Karla McLaren https://karlamclaren.com Empath, Empathy, and Emotions Tue, 24 Nov 2020 03:57:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://karlamclaren.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/McLaren_Home_banner_940x450-2-100x100.jpg Karla McLaren https://karlamclaren.com 32 32 Understanding cultic leaders so that you can leave them behind https://karlamclaren.com/understanding-cultic-leaders-so-that-you-can-leave-them-behind/ https://karlamclaren.com/understanding-cultic-leaders-so-that-you-can-leave-them-behind/#respond Tue, 24 Nov 2020 03:57:19 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=47852 Focusing on the abuse that has ensnared our country I tend to write about explosive things in undercurrent, and one reader noted that if you can’t read subtext, you may not realize what I’m writing. Growing up in the emotionally-repressive world of the yoga, alternative medicine, and New Age cultures taught me how to say things very clearly yet subtly so that less aware people couldn’t … Read More

The post Understanding cultic leaders so that you can leave them behind first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
Focusing on the abuse that has ensnared our country

I tend to write about explosive things in undercurrent, and one reader noted that if you can’t read subtext, you may not realize what I’m writing.

Growing up in the emotionally-repressive world of the yoga, alternative medicine, and New Age cultures taught me how to say things very clearly yet subtly so that less aware people couldn’t hear me. It’s a skill!

So I’ve been writing about the cultic aspects of Trump’s leadership style since 2016, but only in subtext, because I know that openly calling something a cult can cement people into it more strongly.

You have to have all of your wits about you, and you have to know how to work all of your emotions in order to be around cult members and not make things worse.

But since just before the election, I’ve been focusing openly on the undeniably cultic aspects of Trump’s presidency because as a cult researcher, I can tell you this:

It’s never too late to leave, and people all over the world have gotten out of cults, or are leaving cults every day.

Even children can get out! But first, they need to know that they’re in a cult.

A cult is not just any group, and the word is not an insult. A cult is a very specific kind of abusive relationship.

What is a cult?

In the book I wrote with renowned cult expert Janja Lalich, we defined cults in this way:

A cult is a group or a relationship that stifles individuality and critical thinking, requires intense commitment and obedience to a person and/or an ideology, and restricts or eliminates personal autonomy in favor of the cult’s worldview and the leader’s wants and needs. (From Escaping Utopia, p. 5)

Cover of the book Escaping UtopiaNote that a cult can be a relationship. You can have a cultic relationship with a friend, mate, family member, or boss (etc.). We’re seeing these damaging cultic relationships with Trump throughout the leadership of the Republican party and among his friends, family, underlings, and advisors.

The way to tell if any group or relationship is cultic is if you begin to lose your individuality and are forced to accept the leader’s views as your own. A relationship is cultic if you must be obedient and give up your autonomy or all hell will break loose.

If you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship, you’ve been in a cultic relationship. But if you haven’t healed from that relationship, and you haven’t learned how to identify healthy relationships, you’ll likely be drawn to abusive relationships and groups again (and again). 

And it’s hard not to be drawn in. In a cultic relationship, the needs of the leader and their belief system begin to take over your life. Most cultic leaders are emotionally and empathically damaged, and they tend to need everyone to meet all of their emotional needs.

Many cult leaders don’t have a functional internal life, so most of their needs get pushed out onto the people around them. Many of them have tons of external charisma laid over the top of unimaginable pain and emptiness.

And trying to fill that bottomless pit of emptiness becomes a main job of cult members (and friends, mates, family members, and business partners).

It’s very easy to get drawn in

Meeting the needs of others is a normal human skill, so it’s easy to get drawn into cultic relationships and not realize that you’ve lost your time, your personal life, your internal emotional compass, and eventually, your own good mind.

It’s also easy to forget that no one should do the emotional work or emotional bidding of another person, but once you get into these cultic relationships, the needs and tantrums and cries and rules and beliefs and paranoias and hysterias and rages and conspiracy theories and coldnesses of the cultic leader become a part of your internal system.

That’s why cultic relationships and groups become so entrapping — they take perfectly normal people who may have trouble with emotions or unhealed trauma, and turn them into emotional tools for the damaged leader.

A cult is an abusive relationship

People who join cults are not unusually damaged (at first); they’re human.

They get drawn in by the charisma, pain, and needs of the leader, by the idealistic or world-changing beliefs, or by the need for community and belonging.

Many Republican leaders were drawn in by their naïve idea that they could mold and control Trump (or by their own unhealthy power hunger), and they may have thought they could ride this cultic train to their own glory. But that’s not what cults are ever about; they are always and only about the leader’s needs, wants, paranoias, and gnawing emptiness.

We’re all susceptible to abusive relationships and groups if we don’t know how to identify them. We all want to belong, to believe that we’re doing something important in the world, and to find people we can look up to. That’s normal and healthy.

But what a cultic leader or group does is to turn those normal and healthy needs into a nightmare.

Cultic relationships damage everyone, especially the cultic leader, who will eventually fall apart and decompensate psychologically. Tragically, this is when many group members will cling to him more tightly, because his fall will become a part of the dramatic story, where enemies from the outside are attacking him — just as he said they would!

Um, no. The fall is a natural result of the emptiness, emotional incapacity, and deep trouble at the very center of cultic relationships.

Waking from the nightmare

In this post: Understanding Unhealthy Leadership, I share ways to identify healthy and unhealthy leaders. Note that of the 9 aspects all abusive cultic leaders share, Trump is using all 9 of them.

I’ve also listed three other dimensions that make up cultic relationships and groups, and I contrast them with the features that healthy groups and relationships contain.

Once you see these cultic features, you can’t un-see them, and once you know that you’re in an unhealthy group or relationship, you can get out.

You can always get out; it’s never too late.

But if you’re feeing smug because you were never caught in Trump’s cultic nightmare and you hate him instead, I ask you to think and feel again.

Hatred, as we know, is just as much of an attachment to someone as cultic adoration is (see The twisted love inside hatred).

It keeps the cultic leader at the forefront of your thoughts (attention is food to cultic leaders, and negative attention keys into important aspects of their early wounding), and it keeps you trapped in an unhealthy dance where your emotions are intensified and mostly out of your control.

If you despise Trump or adore him, you’re caught in the tragic, cultic game.

And the only winning move is not to play.

People can and do get out of cults every day; and if they can learn why they were drawn in and how cults and other abusive relationships operate, they will be much less likely to be abused in this way again.

May we all learn to identify healthy leaders, healthy belief systems, and healthy relationships.

May we all become free, and in turn, free others.

The post Understanding cultic leaders so that you can leave them behind first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/understanding-cultic-leaders-so-that-you-can-leave-them-behind/feed/ 0
Emotional Flow! https://karlamclaren.com/emotional-flow/ https://karlamclaren.com/emotional-flow/#respond Mon, 09 Nov 2020 08:56:12 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=11264 Learn to Access the Healing Genius in Your Emotions  Starts Monday, November 30th at Empathy Academy 8 week online course – $165 This would be a perfect time to learn how to work with all of your emotions. Your emotions — all of them — are vital to your intelligence, your social skills, and your ability to understand yourself and the world around you. Each of … Read More

The post Emotional Flow! first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
Learn to Access the Healing Genius in Your Emotions 
Starts Monday, November 30th at Empathy Academy
8 week online course – $165

This would be a perfect time to learn how to work with all of your emotions.

Your emotions — all of them — are vital to your intelligence, your social skills, and your ability to understand yourself and the world around you. Each of your emotions has a specific purpose, and each emotion brings you a unique set of gifts, skills, and genius. Your emotions are your guardians, your support system, and your friends, and you can learn how to work with all of them, brilliantly. 

Learn more at Empathy Academy

Emotional Flow will help you understand and work directly with your emotions 

Cover of The Language of Emotions book and audio learning programThis self-paced multi-media course will help you learn more about yourself and others, increase your emotional skills, and help you work with your emotions in healthy new ways. 

In Emotional Flow, you’ll learn how to identify your current areas of emotional strengths and challenges. You’ll also learn five core Empathic Mindfulness practices to ground yourself, create healthy boundaries, and free yourself from uncomfortable emotional behaviors.

With this foundation, you’ll be able to engage gracefully with every emotion you have — and you’ll learn effortless ways to bring emotional flow and empathic intelligence to every part of your life.

What you’ll experience in Emotional Flow

In this self-paced online course, you’ll learn about emotions and empathy through:

  • Video learning modules
  • Audio learning sessions
  • Written curriculum
  • Journaling and self-reflection
  • Forum interactions and Q&As: With licensed Dynamic Emotional Integration® Trainer/Consultants and instructors, Sherry Olander and Jennifer Nate. (Learn more about Dynamic Emotional Integration®)
  • Plus: You’ll be able to archive the entire program in downloadable format — all audio and video sessions and downloads of the written curriculum are yours to use and enjoy at any time.

Course Details

Dates: 8 Weeks: Monday, November 30th, 2020 to Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Price: $165

Time Commitment: This is a self-paced course with no scheduled meetings. You’ll read the course curriculum and interact in the forum on your own schedule, for a total of 2-3 hours per week.

CE Credits are also available for U.S. participants

Learn more or register for Emotional Flow

The post Emotional Flow! first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/emotional-flow/feed/ 0
The toxic effects of toxic charisma https://karlamclaren.com/the-toxic-effects-of-toxic-charisma/ https://karlamclaren.com/the-toxic-effects-of-toxic-charisma/#respond Tue, 20 Oct 2020 00:19:05 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=47729 There is always a way out of cultic relationships As a cult survivor and cult researcher, I am speaking out about the cultic control of our country, and I know this: there is always a way out. I wrote about Donald Trump’s cultic leadership style last week, and shared nine facets that cult leaders share. He’s doing all nine of them: Understanding Unhealthy Leadership. What this … Read More

The post The toxic effects of toxic charisma first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
There is always a way out of cultic relationships

Cover of the book Escaping UtopiaAs a cult survivor and cult researcher, I am speaking out about the cultic control of our country, and I know this: there is always a way out.

I wrote about Donald Trump’s cultic leadership style last week, and shared nine facets that cult leaders share. He’s doing all nine of them: Understanding Unhealthy Leadership.

What this means is that he’s using toxic charisma to insert himself into people’s emotional lives. One of the ways you can tell if you’ve been affected is if you’ve been taught to fear or hate any individual or group of people: Immigrants, Hollywood liberals (this is code for Jewish people, by the way), Hillary or Barack, Black Lives Matter, “the libs,” antifa, etc.

If you’re willing to join into the fears, hatreds, rages, and paranoias of any other person, you’re in a toxic relationship based on emotional control, and you’re likely heading into cultic territory. With Trump, you’re absolutely in a cultic relationship.

And once a person can control your emotions, they can increase their control over you, and get you to believe all sorts of wild and destructive things.

Step one: Never let anyone control your emotions.

But being outside of Trump’s cultic group is not a guarantee that you’re protected from his emotion-controlling ways. If you’ve fallen into seething hatred of Trump or his followers, and if you’re actively dehumanizing them, you’re also caught in the web.

Hatred and infatuation are two sides of the same coin — both are projection, and both are dehumanizing. Both will damage you and both will damage the target of your hatred or infatuation.

Whether you hate someone or glorify them, you’ve lost your way.

For the glorifiers

For people who are glorifying Trump, there is a way out. There’s always a way out.

Being a Republican does not mean being a Trump supporter. My dad was a lifelong Republican, and he saw Donald coming a mile away and refused to vote for him.

There are hundreds of thousands of Republicans who do not support Trump, and you can reach out to them. Here’s one short list. And here’s a Republicans for Biden group on Facebook.

You can reclaim the power and genius of your own emotions, and you can reclaim your own good mind. People leave cults and abusive groups every day, and there’s so much help available.

For the demonizers

And for people who are demonizing Trump, there is a way out for you as well. Hatred is one of the strongest attachments there is, and generating hatred and destabilization in opponents is one of Trump’s lifetime ploys.

It’s a game to keep you trapped and ineffectual. It’s a game to keep him at the forefront of your thoughts and emotions.

You can be horrified at what he’s doing, and rightly so. But hating and dehumanizing him plays into the narrative he wants to generate.

Cult leaders love to see themselves as victims and martyrs, and they act out so that outsiders will feed into that story and further inflame their supporters. Don’t play.

Work hard to understand how cults work. Work hard to maintain your dignity. Don’t bite the hundred hooks that Trump spins out every day.

Don’t be surprised that he’s deeply unstable and power mad. He’s just doing cult leader 101. It’s not even original.

For all who love justice, diversity, and equality

Work to vote him out and learn about what has happened to our country, because when he’s gone — this year or whenever, we’ll still have to deal with his weaponized followers, his ruination of the public sphere, the reasons so may people were willing to support him, and the untold damage he and his enablers have done to every part of our country.

Don’t throw yourself away with infatuation *or* hatred. Both feed the unhealthy needs of a deeply troubled man and a deeply troubled country.

Do your shadow work. Hatred and infatuation, if you do your shadow work, can lead to deep and nearly magical evolution.

But without shadow work, both just lead to tragedy.

And if an entire country refuses to do its shadow work, that tragedy can have world-endangering effects.

Do your shadow work. Thank you.

Read: The Twisted Love Inside Hatred

EXCELLENT BOOKS ON SHADOW WORK AND MYTHOLOGY

A Little Book on the Human Shadow by Robert Bly

Meeting Your Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature, edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams.

Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert Johnson.

Scapegoat Complex: Toward a Mythology of Shadow and Guilt, by Sylvia Brinton Perera (thanks, Terre)

The Essential Jung, edited by Anthony Storr.

The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: Poems for Men, edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Meade.

The Water of Life: Initiation and Tempering of the Soul by Michael Meade.

The post The toxic effects of toxic charisma first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/the-toxic-effects-of-toxic-charisma/feed/ 0
How cult leaders entrap their followers — and their detractors https://karlamclaren.com/how-cult-leaders-entrap-their-followers-and-their-detractors/ https://karlamclaren.com/how-cult-leaders-entrap-their-followers-and-their-detractors/#respond Thu, 15 Oct 2020 02:37:43 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=47699 Understanding the ways cult leaders gain and maintain power Hello! I’m going to being speaking more openly about cults and cult leaders over the next few days and weeks, because we have a cultic leader in power here in the United States. And people on the outside of this cult have mostly failed to help, to protect the people trapped in the cult, or to offer … Read More

The post How cult leaders entrap their followers -- and their detractors first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
Understanding the ways cult leaders gain and maintain power

Hello! I’m going to being speaking more openly about cults and cult leaders over the next few days and weeks, because we have a cultic leader in power here in the United States.

And people on the outside of this cult have mostly failed to help, to protect the people trapped in the cult, or to offer a way out.

Instead, most outsiders have engaged in shaming, mockery, dehumanization, and unskilled expressions of hatred and panic. I understand all of these emotional reactions, and I also know that they not only don’t work; they backfire and strengthen the cult.

I’ve written in subtext up until now because I know, as a cult survivor myself, that if anyone disrespects your group or your leader — with mockery, shaming, hatred, panic, or yelling — you will attach yourself with more intensity to your cult and your cult leader.

But as a cult survivor, I can tell you this: there is a way out.

There is always a way out, and it’s never too late to leave

One of the first things a cult does is to get people to see themselves as special (or especially victimized), and to see outsiders as wrong, deluded, or evil. So right there, the cult becomes protected against any outside influence. The cult begins to seal itself in.

But if people outside the cult use mockery, yelling, rage, shame, or panic, that self-sealing becomes even stronger. It actually supports everything the cult leader is saying.

Cult leaders somehow understand this, and often, they’ll begin acting in wild ways — creating fevered delusions of conspiracies, behaving abusively, or spinning out mentally — which alarms outsiders (naturally!) and makes the outsiders even more vocal and intense.

Which then makes the followers attach even harder to the leader and the group.

Outside pressure creates interior cohesion

Cover of the book Escaping UtopiaSome group members will leave when their leader begins to deteriorate, but many will double-down on their devotion, because watching the breakdown of their leader fills them with empathy and concern — and they feel more distrust or even hatred of outsiders. Or they tell themselves stories about their leader’s divinity or his wisdom, or blame outsiders for driving him off the deep end.

So outsiders need to be very smart and not fall into the trap. Knowing what to do when a loved one is in a cult is crucial.

You cannot yell, shame, mock, or rage someone out of a cult. You can only love them out.

And cult leaders usually know that, which is why they make themselves (and through them, their followers), seem unlovable.

It’s a trap, friends. The whole entire thing is a trap, and the only winning move is not to play.

And I told you all of that to tell you this: There is nothing about Trump’s leadership style that *isn’t* cultic.

Let’s look at the list of nine features of cult leaders from my book with cult expert Janja Lalich: Escaping Utopia.

Evaluating Unhealthy Leaders

The following checklist can help you identify whether a leader is toxic or cultic. 

Unhealthy leaders treat others as means to an end and require unquestioning devotion to their beliefs, desires, and demands.

If you want to gauge the health of any leader or group, ask yourself: Are any of these statements true?

  • The leader or group has an inflated sense of importance and connection to greatness.
  • The leader’s needs, ideas, and desires are overriding; they erase the needs, ideas, and desires of group members.
  • The leader can do or say almost anything without repercussions; there are no checks or balances on his or her behavior.
  • The leader belittles all other ideas and belief systems, and any other leaders who are in the leader’s realm (e.g., other New Age leaders if the leader has a New Age philosophy).
  • The leader takes credit for anything good that happens, and blames others for anything bad that happens.
  • The leader treats questions and challenges as threats, and he or she may see enemies everywhere – inside and outside the group.
  • Members must idealize and revere the leader and the ranking leadership.
  • Members who challenge the authority of the leader or leadership group are punished, publicly humiliated, shunned, or kicked out, and may be portrayed as enemy traitors.
  • The leader claims special powers, knowledge, and lineage – or may claim to be divine.

Donald Trump is doing all of these behaviors, and they’re deeply entrapping for his followers, his colleagues, and his family.

But if you’re an outsider who is yelling, screaming, mocking, or raging at his followers, you’re in the trap too. There is a way out, for all of us. It’s never too late.

See this post for a list of the features of healthy leadership: Understanding Unhealthy Leadership

May we all learn to identify healthy leaders, healthy people, and healthy relationships.

May we all become free.

 

This post originally appeared on my Facebook page.

The post How cult leaders entrap their followers -- and their detractors first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/how-cult-leaders-entrap-their-followers-and-their-detractors/feed/ 0
When fear, anxiety, and panic are necessary https://karlamclaren.com/when-fear-anxiety-and-panic-are-necessary/ https://karlamclaren.com/when-fear-anxiety-and-panic-are-necessary/#respond Fri, 25 Sep 2020 19:22:33 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=47591 Welcoming the genius in the Fear Family In times of danger and upheaval, many emotions will step forward to offer their gifts and their unique forms of genius. But most of us don’t know this, so we treat our emotions as problems instead of gifts. But your emotions are not problems! They arise to help you deal with problems! I’m seeing people everywhere telling us not … Read More

The post When fear, anxiety, and panic are necessary first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
Welcoming the genius in the Fear Family

In times of danger and upheaval, many emotions will step forward to offer their gifts and their unique forms of genius.

But most of us don’t know this, so we treat our emotions as problems instead of gifts. But your emotions are not problems! They arise to help you deal with problems!

I’m seeing people everywhere telling us not to be afraid, not to feel anxious, and not to panic. WOW is that rotten advice. We need all three of these emotions to keep us safe and functioning well in the face of danger.

 

If you’d like to learn more about these three vital emotions, you can read these individual posts about the gifts in fear, anxiety, and panic:

Fear: Intuition, Instincts, and Awareness

Welcoming the Gifts of Anxiety

The Lifesaving Ingenuity of Panic and Terror

 

The post When fear, anxiety, and panic are necessary first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/when-fear-anxiety-and-panic-are-necessary/feed/ 0
When sadness, grief, and depression are necessary https://karlamclaren.com/when-sadness-grief-and-depression-are-necessary/ https://karlamclaren.com/when-sadness-grief-and-depression-are-necessary/#respond Sat, 19 Sep 2020 22:16:13 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=47555 Welcoming the gifts of the Sadness Family In times of upheaval, loss, and trouble, many emotions will step forward to offer their gifts and their unique forms of genius. If you don’t know this, you may mistakenly respond to multiple emotions as if they’re problems in and of themselves. You don’t have to; there is another way. All emotions bring you help and support, and all … Read More

The post When sadness, grief, and depression are necessary first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
Welcoming the gifts of the Sadness Family

In times of upheaval, loss, and trouble, many emotions will step forward to offer their gifts and their unique forms of genius.

If you don’t know this, you may mistakenly respond to multiple emotions as if they’re problems in and of themselves. You don’t have to; there is another way.

All emotions bring you help and support, and all emotions have value, especially in times of loss and trouble. Sadness, grief, and depression are required in times like these, and it’s important to know why they arise, how they work, and how to work with them.

 

If you’d like to learn more about these marvelous emotions, you can read these individual posts about sadness, grief, and depression:

Welcoming the Gifts of Sadness

Grief: The Deep River of the Soul

Ingenious Stagnation: Understanding Depression

 

 

The post When sadness, grief, and depression are necessary first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/when-sadness-grief-and-depression-are-necessary/feed/ 0
Multiple emotions are necessary, now and always https://karlamclaren.com/multiple-emotions-are-necessary-now-and-always/ https://karlamclaren.com/multiple-emotions-are-necessary-now-and-always/#respond Thu, 10 Sep 2020 17:45:54 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=46428 Yes, you can learn to work with multiple emotions! In fact, you already do work with multiple emotions, because it’s completely natural for emotions to arise in pairs, groups, and clusters. Emotions are vital aspects of your capacity to think, decide, behave, and act, and each one brings you specific gifts and skills — and it’s normal and natural to require more than one gift or … Read More

The post Multiple emotions are necessary, now and always first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
Yes, you can learn to work with multiple emotions!

In fact, you already do work with multiple emotions, because it’s completely natural for emotions to arise in pairs, groups, and clusters.

Emotions are vital aspects of your capacity to think, decide, behave, and act, and each one brings you specific gifts and skills — and it’s normal and natural to require more than one gift or skill.

For instance, anger helps you identify what you value and set boundaries around it.

Fear helps you focus your instincts and intuition on the present moment.

Anxiety helps you focus on the future and complete your tasks.

Each emotion exists for a very important reason, and you can learn about each of them in this alphabetized list of posts: Emotions and their gifts

I made a video about some of the multiple emotions you should be feeling during times of trouble and upheaval.

Multiple Emotions are Necessary

Every emotion has specific genius to bring to you, and all of them are necessary — and they usually show up in pairs, groups, and clusters. 

If you’d like to learn more about each individual emotion, you can read my emotion posts, or you can watch my videos about each emotion at YouTube: Emotions and Their Gifts playlist

Let me know if there are any specific multiple emotions you’d like to explore.

Take good care!

Karla

The post Multiple emotions are necessary, now and always first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/multiple-emotions-are-necessary-now-and-always/feed/ 0
In Defense of Judgment https://karlamclaren.com/in-defense-of-judgment/ https://karlamclaren.com/in-defense-of-judgment/#respond Wed, 26 Aug 2020 20:51:06 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=47328 Your judgments have value and purpose When I grew up in spiritual groups, I was taught that judgment was forbidden, and wow, was that a colossal mistake. This no-judgment rule is still infecting a lot of communities, however, so it’s worth looking at again. This essay is from my 2010 book The Language of Emotions. When I refer to judgment, I refer to your capacity to … Read More

The post In Defense of Judgment first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
Your judgments have value and purpose

When I grew up in spiritual groups, I was taught that judgment was forbidden, and wow, was that a colossal mistake. This no-judgment rule is still infecting a lot of communities, however, so it’s worth looking at again.

This essay is from my 2010 book The Language of Emotions.

Audio and book covers for The Language of EmotionsWhen I refer to judgment, I refer to your capacity to react as an individual and use your discerning intelligence freely. If you have good judgment, you can disagree with others, go off on your own mental tangents, and strike out on your own path of discovery. This is an important set of skills; however, this solid, adult capacity to judge has been treated as a problem.

The theory is that judgment stops you from experiencing life completely, because you’re too busy categorizing and thinking about things to be fully present in each unfolding moment. This no-judgment rule has had some positive effects, but it has also created a great deal of turmoil.

This call for non-judgmentalism comes from nearly every spiritual teacher we could name (including Jesus, Buddha, and Lao-Tzu), but its application in the everyday world is deeply confused.

This confusion isn’t an unusual occurrence (think of the trouble humans have in deciphering any sacred text or rule), but when people forbid themselves the faculty of judgment, they take the intellectual part of their wholeness and throw it out the window.

We need to rescue our much-wronged ability to judge from its forced exile and bring it back to a place of honor at the very center of our lives, because we need to be able to rely on our intelligence if we want to be wholly intelligent and intelligently empathic.

Why do we forget that the word ‘judgment’ is a synonym for ‘intelligence?” When we say someone has poor judgment, that’s not a compliment!

I understand, of course, that by referring incorrectly to judgment, spiritual teachers are referring to name-calling and the tendency to place people or experiences into simplistic “right” or “wrong” categories.

And I agree that name-calling is usually a bad thing, but because the idea of judgment has been so distorted, many people have become bewildered. They believe that all facets of real, mature judgment are forbidden to them, and unfortunately, this makes working with their emotions nearly impossible.

Instead of moving gracefully away from the simplistic right/wrong thinking that can hinder their awakening, many people stop using all of their judgment, when in reality, only a partial suspension of certain aspects of judgment is ever necessary.

The proper use of judgment

Judgment, in its truest sense, simply tells you what a thing is and whether it works for you or not. Healthy judgment is a combination of your airy intellect and your watery emotions coming together to form a measured opinion. Healthy, mature judgment isn’t bad-tempered name-calling or simpleminded good/bad categorization of the world. It’s just an internal decision making process about what a thing is and whether it suits you or not.

If you try to emote without thinking — without judging — you may fly off the handle. But if you try to judge without feeling your way through your decision, you won’t ever be able to decide. Thoughts and emotions are partners. They’re not enemies.

Healthy judgment helps us define ourselves in the world, and it helps us separate the wheat from the chaff. This process of definition keeps us focused and centered. Healthy judgment helps us decide between this idea and that, and between this option and that. Healthy judgment does not need to trash the path not chosen; it just needs to be free to make decisions and engage with its environment.

Healthy judgment is a natural process of making intelligent and competent decisions with our hearts and minds acting together, and with our logic and our emotions respectfully communicating with each other. This is very different from bad-tempered name-calling or labeling.

What’s the difference?

Let’s look at the difference between judging and name-calling by focusing on something simple.

Let’s imagine a rug that doesn’t work in the room we’re in. We can judge the rug and see that its pile is too high for the traffic it gets or that its color is so light that its shows more wear and dirt than it should. Let’s agree that the rug isn’t ideal for the room.

Trying to squelch judgment is futile, because we’re active, reactive, and responsive beings. We’ll always have our own thoughts and feelings about events, and we’ll always judge and process our environments independently — no matter how many rules we ingest or how authoritarian our teachers are.

Perhaps we feel sad that so much money was wasted, perhaps we think about putting runners over the traffic areas, but we freely process information about the rug and add that information to our skill set. That’s judgment. It’s not name-calling; it’s an intelligent, awake, decisive process. We have a problem with the rug, we have feelings about it, and we’re definitely judging it, but we’re not doing damage to our minds, our emotions, ourselves, or anyone else. Therefore, we move forward with more knowledge about rugs and rug care and about purchases in general.

Now let’s get into name-calling about the same rug: “Why would anyone buy this rug? What kind of fool puts a pale, fluffy rug in a public area? Look at the way those colors clash; it looks like someone ate a box of  crayons and then threw up on the floor! How can anyone think that this wretched excuse for a carpet . . . ”

With name-calling, we get personally affronted and belligerent, which means it’s not about the rug any longer; it’s about the chip on our shoulder, our childhood issues, or our unlived emotions. With name-calling, we throw blame all over the place, and we don’t internalize any useful information about the rug.

In both of these examples, we don’t like the rug. But with name-calling, we fly off the handle and make wild assumptions and accusations.

These sorts of attacks damage us. They damage our emotions by lobbing them all over the room; they damage our intellects when we use them against others; and they damage us as individuals because our behavior is embarrassing to us and everyone around us. This name-calling doesn’t make us smarter, stronger, or more aware — it just pits us in futile opposition to a floor covering.

When we judge appropriately, we restrict ourselves to the decisions we can make with the information we have, and we process our emotions coherently. Healthy judgment helps us choose what works in our lives. It helps us carefully evaluate situations and people with our minds and our emotions, and it helps us connect to our honest reactions and opinions. Healthy judgment helps us become more intelligent, and it helps us identify and articulate each of our emotions, from its free-flowing state to its most intense level of activation.

The intellect is exceedingly important and useful, but it was never meant to perform the Herculean tasks we’ve forced upon it in our airy, logical-intelligence-only society. Emotions are vital and necessary parts of everything we think and every decision we make.

Conversely, the intellect was never meant to be thrown out with the trash as it has been in so many spiritual communities. The logical intellect has very specific functions and very specific properties, but most of us try to bend and mangle our poor intellect into something it’s not and can never be. If we want to be intelligent about the intellect, we need to understand that it can’t function well without our emotions — or without healthy judgment.

Be wary when judgment is forbidden

I’ve noticed that when judgment is forbidden, there is usually some form of social control being exerted to keep people quiet, uncomplaining, or trapped. Many spiritual groups (or groups of any kind) may not realize this, and may have forbidden judgment because they heard someone else do it. Forbidding judgment is not always done with bad intentions.

But it always ends up causing far more trouble than it’s worth.

If you want to restrict name-calling, abuse, attacks, or black-and-white thinking, then state that clearly. But don’t ever restrict judgment; you don’t have that right.

Judgment is a synonym for intelligence, and restricting other people’s intelligence is a form of thought control. 

Defend your judgment; you have every right to think your own thoughts, feel your own feelings, understand the world in your own way, and judge as you see fit.

Celebrate your judgment; when you can understand your emotions and add their genius to your logic, you can change your life, and then you can change the world.

 

The post In Defense of Judgment first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/in-defense-of-judgment/feed/ 0
Caring for Yourself in Anxious Times https://karlamclaren.com/caring-for-yourself-in-anxious-times/ https://karlamclaren.com/caring-for-yourself-in-anxious-times/#respond Tue, 21 Jul 2020 20:29:50 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=47235 Your anxiety is necessary — and you can learn how to work with it If you’re feeling anxious, very anxious, or deeply anxious right now, I have good news for you: your anxiety is normal and necessary. You need your anxiety, and there are supportive skills and practices to help you work with your anxiety instead of being worked over by it. Most of us have … Read More

The post Caring for Yourself in Anxious Times first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
Your anxiety is necessary — and you can learn how to work with it

Book cover for Embracing AnxietyIf you’re feeling anxious, very anxious, or deeply anxious right now, I have good news for you: your anxiety is normal and necessary. You need your anxiety, and there are supportive skills and practices to help you work with your anxiety instead of being worked over by it.

Most of us have been taught to feel ashamed about or afraid of our anxiety, or to treat it as a sign of weakness. Some people even talk about anxiety as an epidemic, as if it’s a serious disease that’s also contagious. This is a shame, because anxiety is an essential emotion with an important job to do: it helps you prepare for the future, organize yourself, and gather the energy you need to get things done.

Right now, COVID-19 is making our futures uncertain, and because of that, our anxiety needs to be on the job – thinking, planning, and helping. We need it.

But we also need to learn how to work with anxiety, because as we all know, anxiety can feel like a lot. Anxiety can be so activating and future-focused that we can feel overwhelmed. Luckily, there are many ways to work with anxiety so that you can soothe and focus yourself, gather all of the energy and information you need, and work gracefully with your anxiety (instead of against it). In my newest book, Embracing Anxiety, I explore many ways to help you access the genius in this vital emotion.

Identifying Your Anxiety Accurately

One of the biggest hurdles people face as they learn how to work with anxiety is that they may not actually know what anxiety is. For instance, many people confuse anxiety with panic. Panic is a brilliant, lifesaving emotion that gives you the energy you need to fight, flee, or freeze when your life is in danger, but it’s not anxiety.

People also confuse the emotion of anxiety with mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, OCD, panic attacks, or phobias. These conditions do contain anxiety — along with other emotions, psychological distress, or neurological conditions — but they’re not caused by anxiety.

Anxiety is an emotion; it’s not a disease. It’s an essential part of your intelligence, and it brings you unique skills that are irreplaceable.

Understanding Your Anxiety

Your anxiety helps you look ahead and prepare for the future. Anxiety also helps you identify problems and opportunities, and it brings you the energy and focus you need to face them.

Anxiety is essential in times of uncertainty like these, because you need to think and plan ahead even when you don’t have a clear idea about what the future will look like. Will you still have work? Will your money last? Will you and your loved ones be safe? Will you have food and housing?

There’s so much to think about and plan for right now that anxiety is necessary, and yet it can also be confusing because most of us can’t plan yet, not really. We all just have to wait and see what happens — yet also be ready to act at a moment’s notice. It’s a destabilizing time, and while our anxiety really needs to be here, helping us think, plan, organize, and take care of everything, it can feel like too much.

Specific Healing Practices for You and Your Anxiety

In anxious times, you need many supportive practices, and a soothing, reliable, grounding, and calming atmosphere to help balance yourself.

These following suggestions can help you support yourself and your anxiety in anxious times. Of course, use only what makes sense to you, and substitute your own practices if they work better.

  • Listen to your emotions and track them throughout the day (this free Emotions Chart can help)
  • Sigh and exhale downward to ground yourself and let go of tension (several times each the day)
  • Make lists and cross off the tasks you’ve completed (this helps anxiety know you’re paying attention)
  • Create order and manage small problems in a regular rhythm
  • Reduce caffeine and stimulants, or stop intake by 2:00 pm so that you can clear the caffeine before bedtime
  • Ask for help and social support
  • Hang out with supportive friends, family, and colleagues by phone or video chat
  • Laugh out loud and be silly
  • Laze around with no purpose; let your brain rest
  • Be in nature if you can
  • Play with animals if you can
  • Do your art or engage with music, drama, dance, or design (art is a specific healing practice for emotions and empathy)
  • Cry when you need to
  • Meditate (caution: some forms of meditation and deep breathing may worsen your anxiety; if they do, stop immediately and find a better form)
  • Get heated up (sweating is important)
    • Sweat-producing exercise
    • Awesome sex or masturbation
    • Sauna, hot tub, or hot bath until you’re utterly relaxed
  • Take anti-anxiety medications or beta-blockers, if you and your doctor agree that you need them
  • Create and maintain a reliable sleep schedule (see the excellent The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It by W. Chris Winter)

Your anxiety is necessary, and it doesn’t have to destabilize you if you can lean into its genius. When you can work together, you and your anxiety can weather uncertainty and upheaval without losing your way.

Thank you, anxiety!

The post Caring for Yourself in Anxious Times first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/caring-for-yourself-in-anxious-times/feed/ 0
Welcome to Embracing Anxiety! https://karlamclaren.com/welcome-to-embracing-anxiety/ https://karlamclaren.com/welcome-to-embracing-anxiety/#respond Sat, 04 Jul 2020 04:53:19 +0000 https://karlamclaren.com/?p=47137 My newest book is here! I am so pleased to present my newest book, Embracing Anxiety: How to Access the Genius of This Vital Emotion!     When I wrote my book, The Language of Emotions, way back in 2009, I didn’t understand anxiety well at all. I mistakenly saw it as a problem, but I’m not alone in making that mistake! As I did my … Read More

The post Welcome to Embracing Anxiety! first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
My newest book is here!

I am so pleased to present my newest book, Embracing Anxiety: How to Access the Genius of This Vital Emotion!

 

 

When I wrote my book, The Language of Emotions, way back in 2009, I didn’t understand anxiety well at all. I mistakenly saw it as a problem, but I’m not alone in making that mistake!

As I did my research for Embracing Anxiety, I learned that most people really had no idea what anxiety was, or even that it’s an emotion — they confused it with many other emotions (especially panic), or they thought it was a disease or a disorder. Poor anxiety! Poor us!

In this book, I enter into the marvelous world of anxiety and help you understand how to identify it, how to work with it, and how to work with it when 9 other emotions (including panic) are present. 

I’m so glad to be able to share new information about this brilliant emotion with you.

In Embracing Anxiety, you’ll learn:

  • Principles and practices to befriend your anxiety at every level of intensity
  • Strategies to engage with your anxiety as a source of foresight, conscientiousness, and motivation
  • Why fear, confusion, and panic are not the same as anxiety, and how to work with each of these brilliant emotions effectively
  • How anxiety works with anger, depression, and other important emotions, and how to understand and work with these compounded states
  • Conscious Questioning practices to engage with the genius inside your anxiety and access its insights
  • How to embrace procrastination and get things done in your own way

You’ll learn how to work with this powerful emotion and get your best work done.

Learn more or order Embracing Anxiety here.

The post Welcome to Embracing Anxiety! first appeared on Karla McLaren.

]]>
https://karlamclaren.com/welcome-to-embracing-anxiety/feed/ 0