Carolyn Elliott (2020)
Existential Kink may be the worst book I have ever read to completion. It was hyped to me and I ended up paying for it, which I regret.1 I hate-read this book because I think the only way I can get over this regret is to explain why you shouldn’t buy it.
The book’s sins are nontrivial; its mortal one is that it’s worse than a bad book: it’s a bad book with a few good ideas scattered around. Those few good ideas have better sources out there that I will recommend to you, and are absolutely by no means good enough reason to read the book. I put myself through this so you don’t have to.
Despite trying to distance itself from it, the book is based on law of attraction philosophy (belief system?) with a twist. The twist is that instead of just realizing that the bad things in your life are there because you attracted them to you, you should also realize that you derive deep kinky sexual excitement from having them. There are exercises to get in touch with those sexual feelings, and the idea is that once you do, those feelings will magically (actually magically yes) resolve and you will immediately start attracting the opposite of those bad things. I am not exaggerating for effect. This is the book.
I have ~109 highlights from the book, most of which contain notes. Instead of dumping all 109 here, I’m going to select just a few, and hopefully they’ll be enough to make the case.
If you want to skip all the garbage below, let me recommend a few sources for good ideas hidden in the book. You can get them from a decent therapist, a friend who’s in a good place in their life, or personal growth, healing, and meditation resources like We Can Do Hard Things podcast, The Art of Accomplishment podcast2, and the Waking Up app.
Select highlights, notes, and comments
Naturally when I mention that “having is evidence of wanting,” folks are quick to bring up children stuck in devastated war zones or abusive situations and say, “How can you say they wanted that? What kind of horrible monster would dare suggest such a thing?” Well, to this I say: first of all, it’s not just our personal unconscious desires that affect the external situations in anyone’s life—it’s the collective unconscious desires. Here’s a rule of thumb: If we’re talking about an annoying pattern that seems to recur specifically for you, and you know a lot of other folks who are free of that particular pattern, chances are good that it’s something that’s being created specifically by your own personal unconscious. But if we’re talking about endemic human problems like war or racism or child abuse, odds are it’s more of a collective unconscious issue. (Location 703)
She’s aware of the criticism. That’s a start.
Second of all, I don’t think it’s enormously far-fetched to imagine that some very brave and generous souls come into this world with the strong personal, unconscious desire to experience extreme hardships in childhood, perhaps for the ultimate purpose of making it conscious and healing it, and in that way, healing the collective. (Location 712)
I don’t know what that means, except that it reads like she’s saying it’s reasonable to imagine that some children are born into this world wanting to suffer.
I know my dry writing style risks glossing over moments of significance, so I want to pause for a moment here, hold your digital hand and look into your screen-lit eyes, and acknowledge how fucking abhorrent that is.
In any given day, there are all kinds of “strokes” that come towards us from other people, from our own minds, and from “fate.” The more we’re willing to “get off on every stroke” that comes to us, the more pleasure and fun we can have in our lives, and the more magnetic we can become to positive synchronicity. Sadly, most of us turn ourselves off. We have a quite narrow range of “strokes” that we’re willing to get off on in our day. Someone is super nice to us? Turn-on. We get a big unexpected gift of money? Turn-on. The sun is shining? Turn-on. Someone is rude to us? Turn-off. Grey, cold, drizzly day? Turn-off. Low bank account? Turn-off. (Location 763)
How turned on and approving you are tends to have a lot to do with whether you’re willing to playfully perceive your life as a wild, kinky game or whether you’re hell-bent on taking it seriously and believing that it “should” follow a certain ego-pleasing pattern. The more you allow yourself to be “turned on,” the less resistance you offer to the positive, creative current that’s always attempting to move through you into manifestation. (Location 777)
This is the first example of a good idea buried under unnecessary sexualization almost to the point that you can only recognize it if you were already familiar with it. There’s something good about not being fixated on outcomes and seeing opportunity in the unexpected, and that’s an old idea. But you can spray it with a New Idea Smell by making it a “turn on” about “kinks”. The sexualization gets a lot worse from here.
Sickness and scarcity and death and grief and pain and loss and violence and weakness——all of these are fascinating, worthwhile experiences that the conscious ego-personality likes to judge as “wrong” or “bad” somehow. Well, they’re not wrong or bad; they’re part of the panorama of life, and the unconscious divine Self that we all are wants to experience everything; it deeply wants to experience it all. Otherwise, why would the Self that we are have bothered to incarnate into duality? (Location 979)
I don’t know where to start with this one. First, there is magic and incarnation bullshit that I’m going to throw right out. Second, another example of “how can x be bad if it’s already happening?” circular logic that forces you to conclude that sickness, grief, pain, and death aren’t bad.
And you can’t even come back at this with something like “let me be clear, I do not want to experience pain and violence” because they’re talking about your “unconscious divine Self”, so you see? You do want it, you just don’t know it.
We can debate whether immortality would be a healthy thing for us humans to achieve given the psychology and sociology we have today, but I can’t tolerate a worldview that concludes that sickness is part of the panorama of life and is actually good. This is a worldview that has gone so far up its own morally-relativistic ass that it’s lost all perspective.
We get stuck when we look for “reasons” to motivate us to action, because some part of us knows that there simply is no “reason.” Many brilliant, wonderful people spend years mucking around in this swamp, propping themselves up with half-assed “reasons” for living, like not disappointing their family or friends. Such half-truths may keep you limping along, but they won’t prompt you to truly get your shit together. Here’s a truth that can: You don’t need a reason to do anything. Your own kinky, hot, fucked-up desire to do it is enough. (Location 1310)
Another good, old idea (the purpose of life is to live it) repackaged by describing your desire to do something as “kinky, hot, fucked-up”.
Here’s an example: It’s bullshit to exercise everyday “because” you need to fit into fashionable clothes, avoid metabolic syndrome, or match some Hollywood ideal. You don’t. You can dress schlumpy, have every single lifestyle-associated health issue under the sun, match no physical ideal at all, and still be infinitely loved by the universe. (Location 1314)
What does this even mean? Also, are we accepting all “fucked-up” desires and reasons as valid, or are we invalidating peoples’ motivations as bullshit? Which is it? How did we get to the point where this author is saying go ahead and get diabetes, the universe still loves you?
About the initial hangup she worked on: feeling poor and suffering from financial scarcity.
Next, I tried turning the judgment around to its opposite, which sounded like: “I deeply need my potential clients to absolutely never, ever want to pay me $1000 an hour for coaching.” And then, something quite strange happened. I felt an electric zing and a big throb in my clitoris. It occurred to me, from all my previous life experience, that the truth is highly sensational. So I decided to explore this notion. After all, maybe I was feeling the zing of deep truth? I tried more statements along the same lines to see how they resonated: “I am totally delighted to have people utterly refuse to highly value me.” “I love being rejected when I propose coaching offers.” “I really need clients to never want to pay me at all.” For each of these statements, my body strangely responded with throbs of pleasure. (Location 1570)
I spent the next few weeks consenting to feel the kinky joy in my anxiousness about how I would pay the rent that month, the forbidden thrill of being financially scarce. As I noticed how much the anxiety and humiliation of scarcity turned me on, I also got very curious. (Location 1583)
I noticed that I had a kind of unconscious commitment to homeostasis—I only wanted to feel a certain amount of the already-familiar kinds of sensations (mostly miserable, turned-off ones) that I was used to feeling. I actively avoided being confronted with unfamiliar quantities of unfamiliar sensations . . . like the sensation of having someone want to pay me $1000 an hour for coaching. (Location 1588)
A couple of good ideas about accepting your feelings and being curious about them instead of resisting them, and recognizing and releasing attachment to status quo, poorly explained as usual.
People have various sorts of havingness level or “upper limit” imprints based on their karma and their childhood experiences. Some folks, for example, are willing to feel highly valued with money but are totally unwilling to be highly valued with love, or vice versa. Other folks are massively uncomfortable with all kinds of “being valued” sensations. (Location 1601)
And then I discovered something even more odd: as I consciously, deliberately got off on my scarcity kink and practiced growing my havingness level, I felt fulfilled and I simply lost my kinky hunger for scarcity, poverty, and humiliation. It just left. (Location 1613)
Like magic! Will you share anything about what kind of work it took to make that happen? Nope.
I lost my ability to take my empty bank account personally. My poverty no longer felt remotely relevant to me anymore, either as a kink or as a sorrow. Instead, I would think about being paid a staggering sum for my coaching, and it no longer felt impossible or intimidating; rather it felt hot. I started getting turned on by lots of money, rather than turned off by it. With this new kind of turn-on, I became willing to take mundane actions towards growing my business that in the past I had totally avoided, like building an email list. (Location 1615)
More magic except it’s sexy.
A few months into this, I started bringing in $10,000 a month rather than $2000. As within, so without. My whole world and horizon of possibility changed. (Location 1625)
Just like that.
It’s hard to overstate my initial (and ongoing) excitement at realizing that the fundamental dictum of magic (“As above, so below; As within, so without”—from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus) was true, and that inner states can indeed provoke miraculous changes in outer conditions. (Location 1631)
lol what the ever living fuck
Why? Because the Law of Attraction ideas always seemed a little—well, how to say this diplomatically?—extremely stupid to me, but I could never put my finger on exactly why. (Location 1636)
You cannot make this shit up.
I’m getting tired. Let’s jump to The Worst Part.
Imagine that you’re a kind of cosmic masochistic slut (and I mean that in the nicest possible way—yay sluts!) who just beamed down into your life and body. She feels the heart-pounding panic of impending doom too, and she loves it. She feels the pressure of having to find a way to make ends meet again this month, and it turns her on. She feels the stretch and strain of having to prove herself worthy of support in this hard, cold world, and she trembles and moans and asks for more. Plus, let’s not forget—she feels the righteous resentment of the evil rich corporatists and politicians who made this world so unbalanced—and well, there are few things more luscious in this sublunar realm than a big stinging heap of righteousness. Of course the thing is, that you are this cosmic pain slut—she’s not strictly imaginary, you’ve just repressed and disowned her up to now. How do I know that you’re a cosmic pain slut? Because this material world of ours is the world of apparent limits, constriction, gravity, finitude. You wouldn’t have incarnated here if you weren’t attracted to the rollercoaster ride. (Location 1657)
You get the idea. One action. Thirty iterations. As many rejections as possible. Go. But. Won’t it hurt to get all those rejections? Yes, absolutely it will; it will hurt so bad, you cosmic pain slut, you. (Location 1698)
Okay I think I’m done.
Look, I’m not kink shaming the author. We could all use more sex-positivity in our lives. The point is this is mostly nonsensical magic law of attraction manifestation bullshit that slides into victim-blaming under the “having is evidence of wanting” umbrella, which itself is not new, and to make it new, the author made it into erotica. She just wants to talk dirty.
There are better resources for every single good idea you could get from Existential Kink.
Please don’t read this book.
Unlike most books I read these days, this book was not available in Libby/my local library. I should’ve understood the sign. ↩︎
See the episodes on care over caretaking, boundaries, and limiting beliefs. Please keep in mind that with any potent technology, the stronger the positive effects of ideas, the more risk they pose if used maliciously. ↩︎