I’m way more spiritual than you are, like way more.
By Jayson Gaddis
For a few years, I ran a men’s personal development blog where I basically coached men how to step up. After the first year, instead of gaining momentum as a great resource for men, it kinda turned into my personal story. I shared very openly my process, my meltdowns, and my insights about the spiritual path.
Recently, I had a guy comment on my blog in a way that was reminiscent of my own view a couple of years ago.
“Jayson I’m an infrequent visitor to your site. Not that the content is not worthwhile, just that I’ve been on a bit of a quest myself. What I’ve found is much more than peace. Much more than ‘emptiness’. It’s filling, completeness and deep understanding of how things work. It didn’t require a special tea, any type of penitence, or whatever ‘painful’ rites you’d like to perform.
It’s Kabbalah and it’s the most freeing and complete system to achieve understanding you’ll ever find. Look into it and save yourself and your family the pain and uncertainty of imitation spirituality. Peace and good luck.”
In other words, “My path is better than your path.”
Deeper translation? “I’m better than you.” Even deeper translation? “I feel inadequate and worthless and I need to prove to you that I’m really not.”
Ouch. I know this place in me intimately…
I’m a 3 on the enneagram, which means I get love and approval through achieving and performing. Growing up, I became a master at this approach. It became how I did anything in life, so I learned to win other’s approval of me through my accomplishments and “trying hard.”
So, it’s no surprise that when I jumped on the spiritual path and joined a Buddhist community, I applied the same achieving-using-will-power approach. I will get there faster than you. How quick can I become enlightened? How fast can I burn through these prostrations? These mantras? Don’t think I can do it? Watch me. How “in” can I get with the teacher and become one of his favorites? How can I get others to see me as a spiritual badass? I was on a vajrayana mission to achieve realization and get there before any of you.
I was simply continuing my childhood game of proving myself as a way to avoid feeling inadequate and worthless. Now, I was using spirituality to fill the gaping hole in me.
I often had the thought like my blog commenter, “My path is better than your path.” I was like, “People, how come you don’t see what I see? When are you posers going to get that my way is the fastest and BEST way?”
As a psychotherapist and life coach I would really want my clients to “get it” too. My overt message sounded sincere: “Hey, whatever works for you.” Yet my covert message, which I never shared, but many people felt anyway, was “Um, you are missing the boat, I know THE way, don’t you see it?”
Spiritual ego. Spiritual Narcissism.
So now, after having fallen apart over the past year in some kind of major spiritual crisis where all the maps were shredded in order to proceed, I see things differently. I see the trap in my way of thinking and how hurtful it can be.
Since leaving the Buddhist community, and choosing to drink ayahuasca on occasion, and venturing off into the unknown, I feel willing to listen, to trust, to see clearly the ways in which I play my spiritual games, the ways I stay separate, and keep my inadequacy wound at bay. I see how I too can use spirituality to fortify my ego.
Within a day of the above blog comment came another email from a friend in the old Buddhist community who owned up to thinking I was a “spiritual poser” over the years. He was right, and so was the timing of his email. I can hear him now.
My friend Michael (whom I have to credit for the title of this post, which he wants to make into a bumper sticker) and I joke back and forth about who’s more spiritual. “I don’t have to feel my feelings anymore bro; my issues are gone and I don’t exist anyway.”
I see the inadequacy trigger more clearly now and can laugh about its game. It isn’t running me anymore, but I have to stay sharp. If I slip, hopefully someone has the balls to call me out. Open invitation.
One thing remains true and has always been a consistent thread in myself and the clients I work with—hunger. I don’t ever want to make my hunger or another person’s hunger for the truth wrong.
Back to not knowing…
About Jayson Gaddis
Jayson Gaddis, MA, LPC, CGT, former overly serious buddhist meditator, is now a relationship psychotherapist devoted to helping people awaken through relationship and intimacy. He’s working to embody a new paradigm of connection, deep relationship, and family. He’s also a blogger, and a part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two kids. More here .