The more powerful we become, the greater our need for ethics.

And the more we work on our ethics, the more we integrate our shadow, and the more powerful we become, meaning we need to do this work again every time we level up.

Many folks these days are taking a fast track towards accruing more power. This is made especially more possible in the last several years by fast-growing algorithmic social media platforms. And in today’s scarcity- and competition-driven hustle culture (understandable when you consider our economic situation, especially that of millennials), it’s easy to get hooked on the rewards of growth and scaling without also focusing on our increased responsibility to our followers and colleagues as our authority, income, and audience all increase. The brain loves dopamine more than it loves shadow work.

If we take this path, we will encounter benchmarks along the way at which we will not be able to operate with the same ethics we did previously. Especially if we are recovering from trauma or other kinds of victimhood (I say “victimhood” sincerely, because most of us will go through victim phases in different points in our lives), we may be accustomed to having to scrounge up every source of power we have in order to right ourselves or create justice. If we continue accruing that power after a while and we’re still wielding it with the force of perceived victimhood, then we’re going to bludgeon everyone around us.

As our power grows, so does our impact. In my case, I noticed recently that I had increased my power in my magickal abilities such that my emotions and music were impacting my reality in unintentional ways they’d been mostly unable to do five years ago. I now have to be much more careful in how I wield this power now that I’m aware of it, so I made a post about it for transparency and accountability. I was able to integrate that shadow by naming it out loud and committing to a new standard of ethics, one that’s now appropriate for this particular benchmark. I caught it as soon as I noticed it.

I especially like repatterning as a way of being because it allows for the fact that it is an iterative, lifelong process, and that so long as we continue growing and changing, we will need new patterns and habits for evolving situations in the same way we need new clothing for unfolding seasons. In this way, we know to continue repatterning ourselves for greater and greater stages of leadership as we grow into them, and we can continually pause and make sure we’re equipped for our evolving circumstances.

If we focus on growth and scaling without also leveling up our ethics, we risk easily falling prey to Teal Swan syndrome – where we end up feeling like we’ve fallen victim to a community that we ourselves were in charge of leading. We allow our focus on growth and scaling to compromise the integrity of our values in how we deliver our message and how we treat the people close to us. We ignore it when members of our inner circle bring harms to our attention, we shun the folks who point out our incongruences, and soon we end up creating a divide in our community… the community we were supposed to be leading.

There is also something to be said here about using emotionally manipulative tactics on demographics of vulnerable people, something Teal Swan was known for. If we acquire a following by whipping people up into a frenzy with the charisma and clickbait of our message, we can’t be surprised when they end up being just as easily whipped up against us. We might not be guilty of consciously manipulating vulnerable people, but we might have put our focus on learning what works best on the algorithm, which means using the tactics that get us the most engagement, and ignored the fact that these tactics are emotionally manipulative of vulnerable people. This creates shadow. This is how we become unaware of how we are responsible for what we have created.

Something I learned being sole creatrix of Arden & The Wolves is that at the end of the day, the person who’s responsible for how my music sounds is me. I hire my producers. I hire my musicians. Everything that happens in my band is a reflection of my own choices. It’s harder to assume this kind of responsibility for a large community the larger it grows, but the more we perceive ourselves as victims of our own community, the more we are putting into shadow our own creative power and responsibility. If the people we say we’re serving are upset with us, it’s on us to listen.

There is a way out of this pitfall, and that is to build meaningful human relationships with people who share your values, including your peers, colleagues, and community members. Keep your word and deliver on your promises. Listen to people when they suggest to you that something you’re doing is harmful; the people who already love and support you are trying to help you, not turning on you. Seek out second opinions but don’t just look to confirm what you already want to believe – look to learn deeply why something is or is not in alignment for you. Better yet, catch your shadow first by keeping people around you who you trust to let you know if you’re out of alignment. Actively seek out and implement the feedback of your community. Don’t just keep people around who praise and agree with you no matter what – surround yourself with people who praise you when you’re in alignment and let you know with compassion when you’re not, in accordance with the values you hold. Make sure you are living the values of your message and not just using them to signal your market demographic.

Or as Ani DiFranco says – and hat tip to Anaiis Flox for this one, “If you don’t live what you sing about, your mirror is going to find out.”

photo by Samir Janjua