem self-creating). The only difference to them, is that this “universe” doesn’t care who you sleep with, or if you get high, drink and curse.
But it’s the same grace-less “sink or swim” system of self-effort, disguised as a “simple choice”, but it’s really a hard, long daily “struggle” that nobody has really mastered, at least not behind closed doors. Yet they talk like they have mastered it, and most importantly, use this to judge others not seen as having this right “attitude”, or at least not trying hard enough to develop it. (And to coldly shun them. Can’t let them “defile” us. Just like Christians who cite Proverbs 22:24 and Hebrews 12:15).
All of this ties into what’s called “The Law of Attraction“. From this site:
The Law Of Attraction is the belief held by many theorists is that the universe is governed by a set of universal laws; these laws cannot be changed, cannot be broken and apply to every individual, regardless of age or nationality. These laws are the riverbanks which guide the flow of their lives on its journey to its ultimate end.
The law of attraction is one such law. The law of attraction is the belief that anyone can determine their destiny through the power of their minds.
There is no such thing as chance. Law maintains everywhere, and all that happens because of the operation of Law. You cannot name the simplest thing that ever occurred by chance – try it, and then run the thing down to a final analysis, and you will see it as the result of law.
It is as plain as mathematics. Plan and purpose; cause and effect. From the movements of worlds to the growth of the grain of mustard seed – all the result of Law. The fall of the stone down the mountainside is not chance – forces which had been in operation for centuries caused it.
And back of that cause were other causes, and so on until the Causeless Cause is reached.
And Life is not the result of chance – the Law is here, too. The Law is in full operation whether you know it or not – whether you believe in it or not.
You may be the ignorant object upon which the Law operates, and bring yourself all sorts of trouble because of your ignorance of or opposition to the Law. Or you may fall in with the operations to the Law – get into its current, as it were – and Life will seem a far different thing to you.
You cannot get outside of the Law, by refusing to have anything to do with it. You are at liberty to oppose it and produce all the friction you wish to – it doesn’t hurt the Law, and you may keep it up until you learn your lesson.
Fall in with the operations of the law. Make it a part of yourself. Get into its currents. Maintain your poise. Set your mind to the keynote of Courage, Confidence and Success. Get in touch with all the thoughts of that kind that are emanating every hour from hundreds of minds.
This sounds a lot like what you hear in religious preaching from movements of all stripes (sabbatarian “lawkeepers”, regular Sundaykeepers who also focus on “Law”, including fundamentalists and Reformed, and especially the health & wealth teachers). “Law, not chance” is the main point.
It is a total generalization of some observable principles in life. A blog called “Throne of Eden” points out one of the main reasons this is becoming so popular is due to the language that is used to describe it.
Right from the start, you get the word “law”. Thanks to our incredible advancements in the study of science and mathematics, we have been able to determine many forces in the universe which are described as acting within prescribed sets of ‘laws’. For instance, the law of gravitational force, the laws of thermodynamics, Newton’s three laws of motion, Einstein’s Laws of general and special relativity, the law of conservation of mass and so many more.
So these [“The Secret” DVD authors] write a book about energy. What do they do? They try and exploit people’s basic understanding of physics by using the word Law to describe their own personal theories of attraction.
The difference between the law of attraction and the laws of thermodynamics is that the laws of thermodynamics are not theories. In fact, the word “law” which is used to describe them pretty much implies they are physical facts of the universe which can be tested and applied to observable objects. The law of attraction, on the other hand, is not a fact. It’s not even a good theory, because there is no basis for testing it. If you can’t do experiments which can yield results for or against a theory, then you have no right calling it a law. Again, language being used to mislead people into believing that something is more important than it really is.
Of course, what I’ve found from both the secular and religious variants of this, is that they say it IS testable. The problem is, it’s not instantly testable. It’s a lifelong slow “process”. And if you don’t start now, and keep at it everyday, then you’ll never see the results.
It’s not like a car you can try out, and then return with no commitments if you don’t like it. You basically have to presuppose it’s true first, and then commit to it, in order for it to work. This is not how scientific testing works, but it is how scams can work. (Recall, most people who teach stuff like this, both religious and secular, are often selling something in one way or another; or if not, they are trying to convince themselves that what they’ve trusted in and committed to is the right way).
If you try it and find it doesn’t work, then it must be you did something wrong, and in such a long hard “process” with multiple “steps” and “laws” to adhere to, there are so many places where you could have gone wrong, so you can’t argue against that; and by that time, it’s too late to undo whatever waste or other consequences from all the time and commitment you’ve put into it.
This lack of “testability” becomes the strength of such nebulous enterprises. Someone can tell you anything all authoritatively, and proclaim it absolute TRUTH, and you can’t refute him, just DO it, or prove yourself an ignorant skeptic.
East vs West?
While Christianity was co-opted by the West (which makes it suspicious to some), a lot of the secular version of this philosophy is influenced by the East (such as India). The overall “religion” Law of Attraction philosophy is basically apart of is something called “New Thought“, which while seems to be attributed to strictly Western sources, does resemble Eastern religion. (This is taken as evidence it is apart of “universal law”).
Many of the secular-minded people will condemn the Christian concepts as a control tool, in which case, Eastern and Eastern-like philosophy has been generally what became the attractive alternative, but fail to realize both East and West have histories of mind control using philosophy. So I can see where both can use this “positive attitude” concept, and harshly condemn “victims”, to pacify the masses and essentially justify the powerful. (Like over there, you have the Caste system).
(The philosophy says “Abundance will not come to you out of the sky, neither will it drop into your lap”, but conveniently ignores the role of things such as being born into the right circumstances, and being given the right “timing, talent and temperament”, along with downright cheating ⦅abuse of power, “pulling strings”, deceptions, etc.⦆ to aid in their success; and on the flipside, those with legitimate disabilities.
They make it entirely “choice”, including the right “thoughts”, so the “justice” of this “law” has already been enacted in people’s success or failure. When acknowledging this, they’ll then just say “well life isn’t fair; those with disadvantages just have to try harder to succeed”; but sometimes, the disparity is too great. But this can’t be allowed under this “law”, for it makes those on top look less than ‘good’ masters of their own destiny).
And if people keep complaining too loudly (to where the powerful feel threatened), how quickly do the powerful themselves adopt the “victim” complex, in different ways. Just the act of blaming any ‘negative energy’ that affects you on this other person is playing a victim! If you’re so affected, then it’s shown to still really be inside of you, only suppressed into the “shadow”.
(So overall, the message is just like the conservative politics —whose ultimate aim is to justify the colonialism and oppression of the past by casting current “victims” as bad and “detrimental” to society).
This “suppression” masqueraded as some sort of tapped “power” I realized, when hearing it from the secularists and Christians alike, and that’s precisely why I became so skeptical of this teaching; whichever overall belief system it’s extracted from. (The secular variant getting the same intellectual scrutiny religion has been given).
Introverted Thinking (Ti) looks for logical consistency, which is less important to the extraverted Thinking and introverted Feeling perspective these philosophies usually hail from. Like one of the “universal laws” the person mentioned earlier was telling me about is “forgiveness” (self, others, etc.) as the universal key, but then both Christianity and Jung alike, and even mainstream psychology were dismissed as “the white man’s philosophies”, because “the white man dismissed us, so why should we listen to him”.
Yeah, “forgiveness“, all right! An ideal that is far easier said than done. Didn’t think it would extend to an issue like that! (Let alone “universal truth”, which by its very nature can come from any source, and that these New Thought concepts are just such examples of concepts with some amount of observable truth filtered through Western sources! Why is Phineas Quimby, the originator of this school of thought, more trustworthy or less “white” than Jung or some preacher?)
This is the way it always is with effort-based philosophies. Just like the racially corrupted religion that focused a lot on “morality”, but condoned oppression (that people like this are still resenting in the first place). It’s what Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount, about what sins such as “murder” and “adultery” really entail! A lot more than even the most strictest adherents think!
At this point, people will then appeal to being “imperfect”, but then my whole point is more grace is needed, rather than speaking as if one has it all together.
Matters of different perspectives
Should also mention this site I saw the week before all this: 31 Days of Self-Love – Beliefnet.com. It reminded me a lot of the advice I used to get from my STJ (Sensing-Thinking Judging) immediate family. Now looking at it typologically, it’s clearly a heavy introverted Feeling (Fi) perspective in tandem with extraverted Thinking (Te).
People don’t realize how typological differences will affect the way we see or receive these things.
[Moved (Discussion of type functions involved): https://erictb.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/ordering-vs-aligning-the-tefi-vs-tife-difference-in-my-experience-and-self-help-teaching ]
What most bothered me, is that such instructions essentially tell you how to feel. Like when they start talking about “attitude”, dealing with frustrations, difficulty is good, “take heart; God is in control”; all these memes you see daily on the social media wall. (Again, both secular and religious). One person talking to me goes as far as to even mimicking the “process” he was telling me to embark on (self-forgiveness), by sighing, breathing in, lightly beating the chest, and saying whatever you’re supposed to say to yourself.
All of this just drives me up the wall. It’s like, damn; you should just put a puppet or robot in my place, and pull the string or program it how to respond to life!
So when things don’t go right, to just tell me, basically, “if you love yourself it won’t matter”, “just forgive”, “don’t hold onto things”, “your reaction is only hurting yourself” (i.e. which feels like a cruel double-bind), etc., I feel like my whole humanity is being totally dismissed, and I’d become a walked-on nothing! (Inasmuch as they almost paradoxically claim this is the way to becoming a powerful “somebody”).
And this is from both secular self-help as well as religion (which often mixes this up with concepts such as “regeneration”, and usually substitute “God/Christ/Spirit” for “self”. But it’s really the same process everyone else is describing, even though they claim it is “supernatural” and exclusive to believers).
And those exercises! Ugh! Looking in a mirror and expressing love and other stuff to yourself, hugging yourself, writing stuff to yourself, and all the other “rules” and “steps”. Seems totally illogical and like almost crazy.
My family insisted this was “universal truth”. The ST perspective insists “this is the way it is” and allows no “excuses” or other reasoning. NTJ’s will focus on a more theoretical angle, such as a “[universal] Law of Attraction”.
They (especially the religious teachers) often present it as so “simple”, and always stress “choice”, but then it’s really a lifelong process.
|[5-20-16 edit: Utter irony is that the very person who wrote that particular statement at the top of the article spends a lot of time spewing complaints about (among other things) Chicago “black on black crime” stories, and how they’re always “ignored” by the press and black activism (which isn’t even true). Yet he offers absolutely no solutions.
The rare occasions I or others (beside his agreeing fans) voice another view, he gets defensive and accuses us of talking “intellectual bs” or “making excuses”, [identical to the debate tactic I discussed in the second comment, below] for the black community, “wallowing in problems and just blaming others”, because he never let anyone keep him from “achieving”. But this isn’t about you, fool! The fact that you’re comparing an individual (who can be responsible for his own actions) to a whole group consisting of many individuals, with many different experiences and mental conditions, who no one person can be responsible for, and so cannot all be controlled by anyone), he apparently sees as an “intellectual” “excuse”. But there can only be an “excuse” if you’ve given a clear course of action that we’re refusing.
This is obviously a “motivational” minded person, who’s read or studied some form of the Law of Attraction, but it’s gone to his head, especially when [despite his obvious “alpha male to the third power” persona, his ego is so weak that] he cannot deal with being questioned or challenged. Judging by both him and the others cited above, is this what the LOA is teaching people? That you’re so “positive” that you’re always right, and whoever disagrees is always wrong (and thus bringing in the “negative energy”? I guess the question is answered in the first comment below, where we see speakers talk of the “greater power” confronting the “narcissists” who react to being talked to like trash by the speaker).
Ths point here is, how this is a perfect example of how even under such motivational tough talking about “positivity”, and “avoiding negative energy”, there is a deep shadow of pure NEGATIVITY being projected onto others; i.e. you see it only in others, and talk about the need to “avoid” them, thinking you’ve got it all licked in yourself. But it’s clearly there! Coming out at others! Both in the initial endless complaining without solution, and in the response to others’ input.
This is why, whether secular or religious belief system, it’s best to follow Jesus’ instruction of cleaning the plank out of your eye before seeing to point out the speck in someone else’s, and to have mercy and patience with others, for you are ultimately at the end of the day no different, and no better!]