Passing the vibe check: Does spirituality move us forward or hold us back?

By John Linderman

Elm Staff Writer

Have you ever been subjected to a vibe check?

According to Urban Dictionary, the vibe check is “A process by which a group or individual obtains a subjective assessment of the mental and emotional state of another person, place or thing.” Vibes draw their etymological roots from “energy,” a term used by the spirituality community to describe a vague and unmeasurable power emanating from a person.

There is no scientific backing for energy, and it is thus different from the kind of energy that comes from the sun or makes your car move. Does spirituality actually help us though? Or is it mostly placebo? And how can you avoid failing the inevitable vibe check?

Religion and spirituality, although different, will be used interchangeably for this article. From the most orthodox of sects to unscrupulous basics like New Age, thinking actively about one’s role in the universe can make a great personal impact.

It’s also important to know that the United States is still a relatively religious country. Religious leaders, most notably evangelical megachurches, find ways to accumulate large sums of wealth, promising salvation to their viewers via prosperity theology. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” covered the topic of televangelists back in 2015 and revealed how hundreds of thousands of Americans donate money to millionaire pastors who then spend it on private jets or luxury vacations.

In more New Age circles, recommendations based on alternative medicine and pseudoscience are traded like currency, and can often lead to harming yourself or a loved one. Practices like homeopathy, magnet therapy, and severe detoxifications are all quackery, folks. In a time of uninterrupted and unchecked information flowing freely, it’s important to stick to the textbooks about your physical health.

Yet, according to the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, spirituality can help with both short-term and long-term unhappiness. In recent years, young men and women have been co-opting spirituality to help ease anxiety and depression. Even basic practices like mindfulness can be insightful for work, relationships, and long-term goals. Although living in the information age can pose its problems, as shown prior with quackery, we now have the resources to form our own unique spiritual relationship with the universe.

For example, we can adapt bits and pieces of faiths around the world to customize our spiritual path. No longer does one have to doggedly follow one specific religion for higher answers. “More recent studies indicate that the relationship between religion and depression may be more complex than previously shown,” quotes Psychiatric Times.

While more research needs to be published and reviewed on the matter, the future between mental health and spirituality is both exciting and apprehensive.

Is being a spiritual person avoiding the blunt realities of life though? Is spirituality a non-argument against concrete issues that require emotional effort? Some argue that having spirituality, and practicing non-attachment, is in and of itself a privilege to those who can’t afford to ease off their work. Of course, saying “chill out” to someone who can’t for any valid reason is daft and should be avoided. To this, spirituality might be best interpreted in the broadest view. It’s important to not dictate your own personal views to another. Taking account of your own perspective to another is a foundation of mindfulness.

So how do you pass the dreaded, inevitable vibe check? Well, don’t stress about always passing someone’s subjective judgement of you. If they don’t like your vibes, then they can get out.

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