Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bullying the sick

Hi Julia,
I wanted to thank you for your article "New Age Bullies". I'm a person who was poisoned by my home from mold and chemicals, and I have no doubt this can happen to anyone. I know that I did not cause or create this physical earthly illness/situation for any reason and it cuts like a knife to have someone say so. I DO believe our thoughts, feelings and internal dialogue can help or hinder our recovery, and I have given MYSELF an education that I would not change for the world. It has opened my eyes to that that really is, and clearly makes me aware of the positive and negative influences that surround me, and for that I am grateful. I am not grateful for being sick. I will keep this article with me and when someone says that I caused my situation, I will hand your article to them. I recommend another booklet, "But You Look Good", a guide to understanding and encouraging people living with chronic illness and pain.
Sincerely, C.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

compassion needed, not platitudes

This email was dated August 11, 2008
Ms. Ingram,
I found your article refreshing and encouraging. It is the first time I've seen anyone speak about this topic, the notion of "bullying" or at least cold indifference to a person's pain and needs. Sometimes people hurt. Sometimes we bleed. Trite sayings about it being "self-inflicted" are not only unhelpful, they are positively harmful.

Shakespeare said there never was a philosopher who could patiently bear a toothache. When the pain is even worse than that, when it's a severe loss of some sort, it can be unbearable. Dismissing it as my own reality is unconscionable.

The New Age came into greater focus when the Baby Boomers came into adulthood. I think early on, most of us had robust health and hadn't had time to encounter life's various heartaches. It was easy then to say that it's all in our minds, everything's OK, etc. Those of us who encountered early hardships were few, and could be ignored or discounted.

Now we're aging. We've had plenty of hard knocks, and we're losing people close to us - even sometimes, our children. Our health isn't as easy to take for granted as it once was. It's no longer possible to pretend that all you have to do is think happy thoughts, and everything will be fine. Slowly we're learning that on some level pain is real - and that's the level you're on, the pain is as real as it gets.

Sure, maybe on some exalted level pain is an illusion, it all does make sense, etc. But until you're there, being told about it is meaningless and discounts your feelings.

[Your article] helped me to get a better handle on this issue, and offers me some hope that finally New Age people will begin to recognize that people who are hurting need compassion, not lofty platitudes. They need hugs and tears and time to vent, even if some day we'll all be laughing about it. Today's not that day, today we have tears.
Thank you,

Monday, January 18, 2010

prayers needed, not opinions

This letter was dated 7/22/07
Dear Julia,
Your article came at a time when I needed it most. Yesterday I received an e-mail from a prayer group that I went to for help. I did tell them about my unconventional relationship with a man but I did not ask them for their opinion, only their prayers. They said that I was on a path leading to death and destruction. I am easily depressed by what others say and I was traumatized. So I really appreciate what you said. I put on my message board, "Believe only what you yourself judge to be true." Thanks again so much!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Age Bullies

My article, New Age Bullies, first published in Common Ground Magazine in 2004, has, as my writer friend G.W. Hardin puts it, grown legs. It has been republished, sometimes with my permission, sometimes without, but with my blessing anyway, in many small papers in the U.S. and Canada, and I am happy to say, people are now using the term as I had hoped they would. The original article can be found here: www. I have received a lot of mail during its six years in circulation, and I’ve decided to start publishing some of it. I realize that emails can be published without the writer’s consent, but I made the decision, since many of the letters are deeply personal, to use initials only, and to delete or disguise specific names of people or groups.

Many writers applied my notion of new age bullying to their groups, telling me stories of bullying in Christian churches, Buddhist and Jewish communities, and spiritual groups and retreat centers, so I have expanded the list.

Bullying causes great pain and suffering and appears to be on the rise, at personal and global levels. I’ve been encouraged to write a book on this topic and I’m finally ready to do that.

If you have a Bully story of your own, please post it. It might end up in the book.
Meanwhile, ease up on the self-bullying and be compassionate to yourself and others.

New Age/spiritual/religious bullies: those who make statements like the following to others who are suffering, and as if they were facts.

New Age Bullies,
There are no accidents
There are no mistakes
It happened for a reason
No one can hurt you without your consent
I wonder why you created this illness or experience (a version of you create your own reality)
You signed up for that
You chose that lesson (especially heinous when referring to victims of abuse or crime)
Those who claim psychic abilities, and “read” others without permission or manipulate by saying, “what I’m getting is you should...” (the benefactor usually being the speaker)
It’s just your karma

Religious Bullies—Christian and Jewish
It was God’s will
It happened for a reason
There are no accidents
He/She is in a better place
Any comment that implies the listener’s misfortune is the result of breaking the religion’s rules, or committing a sin, as defined by dogma ( like the Pastor John Hagee telling NPR’s Terry Gross that “Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans... because there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.”) Or this week, Pat Robertson saying it is a fact the Haitians brought on the earthquake themselves because of their pact with the devil.
Those who claim to speak for God, (Jesus, or other deities) and tell others with or without request or permission that they have a message from that deity containing instructions (that will usually benefit the speaker, or with the intention to promote the speaker’s dogma or agenda).

Religious Bullies—Buddhist
Same list as for New Agers plus
It is the dharma
Your suffering is the result of your actions from a previous lifetime

Letter #1 dated 02/17/08
Howdy Julia. I've been associated with a New Age retreat center for [many years]. One time, a member was outed for having been raping his own infant daughter. The child's mother stood in front of the group and actually said, "I'm amazed that [my daughter] would chose to be born into this." This is the worse case of New Age victim blaming I've come across, but it opened my eyes and I have noticed a pattern of it, in my role. I've met just about everybody on the Guru Circuit and it isn't pretty. Thanks for weighing in on it. Best, D. M.