How I Rationalize Spending Hundreds of Dollars on Woo-Woo Bullshit

It’s more than Wellness™ or self-care. It’s about taking control.

Photo: ullstein bild/Getty Images

I generally consider myself a rational human being. My friends will tell you I’m a natural-born realist with a caustic sense of humor. Add to that a career in journalism where I’ve been trained to approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism and you’d think I’d be thoroughly immune to even the slightest hint of a grift. But thanks to a decade spent covering the fashion industry, and the impenetrable allure of all things New Age, I’ve also developed an uncanny ability to justify even the most outlandish price tag. So I’m not totally shocked to discover that despite having quit my job with very little disposable income rolling in, I still managed to spend $212 in January alone on woo-woo bullshit.

About once a month, I shell out $37 for a breathwork class which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like — a workshop where you pay to lie in a drafty, palo santo-scented Williamsburg yoga studio illuminated by twinkle lights while you and five other women breathe air in a particular way for two hours. I spend $27 on a monthly subscription to a workshop series that promises to help me unlearn subconscious limiting beliefs that are blocking the universe from making all my dreams come true. The series includes guided meditation, journal prompts, full moon rituals, and “a combination of neuroscience and psychology teachings with a little spirituality sprinkled on top.” One of the workshops left me convinced that my gendered energies were out of whack, which helped me justify purchasing a $118 “Yin Power” powder meant to “support the feminine.”

Agency has become my new escapism, offering a small sense of control over the vast uncontrollable.

Another $12 a month goes to a tarot and astrology newsletter that offers me guidance for the week ahead. And an $18 citrine crystal helps amplify my financial abundance. I’ve also bookmarked a folder full of reiki, Akashic record readings, goddess workshops, and long-distance energy healings for when I have slightly more disposable income to throw at my myriad existential dramas.

So how does a self-identified logical thinker wind up spending such a foolish sum on products that ostensibly have no real value?

I’m certainly not the only skeptic who’s recently made the pivot to these types of practices. According to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, roughly 60% of American adults believe in at least one type of New Age belief, from psychics to reincarnation to astrology or spiritual energy. Another 2017 study revealed that “about a quarter of U.S. adults now think of themselves as spiritual but not religious,” marking a decided cultural shift toward the acceptance of the slightly supernatural.

Perhaps 2016 did more of a number on America’s psyche than any of us previously realized. Our collective inability to cope ushered in the rapid rise of Wellness™, a whitewashed conception of self-care, and an increased interest in the transcendental, all of which were marketed as a panacea to our metaphysical angst.

But instead of the spiritual quick fix we were seeking, the process of delving deeper into all things mystic has become, at least for me, a heuristic journey of self-discovery and improvement. These modalities have offered me an alternative framework and a new set of tools to examine my own deeply held, self-sabotaging beliefs that I’m not good enough, that I’m not worthy of the same professional accolades or romantic love as my peers. This work demands near-constant introspection and accountability or, at the very least, increased hydration to wash down all those supplements.

If four years ago self-care meant unplugging from the world, today I think it has to mean engaging more deeply than ever with an open mind.

Agency has become my new escapism, offering a small sense of control over the vast uncontrollable. As our world becomes increasingly bleak and the doomsday clock ticks closer to midnight, I’ve slowly come to terms with the fact that the only thing I truly control is myself. It’s my responsibility to shift how I think, how I act, and how I move through this world in order to bring my best, most enlightened self to bear on any given situation. Be the change you wish to see in the world, as they say, even if that change means accepting the utility of New Age ideologies the old you would have crucified you over.

If four years ago self-care meant unplugging from the world, today I think it has to mean engaging more deeply than ever with an open mind. It’s also defined by a willingness to question everything we’ve long held to be self-evident, from the state of our consciousness to the stability of our democracy. That’s not an excuse to go overboard or champion conspiracy over science. To be clear, you should absolutely vaccinate your kids and there is truly never any reason to steam your yoni. But, on the flip side of the Goop spectrum, it is undeniably fascinating to be living in a time when quantum theory has proven that something as simple as observation affects reality and the Pentagon had to admit it was investigating UFOs.

So don’t mourn the death of my rational mind just yet. While I may now espouse some truly hippie-dippie opinions, I’ve also long been a firm believer in the incredible power of the placebo effect. After all, there’s nothing more formidable than the lies our brain alchemizes into truth. And if giving away too much of my money to grifters each month delivers even a modicum of inner peace, who’s to say the alternative medicine’s not working?

Emily Kirkpatrick is a writer for hire currently covering all things Vanities at Vanity Fair.

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