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This past week, I have been shooting a feature-length documentary based on my books in New Zealand. The shoots have lasted 12-14 hours per day with one stretching until 4 AM. Needless to say, I’m exhausted. Therefore, this week’s newsletter will be shorter and link to outside articles. I will share more info on the film in the coming months.
1. The Dark Side of Meditation – The vast majority of the research you hear about meditation is positive. It lowers stress levels, makes people physically and emotionally healthier, helps you think more clearly, and so on and so on. Long-time readers know that I’ve been a huge proponent of meditation for many years now.
All that said, a small number of studies periodically find negative effects of meditation, particularly for people with a predisposition to psychiatric disorders and/or people who meditate a lot. I’ve been aware of this research for many years, but it appeared that these adverse effects were so rare and poorly understood that I didn’t pay much attention to it.
That may have changed since reading this new long-form piece in Harper’s Magazine. It appears the potential negative effects of meditation could be more common and severe than initially thought. There is still much about the practice we don’t understand.
2. Victimhood Chic, Redux – In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, I warned that because social media tends to reward victimhood with social status, victimhood itself would likely become fashionable. Some people would begin to covet victimhood the same way some people covet luxury handbags or expensive cars. In the book, I called this “Victimhood Chic.”
With that context in mind, I highly recommend this recent piece in The Atlantic about the Munchausen Effect and social identity.
The Munchausen Effect is something long known in medicine where patients will fake symptoms or disorders in order to garner attention and sympathy. We are now beginning to see a sort of Munchausen Effect in regards to social media activism and identity, as a number of activists have recently been caught faking their race, ethnicity, sexuality, stories of abuse, and much more.
I recommend reading the article not as a political statement, but rather as a fascinating piece on human psychology. All human groups create status markers for themselves. Where there are status markers, some people will inevitably seek to fake those markers to achieve status.
Take note, young idealists: groups built around noble causes such as civil rights, social justice, and equality are no more immune to these human dynamics than any other group.
3. The Roots of Hate – And finally, some weekly wisdom on the roots of hate. James Baldwin (who really was black) once wrote:
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
It is useful to remember that no one is born hateful—rather, they learn to be hateful. Like all negative emotions, hate serves a stabilizing purpose: it is a means for deflecting or reflecting pains and truths we wish not to accept about ourselves onto others.
Take a moment this week to look at your own spite and ask yourself what pain it’s hiding from you. Can you face it?
Until next week,