Prosperity preaching is the path to hell

It is ironic that when the economy gets bad people turn to religion.

The major religion in America today, but you will not see it listed as a major religion or denomination in the Pew Research Polls, is consumerism. The God of consumerism is Mammon. President Bush is consumerism's main prophet when he encourages people to engage in the sacred practice of shopping.

Joel Osteen and books such as The Secret promote an economics of spirituality promising people that if they have enough faith and get right with their God material and financial benefits will flow. With a paradoxical theology the proponents of economic spirituality promise that the more money you give to them, the more money the universe will send back to you.

As people have come to believe the economics of spirituality, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer and the middle class has shrunk.

People have not caught on that the economics of spirituality is a scam, a con, worthy of P.T. Barnum and the snake oil salesman of old.

People are not stupid but they are anxious and scared. Scared people will latch on to any hair-brained ideas hoping that by whistling in the dark and being distracted by engaging entertainment and hopeful ideas, no mater how false, will help them feel better and make things better.

None of the great religious leaders preached consumerism, not Jesus, not Buddha, not Krishna, not Mohamed. In fact, they preached the opposite. Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into heaven."

It's not that money and material things are bad, it's that they have there place and there are plenty of things more important like loving your neighbor and caring for our planet and mother, Mother Earth.

As J. Paul Getty said, "The meek shall inherit the earth but not the mineral rights." and as Jesus said, it is hard, if not impossible for the rich to get into heaven, but the prosperity preachers who encourage an economics of spirituality create a hell on earth in the long run. As one wag said when asked his definition of Irish Diplomacy, "Irish diplomacy is telling a person to go to hell in such a way that they enjoy the trip." President Bush must be part Irish when he told Americans that the antidote to their worries is to go shopping. By all means shop til you drop, and let the plutocrats and preachers run the world.

Americans are not stupid, but emotional disturbed and morally corrupt

"I have treated many patients who have been painfully gaslighted in family, work, or organizational settings. I have seen whole organizations undercut by manipulative CEOs. But when gaslighting is done to an entire country as it has been done to the United States, the stakes are chilling. The political use of gaslighting has led to a psychologically impaired and unstable American electorate. The resulting policy decisions have had devastating implications for all Americans and the world."

Dr. Bryant Welch, The Assault On The American Mind, pp. 6-7

Rick Shenkman's book is entitled, Just How Stupid Are We? I have come to understand that it is not that Americans are stupid but that they are emotionally unstable and morally corrupt. We usually don't think of ourselves that way but if this were not true how do you explain the acquiescence to the nation's policies over the last 8 years?

How could Americans support a disastrous and immoral war in Iraq, the abandonment of 1 million fellow citizens in Katrina, the lack of health insurance for over 46 million Americans, the destruction of our planet by driving gas guzzling SUVs, a President who tells the citizens to cope with their anxiety about the terrorist threat which he overplayed by going shopping?

It is immoral to not help one another and the dog eat dog mentality where every person is expected to shift for himself is destroying our sense of security and thereby our emotional stability and moral fitness.

Further, there is a cognitive and intellectual belief in creationism denying evolution, faith based policies have taken over for good public health programs such as abstinence based sex education, a dismantling of governmental programs and then when they don't work because they are underfunded and under resourced turning them over to private contractors with no-bid contacts at exorbitant costs.

When we vote for our leaders and representatives, we pick appallingly unfit candidates. These choices are based on bogus emotional and moral issues and America as a nation has lost its way. We vote against our interests when it comes to financial policy, foreign relations, domestic policy over silly issues like gay marriage and reproductive rights.

A nation which is frightened of bogeymen, impoverishment, inability to obtain health care, education, and a prosperous future for their children is a nation easily manipulated by gaslighters.

A frightened nation is a nation at high risk for harming itself and others. We need to build a nation which is secure, where there is a safety net, where we care for one another, and overcome the dog eat dog mentality where it is every person for himself. We can help each other and in so doing build a better today for ourselves and tomorrow for our children and grandchildren. It is in the security of community which comes from helping each other that our emotional health and positive morality will be restored.

This emotional instability and moral corruption is a curious thing. How is it that two DUI offenders get chosen to be President and Vice President? How does a man who is a self admitted drug abuser until he was 40, who bankrupted several businesses, and was a lackluster student only admitted to Ivy League schools because of legacy admission policies get to lead the richest, most powerful nation on earth into a disastrous war? The whole thing seems nuts, and it is.

Video lasts 24 seconds

McClellan is finally getting it right about how the Bush administration has gotten it wrong. Illuminating the gaslighting being perpetrated against the American people

Former Press Secretary Scott McClellan now thinks telling the truth is important even though Republicans suggest he is disloyal and should have taken the lies to his grave. Really. They really suggest this. Watch the associated press video which lasts 1:50 seconds.

In some ways this is good therapy. It is time, in the United States for the truth. The gaslighting which has been going on for 7 years is finally being exposed. Do Americans have the stomach for the truth or do they still want to be lied to? I sure hope they have the courage to face up to the truth. These hearings are a form of national psychotherapy which is good for the national soul.

America, as a nation, is badly in need of psychotherapy

"Why did Americans become so vulnerable to divisive political tactics? Why did America get dragged into such an unwise war in Iraq? Wy have fundamentalist groups, Fox News, and hate-filled right wing radio played such influential roles in America's landscape? Why are long accepted scientific ideas like evolution under siege? These questions and others puzzle people from all points on the American political spectrum and from all points around the world. What has happened to the American mind?" p.2

Dr. Bryant Welch, State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault On The American Mind

The answer is that certain politicians, religious leaders, and media celebrities have deliberatedly manipulated the emotionally vulnerable by suggesting a false reality so that the perpetrator can control this emotionally vulnerable population in order to pursue their own devious purposes. The examples of this behavior are plentiful and it goes by the name of gaslighting or what I have called mystification.

You have people like James Dobson, the founder of Focus On The Family, the largest right wing religious organization in America who says things like "Tolerance is a kind of watchword of those who reject the concept of right and worng. It's a kind of a desensitization to evil of all varieties. Everything has become acceptable to those who are tolerant."

Dobson is a demogoge who is preaching hate, distrust, paranoia to the emotionally vulnerable under the guise of religion. Forget the fact that Jesus said to love your enemies, be kind to those who persecute you, and died that way to demonstrate his teaching. Dobson has set himself up opposite of Jesus and yet people love Dobson and follow him and he has tremendous influence along with Falwell, Robertson, and the other false teachers who have gained such popularity in a confused and vulnerable American mind.

Dobson has said, "State universities are breeding grounds, quite literally, for sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), homosexual behavior, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, alcoholism, and drug abuse."

To an uneducated, lower class population, this is music to their ears to learn that better educated people have been contaminated at State Universities. This subtle appeal to classism is a divisive and destructive tactic in the United States and leads to dependence on religious authorities rather than on education of the free and developing mind.

The point is that there is an element in the United States fueled by ignorance and fear that is ripe for manipulation by psychopaths who would pry on the emotionally vulnerable for their own gain. This is not only a huge mental health issue but a huge moral issue as well. We as a society need to raise our level of consciousness so that we are aware of the psychopaths among us who would exploit us for their own purposes. These psychopathic terrorists are not abroad as they would have us believe but right here at home taking advantage of us daily. They are among us killing and injuring our soldiers, impoverishing all but the very rich, trashing our environment, destroying our commons, and manipulating our democracy for the advantage of the corporations and the very rich.

There are a few of us, but unfortunately not many, who realize that the emperor has no clothes on. We understand their crazy making tactics and watch our fellow citizens become "dumbed down" every day. We see the fear in our fellow citizens eyes as they pay over $4.00 at the gas pump, and are told that the Iraq war will go on for a 100 years. We see the demonizing that is perpetrated against us blaming the immigrant, the poor, the gay, women who want to have control over their own bodies and their reproductive health to distract us from their devious behavior and purposes.

America is badly in need of psychotherapy, a therapy which will make the unconscious conscious so that the gaslighting and mystification is illuminated and labeled, help the nation make better decisions that are reality based not fantasy based, and improve national functioning so that we can live in a society with one another which is much more satisfying and fulfilling.

Facts and opinions - making our own reality

The New Agers tell us that we can create our own reality.

What they mean is, as best as I can determine, that we can make our own meaning.

We usually cannot change the facts or the circumstances.

As the proverb says, "You have a right to your own opinion, but you do not have a right to your own facts."

As the bumper sticker says, "Reality is when it happens to you."

The facts can be tough sometimes. The truth can hurt. Shit happens.

In the United States we have lived though a delusional period in our national politics when policies were based on ideology not on reality. Many people are now calling for a reality based politics not an ideologically based politics.

In our personal lives, we probably function more effectively and efficiently, if not not more happily, when our decisions and choices are based on reality rather than fantasy.

If a 12 oz. can of soda has 6 oz. left it it, it is a fact that there are 6 oz. gone, but whether you choose to interpret this fact as the can being half empy or half full is up to you and the expectations of others for how they would like you to interpret the fact.

The events of your personal life and our national life roll on. These events are facts and indesputable, but you get to write the history and the history you write will influence how future events and facts are perceived.

As Bobby McFerrin sang in his great song, "Don't worry, be happy." Video lasts 3:43

Americans are so engorged with spin, most don't know the facts - this puts our democracy in great peril.

Truthiness People don't like facing up to the truth and we have become so accustomed to public relations, spin, hype, and let's say it plain, bull shit, that we The People don't know what the truth is any more. This realization has been the basis of comedy like Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, and Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert has even made up a word for it and he calls it "truthiness".

"Truthiness" is flirting with the truth. It is half lying, It is twisting things so they are more palatable. It is a sad day, when we The People are lied to, deceived, not told the truth.

It still is not clear why we have been engaged in a pre-emptive, immoral war in Iraq for over 5 years. It still is not clean why the governments response to Katrina was so slow and inept. It still is not clear why Tom Ridge, the head of Homeland Security, kept issuing color based terrorists threats. It still is not clear why Americans were told to obtain sheets of plastic and duct tape to seal their homes against anthrax. It still is not clear how a President can believe in Creationism and yet NASA is sending robots to Mars which is millions of years old.

As Stephen Colbert points out, people entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. It is a sad state of our democracy, that most Americans do not know the facts, and the fourth estate, the media, do not report them, and that it takes the fifth estate, fake news, to bring it to our attention.

Satire is the elixir to maintain our mental health as a nation. It is the court jester challenging the King's grasp of reality. As the saying goes, "You have to be a little crazy to keep from going insane."

Stupid Americans prefer comfort to truth, myth to facts. This amounts to denial at a national level.

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

John F. Kennedy

With this epigram, Rick Shenkman opens the first chapter of his book, which I wanted to write, entitled, Just How Stupid Are We?

Shenkman writes, "Even after 9/11, when fresh thinking was needed most, we neglected as a society to confront the harsh truths about the limits of the public's wisdom. Busy spreading democracy around the world,we refused to reflect bravely on the defects of our own. Instead of admitting our flaws, we settled, somewhat defensively, on the myth that we a good and great people with noble aims." p. 12

Of course this is highly questionable. We had just elected two convicted drunk drivers to the highest offices in the land, President and Vice-President. That alone should give any thinking person pause in considering the wisdom and intelligence of the American people. We not only elected them, we re-elected them rejecting a decorated war hero for two leaders who avoided and dodged military service.

As Shenkman points out, when the American voters are faced with the truth or the myth they vote for the myth that gay marriage is bad, and that abortion is ruining our nation even when the bulk of the information from a public health perspective is the opposite. However, facing up the truths which fly in the face of fiercely held myths  is not something the American public has proved itself good at, and disaster has occured and continues to develop as most Americans aren't smart enough to understand how they have been had by their politicians and the corporate media.

It is easy to blame the policticans for fear mongering, lying, manipulating, spinning, and being bought off by lobbyists, and it is easy to blame the corporate media for skewing the news in their desired directions and not asking the tough questions and digging for the real facts behind the public relations spin, but few people have questioned the myth of the wisdom of the American people. The fact of the matter is that the American public is stupid. We get what we deserve. Perhaps working together we can look at our myths and start questioning "authority" so that we can come to a functional and healthy understanding of our national and international situation.

The American peple are in denial as surely as the alcoholic and drug addict are in denial about the nature of their disease. When first confronted, the alcoholic says, "Screw you. I don't have a problem." But as more negative consequences occur, the alcoholic can't avoid and deny any more. Reality starts to set in as the alcoholic hits bottom. America is hitting bottom. The myth that we are fighting pre-emptive, immoral wars like Viet Nam and Iraq for freedom and democracy around the world because we are morally superior while we loose democratic freedoms at home, and working people become poorer as the rich become richer, is becoming contaminated.

As Shenkman points out, it is not the lies that harm the most, but the belief in the underlying myths which make the lies necessary to maintain order and compliance of a people who otherwise might object to the policies of those in power.

Video with Rick Shenkman lasts about 6:42

Cutting - the heart has a rationale all its own

Cutting "It is difficult to remove by logic an idea not place there by logic in the first place."

Gordon Livingston, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, p.13

Yesterday, in two different sessions, clients asked me why people do self injurious things like cutting and wanting to be abused by people they provoke.

In Freudian psychology there is the idea of the internalized object which means that a person incorporates the expectations, desires, and treatment by others into one's own sense of self. A 4 year old child offered a cookie who says, "Mommy says I can't have one until after I eat my dinner." has incorporated the maternal object and is guiding his own behavior in compliance with maternal expectations to maintain her approval and avoid her disapproval. Similarly, a child who scolds himself after spilling his milk saying to himself, "Bad boy! You're such a slob! You're a clumsy brat!" has internalized  the bad maternal and/or paternal object.

As adults these tapes continue to run in our heads. We not only treat ourselves the way we were treated but we also tend to treat others the same way. As paradoxical as it sounds, abused children, as adults want and expect abuse. Without it, they get anxious. It is like going through life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Until we get what we expect we are uneasy. Most of this process is unconscious.

When we becomes consciously aware of these tapes, of these internalized objects, we can then choose whether we want to continue to act according to them or change them. To change them takes repeated effort over time. It is a challenge.

To cut oneself to obtain psychological relief seems totally nonsensical until you understand that somewhere along the road, the person learned that they are a bad person who deserves to be punished, to suffer, to experience pain, "because that's what you deserve!"

Exorcising these psychological demons is not so much a rational process although reason helps, but rather it is more a psychological process. Like ducklings following its mother after birth, we are impinted, and reconfiguring the neuropathways of the old imprint takes repeated effort over a period of time, resisting the old behaviors and developing new, more constructive and functional ones. Practice makes perfect.

As Tom Robbins, the author wrote one time, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."

You deserve to be happy. You deserve to have a high quality life. To create a better life for yourself is a challenging project but one well worth pursuing.

Love can be hurtful and a screwed up thing.

Hurtful love "It isn't until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems - the ones that make you truly who you are - that you're ready to find a life long mate. Only then do you finally know what you're looking for. You're looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person - someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, 'This is the problem I want to have.'"

Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions, p.39

I learn more from my clients than they learn from me.

It took me years to learn from a client that one of the biggest tragedies in life, and we never talk about it in our culture, is to fall in love with someone who isn't any good for us. And it happens all the time. Andrew Boyd is one of the few people I have ever read or heard, write or talk about this.

I have witnessed people on their third alcoholic marriage who, after the first, swore to God they would never marry another alcoholic. I have witnessed people get out of one abusive relationship and within a year get into another one just as abusive, if not worse.

I muse: What does it take for people to learn?

As Andrew Boyd says, you have to get your own stuff straigtened out first. Until we get our own stuff straightened out, we are bent, we are crooked, and we are looking for someone who will complement our deficits, our weaknesses, our blind spots. And in an uncanny way, like gears in a transmission or the cogs in a clock, life grants us our wish.

As Tina Turner sang, "What's love got to do with it. It's just a second hand emotion."

As Andrew Boyd says, "I find that special person for me who is wrong in just the right way."

So, when I do pre-marital counseling, I am looking for some special awareness in the partners in the couple. I ask them three questions:

  1. How is your partner going to hurt you when they get angry, resentful, bored?
  2. How are you going to handle it when they do?
  3. How is your partner going to handle his/her guilt when they realize that they have hurt the most the one they claim to love the most?

We all have a shadow side, a dark side. So many people say to me, "If I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn't have done it." And I wonder to myself and sometimes ask, "Why didn't you know?"

Love can be a hurtful and screwed up thing. It takes two to tango. The heart often has a reasoning all it's own. As Socrates said, "Know thyself."

Loving someone is not a good reason to marry someone. People do it all the time and in 50% of the situations, it doesn't work out. There is much more to marriage than love. Love is the icing on the cake, but not the cake. Marriage is about committment, not love. When love comes to marriage, it is a decision not a feeling.

Before you get married, choose wisely. Otherwise, just hang out, get to know each other, and help each other come to understand and exorcise your demons.

True love is caring about the other person's being and becoming as much as your own.

Caring for others Gordon Livingston, in his book Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, writes on p. 9, "We love someone when the importance of his or her desires rises to the level of our own." I was stunned because this is a definition I have using in counseling with people for over 20 years. To see it in print written by another author is very validating.

My other definition of true love, by the way, is " to know the worst about somebody and love them anyway."

To care about the other person's growth and development, satisfaction and fulfillment as much as our own is a wonderful thing. This is not sacrificial, it really gives us great joy to see the other person happy, to see the other person grow, to see the other person realize his or her dreams. Parents do this for their children. It should be the same way for their partner.

I sometimes ask people in counseling what they would like to have gotten out of life in the next 2, 5, 10 years - short term, intermediate, long range? When I do couples counseling, I stop the first partner from answering and ask the second partner what they think the first partner is going to say. It is very revealing when the second partner has no idea. How can a partner nurture and encourage the growth and development of their partner when he/she has no idea what his/her partner's hopes, dreams, and aspirations are?

To facilitate the becoming of the other is one of the greatest, most fulfilling joys in life. Unfortunately, we get so focused on getting our own needs met that we "forget" to attend to the desires, needs, preferences, hopes, and dreams of the person we claim to love.

A colleague of mine told me a few months ago that in mature couples one observes, if you look closely, what he described as " a conscientious consciousness of the other." This requires that one sets aside ones own narcissistic preoccupation to actually empathize and attend to the feelings and thoughts of the other. This conscientious consciousness takes tremendous discipline and tremendous love, but also is extremely enriching to do relationships in this way.

To ask, "Good morning, dear, how are you feeling today?" and really mean it and really want to know is an example of "conscientious consciousness. When you return home from work to genuinely ask, "How was your day?" and to really want to know because it is important to you so you can understand your partner's experience to support him/her is an example of conscientious consciousness.

As Iris Murdoch said, Love is the realization that someone else is real. I would take it a step further and say love is not just the realization that someone else is real although this is the important first step, but also caring and being curious and interested in the other person's being and becoming. That's love.