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The Spiritual Hamster Wheel ...OR... The Self-Help Hamster Wheel
OR "The Spiritual Self-Help Hamster Wheel"... Call it what you want. As long as you realize what it is and get off of it.
Most people dabbling in modern day or new-age spirituality and self-help are aware of the hamster wheel of mundane life, the grind, whatever name you want to give it. For many it involves the rut of corporate life, for others it may be looping in other ways. No matter how it shows up, we all know what that looks like and how it feels in our individual situation. Most people get into self-help and spirituality for this very reason. They are tired and bored of the mundane and/or feel burned out by it.
A giant monstrous multi-billion dollar industry feeds on this hamster wheel syndrome. But what most providers and clients of this industry remain unaware of is that they are just switching you to another hamster wheel — The Spiritual Hamster Wheel. Why? Because most providers never learned to get off their own hamster wheel in the first place. Most coaches, therapists, and healers only learned to substitute one shitty hamster wheel with another while telling themselves the new one is better. And as they kept getting tired and bored of their shiny new (toy) hamster wheel, they replaced it with a newer fancier toy. And so they kept running unwittingly on the mega hamster wheel of changing hamster wheels.
Seems familiar to you? Because it’s everywhere and almost everyone is doing it. What does this look like practically? Self-help courses that teach you fancy new tricks, which look and feel great in the moment with an effect that lasts a few hours or days, and leaves you feeling just the same as before, craving for another fix. So you go back and do another course or another level in this course and just keep climbing yet another imaginary ladder to nowhere.
This post was inspired by several students who had been going through this unconsciously and a series of recent breakthroughs that made the issue brilliantly evident. Several of my students mentioned that they spend their time watching and reading self help content, and yet they feel stuck. They started feeling and realizing that self-help content had become an addiction, an escape, and they were avoiding their darker feelings by consuming this content — believing that would fix their issues or provide some relief.
The latest breakthrough happened when one participant shared that he found himself falling into sadness and depression whenever there was a period of low activity in his life. In these periods he found himself distracting even though he had intended to use the time to connect with himself. He even found literature showing how activity makes you happy and that is the key to happiness and good health.
Well, I smelled something was off and called it out. My first sign was the way he phrased the issue, which for most people may just seem like a normal way of expressing this situation. But the way you express yourself reveals a lot about the way you see the reality, not the reality itself. He said “he fell into depression and sadness in periods of low activity” which may sound normal. But in my experience and opinion, you don’t fall into depression and sadness in periods of low activity. It is during these periods that your ever-present depression and sadness finally have space to “come up” to the surface of your Consciousness.
This may look like I am just changing words, but it is a complete reframe of what is going on and how you deal with it. If you are “falling in”, the way to deal with it is to stay active and keep busy. Solution: keep inventing hamster wheels. Welcome to western civilization and new age self-help/healing/therapy : we don’t fix the problem, we run away from it or we run around it.. or we just take a pill (or a few dozen of them) and ignore it.
The other way of looking at it is, if depression keeps surfacing in low-activity periods, that is a sign it is always present, your activity just distracts you from it. And a bigger realization that running from it will not fix it. The reason most people keep running and teach others to do the same is that they don’t know how to fix it. And in that last statement is another hidden clue. Most people are trying to “fix” something that is not the actual problem. Depression is not a problem, that is why pills will never fix it, they just bypass the symptoms of depression (if they even do that, in many cases you may even get worse).
The real issue is that which is driving the depression. Your psycho-spiritual wounds are calling your attention through symptoms such as depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and “negative emotions”. And foolishly we keep numbing them with meds, drugs, alcohol, and other kinds of escapism and distractions. At least those just numb us without any hope. The much worse drug are the spiritual self-help hamster wheels that go nowhere but give us the illusion that we are making progress. They keep us stuck in a loop of false hope that steals our power. People even use meditation and mindfulness as a way to escape undesirable states and feelings. Instead of healing themselves , they escape into these practices. As ridiculous as it may sound, it is sadly true.
Unfortunately, the solution is very unappealing to most. For most people this article will perhaps be just another wishful thought, another glimpse of hope that gets forgotten with the next link they click. This post is meant for the few who have what it takes to breakthrough by making real effort with persistence and dedication. See, I said it would be unappealing. Most people want a magic pill, a quick fix. Which is why they keep seeking and finding hamster wheels that go nowhere.
What is the difference between “real work” and a Self-help hamster wheel?
Primarily that you have to make real effort. There is no prescription nor a rule book. There are no set of steps to follow to get your miracle cure and break your funk. You have to heal each wound and go through every painful cycle of depression as it arises and disrupts your illusion of peace and happiness, for as long as it takes.
For most, this post may seem depressing. Who the hell wants all that when there are millions of people offering quick fixes with an exact prescription? Why spend my time and energy figuring out the problem AND the solution when someone can just tell me what is my problem and how to fix it?
Well, if you are here, my guess is that some part of you has realized that doesn’t work. No matter how much money you throw at the problem, it doesn’t go away. No one can do it for you. This is your work. This is your salvation. This is what you have been seeking without knowing. And you will only realize it much later.
I was depressed for a long time. I was an expert at escaping. 9 years of addiction to substances. Gambling, TV, food addiction. Adrenaline junkie. I tried it all. But the relief I felt when I actually did the work was incomparable, and incredible. It took years, and years, and years. Each relapse where I “fell back into depression” was a spiral into hopelessness. After all, I thought I had dealt with the issue. I thought I was done. And yet I was “back” where I least desired. The reality is that I never left that place. Until one day I did. When it was least expected. When I was at the bottom of the pit.
I realized you don’t have to “rise up” or “climb out” of depression. You sink to the bottom. You go to the core where your essence has been trapped for ages. And from there you break through to the other side. You don’t “come back”, you keep going. You have to go through each layer until that “rocky rock bottom”, that seems like the impenetrable layer of depression, gives way. At this point the light is not just shining through, you find the light within.
You no longer look for the light at the end of the tunnel - no, such illusions are for wishful thinkers. You no longer need the light outside when you have worked through your darkness. You find the light you have been seeking all along within you. You learn to transform darkness into light. You find power. You realize you are power. You are that which can be dark and light. Not attached to either. But one with it all.
At this point you don't need to believe anything, you don't need to repeat hypnotic affirmations and mantras that put you into deeper spiritual sleep. You can wake up and realize. You don't just have to believe you are light, nor do you have to just know it intellectually. You have it. You can finally see the difference between believing something and actually having it. It may take time but there is nothing like it, and for that it's worth is immeasurable. Because worth is only a comparison. This is truly invaluable.
Doing the work
There are relatively few doing the work compared to the many who are spinning aimlessly on both mundane and spiritual hamster wheels. And this is not just a judgment, it’s a sad reality. People are trapped for all kinds of reasons and many will remain so for much longer than we may wish or like. This message, as I said before, is for the few who are ready.
There are teachers who can help with doing the real work. And any real teacher will tell you it is not to be done alone. It cannot be done alone. And so ends the great myth of self-help and independence. We swung from one pole of toxic codependence to the opposite extreme of absolute independence. And some day the world will realize that too is toxic, and maybe then find the middle way. What I am sharing is a very unpopular idea in modern day. Yet one that is truly empowering when you realize what it means.
Interdependence is empowering. It helps you realize your own power and capabilities while also seeing the beauty of coming together to support and be supported. Learning to share space and work together with healthy boundaries is a challenge few can sustain. The false idea that we are super beings who are supposed to do it all by ourselves is past expiration and those who keep consuming it will fall ill with the poison from this toxic expired mind-food (idea).
Mind-poisoning is as real as food-poisoning, and both have the same cause: Bad/false ideas poison the mind and cause us immense suffering.
Another false idea is that the work happens in some special setting or circumstance. Yes, some of it does. Meditation and mindfulness are important practices. But if you only learn to stay calm in these controlled settings, you are still struggling through the rest of life. Most of the real work happens in the mundane everyday situations of life. If you cannot and do not do the work in the mundane situations, life will always be something miserable that you need to escape. That is why new age self-help and spirituality has such an appeal. The magical fantasies are much more enticing than the mundane. But real work transforms the mundane, it brings back the magic of life, to life.
There are two important factors for doing this work:
- Group work is essential to heal as a human.
- Real teachers are equally important.
A facilitated group of supportive people is a key ingredient in healing numerous wounds that have no other remedy. What you get from that can be applied everywhere you go.
Healthy interactions with other humans is the medicine for social wounds
A fake teacher will tell you what you want to and like to hear
A real teacher will tell you what you need to hear, even if you don’t like it
A real teacher doesn’t have to be liked by you
They have to teach you.. even the things you don’t like
Especially the things you don’t like
If you are ready for the real world and the real work, today or at any time, you are welcome to join our Consciousness Development training where we work with people interested and committed to healing and liberating their Consciousness:
You are welcome to join when you are ready to stop being a spiritual hamster. You can send me a message or schedule a 1-1 call if you would like to discuss participation.
We would love to see your thoughts on this topic, your experience, and any feedback on this post in the comments section.
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Continue reading our related post It is normal to fail at Self-help or watch the vodcast episode What to do when Self-help is not working for you | Ti0x #3.