Andy Warhol once predicted that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.
Well, the future is now, and unfortunately – for all of us – that prophecy has now, to some extent, become a reality of regurgitated and unfiltered narcissism in which everyone has an opinion and we’re all entitled to it.  

Humans aren’t designed to be in contact with this many humans and we certainly aren’t designed to be exposed to all of their thoughts, all of the time.   

Self-help consumerism has exploded.   And like an unceasing episode of projectile vomiting, a torrent of pseudo-psychology and Spirituality-101 dressed up in a million memes, spews endlessly into our social feeds and inboxes.    Memes can be harmless, inspiring, uplifting and hilarious, they can also be very unhelpful when peddled as ‘answers’:  

Just think positive. Attract a high value man!  Follow your heart. Shoot for the moon – even if you fail, you’ll land in the stars. Believe it and it will happen! Your dream doesn’t have an expiry date.  Go with the flow.  You can do, be, whatever you want. It’s only your thoughts limiting you. No regrets!    

On one level, this river of wisdom running from the mouths, pens and keyboards of
self-appointed gurus is simply grating.   But shine a torch into it and there are certain areas that are very dark and uncomfortable indeed. 

Over recent years – and especially in times of emotional turbulence such as these – the
proliferation of meme psychology has become a thriving little cottage industry of personal branding and commercial opportunism.

Content may still be king, but influence is the queen – and not only does she wear the
trousers, she also makes the money.

So, the relentless tornado of abject simplicity is not only meaningless, but also a means to a
commercial end. Get enough followers and suddenly a world of sponsorship, endorsement
and revenue opens up.

But this issue goes beyond wondering what kind of world encourages a global army of self-help
psych gurus peddling ‘inspiration’ to create personal wealth. It’s also about questioning the currency some are trading in: the currency of vulnerability.

The spiritual narcissism that gets churned out every day is devoured by people who have,
generally speaking, reached a self-esteem crisis point and are looking for validation, inspiration, and self-worth.

Poor self-esteem is a response to negative messages around rejection, shaming or bullying that you might have grown up with. And it’s also a response to the positive messages of validation and reassurance you didn’t grow up with but that all kids need from those caring for them – that being ‘who you are is good enough’ 

Poor self-esteem is very painful, and it certainly requires work and effort to turn around, but in and of itself it’s not a chronic problem as it’s very treatable. But it can become one if it’s not addressed in a structured, informed, safe, contained and professional way.

There’s nothing particularly helpful about endless ill-informed memes that urge you to love
yourself for who you are without having the slightest shred of context for why someone might feel the way they do.   

If you weren’t taught to like and respect yourself and set the appropriate boundaries that come with that, then reading a meme on Instagram isn’t going to do it because, hello, memes can’t undo trauma. 

If it were that easy, we wouldn’t be in the middle of the worst mental health crisis in living memory. 

Many of my clients come in to see me believing their issue is they think too much. There is
no such thing as ‘thinking too much’ but there is certainly way too much listening to the inner critic who fills your head with an incessant failure narrative that leaves you feeling worthless. 

We are all subject to negative thoughts because our lives are an endless blend of positive and negative experiences of varying degrees of importance and intensity. 

When we’re mainly operating from the ego state of ‘healthy adult’ – which is the goal of all therapy – then we will generally possess the perspective and rationality to filter and challenge the legitimacy of negative thoughts. 

It’s when we’re operating mainly from the ego state of wounded inner child or critical punishing inner parent (the two are often locked in a cycle of shaming and despair) that we believe these thoughts are truth rather than the recycled projections of fear, shame and guilt that are the echoes of the voices and burdens we absorbed from childhood, they are a very convincing lie.    

When we believe the lie of the recycled childhood messages, we become understandably desperate to escape them – it’s one of the key drivers for all therapy, and particularly for addiction therapy.

And it’s here that we can become vulnerable to the magical solutions that can be found on the internet 

Becoming a digital society has brought plenty of benefits, but it has also allowed us to become intellectually lazy.

I’ve said before that social media and the internet has made publishers and broadcasters of
us all. That’s great for freedom of speech and expression, but less great for truth and accuracy.

The birth of fake news didn’t happen by accident, and it didn’t happen because we think too
much. It happened because we don’t think enough.

Digital literacy has given us access to a vast library of opinion that is often presented as hard
fact, and we have lost the ability – or perhaps the energy – to exercise due diligence and
pass what we hear and read through a reality filter.

We have made celebrities of people because they have managed to accumulate 10 million
people who like their Instagram account, and we are subliminally persuaded by the media
that lionises them that they are somehow figures of authority and substance.

Influencers are exactly that. They are often not visionaries, or doctors, or philosophers. Broadly
speaking, they’re people who have an exceptional understanding of how social media works
and an innate talent for providing content that people want to consume, regardless of its
veracity, accuracy or originality.

Demand creates supply. If someone is at an emotionally low ebb and feels they need a shot of
personal validation, you can be sure there’s someone out there with a magical elixir who’s only too happy to provide it.

And if we’re not paying for that directly – maybe through investing in the ‘laptop lifestyle’
they promise if you ‘raise your vibration’ or buying the $120 ‘Two weeks to a new you’
course they’re peddling – we’re paying for it with false hope.

Living the best life possible is a valid and rewarding goal, but only if you understand it takes
a lot of work – often inner and outer – to achieve it. And being born into money doesn’t equate to a perfect existence either – just ask the Kennedys or the Guinnesses or any of the other tragically dysfunctional dynasties.   

Life takes work, and a lot of it is hard. Relationships – with partners, family, friends, and
yourself – need continual work and refinement.

You have to put in hard yards to earn the emotional and material rewards you get in life,
and those yards cover a lot of ground: self-awareness, honesty, truth, acceptance, kindness,
generosity, tolerance, and discipline.

It’s a commitment to working on yourself so you can give your best self to the things that are important to you. 

And for those of us who’ve been torched by complex trauma in life, but especially in the very tender years of childhood where we learn to repress it, that work is doubly hard, doubly demanding, doubly challenging. But I can promise you that the heavy lifting and unravelling is worth it. 

Recovery from complex trauma takes courage and commitment – and it takes time, and almost
always more of it than we might think.  It’s about consistent, persistent action rather than dramatic escape.   I never wish people a quick recovery – I wish them a thorough recovery, because that’s the only type that leads to good mental and physical health. 

But we live in an age where we want everything now. Fast food. Instant streaming. Instant
information. Whether it’s a six pack in six weeks, the perfect partner, or the tropical beach
holiday, we’re not prepared to wait. Not for anything.

So, lots of us who crave instant emotional healing turn to Tarquin whose YouTube content
promises to magically airbrush the pain out of our lives and with his million-dollar laptop
lifestyle tips, a ‘proven’ self-discovery course for just 20 bucks, and that all-important
constant flow of motivational but meaningless memes and pop-psychology.

I’m not talking here about those who celebrate and work in an embodied way with others in a sacred connection with something truly important to them. Those connections are important – they are part of my own life and my work, and they deepen spiritual wellbeing.

I’m talking here about an industry that attracts its fair share of snake oilers who extort opportunism and wrangle it into something baseless at the expense of who need support that is rich in substance and knowledge. 

So, let’s look at some of the common self-healing tropes out there that have gone into shadow and distortion, because why far from being useful, they can actually be a colossal waste of time, lead you down spiritual cul-de sacs, and in some cases harm your wellbeing and emotional health:   

Just think positive 

I bet we all see this on memes all the time. Listen, positive thinking is realistic optimism, and
it’s great. It’s a superpower that gets us out of bed in the morning and enables us to keep going in spite of everything life throws at us.

But being positive all the time simply isn’t possible, and even if it were you wouldn’t want to
be or meet that person because insufferable wouldn’t even begin to cover it.

Demanding positive thinking of yourself at all times is just self-gaslighting by another name,
and those who suggest positive thinking is the answer to everything are simply gaslighting others.

Adversity is what makes life interesting and rewarding. The Positivity Bypass just puts you
into denial of your own feelings (which then rebel by getting louder) 

You can manifest whatever you want 

OK, just so we’re clear, no one’s life is a Marvel comic strip. We don’t get to just summon up
whatever we want whenever we want it. Getting what we really want in life requires
intention, commitment, sacrifice and work, especially if what you really want has any value.

Being jobless and sitting on the sofa while you mainline Pringles and watch Tarquin
talking about high vibration thoughts that will allow you to draw in a castle’? No. Not only
is that never going to happen, but it’s also delusional and it’s distracting you from doing the
work on yourself that you could be doing. 

Self-love is the answer to everything 

I’m a massive advocate of self-love – you’re stuck with yourself so you may as well learn to
get on with yourself, but often it’s sufficient to just like and respect yourself enough to not
mire yourself in bad situations that harm your self-esteem. 

Self love is also very much a process – an individual doesn’t move from trauma-induced self loathing to self love in an instant, and that’s because we are human beings not appliances, so  anyone telling you to just ‘change your thoughts’ to acquire self-love is grossly ill-informed. 

And blind self-love isn’t the answer to everything either – and too often it’s the cause of something ugly and unpleasant that not only exempts us from taking enough responsibility but also starts to look a lot like narcissism.   

The increased awareness of mental health is a wonderful thing but we don’t want the pendulum to swing so far that we are coddling ourselves over every uncomfortable feeling and demanding to be treated like a helpless infant by society.     

Sometimes we need to have a word with ourselves and practice love of a tougher variety to get us operating from our adult. 

Meet your twin flame 

If ever there was a phrase to kindle the interest of the lovelorn then it’s this – the promise of a quick fix to find that soulmate you’ve been looking for your whole life – the literal other half of your own soul.

Most open to this trope are those who have sadly experienced trauma and a truck-load of shitty relationships. The thing about trauma is that it leaves a legacy of pain, and until you are engaged in the process of really healing that trauma you are extraordinarily vulnerable to no end of wild goose chases.

The need to feel better overrides rational and reasonable thought, and like all kids who are
magical thinkers, the adaptive inner child – also a victim of your trauma – looks for a magical solution.

But magical thinking is a form of alcoholism.

It’s a road that can lead to more abuse and more trauma, especially when you’ve been
convinced by something you’ve read on the internet that the person you’re with is your twin
flame – because why would you leave your ‘soul mate’? 

One of the worst things I’ve read about twin flames is that they can be ‘runners’ – running away from you even though they are – supposedly, at least – the literal other half of your soul.

This then justifies the individual staying in a holding bay of yearning or loss – often for years – when in reality your ‘twin flame’ is unavailable or quite simply “just not that into you”

It doesn’t matter if you call your relationship your twin flame or soul mate – call it whatever you want – but it only really matters that your relationship is healthy because unhealthy relationships will smash you against the rocks one way or another whilst healthy relationships can be a vital part of healing, and love can be hugely redemptive.  When love is mature it really is all it’s cracked up to be.   

The twin flame narrative is toxic when it fosters fantasy. Fantasy is comforting in the here and now – but it ultimately prevents you from getting your legitimate needs met. 

I believe the world is teeming with magic, but I also believe intention, awareness and putting the devotional hard yards into your own self-development is what both harnesses and conjures it. 

Dogmatic polarity work 

In a world where we have to some extent lost our way, it’s good to know there’s a lot of
great polarity work going on out there. It’s an approach that can be deeply positive, life-
enhancing, and beneficial.  On a very basic level it can show us where we have got out of balance.  

That can be empowering and transformative for both men and women alike.  

And there are many deeply gifted, embodied polarity teachers out there whose work I really admire.   

However it is also high-level, sophisticated and challenging work and it’s certainly not entry level, if there is a recent history of abusive relationships and / or a lot of unhealed trauma then it’s very prudent indeed to do the necessary grounded and compassionate unpacking on this first.  

The problem here is that polarity work has become very popular, work to do with the human heart invariably is, and so it’s been hijacked. And when it’s hijacked by spiritual ego it lacks nuance (Instagram doesn’t do nuance) and fluidity and is taken literally by dogmatic Polarity Coaches who appear to be insisting we go right on back to the 1950’s thanks very much, with the avid consumers of hijacked polarity work twisting themselves into distorted feminine/masculine pleasing pretzels. 

The polarity movement also leads us very neatly into:    

Attract a high value man/woman!

Let’s not even get into the insanity of describing human beings as high or low value. It’s bad
enough that trying to ‘snare’ one is even a thing on the internet.

According to various ‘Polarity Coaches’ a high value man earns big – at least 6 figures. He’s a tall, classically handsome, aggressive alpha-type, who eats a lot of meat that, it might be reasonably
assumed, he hunts and kills himself while out with his other high-earning bearded bro’s.   

And the high value woman? Beautiful (naturally), and slim (of course). She’s deferential to a
polarised man 99% of the time.  High value men apparently don’t care about whether or not she works, but she makes up for this by being a fabulous home maker and practitioner of ‘feminine things.’ She is inanely agreeable in nature and probably not exactly a riot at dinner parties. 

These ‘qualities’ are all about what’s on the outside (externals) rather than what’s on the inside, so
now that we know roaring cliches have become the golden goose once again, we need to
ask how and why that has happened. 

The problem with externals is that like a rock band is only as good as its last album, you’re
only as good as your last tweet, and it’s a game you can never ever win. No wonder we’re all
so exhausted.

Striving to either be or attract a high value human being negates self-worth, because self-
worth only works from the inside out and operates on the principle that all humans have equal value.

True emotional health comes from knowing you have an inherent sense of value, and we need to feel this in order to self-regulate. Self-regulation is what stops us from plunging into a pit of despair every time we put on half a stone or send out a social media post that didn’t get as many likes as the last one. 

It would be a better use of our time to aspire to have and attract high value qualities. These are all the healthy things like self-regulation, great boundaries, and self-awareness 

There are many amazing and highly credible people doing good work with robust integrity out
there with both the anchored and embodied sacred and the more classical ways of working.

But there is also an emerging trend of people playing fast and loose with people’s emotional wellbeing and vulnerability of others through a never-ending stream of false promises.  This is certainly not all ill-intentioned, often the individual truly believes that they do contain the answers and that what they are selling is truly the answer, for everyone.   Which of course no-one can possibly claim.    

It’s a bit like getting immersed in a cult: it’s alluring because it looks and feels like fun and is chock-full of potent emotional ‘hooks’ and powerful promises.

Cults make promises that can’t possibly be fulfilled – and if you think I’m being dramatic here in comparing all of this to cults, this is something very similar to what I read on Instagram recently from an individual claiming to be the reincarnation of various Egyptian Goddesses 

There are many teachers, there are many programmes, but this is the only *real ascension activation* being channelled by the Gods themselves through myself as the bridge between Universes 

You ‘will be called’ and ‘chosen’ if this is on your timeline 

If we break this down we can see that it contains two very powerful hooks: ‘only I can take you there’ and ‘you will be chosen’ (to spend the money basically).   Instagram is teaming with monetised messiah complexes, the problem is not only the individuals believing their own hype but rather the swathes of fawning followers fanning them on without any challenge to their increasingly grandiose and often gas-lighting claims.  

Perhaps these teachers have important messages to initially convey, there are often real veins of gold in their work, but some begin to become increasingly convinced that they ‘are’ the message, and have been sent here to save humanity.   

No one’s first contact with a cult is being fleeced out of their life savings or being branded
with a hot iron. But it’s a slow drip-drip-drip into deep shadow and then it’s a very long wrestle indeed out of the dark.   

It takes a lot to become a real person who doesn’t need constant validation – and in truth, most of us are still working on it. I know I am.

But in the absence of community, worship and family, it would appear that narcissism and consumerism have become the twin pillars of modern religion.   

I began this by saying we had lost our collective ability to perform due diligence on the truth
and accuracy of what we hear, see, and are told before we act on it or repeat it.

The world is full of magic, but there is a big difference between magical thinking and true alchemical inner transformation. 

Knowing the difference requires us to engage our ‘adult’ self in order to access wise thinking and due diligence that allows us to differentiate between monetised messiah complexes that are the manifestation of someone else’s trauma repackaged as spiritual narcissism, and genuinely helpful work that enables you to build worth into your life.    

Until we are able to do that, magical thinking will unfortunately lead us into all sorts of spiritual, financial and psychological cul-de-sacs and the arms of those who would consciously, or unconsciously, take us there.   

avatar for Zoë Clews

About Zoë Clews

Zoë Clews is the founder of Zoë Clews & Associates and is one of the most successful and sought-after hypnotherapists working in the UK today. She has spent the last 17 years providing exclusive, highly-effective hypnotherapy treatment to a clientele that includes figures in the public eye, high net worth individuals and professionals at the top of their careers. An expert in all forms of hypnotherapy treatment, Zoë is a specialist in issues relating to anxiety, trauma, self-esteem and confidence. She works with nine Associates who are experts in their own fields and handpicked for their experience and track records of success, providing treatment for an extensive range of conditions that include addiction, weight loss, eating disorders, relationships, love and sex, children’s issues, fertility problems, phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and sleep issues.  She takes inspiration from her own emotional journey and works with both individuals and blue-chip corporates who want to provide mindfulness support for their people either on a regular or occasional basis, or as part of an employee benefit scheme.