*The photo is a view from our hike. This kind of beauty makes difficult conversations easier. If you intend to try to have one of these, I recommend doing it outside, somewhere that nature can keep you grounded and help you keep your heart open.
*I also want to praise my friend for giving me permission to write about our talk. It’s brave of him and deserves our respect.
This week, I took a hike with someone I’ve known for many years, someone who is convinced the conspiracy theories are true, someone who has been red-pilled. We’ve shared a dance floor and bumped into each other at the same spirituality conferences for many years. I like him. He’s a good guy with a sensitive heart, someone who hates conflict and can’t stand seeing everyone fighting. Like me, he wishes everyone could just get along. He’s a long time spiritual practitioner whose profession puts him at the heart of many spiritual conversations. But I was disturbed to read what he posts on Facebook, and it’s obvious we don’t see eye to eye anymore.
I could just cancel him, write him off, choose to not give him any of my time or energy. But I like him. He’s a good-hearted, if perhaps lost and misguided, human being that has a lot in common with me. He’s never behaved in any abusive way with me, nor has he tried to share propaganda on my public page, which I won’t tolerate. If he had, he’d be banned and deleted from my page like everyone else. But he does send me conspiratorial videos he wants me to watch and discuss with him privately, videos I’ve watched and considered but honestly don’t want to waste my time listening to anymore.
He and I wound up taking a nice walk with the dog, watching the waves crash, listening to the roosters cock-a-doodle-doo as the sun set. Although we had a hard time finding consensus, there was indeed common ground in what we care about. We both care about healing and unification in our divided nation. We both think unfettered capitalism is destroying our country and participating in unfair disparities in wealth, power, and privilege in our country. We both want to see the end of white supremacy. We agree that the climate crisis is a disaster and needs our urgent attention and action. We both believe the political establishment has been corrupted on both sides by corporate greed, and we both agree that Trump is a traumatized but also potentially lethal psychopath putting our democracy in danger, who needs to be removed from office STAT. We both believe there are a small number of elite men who pretty much rule the government through a kind of corporatocracy.
What we disagree upon is that these elites are cooperating as puppet masters in some sinister plot to enslave the people of the world by vaccinating them with something that will allow the elites to download programs into human bodies like Microsoft can download a program update into our computers. We disagree about whether there is a real coronavirus pandemic, whether masks work, whether social distancing and lockdown measures are necessary, and whether vaccines are safe, life-saving and needed. We disagree about whether QAnon is a fascist cult and whether what the pastel Q people in our spiritual circles are parroting is accurate and factual. We disagree about whether Plandemic is true.
I listened to his point of view for a while but grew weary of it and finally said I wanted to talk about something else. He wants to keep discussing it, but frankly, it’s kind of boring to me and annoys me to listen to his certainty that these lies are true- or at least that we can’t prove that they’re not true. Throughout our discussion, we treated each other like human beings deserving of our care for one another, even though we floridly disagree upon “reality” right now. The truth is, though, that we agree upon more than we disagree upon. It’s just that what we disagree upon right now matters SO MUCH. The stakes could not be higher.
He wanted to know whether I had watched Plandemic, whether I was following RFK, Jr.’s messaging, whether I had listened to Zach Bush, JP Sears, Christiane Northrup, and Sasha Stone, whether I had done my homework on vaccine injury, whether I was aware of all the “proof” that his theories were right, especially from actual medical doctors and whistle-blowing government officials gone rogue.
I said I had exposed myself (at the expense of whole days of my life and more than a few brain cells) to everything he was talking about. I was not ignorant, nor lacking openness to listening to whistle-blowers who are committed to helping us know the truth, such as those who exposed Jeffrey Epstein and NXIVM founder and cult leader Keith Raniere, who are real global elites and real convicted pedophiles and felons.
He wanted me to at least watch a new video by Catherine Austin Fitts and give him my feedback. It was only a few days old and already had 2 million views, but it has since been taken off YouTube for violating terms. Out of respect for my friend and a desire to help him feel heard, I listened to the “interview” and considered what Catherine was saying, but the “interview” was not an actual journalistic interview. It was just an excuse for her to grandstand her conspiratorial ideas. It had all the markings of narcissistic grandstanding we see with someone like, for example, David Icke or Judy Mikovits.
He asked me what I look for to assess whether something might be real whistle-blowing. How would I be able to tell if something was actually true? I said I look to see if it’s reported by a credible investigative journalist (like Chris Hedges, for example, or a New York Times reporter.) He asked how I’d know whether I could trust something from a newspaper, given that the mainstream media has been corrupted. I said that although I’m sure it has been compromised by corporate greed and selling out to advertisers, just as medical journals have, I still basically trust the mainstream media and medical journals. I explained that I look for whether the reporting is at least somewhat neutral and free of obvious self-promotion or agenda. I look for the markers of propaganda, which I’ve studied so I can be educated in how to spot it. I look for whether a credible news source is risking their reputation by backing the whistle-blower, which would show me that they’ve done their homework and followed journalistic guidelines which would put them at risk of slander and lawsuits if they were wrong.
I explained that, because I have a lot of education in trauma, psychology, and spotting narcissism, and because I am an empath and intuitive but also a critical thinker, I give little cred to anything that sounds like an angry, narcissistic person who has been hurt and traumatized trying to get attention, promote an agenda, get revenge, prove themselves righteous, or sell something. Catherine struck me as just that, as did Mikki Willis and Judy Mikovits in the Plandemic propaganda and RFK, Jr in his London Real interview. I am suspicious of anyone who sounds certain in uncertain times, including agenda-driven, profit-driven pharmaceutical “scientists” who have not finished their research or published it so it can be scrutinized by peer review. I told him I also look for who people support politically, and any Trump supporter automatically makes me skeptical that they might have been seduced by the cult of Trump and are doing whatever they must to keep him in power.
To be honest, as hard as my friend tried, he didn’t impact my point of view one bit, although I was willing to be impacted, should he share something with me that sounded credible. I told him I have taken strong stands publicly but that my point of view could change at any time if I’m proven wrong. I explained that if I am wrong, I will publicly recant and feel no shame in saying “I messed up.” I’ve messed up before, and I’ll do it again, and I don’t have a problem admitting when I’m wrong or have changed my mind.
He says I have caused him to question his own point of view, and he felt chastened and willing to do more homework, because he respects me and values my opinion. He expressed gratitude for our connection. I did not set out to change his mind. (Well, maybe that’s not entirely honest. I do love to be right). But it was not my conscious intention, and frankly, it’s such a time sink to even have a respectful one on one conversation with people like him. I’d rather publish my points of view publicly and let him read what I deduce- or not- from my blog or social media. But because he’s my friend, I decided to invest the time, out of respect for our friendship.
He wants to keep talking about this, but I set a boundary and said I’d be happy to take more walks with the dog and enjoy nature together. But I don’t want to talk about current events or public health issues with him. I came away from the conversation feeling drained and upset with myself for investing so much energy in having a conversation I really did not want to have. I realized I was blended with a part that didn’t want to lose the connection and was willing to drain me in order to maintain rapport.
I was grateful, however, to have the insight that this humanizing one on one connection is what we lose on Facebook. I would never have insulted him when we were walking out in nature, but I sure do get tempted to insult people who are insulting to me or flat out lying and spreading potentially lethal, racist, classist, white supremacist, dehumanizing, unemphatic, and democracy-destroying misinformation on Facebook.
What I appreciated about my time with my friend is that, although I felt angry, righteous, or judgmental of him at times, we both managed to allow our humanity to come first. Even though we disagree, I still see him as a human being deserving of love, care, respect, and compassion. Even if I feel distressed that he’s posting misinformation that could hurt my friends on the front lines of the pandemic or the marginalized and vulnerable who are the most devastated by our current crises, I can’t write him off as a monster or even judge him as stupid. I think he’s misguided and blind to his white male privilege, but I think it’s because he’s hurt and he’s been lied to, not because he’s bad.
I asked his permission to write about our walk, because I never write about people I know personally without their consent (unless they’re a public figure, in which case they’ve opened themselves to public critique.) I might choose to air my private life publicly, but most of my friends, family, and loved ones haven’t. He said yes- go ahead- but when he read what I wrote, he asked whether I thought he was some hapless, clueless fool. I could tell his feelings were hurt. I told him no, I didn’t think he was a fool. I just thought he was caught in an echo chamber during the isolation of 2020. I also said I thought he maybe had less education than me in learning how to read things like scientific studies or how to spot cultic propaganda. I invited him to listen to the Conspirituality podcast from the beginning. He said everyone was telling him to do just that, but that he was scared to do so because those guys seemed so mean to him. I went out on a probably boundary-violating limb and suggested that he might benefit from getting treatment for whatever might have made him vulnerable to conspiratorial thinking or conflict avoidance, but I also admitted that it’s not my business to tell anyone when or if they should treat trauma. He said he’d consider it and asked if we could take another walk.
I came away from it feeling drained, but slightly hopeful. I don’t want to invest the energy in having these kinds of one on one conversations with people who are only relatively distant friends like this guy. I’m lucky that only one person in my inner circle has given a lot of credence to and been influenced by conspiritual thinking- and I’ve invested A LOT of respectful dialogue with him, especially because he’s a public figure and has a lot of influence- and because I love him and our friendship and professional allyship matters a lot to me. But even so, I’ve given up trying to change his mind. I cannot seem to change his point of view or help him see where I think he’s blind. He has also given up trying to get me to see what he thinks I’m blind to. We’ve hit a stalemate- respectfully and with our hearts still open to the humanity in the other. (Yes, I’m talking about Charles Eisenstein here. And no, it was not Charles I was walking with this time. For the record, Charles’s points of view are far closer to mine than this other friends are. There are just some sticking points we can’t seem to agree upon- with respect for our disagreements.)
Maybe we will lose some relationships this year because of such stalemates, and maybe that’s okay. I’m sure relationships were severed during World War II Germany, when some people obeyed the Nazis and others hid Jews. Maybe, when the stakes are high, being right IS more important than keeping the relationship intact. But goddamn, can’t we stay kind while we pull away? (Yes, that is my own young, tender, conflict-avoidant part asking me to write that part, a part that my hiking friend and Charles also admit to having within their own systems.)
This is what Self-led activism feels like to me. I certainly can’t say I’m always Self-led in my activism. Sometimes I get blended with righteous parts or angry parts or parts that want to insult people- and you all have seen me do that publicly. I’m human, and I’m never going to get this right. But I do try to breathe and meditate and feel and mediate my parts before I react. It is a practice I will never perfect.
This is why I have become such an evangelist for Internal Family Systems (IFS). I do believe we can engage in Self-led activism and also protect our parts from getting too hurt or being too abusive or dehumanizing with those we are stalemated with. Maybe this Self-led way of being can spread more quickly than Covid in 2021, something that seems to be happening, as IFS therapists get swamped and the IFS Institute swells to meet an increasing demand for education, support, and certification. If you’re curious to know more about IFS, just Google Internal Family Systems, or Google “Lissa Rankin” and “Internal Family Systems” to read the blogs I’ve written about it. If you want to be part of a community of IFS practice, our Healing With the Muse community gathers for our first meeting on January 11, and we’ll be using creativity, music, writing, art, dancing, and IFS to bond, connect, heal, practice self-care, and prepare ourselves for Self-led activism.
Let me close this message with a quote from a CNN article today about how overwhelmed California’s hospitals are right now, something I can confirm from my beloved physician friends, colleagues, clients, and family members who are fighting relentlessly on the front lines (and who invite anyone who doesn’t believe this is true to come do rounds with them in the ER’s or Covid ICUs.)
“Now the ER is an unrelenting processing plant for one disease -Covid 19. Tired faces behind masks, the buzzing of X-ray machines, the hum of ventilators, the depressing discussions about code status and goals of care — this is how we live now. Covid has consumed us, but we doctors, nurses, techs, respiratory therapists, paramedics and all other staff are still fighting. We show up to work every day, risking our health and that of our families, to treat you and those you love. In California over the last three weeks, our emergency departments and ICUs have felt the full force of society’s bad decisions.”
I just sent that newspaper quote to my friend from the hike. I told him I’d introduce him to my friends on the front lines, if he wanted to chat with them personally and confirm that this is not a lie promoted by some fake news media controlled by global elite pedophiles who want to enslave us. Sadly, it’s very, very heart-breakingly true. So now I’m going to call my front line physician friend who just finished his night shift and make sure he’s okay.