Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The shame old brat show

God bless John Bradshaw. Not only is he one of my home boys, but he is one of the founding fathers of what SHAM author Steve Salerno terms the "victimization" camp of the self-help industry. Bradshaw almost single-handedly created the inner-child industry, and to this day that is the innovation for which he is best known. Everyone from Barbra Streisand to Roseanne Barr to Steven Spielberg has embraced his teachings. And even today, Bradshaw is exploiting exploring the inner child theme in workshops across the country. He has made his fortune teaching personal-growth addicts to appreciate fine whines.

Bradshaw was also instrumental in shaping the shame industry. For a time he promoted shame as a bad and binding thing that had to be healed. Eventually, however, it dawned on him that some shame is a good thing. It’s what keeps us as a society from being totally…well, shameless.* So Bradshaw modified his message. "Toxic shame" is the thing to be healed, whereas "mature shame" is the thing to be reclaimed and championed, along with one’s inner child, of course. Mature shame can even be a source of spiritual blessings – seven of them, if I’m reading his "Events" schedule correctly.

For years Bradshaw was very much in demand as a speaker, and, although you might find this hard to believe, The Rev and I first met when we ended up on the same planning committee for a relationship conference at which Bradshaw was the keynote speaker. Cosmic Relief was still in its nascent form then, and I hadn’t completely come out of the closet as "Cosmic Connie," but I was no longer a New-Wager either. So there I was, neither wolf nor dog, in the midst of a decidedly New Wage/New Thought crowd, participating in a feel-good relationship conference because my then-business partner had talked me into it. Getting Bradshaw for our keynote speaker was a real coup back in those days (and The Rev played a big part in the process). As I recall, Bratshow...er...Bradshaw...gave a very educated-sounding talk, which consisted of a multitude of his own thoughts strung together with quotations from one spiritual or literary work after another. I forget exactly what he talked about, but I’m sure that the speech was littered with inner children and toxic shame and deep mythic themes.

Although he keeps a lower profile these days than, say, Dr. Phil, Tony Robbins, and other mega-stars, and he doesn't seem to have a strong Internet presence, Bradshaw is still very much on the self-help/spiritual scene. He’s not a real prolific author, but he does have a few classics from which he still gets a lot of mileage. And he has made a ton of tapes. He also travels the country to conduct workshops on inner-child issues, toxic shame, mature shame, and family healing matters such as "Finishing Your Business With Mother" and "Healing Your Father Wounds." Oh, yes, and there’s "Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families," which would be…let’s see…umm…pretty much everyone. That’s a fairly significant market.

Bradshaw even has a workshop called, "Reclaiming the Blessing of Elderhood," which is strictly for men 50 and older. Why is it that in New Age/New Wage culture, men over 50 get to be "elders," but women in the same age group are "crones?" I know that the mythopoetic crowd has been trying to put a positive spin on the word "crone" since the late 1980s, but to me and everyone else outside of the New Wage culture, "crone" means "ugly old hag," and that’s what it always will mean. Find another word, for Goddess's sake.
It is impossible to overestimate the profound influence that Bradshaw's inner child teachings have had on our culture. Every self-help junkie I have ever known, including my aforementioned ex-business partner, has done "inner child work." Years later, most of these people are still working on their "issues," but they continue to tout the merits of doing inner child work. And more than one of these people has strongly recommended that I do some inner child work myself, to get at my "issues."

And so, Dear Ones, I finally succumbed to years of pressure and attended a Bradshaw inner-child workshop recently.** And boy, did I learn some profound truths about myself – truths that are so deep and painful that I cannot even write about them. Thank goodness, then, that a picture is worth a thousand words.
But now, weeks later, after all of that inner-child exploration, I feel as if I have really gained nothing. My inner child is not even speaking to me any more. It's like, you know, I went to a Bradshaw workshop...and all I got was this stupid wifebeater.*** Sigh. I've been taken again.
* I have noticed that in the New-Wage hustledork crowd, there is very little mature shame.
** Not really. I wouldn't go to one of those things unless someone paid me very, very well to do so.
*** That’s what they’re called. Don’t blame me.

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