Why Spiritual Influence Can Be Dangerous and Why Discernment is Crucial!

Have you ever experienced a moment when you felt it was easier to go with the crowd rather than challenge what was being shared by asking questions or sharing your viewpoint? I can recall a few instances in my life where this occurred, and it never settled well. I would walk away feeling icky, disappointed, and confused. I can only imagine how I would have moved through life if this became my norm. 

Then I entered a period of my life where I decided to better honour myself and others by speaking from a place of authenticity, which then often triggered something within another. I struggled to find the sweet spot and deliver my truth in a way that was digestible for all involved.

This quandary taught me a lot about the power of discernment. 

If we become too invested in the viewpoint of another, we can quickly become confused about what truly resonates with us and if we are too rigid in our position, we can often close ourselves off to holding space for others and evolving ourselves. 

As humans, we are designed to seek connection and acceptance within a community setting. When another person understands us, it can bring a sense of deep comfort and belonging. We may not even know we seek community and the opportunities it brings until we find ourselves in the middle of one. But what happens when the community’s intentions aren’t what is promised or as they appear to be? What happens when another uses the power of community to market, coerce and control?

As someone connected to their spiritual practice and who holds space for others to explore their inner landscape, I am aware of the responsibility I hold. I also know that when we aren't doing our own work and taking heightened steps to ensure we are only operating from a place of purity and truth, necessary boundaries can become muddled. One can easily cross that threshold and not even know. Regardless of whether a shift was innocent or not, it can be very detrimental to all if left unchecked. 

We live in an age where spiritual work is more widely accepted, and more individuals are sharing their stories. Stories hold power. Our emotional reaction to said stories holds power.  Therefore, discernment is needed more than ever. Those that see spiritual work as a market and are hyper-focused on how they can advance their authority in this space need to be held accountable by themselves and others. It is your job to do your homework, ask the right questions and trust your intuition as to whether this person is the right fit for you and not just the other way around.

I am sharing this with you today because I want to encourage you to practice flexing and building your discernment practice around everything. Take notice and gently observe where you are yielding to things which don't fully align with your values, morals and unique position and start questioning why you responded the way you did. You will be surprised by what you uncover when you are willing to ask questions.

I have been gently witnessing people, practices and concepts which feel sticky and a bit nerving. Through this inquiry, I wanted to better understand my own triggers. I quickly realized that the triggers weren’t personal to me as an individual but were personal in the sense that I felt a strong obligation to those being affected by such influence. The individual that grabbed my attention most was a best-selling author and spiritual influencer Teal Swan. Not only do Swan’s concepts, delivery style and marketing make my jaw drop, but they also have me questioning everyone that endorses her work including big companies I’ve adored such as Hayhouse Publishing and Gaia TV. I am surprised that two companies, which I respect greatly in the field of spiritual wellness, are endorsing questionable concepts and a thought leader that has been found to be very unsafe and borderline criminal. It was a stark reminder of why discernment is so important and even those that are proven in their field through public opinion and possess admirable qualities are susceptible to the influence and pitfalls of aggrandization. They don’t hold all the answers, and anyone that says they do doesn’t have your best interest at heart.  

As someone in the industry, I want to remind you that the spiritual market is still a business. At what point should a publisher or media company take accountability for what they promote? If they are ONLY considering the benefit of each other's platforms to gain collective influence, consider this a cue to question their intentions and further what we are personally choosing to absorb, trust and integrate. Questions need to be asked to ensure that a certain program, mentor or service is right for us before diving in blindly. If these questions can’t be answered or are deflected, it is a big fat, red flag.

Using my own discretion and discernment, I watched the 4-part series on Teal Swan called The Deep End. It was extremely triggering and required me to take many breaks to compose myself before returning to it so I could do my best to view it through the lens of compassion. However, this was EXTREMELY hard for me to achieve. I will be honest it was hard to keep my emotions in check. I was mindful that film can be edited to appear a certain way. However, when fact-checking and cross-referencing with other sources that Swan herself wanted others to consider, including the extended film, it didn’t favourably support her cause.

When gently observing Swan, her completion process, marketing strategies and how she interacts with her community, this is what I found to be true:

  • How her business appears and is spoken about is prioritized above the well-being of those seeking and working with her guidance,
  • Crosses ethical boundaries and expects others to adhere to her methods because she knows more than everyone else (guru and hierarchy complex)
  • Won’t take accountability for her actions and her work, she deflects or blames others for their negative experiences but takes all the credit when they have a profound experience,
  • Intentionally targets and markets toward a susceptible community (she’s admitted this) and relies on the power of search engine optimization to capitalize on the pain points of others,
  • Uses hypnotic techniques and tactics in her teachings to bring viewers into a trance state and assert her influence in a subconscious way,  
  • Deliberately brings them into a trauma state and doesn’t give them the appropriate resources to deal with the trauma afterwards. This either creates a perpetual state of reliance on Teal or leaves the individual to unsafely deal with the heaviness they excavated in her presence,
  • Encourages and idolizes those that are suicidal and encourages them to explore their own suicide and “rebirth” as she believes suicide is a reset button,
  • She refers to herself as a “medical savant” and believes she is above the medical system and ethical considerations don’t apply to her.

If anyone questions Teal’s methods, she puffs up her chest and uses grandstanding or gaslighting techniques to assert her dominance and win over her audience. She sees herself in a way where she is above all and only she holds the gifts and answers, therefore no one has the right to question her authority or techniques or else they will be ostracized. When she was interviewed and questioned by reporter Jennings Brown on the Gateway Podcast, he asked her if it came down to blind faith as to why people should trust her work and methods and she replied, “it comes down to how desperate are you.” To me, this is incredibly telling of Swan’s state of mind and intentions.  

When Swans work comes into question, she will berate others for not being enough and remind them that without her, they are nothing and won’t be happy without her. These susceptible individuals came to her in the first place because they didn’t feel enough, and through strategic marketing to draw them in, Teal made them feel seen. However, once they start to feel connected again and start to individuate, she intentionally and systematically dismantles the foundation they created.  It can be likened to an abusive relationship.

To me, Swan doesn’t justly represent a deeply spiritual being, nor does she prove she belongs in the category of acts of service.

A deeply spiritual person with good intentions would lead from the heart and see others as equal and help from that position, not from seeing themselves above and being the know-all. I think the greatest gift an empowered individual can give is to help others recognize their own power and tap into their spiritual authority so they can make the most informed decision from the heart for themselves, not because their teacher told them so. This is a pure way of demonstrating free will.

I will be elaborating on this topic, including the extremes of Teal Swan, her cult and community further in upcoming posts and will share some red flags to look out for and tips to stay informed.

Oooh, and if you want to do a bit of your research for yourself to see how you feel and what your takeaways are, you can explore the following resources. I shared these resources in particular because I felt the hosts and producers did a good job of bringing compassion and curiosity into the space to best understand Teal and her intentions with minimal bias. 

P.s - I am speaking specifically within a spiritual context but it is important to note that these dangers, harmful marketing and influencer worshipping in a culty way aren't limited to just the spiritual community. It can be found in multi-level marketing groups, the fitness and nutrition industry, the business field etc.


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