The grift is real: part 2
You read, you wrote, and you got me fired the f*ck up!
Many of you have responded to our previous The grift is real article, and I’m incredibly grateful for your emails, DMs and messages. To say that your stories shocked and upset me is an understatement, and that is particularly noteworthy considering just how black-pilled and cynical I can be on this topic. If you haven’t taken a look at the previous post yet, please do so HERE before proceeding too much further with part deux. This follow-up is designed to answer your questions, address your messages, and fill in some of the gaps in my first pass on this topic, all of which were exposed by your courageous, honest and detailed communications.
Sexual and financial exploitation
I was stunned to find so many messages revealing long-term sexual and financial abuse at the hands of energy healers and coaches. And while this is obviously terrible on its face, the real sucker punch in many of your messages was learning just how many of you lost friends to your abuser, enduring the indignity of being labeled the “liar” by those you had come to trust, love and support. Your friends, family and community did not believe you. They did not have your back. And they chose your abuser over you.
Please know: this is as epic as betrayal gets.
To say this adds insult to injury is perhaps the gravest understatement in history, and before I say anything else I want you to know: I am sorry.
While I’m not your friend or the person that betrayed you or the practitioner that abused and exploited you, I feel a kind of responsibility-by-proxy. It was this community to which I belong that totally sh*t the bed and violated you in every conceivable aspect, leaving what I assume are some major energetic wounds. As someone that performs energy work on clients on a regular basis, I have seen firsthand the echoes of this kind of compounded trauma in the energy body…and it’s not pretty. In this woo world, we should be the ones healing, not harming. But that’s not what happened to you…and that’s not what happens to most people most of the time.
And, while I’m not a trauma counselor or mental health professional, shamanism does have its own kit of parts designed to help clients become more whole and integrated. Please note that these should never replace real therapy or the guidance of your mental health care providers, but they can support your healing journey and take the edge off:
Salt baths: simple as it seems, a regular, intentional salt bath can help remove other peoples’ energy from your energy body. Any kind of salt works, but I prefer to use epsom salt because it helps with the minor aches and pains of being active (or just being old, I guess). Get in a salt bath, relax, and set the intention that the salt and water neutralize any toxic energies reacting in your energy body. With regular use, you really do start to feel more like yourself: clearer, more embodied, and able to sleep.
Cutting cords: while in that salt bath, it’s good to set the intention of cutting energetic cords that bind you to others. There is no risk of cutting anyone you do love out of your life, so go nuts with this meditation. Visualize a cord connecting you at the belly button and picture yourself cutting it, gently letting the other individual float away. You’ll be amazed at just how different you feel afterwards, silly as it may seem. And consider bringing Flower Essence Service’s Pink Yarrow flower essence into your routine- it separates your energy from others’ energy bodies, a great first step in individuating from an energetic perspective. *please note* I have no relationship with FES other than giving them all of my money all of the time as a regular customer!
Ritual releases: New Moons, like our recent New Moon in Pisces, are great days to release things- and people- that no longer serve you. Write it down on a piece of paper, asking that no one be harmed in any intended or unintended ways. If you can safely do so burn the paper to release the energies. Sometimes the act of just writing this out can shift the energy body and offer a cathartic release.
Focus on chakras: sexual and financial abuse both disproportionately impact the sacral chakra, where we house our reproductive and filter organs. You can visualize a deep, red orange color radiating from this chakra and “burn” through any energetic toxins or parasites therein. Carnelian and ruby are great crystals to use to strengthen your sacral chakra and reinforce your boundaries. The betrayal of friends, family and loved ones not believing your experience is usually housed in the heart chakra, so when you feel ready to proceed to the deeper layers of your healing journey, pay attention to that chakra. Heart chakra trauma recovery cannot be accelerated or forced, but it can be supported. Reach out to me via email if you want more detailed info on energy work and/or meditation techniques to leverage for this chakra anytime!
Soul part recollection: an old school shamanic technique, soul part recollections “call the soul back home”, aiding you in recollecting and integrating aspects of yourself that got damaged during various traumas. I’ve written about this methodology in detail on Substack HERE, and can absolutely provide you details and resources for undertaking this effort on your own (which is recommended if a practitioner or coach was your abuser). We also make Reclaim Yourself TOTEM Flower Essence to support soul part recollection work in a gentler, more passive way, and we’re currently having a big sale on Etsy HERE if you’re interested. Now, this store I do have a financial relationship with. Because it’s mine. Just want to be transparent;)
Grounding: you know that old phrase “touch grass”? Well, there’s something to it. I’ve spent the last few days out working in our TOTEM Flower Essence garden and I already feel 90% better than the week before. Touching the earth, gardening, reading a book on the grass at the park are all great ways to ground your energy, releasing the toxicity into the soil. If it’s still cold where you live or you live in a dense city, simply handling root vegetables- like during meal prep- can be incredibly grounding. What’s more: if you cook root vegetables, you get to eat them, further grounding your energy and putting you back in your body.
Journaling and/or sharing your story: this can be tough, so if you don’t feel like it just yet please skip this recommendation. That said, if you’re up to it, writing out what’s happened and how you feel about it can really help to redirect neural pathways, shifting your thinking and outlook in ways that otherwise lay dormant. It is also a powerful means of achieving catharsis and relief, particularly if/ when you decide to articulate what’s happened to you in a more public way. As they say in AA, “we’re only as sick as our secrets”. True story, whether you’re an addict or not. And let’s be honest: in this society, we’re all kind of addicts, aren’t we?
Plant medicine: I’m not a doctor, but I am very well read on the subject of psychedelic therapies- particularly with regard to trauma recovery. Check out Michael Pollan’s book This is Your Mind on Plants and corresponding Netflix series How to Change your Mind, and look into local options for this kind of treatment. I have a PTSD diagnosis and have found microdosing mushrooms to be one of the most earth-shifting, brain-healing experiences ever. That said, I’ve been assessed ad nauseam by therapists throughout my entire life and do not run the risk of a full psychotic break with the use of mind-bending substances, so please be responsible with yourself and your consciousness. We don’t need to create new problems on the path to healing previous ones.
As cliche as it sounds, healing from traumas like these really is a journey. Regular, consistent implementation and patience with the process are crucial for long-term, substantive improvement. Think of the energetic impact of this kind of trauma as living in metaphorical layers of an onion, requiring sometimes cyclical and/or redundant efforts to continue to peel back the detritus and get into deeper and deeper layers to heal.
And please check out our previous The grift is real post here on Substack for resources to explore and leverage along the way. The world is waking up to these nefarious shenanigans, and there are tons of documentaries, podcasts, forums and more to offer insight and support!
Also, I know some incredible therapists, trauma counselors and more that are trustworthy and well-intentioned if you ever want an introduction- just send me an email!
We are so, so vulnerable
So, I watched Stolen Youth on Hulu. And no, I’m not exactly okay.
Just when I thought I understood the depths of narcissistic abuse and depravity and the mechanisms that make coercive control work, I got my world rocked by this docuseries:
Trigger warning: if you are in the throws of recovery from any kind of coercive control or abuse, please proceed with caution and a commitment to take breaks as and when needed when watching this. It. Was. F*cked. Up.
The upshot of the story? That our minds are more fragile and malleable than we can ever begin to fully understand. What this man did- convincing these people that their parents sexually abused them and that they had poisoned each other with the intent to kill- is astonishing and terrifying. He had control of their lives for a decade, down to when and how they could go to the bathroom.
Worth noting: one survivor had not only gone to college and medical school at Harvard and Columbia (respectively), but she was in the last stage of her psychiatry residency to become a practicing psychiatrist when Larry, the @sshole, got a hold of her. So, that whole “you need to be stupid to join a cult or be abused or exploited” thing needs to be officially set on fire. Coercive control and abuse can happen regardless of your IQ, professional experience or, frankly, even abundance of common sense.
So, if that’s the case, how do we protect ourselves? Here are a few initial rules of thumb:
Do not ever seek the answers to your life’s meaning from anyone external to yourself. You can ask advice, get insight and benefit from others’ lessons learned and beliefs (including religious beliefs), but you should always remain the final arbiter on your life’s purpose, the meaning of life, and your role in it. There’s a reason they call religion the “opiate of the masses”: it dulls critical thinking and replaces skepticism and curiosity with blind faith. Sure, go to church or temple or whatever. Read religious books (I certainly do). Just don’t hand over control of your personal beliefs to anyone outside of yourself. Does this mean you’re going to be in weird in-between zones and not have answers to everything all the time? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
If and when your body reacts negatively to someone, with a stomach ache or tension in the jaw or just overall yucky feeling, get away from them. I had a recent experience like this (more to come on that in a future Substack), and I simply booked an earlier flight out of dodge. Did I know the ins and outs and details? No. Do I need to? Nope. Sometimes, the biggest victory in this spiritual war is the bomb that never goes off. Do I necessarily know it would have been bad? No. But do I need to f*ck around and find out? Nope.
Cultivate your own connection to consciousness. The stronger and more resilient you make yourself- cognitively, psychologically, emotionally, energetically and physically- the less likely a monster like Larry from Stolen Youth is going to gauge you as potential prey. Be difficult. Be skeptical. Be resistant. And be unapologetic for trusting yourself over someone else. The key to cultivating this? Put in the reps. Meditate every day. Listen to your intuition. Journal. Keep notes. Pull a tarot card in the morning. Study the arithmetic of logic (yes- you read that right- it’s considered a form of mathematics). And learn, bit by bit, what your own intuition and consciousness feel like so they’re more easily accessed and understood when needed.
Do not ever, under any circumstances, just let someone hypnotize you. Believe it or not, it works. And it can take many subtle forms: neurolinguistic programming, acupressure, sleep deprivation and various “meditative” techniques. If you’re at a workshop or retreat and you have concerns, ask questions. If they dismiss your concerns or circumvent a cogent explanation, bounce. Not worth it. Go get a smoothie or something. Listen to a podcast. You’re not missing out on a life-changing experience. And, if you are, it’s not for the best.
How can we navigate the world of woo?
Several of you reached out after the first post and asked: if it’s such a sh*t show out there and we’re unbearably vulnerable to coercive techniques, then how the hell can we know the difference between the good and bad guys? How can we recognize an ethical practitioner? How can we ensure our safety?
Well, for starters, please understand that even the best detection system isn’t going to be 100%, so we need to give ourselves permission to stay alert and change our minds. In other words: we’re never totally safe. I know. It’s a bummer. But it’s the truth. Humans are messy, tricky things, which is why Shakespeare’s plays still ring with inherent truths to this day.
To that end, I’ve known several practitioners and coaches that started out with the right intentions…but who changed, over time, as money concerns and stress started to whittle away at their sense of right and wrong. People do change, and it’s not always for the better. We need to give ourselves permission to change our response in kind.
Aside from this Golden Rule (i.e. no one is ever safe ever fully in any circumstances), here are some other key attributes and behaviors that tend to indicate an ethical, responsible practitioner in the world of woo:
They embrace a spirit of kaizen: kaizen is a Japanese concept relating to the relentless, obsessive pursuit of perfection in a given craft. If you’ve ever watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix, you know what I’m talking about. Translated to the woo world, this will manifest as a curious, always-learning practitioner obsessed with technical excellence and continual improvement in a given modality, such as reading tarot cards or astrological charts. They will always be pushing themselves, doing the client-facing, hands-on work, and focusing on perfecting small imperfections with every rep or round. This person would be obsessed with this stuff if you were around or not, if there was Instagram or not, and they do not seek external attention or accolades but rather their own, very high standard of perfection. Yes, this means this practitioner will likely come across as aloof, myopic and a bit autistic (if not a lot), but that’s what you want in a practitioner. Not some snake-charming social media darling that will take your time, energy and money and convert it into eminence for themselves without really delivering quality services to you. Ask them: when did you get started with this work? What does it mean to you? Why do you do it? You should get specific, tangible and human-scaled answers to these questions.
They are really busy with actual client work: being really busy with client work indicates a few positive things: 1.) they’re making money in exchange for real work (and not exploitative bullsh*t, like a pyramid scheme); 2.) they’re focused on actually delivering services as opposed to focusing on marketing their services; and 3.) their referral network and word of mouth are powerful, indicating generally positive client experiences and a commitment to quality. Please note: no one who does what I do should EVER be available for a same day walk-in appointment, as you can’t run a business without predictive budgeting for the coming weeks and month(s). Besides, why aren’t they busy with something else? Even if it’s a slow day with regard to client appointments, there are a myriad of other things a small business owner and spiritual practitioner should and could do with their “down time”. What’s more: if they’ve never interacted with or met you or level-set on expectations to ensure it’s a good fit, why would they say “yes” to something as powerful and intimate as energy work, for example? Think about it. It just ain’t right.
They don’t spend all of their time on social media: being on social media takes a lot of time and is very draining, and this is true whether or not you have a “team” to assist you. As someone that has regular professional pictures taken once or twice a year, I can tell you that a photoshoot is a multi-day, draining effort requiring planning, coordination and resources. So, if someone is constantly online in curated, edited videos…that’s where they’re spending about 70-80% of their work week. Now, think about that for a second. If that’s true, how do they do real work or make a profit? How do they create real products or services of value in the remaining 20-30% of their workday? Real practitioners focus the bulk of their time and effort on the work itself, viewing social media as a price of admission “check the box” base-level criteria to ensure they’re being a responsible business owner. You don’t see a person on IG every day? Good. Now, there are lovely people that only do card pulls and content on social media who do not read for the general public- like the very lovely The Tarot Lady- so this “rule” does not apply to them! They make their money by writing books and doing work on Patreon only, and that’s a nuance worth noting.
They have other options: Yah, I’m going to say it. I’ve met a lot of woo practitioners and coaches that could not survive in the “wild”. They do not have foundational, essential life or professional skills that would ever convert into a “real job”, whether it be a large multinational corporation or their local Whole Foods. And this is a major red flag, perhaps indicating that they settled on the woo and/or the coaching work because they just can’t hack it anywhere or anyway else. In contrast, an attribute of a good practitioner is the potential to get a real job- whether or not they ever actually do it. Imagine the practitioner in a series of other jobs- like a manager of a restaurant or a graphic designer for a bank- and ask yourself: would they excel in this environment? Would they take their job seriously and hit their quantitative performance metrics? A practitioner that has other professional and financial options but chooses to do the work of woo is someone that loves the modality and believes in the power and impact of the work. Trust me: there are easier ways to make money….if, of course, you have other options.
They have excellent, detailed reviews: in full transparency, I get almost all of my new clients from the reviews and referrals of existing clients, and I really like it this way. Not only does it help get the word out about TOTEM and what we do, but it ensures that the new clients approaching me are a good fit and have accurate expectations, courtesy of their friend’s guidance. So, look for positive, detailed reviews- and don’t go off of what’s on their website! Fun fact: anyone can put fictional reviews with placeholder client names next to them on their website. Go to Yelp and Google Reviews and make sure to check out what’s in the “filtered reviews” section: many ill-intentioned folks pay Yelp to remove negative reviews from the main page, putting them in the filtered category. If you see any mention of a curse, energy blockage, or upsell, run for the hills!
They have good boundaries: while frustrating at times, these boundaries are a solid indicator of professionalism and ethics. Ethical, trustworthy practitioners tend to have formalized paths for scheduling sessions, communicating between sessions, payment terms, and more. None of these foundational elements should be squishy or inconsistent. What’s more: legit practitioners are heavily scheduled, as they make their money by doing client work. This means that they may not be able to drop other things or move existing appointments around to accommodate a last-minute request. Also look for practitioners that over-communicate on the front end, level-setting expectations of various services or coaching arrangements in a transparent way. Do they have rules for Mediumship, like I do? Do they respect mutual confidentiality in coaching work, like I do? Good. Do they redirect you from personal text or Instagram DM to more formal communication channels, like email? Good. While a bit of a pain in the you-know-what, all of these rules and parameters and boundaries indicate a professional, organized practitioner that was trained properly and takes their work seriously.
They have a sense of humor: believe it or not, I have yet to find a cult leader, narcissistic abuser or similar fiend that had a decent sense of humor, particularly a self-deprecating one. Does your practitioner take themselves a bit too seriously? Do they behave like a character in a skit on Saturday Night Live, replete with a “costume” and overt affectations? Are they overly stern or rigid in their beliefs or lifestyle? Not a good sign. A well-developed sense of humor is an essential human attribute, made all the more powerful when facing the existential questions asked by shamanism, energy work and even coaching work. Nothing is more meaningful or important to me than shamanism, and even I regularly crack jokes about my “imaginary friends” (i.e. spirit guides) or a “day at the office” (i.e. reading tarot cards). Just because it’s funny doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. Quite the contrary.
And, finally, I’m going to quote Jesus: “You will know them by their fruits.”
Bet you didn’t see that coming. Listen: Jesus said some smart stuff, and he nailed this particular bit. So, what does this quote mean? In short: instead of listening to someone’s lip service, try to observe their actions and the consequences of those actions. Do they actually work hard? Do they follow up with clients? Do their clients seem happier, more focused and well-adjusted? When you reach out to their previous and/or existing clients, do they convey frustration or satisfaction? Will they provide you a list of professional references?
There are some people out there with incredible “reviews” (on their IG or website ONLY) and an awesome social media presence that effectively leave dead bodies on the side of the road everywhere. There is one individual in particular that seems to trigger just about everyone when I mention their name, sparking a vitriolic, volcanic verbal explosion with folks straight up saying they hate the person. And, while this individual has never done anything to me directly, I certainly take note of it.
Remember the Sesame Street “Which one of these things is not like the others? Which one of these things just doesn’t belong?” game? Sure: it could be that the whole world is jealous of and hates someone just for being so wonderful and special and successful and nice…but what are the odds? They’re low to zero.
So, where there’s smoke, please assume there’s fire.
The proof is in the pudding, so make sure you’re assessing the outputs of coaches and practitioners objectively. Hell, even if they just trigger your intuition, give yourself permission to keep on trucking. Maya Angelou has famously said, “ I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
So, if nothing else, how does a practitioner make you feel? Go off of that.
I know it’s a lot, but I think there’s a reason the world of woo is such a war zone of good vs. bad: it’s because it’s full of potential and power. Like any coveted natural resource, your consciousness can turn tides and shape reality…and the bad guys know it.
Guard your minds, energy bodies and hearts, please. By cultivating it on your own and empowering yourself, you’re winning a key battle in the war for your consciousness.
And that’s worth a celebratory glass of champagne;)
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