Ideology Or Self Development?

About 250 years ago, in the Western world, Christianity and Monarchy began to fade in its influence. This caused a lot of revolutions, there was a lot of anger directed at religions and monarchy, and it led to a period of time that we call ‘The Age of Enlightenment’. As it turns out, the age of enlightenment was not so enlightened – it was an age of a lot of disharmony and many people ended up dissolusioned. BUT… what it did do, is it inspired the west to start looking elsewhere for answers – to start looking to the East: Eastern Philosophy – Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism etc… So in the 19th century, you had new circles and movements influenced by these ancient philosophies.

People like… Ralph Waldo Emerson, the New Thought movement… who later influenced Wallace D Wattles, who wrote a series of articles in Nautilus Magazine, and people like Paul Allen, who wrote ‘As A Man Thinketh’ – this is at the turn of the 20th century. And these people went on to influence people like Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie… and the influence of those people is unquestioned.

Now what I’ve just told you, is a very brief history of what is known as ‘Self Improvement’, or ‘self development’. The world of Self Development is now a huge industry, encompassing every area of western human experience: dating, finance, sex, sports, nutrition, self discipline, learning how to learn… It is not a subculture, is it the mainstream… Self Improvement has now saturated English-speaking culture, to the point where it is undeniable. I mean, as an example: The US army is now teaching its marines how to meditate. “Meditation, that’s for hippies” – really?… The architype of capitalism, mercantilism, and militarism – American – is teaching its own soldiers the ancient Eastern method of meditation.

So here’s the point I want to make: a lot of core principles in self development can actually be traced to Eastern Philosophy – a lot of what ‘gurus’ in self-development teach, as actually re-worked or watered-down versions of ancient Eastern philosophical texts… Just read the Heart Sutra as an example…

And more importantly, Self Development wouldn’t even exist, had we not outlived organized religion and Monarchy and looked for alternatives – isn’t that interesting?

Now… Let me tell you another story, a parallel story…

Around the same time, when Christianity and Monarchy began to slip in their influence, this caused a fundamental shift in the way in which property was treated. Before, a King or Queen would have divine right –the right of god – to rule over you, and all that you touched, because ultimately it wasn’t yours, it belonged to the King to Queen, who was ordained by God. This is how monarchy and religion compliment each other to produce a power structure based on ownership…

Now, those who didn’t look to eastern philosophies, but who still questioned Religion and Monarchy – these people remained within the same Western Paradigm. Their focus then, wasn’t influenced by new ways of thinking, but instead concentrated on a model of redistribution of property and wealth. The first movement like this was the physiocrats, during the French Revolution, who later influenced a guy called Karl Marx – the founder of Marxism.

What I’ve jut told you, is a very brief introduction to the beginnings of ideology more specifically liberal ideology. In short, Liberal Ideology is a rejection of Monarchy and religion, that still works within the framework of Western Thinking.

Marxism isn’t the end of the story – because from there, countless other Liberal Ideologies emerged, based on the same spirit and template of Marxism. What others… well, later there was Feminism, Environmentalism, Multiculturalism, Animal Rights, Aetheism – all these are components of Liberal Ideology.

Now its quite complex to talk about how all these movements compliment each other – but the fact is, as liberal social movements, they’re all rejections of the dogma of Christian religion, and the power structure of monarchy.

So what I’ve just told you, is a short, abbreviated history of Western ideology– specifically Liberal Ideology, which is the dominant ideology today.

Here’s what’s interesting… I have some friends who gravitate towards self-development, and some friends who gravitate towards ideology… but I don’t know anyone who’s into both. And that got me searching, and I found that you are either one or the other…interesting… what I’ve observed is that people who identify more with ideology, tend not to be into self-development, its too woolly, too impractical, it looks clichéd… and people who are into self-development tend not to be interested in ideology – its too heavy, it’s too militant and controlling.

And it’s got me asking: why is this the case? And then I realized, ideology and self-development are opposites: they’re actually the antithesis of each other.

Let’s take a look:

The basic premise of ideology is that it is concerned with external change. It’s all about external external external – events situations. Funnily enough, all politics is based on the promise of external change: “Vote for me, I’ll change things”, “vote for me, I’ll change things better than he can” …and guess what, nothing changes. It’s political cycle, one by one, Politician welcomed to the stage “yeh, obama, woo!” and your life doesn’t really get any better. There’s another crisis, another set of problems…just in time for another election. Funny that?

So the desire for external change – which is the promise of ideology – is a massive handicap: it has going round and round in circles for an external saviour, for completion – the lie that there will be some set of circumstances just beyond the rainbow and when we get there, everything will be fine. Everything will exist in a perpetual state of OK.

To go a little bit deeper, this is a massive handicap. It’s the spiritual equivalent of cutting your arms off. Not only does it promise the impossible, not only does it set up the idea of an external saviour, but also the whole paradigm of chasing external change is based on experience… “This is a good experience, yay. This is a bad experience. Boo. This is a good experience, yay. This is a bad experience. Boo. This is a good experience, yay. This is a bad experience. Boo. This person was nice to me. Yay. This person was mean to me. Boo.” …You’re just a leaf in the wind; you’re at the perpetual effect of whatever your external experiences are.

What about basing life, not on experience, but on the creation of experience. Then you’re at the cause and not the effect.

The whole premise of Self-development IS: the conscious creation of experience. If you internalize this one concept, is it impossible to accept any saviour, is it impossible to accept the promises of any ideology. Why? Because if you are consciously creating your own experience, it means you are responsible for it,– there’s nobody else to blame, there’s nobody else who can fix it! Now, I want to be very clear: unless free will is being violated, blaming someone or something else for your experience is denial of your own responsibility in creating your experience. In other words, to blame others, is to not be responsible for your self. And conversely, if you’re rescued, it also involves a relinquishing, to some degree, of free will, because that saviour is now implicated in your circumstances.

In any case, blame manifests in a number of ways in ideology….

Every ideology exists in some form of wictimhood – blame, self-pity, the underdog. This manifests as….


…Which goes hand-in-hand with blame. With Marxism it’s rich people, with Feminism its men, with Environmentalism, its actually the entire human species… how’s that for positive?

The flip side of the same coin of victimhood is revenge. And this manifests as…


It’s funny to see people who you would think care more about human life, commit violent acts that they justify with their ideology…

Every single ideology includes some degree of self-pity, a call to protest, a call to vengeful protest, blame, and victimhood, and often, an external saviour. Ideology oscillates between all these things.

Self-development, by contrast, is more concerned with self-responsibility. This manifests as…. Self-generated experience… deep internal change. The immaterial.

Let’s look at a few more differences:

Ideology is negative. Ideology is focussed on circumstance that you don’t want as a starting point… Self-development is positive. The message of self-development is to focus on what you DO want – to create the experience that you would like.

Ideology is based on separation, rivalry, competition, scarcity. – Ideology is all about emphasising difference. Self-development assumes abundance: an abundance of opportunity, an abundance of experience, an abundance of understanding, an abundance of learning. Self-development assumes connectedness: I am you, and you are I. Nobodies cut from a different cloth, what one can do another can do. Ideology: you go to war. Self-development: you don’t go to war.

Ideology is based on FORCE, OPINION, and RESISTENCE – because IDEOLOGY is based on the premise external change, Ideology assumes that THE HARDER YOU PUSH, THE BIGGER THE EFFECT. Ever heard of the idea that ‘Resistance creates Persistence’, or ‘what you resist persists’? Because Ideology is based on RESISTENCE, it automatically SETS UP CONFLICT and CHALLENGE. It is therefore always on the back-foot, trying to ASSERT ITSELF.

Self-Development by contrast is based on ACCEPTANCE, as opposed to RESISTENCE… Acceptance of external circumstances, as opposed to fighting circumstances, and self-acceptance, as opposed to inner resistance. What this means is, is that to hold onto the reflexes of Ideology is TIRING, because energy (LITERAL CALORIES, AS WELL AS THE FOCUS OF YOUR ATTENTION) has to be SPENT on asserting and RE-ASSERTING your opinion, your position, your world-view.

Self-development does require effort by going outside of your comfort zone, but SELF-ACCEPTANCE DOESN’T REQUIRE ENERGY EXPENDITURE – in fact, self-acceptance and acceptance of others means you LET GO, you relinquish inner-resistance, and that becomes ENERGIZING.

What’s the conclusion: THIS IS WHAT IS COMES DOWN TO…

If you adopt an ideology, you say, “I am this. I wave this flag. I am part of this group. I reject everything else” then you’ve ring-fenced WHO YOU ARE. You’ve put an automatic BOUNDRY on your experience and your persona.

I’m here to let you in on a little secret. You are not a persona. YOU HAVE A PERSONA. And if you act on this PERSONA you can change this PERSONA. This is the fundamental idea behind self-development… now here’s a fact: your persona only GROWS when acted upon. If you RESTRAIN this PERSONA, and you say “I am this”, it ATROPHIES, and it WHITHERS, and instead of your energy expanding, it becomes withheld, restrained, stifled…

The evidence?

Look at someone who calls themselves a MARXIST, or a FEMINIST, or a ENVIRONMENTALIST… in their 50s, or 60s. Are they happy-go-lucky people? Are they light, expressive, bouncy, jolly, free-flowing people? NOOO. They look OLD. They’re TIRED. Their energy is RESTRAINED. Look at their body language, their posture… Neuro-musculature is a direct consequence of the mind – these are people who are LITERALLY, PHYSICALLY CACOONED by their own limited thought processes. By their inability to move beyond the REFLEXES of IDEOLOGY. They have been overcome with resistance, negativity, negative assumptions about the world, about others, themselves, separation, self-pity, protest, outrage, adrenaline, forcefulness, rivalry, competition, victimhood,

Now does this mean that I’m saying you have been a self-development seminar junky, and that anything that isn’t self-development isn’t worth your time – NO WAY! NO WAY! And absolutely, sometimes you have to make a stand and point out the negative, and prepared to be a bit reactive. This video is a good example!

But here’s the conclusion: if you gravitate to ideology more than self-development, you will never ever EVER experience a deep sense of self-esteem, a deep satisfying sense of knowing, you always been looking over your shoulder to check every one agrees with you, you will micromanage your behaviour, and ultimately, if ideology is your thing, you will have put the lid on your own potential.

If you’re watching this, I want you to realize your potential. I want you to let go of the reflexes that underpin ideological thinking, and I want for you to start to focus more intently on the reality that would provide the highest quality experiences for you….

So the reason I wanted to make this video, is I see an interesting phenomenon taking place, during the last few years. This is where liberal ideology is HIJACKING self-development…

So why is this a new phenomenon, why now? Well… listen, people are ‘waking up’, and they’re pissed off. They’re pissed off with the banks, the politicians, the lies, the greed, the power structure, the environment, the water… people are pissed off.

So I think what the power structure, TPTB are trying to do, is that it’s trying to hold on to power,… and they why its trying to do that is that your’re being sold you ideology, but marketing it in such a way as to make it SOUND like self-development, something aspirational. But if you look at actually what’s being said, it’s pure ideology.

So two examples come to mind. The first would be Emma Watson, who delivered a speech on Feminism at the UN. So I found that speech really interesting because it was almost designed to rile people up, to hit your emotional buttons – and produce a very FOR or AGAINST response. This is a typical hallmark of IDEOLOGY. But at the same time, it was very aspirational, and proposed a vision which was transformational – so it had this very appealing self-improvement vibe to it, but it was underscored by language that was full of resistance, seperation, competition, rivalry. Its very subtle – you have to look at the reflexes rather than the oratory.

Another example, is anything that comes out of Russell Brand’s mouth. Russell Brand is the perfect example – it’s like a yard sale of liberalism: that’s someone who mixes every liberal ideology, with eastern philosophy. Perfect example… so he cultivates all the cynicism, resistence, seperation and alienation that comes with ideology, but again it’s sold as self-development…

What I see happening, is liberal ideology trying to re-invent itself by presenting itself as self-development. It’s actually very nefarious, because you have good intentions – you want the world to be a better place; you want to be a better person – so I see these good people good buying into what they think is self-development, but is actually ideology in disguise.


If you’re bit curious, if you consider yourself a Marxist or a socialist, or feminist, or an environmentalist – look at the material that people are presenting… look at the material online, in print, available in book shops – the NEW material that is, and ask yourself: where is the self-development here? If I follow this to the nth degree, does it deliver a deep self-esteem, or does it set up situations that going to provoke separation, resistance etc? Does it have me filling my social media feeds with complains? Checking my back to see if everyone agrees with me? Or does it produce a deep, satisfying sense of knowing? A deep self-acceptance and clarity? Does it get my adrenaline pumping? Or is it calming?

And another question… when you look at culture, do you think our institutions are based more on the reflexes of ideology, or on the principles of self-development? how about the institution of science? …How about our political institutions? How about the art world?


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Copyright 2019 Tom Badley.
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