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  • Writer's pictureEmilie Macas

Spiritual Gaslighting in the Era of Spiritual Awakening

Updated: Aug 22, 2023



We are certainly living in interesting times. If you had told me a year ago that I would be writing a piece on this subject I would never have believed it. Somehow, I feel a responsibility to talk about this now more than ever before. As a Reiki Teacher, Meditation Instructor and considered a ‘spiritual teacher’. I feel the need to bring awareness to this topic. Covid-19 is not only a virus but one that has had colossal consequences on people's lives the world over. It has brought intense mental and emotional pressure. So many people have been desperate for help to find ways to ease their pain and suffering. People are

overwhelmed and vulnerable. There has been a huge surge in the ‘wellness community’, with overnight “gurus” proselytizing that they are “the spiritually awakened”.

2020 gave a loud voice to many people who had been lying in wait to gain attention and status. Spiritual gaslighting is a form of manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual making them question their own perception, sanity and truth. Efforts to gaslight another person can be very subtle. Those seeking assistance from a supposed expert when they are in pain are particularly vulnerable. There is a power differential between a spiritual teacher and a student. The teacher has supposed wisdom that the student is seeking and can be shamed into feeling that if they do not follow their teacher, they are bad. I have observed and experienced it first hand. It can make you doubt yourself and your beliefs at least momentarily, if not a complete shift in perception and cognition. For example, as a survivor of a cult, being raised in a Jehovah’s witness environment, I would say that I gained enough tools to recognize where there is misrepresentation, abuse of power and manipulation in the name of the “supposed truth”. Spiritual gaslighting has the tendency to over focus and emphasize the positive, while avoiding the negative. Dr. John Welwood is an authority on integrating psychological and spiritual concepts.

Welwood explains that spiritual gaslighting uses ‘spiritual ideas and practices’ to sidestep personal, emotional “unfinished business” in the name of enlightenment or true spiritual teachings” Many spiritual teachers do not understand the consequences of their actions. This is seen when the spiritual teacher has not done their own healing work (this is sad but very real these days). A student can be re-traumatized, meaning that their pain can be aggravated depending on the response given to them. Someone who is suffering with dependency issues, makes the perfect ‘prey’ and they will most likely create a codependent relationship that will be dysfunctional. These “teachers” can, intentionally or unwittingly, misrepresent themselves in their credentials and/or spiritual teaching. Students searching for guidance on their spiritual path, can be vulnerable and more easily persuaded to surrender their own beliefs. Their questions might be met with dismissal, for example, they may be told that they are at the beginning of their journey and it is their own resistance they need to work on. There is a difference between someone who is in service to people, with humility and integrity, and spiritual gaslighters. An important sign in spiritual gaslighting is that it is often ego based. In this case the individual will misrepresent their credentials and experience and will often assert that they know the truth, and you don’t. For example, if you question them or you have a different point of view, they will dismiss you or attribute your opinion to a lack of insight and knowledge. Gaslighters responses often focus on their self importance; reminding you how little you know and how vital they are to your journey. Each spiritual path is unique, reflecting and mirroring and our personal experience. No one can tell you how, or how not to experience it! Our uniqueness is to be honored and cherished, not negated and certainly not to be used to divide us in a contest of who possesses the truth and who is more spiritual. Our level of awareness is what differentiates us from each other. The most important ingredient in our spiritual awakening is learning how to nurture and solidify the relationship with ourselves. The willingness and commitment to look within; not ignoring or silencing our voice; questioning who we are; are an important part of our spiritual growth. Self reflection and self inventory are very important in our path. When we go inward our awareness expands and we listen deeply to our inner wisdom. Remember that all you need is within yourself and your spiritual path is an individual experience. We will gather different tools to heal our traumas and wounds. Spiritual awakening is not suppressing our pain but healing the pieces that are holding us back so that we can experience full happiness, joy and peace. I often say that our biggest spiritual teacher is our own life experience.

Our spirituality is a personal design. Spiritual teachers, like any devoted teacher, will not try to convert you but will embrace your uniqueness, empower you and never hold you back. They will “show you where to look but won’t tell you what to see”. “The spiritual journey is individual, highly personal. It can’t be organized or regulated. It isn’t true that everyone follows one path. Listen to your own path.” Ram Dass Spiritual awakening is realized throughout your body, your mind, your heart and soul. The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. The magic we look for is found within. So you see what I see? With Love,



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