ones, is the doctrine of selfishness. Without wading in the muddy philosophical waters of rational selfishness (an individual’s inclinations toward personal well-being, cultivation of self, and achievement of self-satisfying goals) or enlightened self-interest (doing good for others equals doing good for oneself), I notice a theme.
In a Unity Magazine article, an interviewee admits, “Sometimes people are uncomfortable acknowledging their needs, because they have been taught to think that they shouldn’t be selfish, and should put the needs of others ahead of our own. But when I recognize [a] need in me, I can give up any guilt for tending to my own needs as well” (“The Nonviolent Revolution,” by Heide Aungst, http://www.unity.org/publications/unity-magazine/januaryfebruary-2013/nonviolent-revolution).
The spiritual entity Abraham-Hicks directs, “In all that you do, let your dominant intent be to find that which pleasures you as you imagine it. Let your desire for pleasure—your desire for feeling good—be your only guiding light” (Workshop, Philadelphia, PA, April 14, 1998).
Abraham-Hicks again: “And we acknowledge that true selfishness is at the very core of our teaching, because if you are not selfish enough, if you do not care how you feel, if you are not willing to continually redirect your thoughts in the direction of feeling good, you cannot come into alignment with the Source within you. And unless you are in alignment with the Source within you, you have nothing to give another” (The Vortex: Where the Law of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships, p. 187).
This guidance is offered not from the perspective of hedonism or materialism (although oxymoronically in moderation these have their place), but rather from honoring your life desires. Most of us, especially women, are taught the peerless virtues of putting others first in thought and actions. Fine, if you’re a firefighter, disaster nurse, or Army medic. But in daily life, poison.
Julia Cameron calls this impulse the “virtue trap” and quotes writer and editor
Leslie M. McIntyre: “Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-groomed, and unaggressive” (The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, p. 99).
The penchant is gender-inclusive, as I’ve learned from other writers. “Afraid to appear selfish,” Cameron says, “we lose our self. We become self-destructive” (p. 98). Translation for writers: When we put everything and everyone ahead of our drive to write, when we try to deny it or squeeze it out of our day, we know something is very wrong. We just don’t feel good and may take even more self-destructive actions—overeating, overspending, oversleeping, overdosing, overregretting, overruminating, overTwittering , . . .
The lesson: Make room for what feels good. This advice has venerable roots; the first- century A.D. Greek philosopher Epictetus counsels us to “hold to that which seems to you the best, with the conviction that the divinity has assigned you to this post” (Virtue and Happiness: The Manual of Epictetus, p. 20). In a modern update, Julia Cameron prods us: “I have a right to be an artist” (The Artist’s Way, p. 146).
Yes, you do. Label it selfish or self-nurturing, you have a right to be a writing artist. Temporary stalls notwithstanding, you know that this is what makes you feel good. You know beyond reasons, rationales, explanations to anyone, that this is how you will continue to feel good. This is how you will contribute the music that’s in you and fulfill your vision and dreams.
Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne writes fiction and nonfiction, having published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, ReadLearnWrite, Women on Writing, Transformation Magazine, 11.11, and Unity booklets. Her monthly column, “Bloom Where You’re Writing,” appears in Coffeehouse for Writers. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally), with a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook in progress. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books; one of ten best 2011 ebooks), she draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. With Trust Your Life, Noelle appears in the Unity Books 2013 “Summer of Self-Discovery.” Discussions appear on Goodreads: http://www.unity.org/publications/unity-books/summer-reading-series, Her webinar on the book of June 26, 2013, can be heard and seen on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?V=95EeqllONIQ.