Tuesday, 27 January 2009

How One's Self-Esteem Can Be Systematically Undermined

Some issues of bad self-esteem may not stem from one's childhood.
It seems to me a fairly easy task to write a best selling self-help book on a continent where so many people share the language, marketing techniques have been refinded to a rather aggressive art, and people want fast results and a guidebook for each area in life. A book with at least a similar kind of content would in my country at best provide an author with bread on the table for a year or two. Is it any wonder, then, that one of the greatest avenues for getting rich in America is through writing a self-help book? I guess I'm pretty much repeating myself here because I am so up to my ears with a lot of the self-righteous talk that you have to listen to a lot of the time. I apologize to those who are reading my complaints and feel pinned down and trust that you understand that I am not picking on individuals. I am just weary of dominanant tendencies that are obviuosly unhealthy. Anyway, let me explain a bit if I may. I apologize if I sound whiney today though.

A book is something you can avoid. People can indeed avoid my blog too! But you can't avoid the marketing and the people on the internet who are only trying to make fast money. I find that there's a vast amount of people on the internet who are energy vampires, sucking you empty in no time if you don't immediately block their access to you. It's heavy to make so many decisions about others every day. One has to guard oneself a little against a lot of imperative statements and demands. When I opened the book that made Eckhart Tolle famous on Oprah I read that you shouldn't watch TV. I put it down straight away. I can't deal with that sort of imperative talk anymore. And anyway, why not talk about the internet just as well? It's just as ambiguous in its virtues and vices. I never understood people who didn't have a natural instinct to get away from something when there's an overload. I get that with TV, the internet, food; even with the making of art. I did in fact hear in a documentary that 60-70% of all addicted people get over their addictions all by themselves, when the time is right. To put everyone in the same junkie bag is not fair, but society does love generalizations.

Psychotherapy is still mostly concerned with childhood traumas and finding the reasons why someone's self-esteem is low in adult age. I come from a dysfunctional background so I'm aware that there are areas in me that are weaker than others. In general my self-esteem has been fairly good, though. I went through a lot of training in various areas because I believed in myself. When I had entered adulthood I also became aware that I had a lot of trust in my intuition and possible higher aspects of myself that would guide me to make choices that would be beneficial to my growth. The occasional set back in the arena of relationships was easy to understand, but I figured my mistakes were showing me what wounds to heal.

However, something happened when I was granted disability and also went through a bad burn out. The relationship I entered nearly killed me off, and I'm not joking. I looked anorectic though I was eating properly at the time, simply because I was using so much excess energy trying to manage the relationship to a choleric boyfriend and his troubled pre-pubertal son. When it ended I knew I was in for a crash-down. The anxiety of having to move out of a home and a life-style that had after all provided me with a sense of security and pre-occupied my mind in order to move into a completely different form of living in the middle of a forest, was among the worst sensations I've ever had. I was literally going through wave upon wave of ice cold ripples of shock. I knew I was in for something really bad. And I was. I was a complete wreck; traumatized, burned out and trapped. This was four years ago.

I suddenly had no sense of basic security. The house I was and am still living in was a cheap cardboard box type of construction and the electric heating forced me to apply for money every month from the social security. I used to live in old sturdy apartmentbuildings with central heating. The new arrangment proved fatal in every way: I felt very insecure living close to the ground with big windows, which I was not used to, and the social security did everything in their might to undermine my sense of self-worth. The doctors treated me like a junkie because I had insomnia and someone on whom physical rehabilitation would be wasted because my condition can't be cured. All in all, there was no real help to be gotten other than some supportive talks with a specialist nurse about once a month. I can understand that some of my ancient insecurities resurfaced during this time period but I am also wondering how much damage was being made to me by my ex who pushed me beyond my abilities, the circumstances, and the people who treated me like a second rate citizen with no rights other than to breathe the air of this town on the South coast of Finland.

Many other things happened during this time that were not beneficial to me, for instance some pretty awful attempts at dating and an attempt to go back to my old relationship. At one point when I got an adsl line I started to renew the connection with my spiritual side by taking part in internet sites dedicated to people like me. But when The Secret came out and people started to go all crazy about the law of attraction, I was made into an easy target for their own insecurities. Let me recap; I had finished several educations through the mere force of my will despite the fact that I was chronically fatigued and in terrible pain. I had spent years and years writing a journal in which I was attempting to sort out my issues. I was really doing a good job in both areas. But once I came to this small town and had to obey to the laws of social security, I lost any means of getting out of a bad financial situation. I was trapped. Then along came all these pseudo-spiritual people with their great advice about manifesting all the health, success and money that you could possibly ever want. Most of these people actually came from America... In my naivité I didn't realize that I shouldn't ever have even breathed about problems. However, honest and straightforward about myself as I am, I did try and talk to people in order to see more alternatives and solutions to my issues. Some were understanding but many labeled me as one who likes to victimize herself. Honestly, don't we all feel a bit sorry for ourselves sometimes? Come on, have mercy - I am perhaps having one of those days today. Anyhow, any talk about how hard it really is to get out of the social trap that disability in this country puts you in, was to no avail. There were also some sneaky argument that basically made me feel more disempowered and guility. These people had no time and interest for understanding and compassion, since they were so busy justifying their own choices in favour of joy and money, and persuading others about how happy they were. In short, they demanded that I perform as if I had the abilities of a normal person.
The main rhetoric is that we are all co-creators of the universe and thus responsible for our own happiness: there is abundance in this world and any situation of poverty and suffering is merely the result of our own faulty thinking and a sense of not deserving anything better. This was no news to me at all; my thesis at the university was about this kind of New Age dogmas. The trouble was, I could not completely disagree because I could see the logic in what was being said. Unfortunately I also felt that for many of these people, science was only a great tool when it was supporting the quest for money and success and that many ancient truths had been neatly repacked and simplified for the busy modern individual. Oneness was and is a great concept but I didn't see how it could come into life in this sort of ruthless environment. Whoever came up with the guide for dummies? I bet there's a guide for dummies about the great Law of Attraction that simplifies what has already been simplified...

I have a busy mind that attempts to see many options. It's called being creative. With creativity, however, you usually get a volatile personality. The reason is that you need periods of introspection in order to allow the subconscious mind to re-evaluate things, and question current beliefs. When you look around yourself with a perceptive mind, you see quite a lot of things that are not right with the world the way it is today. It's funny that despite all the talk about the importance of co-creation and the assumption that creativity has an ontological status in this world, people don't seem to take charge of their lives in creative and unique ways but prefer following the stale dogmatics of the self-help books. I know very well that New Age people don't consider their belief-system a religion because their approach is universalist (i.e. it's that famous smorgasbord where you pick what you feel to pick). Technically speaking, there's plenty enough evidence that it does rely on a certain set of dogmas that makes it into one from the point of view of systematic science. Though I have been inspired by some parts of it and have had a lot to do with people who believe in reincarnation and constant self-assessment for greater personal growth just like me, something has always bothered me. I have no doubt that it's due to the movements reinforcment of tendencies that are noticable on all levels of life today, i.e. "me first" and "I want it now". Compassion is often rationalized into the more abstract and (paradoxically) distant concept of unconditional love, which many believe they own but don't seem to have access to when someone trods a different path and has a nerve to question these beliefs. I noticed when I was on these sites that people bothered very little with the definition of the semantics they were using and so people were talking on top of each other without any regard for the exact meaning of the words that were being used. When on the one hand people loved to use words such as "I love you" to great excess there were also elements that were clearly menacing. Each takes care of him or herself and if you miss the ascension boat, it's your own fault for not having worked hard enough towards it. I also gave an example of this in my last blog. I still wonder how someone who pretends to be a loving spirit can insinuate that "some people" (very possibly you, in other words) have succumbed to the dark forces and are in fact hampering the evolutionary shift towards a better world. The only thing one can do, according to them, is to pray by an altar that you create for this particular purpose. Unique advice, eh..?

What has become clear to me during my years online is anyway the fact that instead of building me up as one expected them to, these groupings have helped undermine my own sense of self and my self-esteem. Not that anyone meant to on purpose, of course... but there's ignorance and its ugly head. I know that this statement can be met by plenty enough arguments. For instance: I'm resisting, I am not practicing spirituality the way it should be done, I'm not following any self-help methods, I am not positive enough, I focus on problems instead of the solutions, I am not disciplined enough to change my attitudes, I don't allow myself to be alone in silence and develop more love of self and God, and so on. But you know what? I am bloody tired! I have worked very hard all my life to succeed, to be a better person, to take the blame or the responsibility for my misfortunes, to open up my energies, to take care of my health as much as possible despite the poverty, to declutter every area in my life, to express abundance in everything I do (and this I actually do spontaneously), to overcome my shyness and social anxiety... I have tried being lonely and I have tried being in relationships. If someone sends me yet another link to some revolutionary self-help method I shall scream! I just can't anymore... Please, just allow me a little normality at least. What have I honestly done to deserve a lonely life in confinement? Well, to be honest I don't think it's a question of whether I've deserved it or not.

Shit happens. I'm sorry this is another lament on life's shittyness... I am mostly venting and sharing, not asking for pity. Sure I've asked for help too. But I know it's wrong to ask to be saved by anyone, so I've got to keep it general. If anything has come recently, it's been too subtle for me to take notice. Last year was especially trying. Dark, confusing and exhausting in every way. I can't make sense of things the way I used to. There's an oppressive feeling in the air. Or is it just me? Yet good things happen to people all the time, regardless whether someone actively tries to manifest them or not. How can anyone really know for sure that their power of manifestation was so great that it brought certain things into their lives? Where's the absolute evidence? Maybe a certain person had it all in store on a karmic level, for instance. Maybe they were even genetically disposed to (haha). I know that I would be in quite a different position if I didn't have a condition that cannot be cured. I also know that I could feel worse and that I could sit here without a degree or a career as an artist unless I had struggled to overcome certain obstacles. I also know that my chances of getting out of my current situation are slim, because society does not support it in any way and I am now out of willpower and motivation to make more efforts. Let's not even talk about what the three months in Kansas last year did to me, let alone the tedious after-math that is still without closure. This guy is not sending me my things back and I am seriously worried about some art and some items that are true heirlooms and that I should never have brought there in the first place. Stupid me!

The other day I spent a little time on Twitter but I'm not sure I fit in though I've tried to mimimize the amount of people I follow and protect my updates from unwanted comments. I'm struggling to fit in but in fact what happens is the exact opposite, which is that I am losing self-confidence. Exposure is a good method when facing fears, yet what I wanted to say in this blog is that there are times when exposure induces fears and that maybe some of them are new ones. This is not a good time in history; it's one of extreme chaos, menace and self-absorption. Beware!

I was invited to a kindness party on Twitter. The subpersonality in me who wants to be accepted exclaimed, hey, how nice! But another part of me started to rebel. Why do I have to be kind because someone institutionalized a day for it? No, no, no, no. I wonder why anyone feels the need to ask people to be kind though. Do people really need to be told that? I liked the rhymeday better, however no one commented on my rhymes.

Here are some of my humble and rather silly contributions that nonetheless felt like fun:

My life would be empty without my cats, all of my clothes would be hollow, including my hats.

The love of my life, is absolutely Robin, without his attention, I'd be constantly sobbin'.

Marius, is my pain in the ass, but in a funny sort of way, he has charm and some class.

Beatrice is dainty, the queen of the lot; her attitude is sweet but rather cooler than hot.

My computer's attraction is bigger than life; but without it my life would be akin to a strife.

How often is a rhymeday; I'm curious to hear? I'm taking a liking, and getting rid of some fear!

I apologize for my rude intrusion as a stranger, but English makes my heart beat faster and my mind gallop like a wilderness ranger.

As intriguing as paradoxes may be, sometimes the issue is that we don't know our motives or what we really see!

Creativity is a flow; it can be high;it can be low; but it is eternally there, for it is all that there is and it is everywhere.
Just as I wrote nice things about my cat Robin he peed on the floor. I had thought he'd gotten over it. That drop of pee was like the last drop...
Please read more about self-esteem on this blog.
Artwork: "Dereclict House", digital photograph by author, all rights reserved 2008


  1. What a great post and I also loved your banner.

  2. Life throws us in all sorts of directions. Good things happen and bad things happen. As long as we breath, there is hope although I can understand that it may seem a distant flicker right now.

    Feel what you need to feel right now. I too am sick of society telling me that I have to feel anything that is not real.

    I don't have the solution but do know that you have a great spirit and abundant talent.

    May you find peace in this trying time.

    Your friend,

  3. Thank you Roger, I really appreciate your understanding and support!! I was a bit nervous that this post was too critical and offensive. I did edit a little bit. But I'm glad there are others who can see my points. Society pushes people a lot, and I can see that people will get sicker and sicker. Just heard on TV that the social reform in my country isn't going to be anything close what it should be - there is not will enough and it's convenient to blame the recession. Turns out I live in one of the worst towns in this regard, too. Most people are some kind of anti-depressants these day and then they have the nerve to give advice! Thank you for your encouraging words, they mean a lot! Wishing you perseverance as well!

  4. "Compassion is often rationalized into the more abstract and (paradoxically) distant concept of unconditional love, which many believe they own but don't seem to have access to when someone trods a different path and has a nerve to question these beliefs."

    How perceptive of you…I love your pointed observations of such "paradoxes". Maybe if those who are authors of the typical "self-help" method, and want to "cure" people, they should be in a privileged place where everything can be looked at abstractly? In such a world, "success" is reduced to a "state of mind", "love" is elevated above any practical expression into something otherworldly and meaningless. Unless you are some unapproachable deity, what does "unconditional love" actually mean?

    It's convenient to prescribe solutions when everything is reduced to an abstraction that is easy to put into paperback books and to discuss on talk shows. I suspect this sort of thinking is popular exactly because it is abstract, where the reader need not concern themselves with how they actually feel or express themselves to others, and much less what anybody thinks about their behavior. Perhaps to question their beliefs is to burst the bubble of abstraction and force the practical upon the conceptual? How dare we do that; the nerve! ;-) I know from experience that self-esteem can suffer very much when I am told some abstract concept is more important than my true feelings.

    To be honest, I used to think this way because everyone else was doing it. Over time, I realized we were all pretending, and this "abstract success" was pushing me away from my feelings, which are after is the whole point to living. I also get very tired of all the work I've done to be somebody "better", which really means somebody else. Maybe giving this up is an acceptance of myself? So I'm skipping all the nonsense of books, to find a practical way to exist with my feelings and who I am now and simply express myself to people I care about…even it's small by comparison to the glamorous "success stories" found in books. As you said about creativity, life might be a flow of high and low and perhaps I am just here to appreciate--that is the point of living?

    So "complain" away…I enjoy reading your thoughts; it helps me think about mine.

  5. Thank you so much for this post, Vivi-Mari. Really interesting to read about your experiences and reflections. It sounds like you are struggling in your life, but you won't get any pity from me as you are obviously resourceful and talented in abundance! I do feel compassion and companionship though, hope you will accept it. I really appreciate your honesty!

  6. Thank you Miss Attica! Of course I accept your friendly offer, it makes my day! I'm glad you see all this for what it is and appreciate the way I'm attempting to pinpoint some of the traps some of us encounter... :-)

  7. Dear Marin_Explorer, you are so right - as always ;-). Perhaps your last comment was especially poignant. You read about all these succesful people who had this and that blissful experience and became one with God or whatever - and you look at your own life and feel like crap. Is this how it should be? I mean, I don't feel undeserving or anything like that (the popular "reasons" why people don't manage to pull themselves up by the hair...). On the contrary, I've felt quite deserving. Not even that much need to become "better", just happier! Then you read that actually, you just need to let go, then it will happen. Hm... you start to panic as you try and figure out exactly how you're supposed to do it in practice... and on and on it goes. Love yourself, be at one with everything, love God more than another person who can never fulfill your needs anyway... all that is so logical and clear if you really dig into it. You think you're laying it all out so neatly, and something should happen. And what if it doesn't? Then what do you do? Turn your back on spirituality and become an atheist? This whole maze of concepts can drive a person to the brink of utter despair.

    I believe I have some purpose for being here. I always wanted to do something "big", meaningful... But maybe what I need to see is that you just can't do that in a world that is so controlled by the collective. Could be that simply living mindfully and shutting your ears to all this mindbabble is the biggest challenge of your life? I suppose I will have to go on calling this blog a spiritual journey because no matter what happens I can't just turn the coat with the wind. Something deep inside of me rebels when I think of agnosticism or atheism. It's just not right for me either. So somehow, there's got to be a path that's unique to me. Maybe it's the one I was on for a while but got side-tracked. I don't know. But what I do know is that every time I find myself pulled away from Earth I want to go back. I want to feel the spiritual here and now, on the ground. It's funny how the need for each human being to be properly grounded is one of the basic teachings in all new spirituality but it seems to me, that few are really able to be just that.

    In some deeper sense I feel that all my recent posts have been about flightiness versus groundedness. Flighty spiritual people are often not in touch with real human emotions and can get very shattered when having to face them. Thus (perhaps?) all the explanations and excuses as to why it's better to just look after oneself and not have compassion but unconditional love because it doesn't draw you into someone else's drama and... blablabla... I'm generalizing a bit but you get the picture... right? I'm not saying there's an easy answer because I have really tried to find one. But common sense is certainly something I will still try to hold onto.

  8. Thanks for appreciating my observations. Yours are to the point as always. :-) I guess I shouldn't judge other's intentions, because only the individual knows how "blissful" their life may or not be; so much is a matter of personal interpretation. But what happens if little "bliss" can be found--does that make one's spiritual journey somehow "defective"? One might argue that a spiritual life whose object is "bliss" may easily give way to hedonism, because true bliss always involves a context of hardship, by my reckoning. And as you say--it's easy to feel like "crap" if your life does not measure up to the standards of a book, religious leader, or religious clique (ie church). Taken as an expression of narcissism, the object of a narcissistic is often to make another person feel like "crap" so they can feel better by comparison. This is something to consider whenever a church or spiritual discipline makes one feel insignificant, evil, sinful or as a lesser being. Legalists/dogmatists of all spiritual flavors are often narcissists.

    One reaction to the subjective and unsure nature of spirituality is atheism. I suppose if one completely denies a spiritual existence and/or higher power...they can be sure of that, right? The irony here is supposed certainty of atheism becomes an underlying weakness where even a slight interest in spirituality dashes the whole idea of negation of God; atheism is either all or nothing. I observed this earlier in life as an avowed atheist and saw the irony how many atheists spent a lot of energy arguing against the existence of god, citing the "evils of religion" and so on. But how is this a positive argument for atheism? In a general sense that's true about religious power, but the absence of religion never seems to stop the abuses of human nature (Stalin anyone?). As you said, there is something about the "here and now", and I find that formal religion (or atheism) pales comparison to daily existence—what I experience and do with that which is given me ever day. Perhaps like you, that is where I want to stay—"grounded" in how I feel, and what I experience, for I believe that should be the essence of spirituality.

    P.S: your rhymes are wonderful. :-)

  9. Marin_explorer, welcome as always! Hm, I got another one of those newsletters today and what struck me about it was that although the intentions seemed fair enough, along with the constellation of what dark and light powers are now competing there was also a division between those who already perceive the light that is coming in and those who don't. I'm saying this assuming it's true that we are going through some kind of evolutionary shift - however also taking into account that no one seems to know exactly what's going on. So these gurus are warning those who feel pain not to succumb to the dark powers as well as the selfish powers of the ego (e.g. retaliation and other negative feelings). For one you can ask yourself if these are ultimately one and the same or not. What I resent about this particular guru is that though the advice kind of makes sense, there are no explanations as to what exactly is happpening, nor is there any careful categorization of how various people react according to their unique psychological make up. To put people in two groups is a bit suspiscious, isn't it?

    You said something that I'm having trouble understanding: "One might argue that a spiritual life whose object is "bliss" may easily give way to hedonism, because true bliss always involves a context of hardship, by my reckoning." Where does the hardship part come in? It's true that bliss can mean many things. In the Asian version that most people refer to if they are not Christian it's a state of union with God or the Source etc. Thus the kundalini would be rising in an unobstrused manner so there are no more egoistical obstacles. Hedonism, on the other hand, is usually selfish. Now many gurus ARE selfish - plenty of research on that one. So being able to manipulate your energies so to speak is not always a prerequisite to a clean slate. There are many stories of how gurus have been alright in the confinement of a monastery but once they travelled to the West, quickly succumbed to the temptations. It can be hard to know who is a true narcissist before it's too late and one is already obeying the mastermind of manipulation. This is an intersting spiritual dilemma. So as someone here once said, it's much more challenging to hold onto one's spirituality in the real world - the here and now :-).

    You're right about atheism, it's all or nothing. To me it seems pretty naive since it completey negates all the wonders of nature. All you've got to do is look around you and see astonishing things. To believe that it's all just up to chance is a pretty amazing attitude! In my opinion it's as much a belief system as any other. Sure some sceptics have good points but things are usually taken to their extreme.

    Re: my humble rhymes; thanks :-)

  10. Vivi-Mari,
    I'm glad to hear there is a more formal way of looking at "bliss" other than pop-culture references I'm thinking of. Here, the adage "follow your bliss" is interpreted many ways and within our materialistic context, usually means a "bliss" derived from self-indulgence. But that's just what I've seen, and I'm always interested in hearing a different side to this idea. Speaking personally, I know the only "bliss" I've found was through facing some kind of hardship and finding a new insight or perspective from the experience. Bliss and hardship have an interrelationship to me, but bliss may take other forms I need to experience as some evolutionary step.

    Nature is truly wondrous, and there is something about it that grounds me to my sense of existence, and not just in a purely earthy way...but something else too, which may be the wonder for me. :-)

  11. marin_explorer, yes I get your meaning now. During my time on the New Age sites I ran across the saying "follow your bliss" and just dismissed it as another over-zealous expression... from you know where. To me it's devoid of any meaning that I can truly grasp - another one of those abstractions I guess. I just figure they mean whatever makes you tick... if that's blissful to anyone, then fine, good for them I guess. It's actually a good question to ponder whether bliss and hardship are somehow irreversably interrelated. Most of the time, we can only appreciate the good when we've experienced the opposite. This is a logical explanation to why the world is dual (a play of opposites). On the other hand, it could be that on some other level of reality there is pure bliss without any conditions, however in a way that would be very hard for us polarized creatures to fathom. Thanks for bringing up the semantic/terminology side to this issue!

  12. your link at the end, to that other blog, is not working. i believe it has an extra "ht" at the beginning of the web address.