One of the gigantic pitfalls of writing a wellness blog is the constant flow of patronizing advice. As wellness instructors, we often address symptoms, ignoring the deeper motivating causes. The patronizing advice, served with an arrogant air, condemns sufferers for their challenging experience without offering practical guidance uniquely catered to the reader’s situation.
For any advice to have meaning, it must be backed with expertise. A content provider must present themselves as “being in the know” with relevant information. Expertise, however, does not mean all-knowing. It just suggest more knowledge or skill in a particular field than the general population.
We hope, as consumers, that those taking a roll as an expert have done their homework and developed their skill. Many have not. The internet attracts ignorant experts. Neglecting attention to their own lives by projecting an image of wellness that exists only electronically. Many social media junkies proudly boast intimate knowledge of precious life secrets for success while scarcely surviving themselves.
The Weakness of All-Encompassing Advise
A major issue of general wellness websites, such as Psychology Fanatic, is they present over generalized concepts to a wide variety of readers. This is great for high scores on Google searches, but fails to provide the individualized relevance most of us need for guidance.
We must balance most effective wellness directives between opposite poles. All-encompassing advise such as “you must take care of yourself” may be appropriate for those with an over-driven need to please others, but the advise only justifies the ill-behaviors of raging narcissists. Same goes for productivity. Some people need to let lose, take care of themselves, enjoy life a little more, while others need to get off their butts and get stuff done.
Generalized directives are really a nightmare of fodder, supplying justifying, self-deceiving slop to fuel our happiness failures.
Emotions and Wellness
Wellness experts stigmatize discomforting emotions as the villain to happiness. In a way they are correct. Sorrow, anger, fear, guilt, shame, and frustration all push happiness aside. As long as a discomforting emotion dominates our visceral landscape, happiness evades. Our attention is drawn to the emotional signals disrupting our homeostatic balance, screaming for something to be done.
A generalized blog, however, can never evaluate the complex mixture of behaviors and experiences proceeding the emotion. In all our wellness wisdom, us authors side-step the complexity and patronize with the obvious—stop feeling sorrow, guilt, or shame.
These discomforting emotions are social emotions with an evolutionary purpose. If you rape, pillage and plunder guilt is appropriate. If you constant mine other people’s joy for your own happiness, a little shame may do you well. When we are content and happy, we seldom do soul searching examination of our misguided behaviors to measure them for appropriateness. Nothing is as immovable as a content abuser. They abuse, hurt and destroy while maintaining a sickening claim to self-righteous authority, granting them the right to their repulsive behaviors. Another blaring weakness of generalized wellness advise is the general neglect to the extensive biological neural substrates involved in instances of emotions.
Behaviorism and Patronizing Wellness Advice
While science has made significant advances over the last century, most wellness directives seem stuck on ancient theories of behaviorism. Basically, there is a smug attitude, “who cares about your hardware, you can be happy no matter what.”
Most of us can make a few thinking and behavior changes that can have a positive impact. Wellness advise serves that purpose. Yet, we, myself included, often ignore the intense motivational factors behind thinking and behavior, let alone the entire biology underlying the emotional experience. Another overlooked contributor to emotions is our individualized pasts. Everyone interprets the present through the lens of the past. Each experience is intricately connected to our pasts. Trauma and joys, successes and failures join together to interpret present opportunity and danger.
Experience is the foundation of wisdom and foolishness. Not every experience appropriately reflects on future similarities. We often project our past on the moment and grossly misinterpret.
Warm Patronizing Concepts
We love friendly quotes that tantalize and cradle our hopes. “Never let an opportunity pass by” we coach. Yet, opportunities are not always obvious. Some tempting opportunities are black holes, sucking dreamers dry of money and time.
On the other end, as Thomas A. Edison famously wrote, “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Black hole or opportunity dressed in overalls is not readily apparent. We are stuck with the risky choice of investment while the snooty wellness advisor sits safely at their computer offering their grand advise on courageously chasing opportunities. A warm and comforting concept with a complicated path for implementation.
Voices screaming at us to improve our lives is deafening. Robyn Dawes wrote “the mandate psychologists give us today is to be happy, at whatever cost to one’s reality testing” (1996). Happiness is a wonderful state. The hedonic principle of chasing pleasure and avoiding pain motivates much of our behavior. However, existing in a never-ending state of glee completely misses the point. We might as well hook up to Robert Novak’s experience machine that stimulate feel good chemicals. The poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko urges us to forget, “the vulgar, insultingly patronizing fairy tale that has been hammered into your heads since childhood that the main meaning of life is to be happy” (Dawes, 1996). I believe his advice may be correct.
Psychology Fanatic ‘s Wellness Advise
This article is not a good-bye letter; I just am publicly recognizing the futility of my endeavors. I will continue providing informative articles on wellness. I understand that many times what I offer is patronizing. However, I often read through past articles and grimace at the narrowness of my view and worry how readers receive my writing. Often time and research prove previously held opinions wrong.
I try to live a healthy life and build healthy connections. I try to succeed in many areas of life. And, I refuse to spend countless hours on social media sites, posting on what others should do to be happy, while neglecting my own life. My life is not in shambles; but, like most, has many areas in need of attention.
My life is not now, nor will ever be a shining example on a grand pedestal. I experience normal relationship ups and downs. I feel intense positive and negative emotions. Like others, I often rely on behavioral habits, defenses and biases that impede wellness and interfere with flourishing.
I am just a normal person with an abnormal curiosity of human behavior and happiness. This curiosity fuels my passion, drives research, and entertains countless thoughts that dance in and out of my mind. A few of those thoughts spill onto the articles of this website, where they may enlighten or patronize readers. I apologize when the latter predominates.
Dawes, Robyn (1996). House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth. Free Press; 1st edition.