Self Help, Collective Liberation… and Capitalism?

I often say that self-work is world-work, with many layers to its meaning.

I believe firmly that the two are interconnected.  That all the self-work I have done (therapy, coaching, plant medicine, seminars, books, meditation, travel) has benefitted the world and my activism.

Without it, I’d still be carrying infinite amounts more shame, guilt and rage. I would still be a greater part of cycles of violence and harm, approaching conflict with a combative lens.  I’d still believe in my powerlessness, rather than embracing my own agency.

But self-work in our culture has often been coopted by capitalism.

And self-help without collective liberation, without a vision for the freedom & love of all, is often just capitalism in disguise. 

So this week, I wanted to highlight some common self-work teachings that bring big-C energy, and offer a little more nuance to them.

1) Manifestation.

The first is the big one, manifestation.  I believe that our thoughts shape our reality, that the stories we tell ourselves about what we can and can’t have matter.

I believe that we can and should create lives that are flourishing, and that we have far more power than we let ourselves believe.

And I believe if we’re teaching ‘you can have anything you want’, without also understanding & framing it:

a) in the context of the climate crisis & wildlife loss we’re facing; &

b) that what really matters is that we manifest things that bring us joy, meaning & fulfilment, not just the endless pursuit of ‘more’…

Then it’s capitalism in disguise.

2) Enlightenment as a one-time, singular, personal experience. 

Freedom, enlightment, liberation – however we call it – ultimately is both inner and outer work.

The inner work to know, love and experience who we truly are. Outer work to create the conditions to express who we are safely and authentically in the world.

As Lilla Watson famously said, our liberation is tied together.

3) “You’re responsible for everything you experience”

Nobody chooses to experience illness, grief, sexism, racism, trauma, war, poverty.

This message doesn’t address the reality that sometimes bad things happen, and it’s not our fault.

Rather I believe we have agency over how we respond to our experiences, not everything that happens.

In acknowledging our agency, we understand we have the capacity for inner power and freedom, even if not externally yet.

4) Personal growth as an endless quest for self-improvement

It’s easy to become consumed with ‘fixing’ ourselves.  To orient our lives around our pain, to believe if we just do the next course, read the next book, join the next online course, that one day we’ll feel better about ourselves.

We’re searching for freedom & healing in the arena of scarcity and not-enoughness, and we can’t find them there.  Healing is wonderful, but as @iamtonijones powerfully sings, it is not our purpose. Maybe it’s time we ‘stop orienting around pain and start organising around pleasure’.

So this week I want you to get curious about your self work. 

How does it benefit you? How does it benefit community?

And how can you add a wider collective lens of justice & liberation to your inner work?

Laura x


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