mental health

why we do that unsolicited advice thing and how to stop

unsolicited advice: that boundary violation when someone prescribes their will upon you.

the idea of “should” is way too hella much embedded into our culture.

however subtle or seemingly harmless, the person on the receiving end often feels uncomfortable, annoyed, frustrated, condescended, pressured, unseen, and disregarded. yet many of us continue to dish it nonetheless— why?

what is this irresistible compulsion to give our two cents? and to double down upon resistance, even?

identity and ego.

the identified mind creates ideas of what it believes the world is and references these ideas when deciding how to move about life— on the most base level, in the interest of survival.

our egoic minds and constructed identities are ultimately fragile holograms and our subconscious knows this; it knows that our true selves are formless and devoid of the “i.”

and so, if we are too attached to our egos and identities, our safe space resides in a clearly defined, delicate box. then when anything feels divergent from my safe space construct of a sound reality, it is perceived as an actual threat to *me* and my very existence.

we try to organize and control the world around us as if it were a simulation of what our minds have decided is “right” and therefore “safe.” that’s not real life, though! and it ain’t no funnnnn.

when i learned these concepts in therapy several years ago, it blew my mind and changed my life.

so much of the pain we cause ourselves and others is because of this death grip we keep on our egos and identities as a form of protection. we think that if another person doesn’t see the world how we do or live their lives per our values, that their refusal is an affront to our own goodness, worth, and “rightness.” we question our own freedom to safely exist as we are.

once i really digested this and began to observe what was behind my urges to tell people about themselves, i saw my “advice” was often more about me than the other person. i also started to notice how crazy much everyone does this unsolicited advice thing. and as i stopped imposing my will upon others, i became further sensitized to and uncomfortable when others tried to impose their will upon me or someone else.

what i’ve done since is my best to:

1) ask people if they want feedback or my thoughts before giving it. and be totally fine if they say “no!”

2) cut “should” out of my vocabulary and replace it with things like: “you could consider,” “have you thought about,” “it might be helpful to,” leading questions, personal accounts, etc

best wishes if you decide to take this journey! it’s been a mutually affirming one for both me and folks on the receiving end.

empowerment makes me uncomfy

the popular usage of ”empowerment”— particularly in relation to self-development, the current women’s movement, wellness communities, and inspirational leaders— has long triggered unease within me; beyond gross overuse, i feel the way the term is often used is incorrect— and insidiously disempowering to the subconscious as a result.

some definitions i pulled across a handful of online dictionaries, including merriam-webster, cambridge, and oxford:

  1. to give (someone) the authority or power to do something

  2. to give official authority or legal power to

  3. enable (to provide with the means or opportunity)

  4. to give someone official authority or the freedom to do something

  5. to enable or permit

  6. to make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights

  7. to encourage and support the ability to do something

  8. to promote the self-actualization or influence of

for me, definitions one through five cover the formal empowerment of someone by granting them access to execute a certain position or action of power within a given institution or system. depending on context, this can be a fair naming, particularly when operating to “correct” systemic imbalances and injustices; the privileged using their means to empower the disenfranchised rightfully exists as one tool, amongst others. though some might get it twisted, such empowerment is not a transference of actual agency, ability, or deservingness, which every person innately possesses— it is largely  functional and surface in nature.

then we arrive at definition six— the deeply troubling common usage definition in wellness and women’s communities; here, the first five definitions are rolled up to imply that one human can somehow “make” another human stronger and more confident. we can sure be deluded into this notion, but only after we decide— consciously or subconsciously— to give our own power away first. that this is a formal definition makes my head spin.

as far as i’m concerned, the only way it is possible for one person to empower another— i.e. give permission or power to— is by also giving power to systems of oppression and the victim-savior paradigm. our power is not derived from another. the power of our essential nature cannot be given, taken, or transferred— it can only be illuminated; others can inspire us to open to our truths but true empowerment can only ever come from within.

the only definitions i find relatively sound within a psychosocial context are seven and eight as they have a supportive quality— focusing instead on inspiration and promotion around self-actualization and self-empowerment.

but even then, i wonder how much we can escape the common usage assumptions embedded in our subconscious: “empower” as a subject oriented verb inherently disempowers the object by assuming its lack of agency and erasing its innate power. these subtle disempowering suggestions that have pervaded our collective subconscious require us to believe that we need something or someone outside of ourselves to be truly powerful— to “fix” us, to “heal” us, to “give us permission.” this is false, capitalistic, imperialist, supremacist, oppressive bullshit. it is quintessentially “giving our power away.” i don’t feel fucking empowered when someone suggests that they can empower me. making someone or something outside of ourselves the actor within contexts of empowerment, healing, and permission/agency is harmful, reductive, and regressive— let’s take some heavy pause here, please.

we wholly empower ourselves, heal ourselves, and give permission to ourselves— any outside influences are conduits and facilitators— that’s it. anyone claiming differently— saying they are saving, healing, fixing, allowing, empowering you (giving you power)— is quite possibly a false leader coming from ego.

even in healing modalities where say, someone performs a chakra clearing on you: your body, your energy, and your subconscious are active participants in these processes by offering permission, access, insight, and the willingness to shift— whether or not you are consciously aware of this. we are our own healers, even when we have assistance— healing fundamentally cannot happen without our consent or participation.

a quick shift back to institutional  empowerment: though technically another can empower us in these situations, self-empowerment is still the purest and truest form of empowerment at the root level— even here. for example, the act of white people empowering people of color by offering them job roles will not alone correct racist institutions— or the issue of racism; as such, this deference or assignment by a white person or “white” institution to a person of color is still a phenomenon occurring within the original oppressive paradigm; it is “empowerment” only to a degree.

as much as we must do what we can within existing constructs, we can’t take for granted the need for imagining and building new paradigms from scratch ourselves, where terms like “diversity” and “inclusion” are no longer needed because our new systems are inherently sound and of integrity.

all said, in it being a word deeply intertwined with current movements, i don’t believe “empowerment” is going away any time soon. so my hope is that we at least use it and receive it with more discernment, awareness, self-respect, and humility— and that we explore fuller, truer ways to express how we are supporting each other in collective healing and liberation.

much love <3

i don’t owe anyone my inner world

upon deciding that i wanted to talk a bit about my depression that consumed the second half of my 2017, it took me a moment to realize that my previous post was in part about the bliss i was able to connect with earlier in that same year. i also recalled how the bliss itself was borne in response to pain. all around, the duality of that year was profound.

over the course of 2018, i couldn’t quite comprehend what the fuck 2017 was. because 2018 was confusing as all hell on its own; it was this extended sense of being suspended in transience, which i was aware of the whole time and simultaneously knew that it wasn’t something i could control or fight. i just had to be in this long ass incubation period of what felt like a whole lot of nothingness.

i still don’t have enough distance from 2018 to have much clarity on what quite happened— but my sense is that my system was integrating the rollercoaster of transformational experiences and deaths/rebirths that 2016 and 2017 brought me.

now having some distance from 2017, however, i can see what an important example of duality it was. it’s fascinating to know that what we view as opposite or polar are never too far apart— particularly with the recognition that duality itself is a construct. the only thing that is actually true and real is oneness.

i remember being awe struck by the daoist view of impermanence and the ever-changing nature of what we view to be opposite or contrasting; for example, light is not light but light-becoming-dark and dark is not dark but dark-becoming-light. because everything is constantly shifting, a static assumption or prescription upon anything is essentially inaccurate and moot. it’s deep and something i’m still unpacking.

existential interlude aside, i want to share a couple stories related to my experience with depression— particularly within the framework of vulnerability, authenticity, and personal boundaries.

to first offer some foundational context: i was on and off depressed from 15-25, then was totally in the pits from 25-27, and started therapy at 27 in 2010. i felt the depression pretty much fully lift after my first eight months of therapy and my first two months of a naturopathic regimen for my neurotransmitter imbalances. since then, i’ve had depressive dips for a week or two on a handful of occasions over the years and one few month long very low point around early 2013.

what i experienced in 2017 was the longest and most nuanced, shape-shifting, unrelenting depressive period i’ve experienced since what brought me to therapy in 2010. shit was real as fuck. basically, a succession of deeply traumatic and very unpleasant challenging things happened back to back to back— it took me out and knocked me all the way off center.

thankfully, i had my awareness tools to keep from completely going off the deep end, but i was literally teetering on the very edge of that hole for months. it took all my energy to at least just stay teetering and not fall in. after several months, i got two steps away from the hole— my awareness allowed me to measure that— and it took everything in me for another several months to maintain those two steps away from the hole. sometime in the first quarter of 2018, i felt like i got beyond two steps and finally was able to feel more grounded and self-possessed.

in fall 2016, i started sharing my poem-quote things and occasional reflective thoughts on instagram; some people decided i was wise and woke and zen and shit. i am, thanks. i’m also human and have eccentricities and quirks and seeming inconsistencies and personal boundaries. though that may be confusing for some, i get to contain all of that and still be authentic and in integrity.

in fall 2017, during the peak of the aforementioned deep depressive period, i ran into an acquaintance at an event.

she asked me how i was and before i could answer, she said something to the effect of, “and i know you being you, you’re gonna keep it real and not just be like, ‘i’m great!’ if you’re not.” i know she meant to be complimentary, but it was not what i needed to hear in the moment.

in those months, my whole life had been consumed around salvaging my mood the best i possibility could; my own thoughts on ‘how i was doing’ were already encroaching on my space in my alone time. i had decided in advance to do my best to act as if i was okay during this event— because that’s what i needed; i needed a goddamn break.

i got extremely uncomfortable and began wondering if i was inauthentic because i didn’t want to put energy on naming that i wasn’t well. i wanted to answer that i was good and move on to some other type of conversation that i could actually enjoy.

i told myself that saying “good” was true in a sense; because ultimately, i am always alright. and at that time, i was simply experiencing an ebb of my human experience.

i think my discomfort with her remark and my ensuing internal conflict blew my cover; i’m quite certain she felt my reservation and unease when i said “good.” it changed the vibe. and i mostly didn’t care. i wasn’t there to cater to her vision of me.

i chose my self-preservation. and that’s what i’ll choose in the vast majority of cases. i know how useless and even harmful i can be when i’m unwell and not tending to my needs. when i’m real low, any filter i’ve got to maintain a semblance of normalcy and civility with the outside world is paper thin— i know this.

i don’t think we need to feel obligated to say we’re feeling unwell while we are still amidst that experience; it doesn’t help my healing to put energy on a given challenging thing that i’m already working on for the sake of updating someone— especially an acquaintance—perfectly truthfully.

when i’m not intentionally going into my shadow to do work, i want to focus on light to help raise my vibration. note, there is a distinction between mindfully raising my vibration and avoidance/distraction.

online and on social media, there’s a  pressure to name our precise reality while we are still inside of a challenging time— in the spirit of “vulnerability” and “authenticity.” nah.

internet and instagram vulnerability culture has distorted our vision on boundaries and what actually constitutes healthy sharing. this culture, which can also be beautiful, has also somehow allowed certain folks to think that they have license to our inner worlds.

our own vulnerability isn’t supposed to harm us. and it isn’t a service to others if we are self-sacrificing our health to share before we feel ready.

important: vulnerability online isn’t a replacement for professional help if you think you might need that. no shame in it— i’ve been in some form of therapy or another for a decade.

some things are only meant for specific people and specific communities in my life. and even then, that doesn’t mean i ever owe *anyone* anything i don’t feel called to share. for more introverted folk like me, certain things may be meant for us alone (and perhaps a therapist or healer, if inclined).

basically, we don’t owe the internet shit— least of all our bleeding hearts. <3