Mind candy versus real psychological change and personal development
Posted Jan 28 2010 10:34pm
Vin Mariani became one of the most popular wines in the world in the late 1800’s, praised and promoted by artists and world leaders including Jules Verne; Alexander Dumas; Robert Louis Stephenson; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sarah Bernhardt.
It was claimed to be a “tonic” and “restorative” for multiple conditions including “nervous troubles, general debility, malancholia, overwork.”
What really made it “effective” was probably the cocaine – also a key ingredient in the original Coca-Cola. No wonder so many found both tonics so “rejuvenating.”
An episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” included The Gem of Amara: a green stone set in a ring, which supposedly would make the vampire wearing it immune to the things (like wooden stakes) that normally kill or harm them.
But is that fiction so far different than some New Age talismans?
One description of the “healing” property of the gemstone Amazonite is that placing a stone on the body “improves self worth and confidence.”
Some conferences or retreats promise to radically shift the “patterns of emotions that have hindered your progress in the past” or to “immediately unleash your natural vitality.”
A site for Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within 4-day event promises that participants will “Break through the fears that hold you back (including unconscious fears)” and “Create momentum in your life to make difficult things become effortless.”
Wow. All that in just four days (and about $700)?
Maybe events like that are of benefit to some people, and maybe wearing a gemstone can makes some feel calmed or energized or something else.
But coming from a more or less traditional, mainstream psychology background, trained in a Master’s degree program for counseling, I’m very skeptical about claims of “effortless” or “immediate” changes in our psyches and souls.
hat is not to say people can’t or don’t benefit from a personal growth event, but I question how much may be due to the excitement and energy of a crowd of other seekers – a variation on the “feel-good” ingredient of tonics, but more substantial.
Of course, none of this personal development and psychological health stuff is simple or readily summarized.
But the criterion for the value of a therapy or change approach should be substantive change, gains in emotional intelligence, capacity for resilience and fuller self-realization – not just feeling “better” or “happier” temporarily.
“Mind you, change is hard, especially when [you have] been in a routine for many years. But you have to find ways to make the changing process fun if you want to be successful at it. Be creative… There[are] a ton of different ways to start changing yourself, but it doesn’t start with a mere vocal commitment. It starts with YOU.”
Those are some good ideas: make it fun, and be creative – and go deeper than just saying you want to change.
One of the seductions of superficial self-growth books or ventures is that we will feel real good even while gaining more psychological health.
But, as Peter writes in a post on his blog HSP Notes, a “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” approach “sells us a bag of goods, on the greater scale of self-development.
“Why? Because of a myopic tendency to take serious life problems and window dress them with pink chiffon, delicate flowers, dancing unicorns and positive affirmations… after which people ‘leave the scene’ with the impression they are ‘healed,’ even while the original wounds fester below, unaddressed.
“Over the years, a large segment of the HSP ‘community’ has developed an unfortunate tendency to get mired down in toothless ‘happy making’ (there are exceptions) as the path to personal growth — but I don’t feel like it serves us well.
“Or maybe it serves us marginally and temporarily, but without helping us make real and permanent positive changes in our lives.”
The problem, he continues, is “Instead of healing the wounds resulting from marginalization and low self-esteem, they are glossed over while we create a new set of wounds centered around a false sense of ‘OK-ness’ that results in hurt feelings every time something doesn’t turn out the way we ‘think it should.’”