Joe Brolly

JOE BROLLY: The GPA Inspirational Leaders Summit

I GOT an e mail from the Pendulum Summit this morning, inviting me to a wellness and inspirational leadership workshop at the RDS with Dr Joe Vitali. A snip at only €1,500. Joe, who doesn’t have any particular qualifications, describes himself as a global thought leader. Modesty is not a quality associated with this genre. His books include: ‘The Attractor Factor: 5 easy steps for creating wealth (or anything else) from the inside out’ and ‘The Miracle: 6 steps to enlightenment.’

Like the DUP, these people like numbered lists. Joe is a ‘certified metaphysical practitioner’ (like Shaggy in Scoobydoo), a ‘certified Chi Kung healer’ (I don’t know either) and according to his website, “The world’s first hypnotic writer” (answers on a postcard).

The Pendulum Summit e-mail was remarkably similar to one I got from the GPA last week, inviting the recipients to the GPA All Ireland Youth Leadership Workshop. Indeed. Starting with 10.05: President’s intro – Donal Óg Cusack, then 10.10: Fitting in, Unconscious Bias – Jennifer Rogers, 10.25: 3 Secrets of Resilient People – Dr Tom Parsons, 11.05: The Power of Giving Back – panel discussion, 11.40: Finding Your Flow – The True Power of Yoga. This is not a joke.

Is it any wonder that our young people are feeling so much anxiety? Wellness and happiness have become powerful, lucrative industries.

The core of this fantasy is that the individual has amazing, hidden ability to unlock the superman within. That you can be rich, happy and have everything you ever dreamed of, if you devote yourself fully to yourself.

The theme is that if you buy these products, follow these vague commandments and strive to improve your inner self, you can become the perfect human.

It is an impossible demand, asking us to obsessively track our diet, our fitness, our happiness, turning us in on ourselves and leaving very little room to actually live. In this fantasy world, we are exhorted to “find our flow”, to “unleash our resilience”, to “take up yoga” and to obsess over improving ourselves.

As Pascal Bruckner puts it in ‘Perpetual Euphoria: The Duty to be Happy’ (Princeton University Press, 2010), “The dining table is no longer the altar of succulent delights, a place for sharing a meal and conversation. Instead, it has become a pharmacy counter where we keep an eye on fats and calories and where food is reduced to a form of medication.”

This is what a generation of our young players are being instructed to do. You have to fit in, expel unconscious bias from your mind, learn the three secrets of resilient people so you too can be like them, tap into the power of giving back and find your inner flow, diet carefully, avoid pleasure. It is a cruel and narcissistic culture, borrowed from the Wellness Business. You must “foster and encourage your inner strengths, identify hidden and untapped resources, put yourself on the path to designing the inspirational life you are meant to live, connect to your deepest emotions, nurture your body and above all, cultivate a positive attitude.”

The more our young people are subjected to this, the more they will be divorced from the real world, setting expectations that are impossible to realise, then the disappointment and anguish when they inevitably fail.

This bullshit is only just starting to bed in here. It has flooded America and the UK. Equine Assisted Wellness programs are very popular, horses being brought in to help sportsmen and business people unlock their hidden strengths.

The GPA might also like to bring their members to the leadership week run by wellness guru Martha Beck. Entitled “Escape from the Man Cage”, groups of participants take part in things like building fires in the wild, tracking animals and trying to find each other while blindfolded, using only their sense of hearing.

The notion that we all have extraordinary hidden strengths is very attractive. That we can be better versions of ourselves if only we can release our infinitely powerful inner flow. In reality, like the beauty industry, it is a prescription for anxiety, self doubt, disappointment and powerlessness.

Yoga? Nah. I’d rather have a pint of stout and a chat.

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