Narcissism in Spirituality: Illnesses and those irritating “New Age” Diagnoses

Has anyone ever driven you crazy with an armchair diagnosis of your problems? Offended you with their own perceptions of your spiritual condition and/or your “messed-up past lives?”

It’s happened to me, and probably you as well. In fact, I believe it is one of the main reasons that New Age thinking and New Thought ideas get a bad rap. It’s a shame because there are many positive and highly useful elements of new thought. My personal favorite is Ernest Holmes, the founder of Religious Science (NOT Scientology and NOT “The Secret” – in my opinion The Secret is slickly repackaged Ernest Holmes and other fine pioneers of new thought).

This issue of armchair diagnosis and armchair psychology has long bugged me, and it came up for review again yesterday. It is one I feel very strongly about, because I have two congenital birth defects that compromise my health.

Diagnosing others with borrowed platitudes, and arrogantly asserting that someone is “doing something the wrong way” or “not handling their life properly because of wrong thinking” smacks of spiritual narcissism. See The Secret: The Spirituality of Narcissism and The Allure of Narcissistic Spirituality.

Recently I showed up at a relative’s house using my cane, which is now more than just an occasional thing when bone on bone hip pain flares up. I’d done some particularly heavy housework the day before and by the way, I love to clean so it’s not that I hate cleaning house!

My relative asked me if I’d ever heard of Louise Hay. I told my relative that yes I had — many years ago — and that I’d read some of her material.

My relative then proceeded to open up one of Louise Hay’s books to the page about illnesses and their metaphysical causes. My relative pointed out the hip issue that’s been bothering me for several years now. Immediately, I took care of the problem in a new way for me: I told my relative politely yet firmly that I have a birth defect, I learned about it 5 years ago due to aging issues (thinning cartilage) finally revealing the original issue (slight hip deformity), and said that I didn’t appreciate them jumping to the conclusion that I have the psychological condition Louise Hay asserts in her list.

(Note: Recently I saw an orthopedic surgeon, who showed me a highly clear state of the art x-ray of my hip. There is no cartilage remaining in my left hip, which means bone on bone pain. It was caused by the birth deformity in my left hip. I am having surgery in several weeks, with an excellent prognosis.)

That list has done a lot of damage through the years — either directly when sufferers read it, or when forced upon them by armchair psychologists. Usually these armchair psychologists are following a new age or metaphysical path, and they think they are “helping” by pointing out your “real” problem(s) to you.

In the years since the list was published, it has become a “cookbook” bible for new agers seeking answers to their physical and psychological problems. It’s frightening how revered the list has become in some circles.

I’m going to be honest:

Long ago I used to buy into the list by Louise Hay. I really did, and for many years too. I had come to believe that my lung problems (a genetic defect diagnosed within minutes after my birth) were the result of “unshed tears” or “depression, grief or fear of life/not feeling worthy.” That’s just complete bullshit, and I’m not buying into it anymore.

I’d already had this kind of crap perpetrated upon me in years past. I’d even dumped a friend about 6-7 years ago when she would not stop harping on me about all the karmic things that were wrong with me and how I must have been a terrible person in a past life/past lives to have so many health issues, and how I had so much to overcome, and how it looked like I was utterly failing to do so.

How much time did I waste, and how much anxiety did I cause myself for all those years regarding those “unshed tears” and about my “depression, grief or fear of life/not feeling worthy?” For a time, I really did believe that if I just shed enough tears or became less emotional about the neurological shocks and trauma in my life, my lung problems would clear up. I had literally forgotten that I was born with a condition (PCD: immotile cilia in all the mucous membranes).

My point is that congenital issues are not curable. They are often manageable, but they are usually not curable.

It’s true that health problems can cause social problems, and yes, there is depression, grief and fear of life because of the social problems caused by the (congenital) illness. But to hold oneself responsible for it is unproductive and even destructive.

I just don’t buy into the idea that my hip problem results from “fear of going forward in major decisions” when that is the main thing I think about and what I want after a lifetime of intensely joyful physical activities of various kinds!

Instead of some pie in the sky wondering, and flailing around trying to discover how and why I have “fear of going forward in major decisions,” I’m just going to have a simple surgery that is now available so that I can return to the active life I once had. Enough with past life regression, tea leaves, tarot cards and psychics. Empirical science, that’s what I’m about these days!

In the meantime, I do gentle exercise that alleviates the bone on bone hip pain that occasionally flares up. I also try to avoid as much as possible any activities that exacerbate the problem. That is the pragmatic and sane approach – instead of beating myself up for supposedly “not being able to move forward.” I have not found that to be true.

Here is what I now believe:

It might be true that there is reincarnation. It might be true that we take on certain health challenges to facilitate soul growth. However, we cannot prove that, nor in my opinion should we really even try. And we certainly should not foist armchair psychology and non-scientific diagnoses upon individuals who are suffering.

When a person is ready to grow, change and heal they seek out answers. They are the only ones who can really know their own heart and mind, and they are the one who changes, and who facilitates that change — not the person who is assessing and diagnosing, often quite wrongly, the people they think they’re helping.

People grow, change and heal when they’re ready and not a moment before. If there is any attachment on the part of a therapist (or a friend or relative), that is their own issue and it shouldn’t be foisted onto a client. It’s frustrating for the therapist, unproductive for the client, and a waste of time.

I feel that I can’t stress this enough: as a former bodywork and ethereal healer as well as counseling astrologer, I found that I had to learn not to be attached to when someone might gain insight or feel complete healing — or even any relief at all. We’re there to facilitate progress and healing — not impose or force — a positive outcome. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen, especially in the case of congenital birth defects or severe trauma.

I don’t foist my untrained non-medical opinion upon people who are already suffering — thereby increasing their suffering. That is unprofessional, and it serves no positive or useful purpose whatsoever.

Furthermore, some of the “reasons” that Louse Hay sets forth in her list are preposterous. How does she know? And specifically, why has she grossly generalized each ailment or issue and reduced them to a pat phrase? This is just wrong, and it should be negated.

If someone really wants to know the actual origin of their illness or condition, they can seek medical opinions, genetic counseling, psychological counseling, and perhaps holistic bodyworkers, etc. I just do not buy into the idea that my orthopedic problems are the result of “not wanting to move forward with major decisions” or some crap like that.

Furthermore, I don’t want to listen to some cockamamie “friend” who doesn’t even use critical thinking when she reads something, and doesn’t use gentle sensitivity when she frequently brings up the matter. It felt like she was trying to intimidate me and make me feel bad about myself. I don’t do that to my friends, and I don’t want it done to me.

Here’s a preposterous example taken directly from the list:

“Kidney Stones: Lumps of undissolved anger.” Wait just a second! Kidney stones are caused by highly crystallized oxalates dumped as excess into the urinary system after eating a foods high in oxalates (Oxalic Acid). Then what happens with some people is that the excess oxalic acid does not get absorbed into the bloodstream. I know, because I have Secondary Hyperoxaluria; it developed 3 years ago. Since that time, I have learned (through no help from medical doctors, I might add) that I must avoid high oxalate foods or I suffer, not from kidney stones, but from severe vulvodynia due to oxalate crystals in the bloodstream and urine that haven’t been dissolved and assimilated.

(Calcium Citrate, by the way, is excellent for this, and Magnesium Citrate too. Both are taken about 25 minutes before eating a meal, or anything medium to high in oxalate, they assist in absorbing the excess. But the fact remains that if you have this condition, you must alter your diet in ways that aren’t really welcome until you get the desired results — then you will actually want to avoid those foods.)

People, do.your.empirical.research. Don’t blindly accept something on some list that is unproven.

Just what the hell was Louise Hay actually thinking when she wrote that stuff?! I think she needs to take responsibility for misleading thousands of people with that list. Yes, that list has contributed to some healing, but also misconceptions and discord. Sometimes some of the things on that list might be true, but they are not generally true. And there is no empirical way to measure them.

We need to listen to our own guidance. If we can’t do that, we learn to do that first. Then we go within and ask for guidance about our problem. We shouldn’t accept as fact something written by someone who’s never met us, who’s not a trained physician or scientist, who makes absolute statements in a generalized list.

Most “New Age” people mean well, but they can be just as dangerous as any fanatical Christian or any other adherent to any other religion. Some of them are very wounded and seriously delusional, just as in the general population.

Note to metaphysical people:
Don’t insult and intimidate someone with these “pat” diagnoses! Ask yourself: “What is my true agenda toward this person I’m trying to help?” Sometimes there is latent hostility interlaced into your “desire to help.” It’s not appropriate to idly claim that you, or Louise Hay, or anyone, knows the real reason for another person’s medical and/or psychological condition.

Often, the people who just want to tell you all about what is wrong with you and why, are highly narcissistic. They believe they’re better than you, more adept than you, “have less karma” than you, etc. ad infinitum (because it never stops).

An important note: you’ve likely been told by medical personnel the whole story (i.e., via x-rays, tests, about what the actual condition is) but you’ve forgotten. That’s forgivable, but don’t jump to silly conclusions based on incomplete memory, or worse — not having done better investigating and analyzing in the first place.

It amazes me how many times I’ve told my relatives and friends what the problem is, and they just don’t remember. They only see a person hobbling with a cane and they come up with all kinds of cockamamie reasons why I’m suffering the way I am!

As a one time body worker and ethereal healer I certainly do not negate the mind/body connection, but I’ll take empirical science any day with respect to physical health issues. I’ll listen to those metaphysical “reasons” and I’ll take them under advisement, and I’ll investigate them — as I once did. Mostly, however, that overgeneralized list by Louise Hay just makes me shake my head.

I’m simply going to be pragmatic and have surgery because I now know that a bone curvature from birth is the cause of the severe cartilage thinning/osteoarthritis — not some vague psychological condition that began some nebulous time in the past. I’m having orthopedic surgery that has a very high success rate, and I’m also going to avoid those foods I know cause problems for me. It’s as simple as that.

There are many men in the gay community who feel the same way I do about this issue. In fact, many of them feel much more strongly about it than I do. There are also many people born with birth defects and genetic diseases who post on message boards just how hurtful and damaging the Louise Hay list is for them.

I am not suggesting that Louise Hay is a Narcissist. I don’t know her and have never met her. What I am suggesting is that many people decide after reading Louise Hay’s list that they “know” what others are experiencing and why. This crosses the line of reason and caution. The result is that they begin to believe they have knowledge that others don’t, and they judge and intimidate others with or without realizing it.

I respect some of the work Louise Hay has done with gays and others, but let’s not take it too far.