Deprogram Yourself and Come Alive

Erik Rittenberry
Oct 23 · 11 min read

Those who are truly decrepit, living corpses, so to speak, are the middle-aged, middle-class men and women who are stuck in their comfortable grooves and imagine that the status quo will last forever or else are so frightened it won’t that they have retreated into their mental bomb shelters to wait it out.

~ Henry Miller


I love life and I love this planet but I find myself confused in a culture that has gone to the wayside. Something’s wrong. Despite living in the safest, most prosperous time in history, we’re caught up in false narratives that leave us deathly afraid and extremely angry.

And born out of this fear and anger are senseless cruelties, shallowness, blind obedience, a push for more laws, rampant illnesses, a loss of the self, and worst of all, the complete and utter destruction of the life energy that we’re born with.

Just look around. Look in the eyes of the people. Look at the way they live, the way they eat, the way they move, their gestures, their gossip, their beliefs, their opinions, their politics, their passionless mode of existence.

Can’t you see it?

We’ve woven ourselves, in the words of Henry Miller, “into the monotonous fabric of a menial existence.”

What happened to us?

The problem in today’s high-tech, culturally-programmed world is that we’re not swimming in the river of our own reality. We’ve been disconnected from our true nature, our authentic self.

We’ve been force-fed false narratives that have led us away from who we are.

Our minds and spirits have been disconnected by the corporate machine. And, unfortunately, the machine has successfully lured us into the arms of the profane. We’ve given up the sacred. We’ve turned our backs on nature. We live unlived lives and never become who we are. This is what’s contributing to our sickness.

As the Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, reminded us over a century ago, “The most common form of despair is not being who you are.”

Entranced by gadgets, consumed by the false idol of “status” and the emptiness of the so-called American dream, we’ve become what they’ve programmed us to become — obedient consumers asleep at the wheel.

“WE ARE ASLEEP. OUR LIFE IS A DREAM. BUT WE WAKE UP SOMETIMES, JUST ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT WE ARE DREAMING.”

― LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN

Aldous Huxley saw this coming a long time ago when he wrote that “people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”

Because we live so much of our lives on other people’s terms, we lose purpose and eventually become vicious and unsympathetic to the world around us. As Erich Fromm keenly observed last century, “Destructiveness is the outcome of an unlived life.”

And we see this destructiveness everywhere. The hospitals are jam-packed, along with the jails and madhouses. Suicide rates are up and opioid overdose is the leading cause of death of people under 50.

We’re an extremely sick culture.

“IT IS NO MEASURE OF HEALTH TO BE WELL ADJUSTED TO A PROFOUNDLY SICK SOCIETY.” ~ KRISHNAMURTI

Political turmoil has us at each other’s throats. Complex issues are whittled down to witty talking points. There are no real conversations taking place in the mainstream, there’s no critical thinking or a real push to fix problems — real or imagined.

People aren’t after the truth. They just want to feel a sense of superiority in their beliefs; they want to belong to a side that can say… “see, I told you.”

Now, let’s talk about you as an individual. Myself included.

It seems the less you know about an issue the more obligated you feel in spewing your opinions about it. Instead of a deep study on a particular subject, you just regurgitate what you’ve been told.

You are clueless on the variables of highly complex issues like climate change, or immigration, or foreign policy, and yet, you have the half-witted audacity to tell people your opinions about it. This goes for a vast array of issues.

When you don’t know something you default to your beliefs and talking points.

This is part of your conditioning.

We’re all products of the education system, which, contrary to what you believe, isn’t in the business of spreading wisdom and enlightenment. Schools exist, in the words of H.L. Mencken, “simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”

The country right now is dangerously in debt, you’re in debt, everyone’s in debt and you’re clinging to false promises spouted by political figures to get us out of the hole they help put us in. You believe the thriving economy, which is built on a hollow mountain of cheap money and unpayable debt, is going to last forever. You don’t see the writing on the wall because your favorite politician tells you that everything is dandy.

This is part of your conditioning.

The least among us rule over us. And you let them. And you put their silly bumper stickers on your car. And you’re proud to vote for these foolish ignoramuses. And you foolishly believe that there are two sides when it comes to this political game. You choose a side and the herd mentality takes over your ability to think as a clear-minded, rational human being.

This is part of your conditioning.

Haven’t you been around long enough to see that these dim-witted demagogues you vote for serve the elite — not you? They don’t represent you. And yet you keep looking for the next political savior — next time, you utter, next time… next time… next election.

Princeton University even conducted a study on our so-called representative government. The conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

But you don’t want to hear it.

This is part of your conditioning.

You’ve been disenfranchised and conditioned to be a politically apathetic consumer. You don’t live in a democracy, you live under the illusion of democracy controlled by an oligarchy. You think you have a say in the matter but you don’t. You have the illusion of choice.

You hide behind flags, country, and this distorted version of “god” because you have nothing to be proud of in yourself. You blindly cheer for senseless wars — wars you know nothing about — because it’s the so-called patriotic thing to do.

You’re a pawn in their game and you seem to be proud of it. And it consumes a lot of your life energy and leaves your soul gasping for air on the sad sidewalks of this mad world.

You celebrate mass murder overseas while singing peaceful hymns on Sunday mornings. You believe there’s dignity in hiding in the crowd. You think it’s honorable to be an obedient citizen.

This is part of your conditioning.

The media, owned by the corporate elite, is not on your side. They’re not your watchdog. They exist solely to protect the powerful. But you still watch the news every single night believing that you’re truly being informed. And you’re half right, you are being informed — in the proper way.

As Edward Bernays wrote in his book, Propaganda, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

This is part of your conditioning.

You focus more on trying to change other people than yourself. You focus more on today’s news than you do on reading the greats. You prefer reality shows and social media over Dostoevsky and Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.

“EVERYONE THINKS OF CHANGING THE WORLD, BUT NO ONE THINKS OF CHANGING HIMSELF.”

― Leo Tolstoy

You choose to buy buy buy stuff stuff stuff over saving your money. You choose to drown yourself in excess luxuries instead of experiencing the wonders of the world around you.

Is it any wonder our culture has become empty, suicidal, and deathly ill?

This is the culture we live in today and it was designed to disempower you as a unique and sovereign individual. It was arranged to keep you asleep and to make you believe that you’re a powerless creature that must look outwardly for fulfillment.

This is the dirty trick that most of us have bought into.

But as Terence Mckenna reminds us, “Culture is not your friend… culture is a perversion. It fetishizes objects. It creates consumer mania. It preaches endless forms of false happiness, endless forms of false understanding in the form of squirrelly religions and silly cults. It invites people to diminish themselves and dehumanize themselves by behaving like machines.”

Despite record levels of prosperity and material abundance, we’re just not happy — not the rich, not the middle-class, nor the poor, and no one has the time or the willingness to reflect on the culprit of our despair. So we medicate, we drink, we buy, we soil our blood pill after pill.

We’d rather just deal with the symptoms and ignore the source of the problem altogether — which is why our ailments remain chronic and incurable.

41% of us in the United States will get cancer. 1 out of 5 of us will die of heart disease. 35% of us are clinically obese. Half of the youth in this country have a mental health issue. This is new, all of it.

The health of our bodies are the results of 1. what we consume and 2. the condition of our emotional state. Genetics do play a role but it’s not as prevalent as people are led to believe.

Cancer, depression, anxiety, diabetes, inflammation, and an array of other diseases are often self-inflicted ailments. Because we are spiritually sick and highly stressed we become physically sick. As Dr. Gabor Mate recently relayed to us in a great speech, “as a physician, I found that it doesn’t matter what the ailment is, the essence of it is the loss of connection to the self.” He went on to explain that it’s our “adaptation to that disconnection that makes us sick.”

The idea of the mind, body, soul connection has been around for over 3000 years. It’s just something we here in the West have thrown to the wayside because of our so-called “technological advances” and the profitability of treating the symptoms of our ailments.

No cures, just treatment. This economy thrives off the sick…and war.

In this life, this brief beautiful life, we’re being controlled by forces much bigger than ourselves. Decisions are being made by people far away who we’ve never met. And we sense this, which is why we feel empty, alienated, and helpless.

The “individual” has been replaced by the “mass.”

It’s time to start healing. It’s time to awaken. We’ve been fed the poison long enough. We’ve been asleep far too long.

What’s to be done?

You must become who you are. You must die and rise from the ashes of your formerly conditioned self.

It’s going to take effort and pain but you must take it on. As it’s been said before, “there is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

You must deprogram yourself from the cultural matrix that has turned you into a desperate, unfulfilled, mass-minded person.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

~ Howard Thurman

How can you do that?

First, you have to acknowledge that you’ve been programmed.

From the movie, The Matrix:

“The Matrix is a system… That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.”

You have to stop giving your power and energy over to authority figures — whether it’s the state, the church, your spouse, your career, or whatever. Authority tells you who are, what to believe, and how you should behave and interact with the world.

External authority destroys your true self. You must learn to become your own teacher. You have to question conventional morality and every accepted value passed down to you.

As America’s finest poet, Walt Whitman wrote:

Re-examine all you have been told
in school or church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem…

This is how you start to discover what’s hindering you from becoming who you are.

You must avoid the distorted theology of organized religion, which promises future heavens at a cost of limiting yourself in the now. It’s a purveyor of guilt and fear and does nothing but paralyze the mind and cripple the soul. As Krishnamurti informed us:

“Religion becomes a matter of belief, and belief acts as a limitation on the mind; and the mind then is never free. But it is only in freedom that you can find out what is true, what is God, not through any belief; because your belief projects what you think God ought to be, what you think ought to be true. If you believe God is love, God is good, God is this or that, your very belief prevents you from understanding what is God, what is true.”

All the heavens and hells are here right now and they’re our very own creations — they exist behind the eyelids.

You have to be mindful of what you put in your body and what you put in your head. You have to eat organic whole foods, turn off the television, put down the phone, stay out of debt, get out in nature, read the greats, meditate daily, and perhaps learn about the healing and spiritual guidance that plants can offer. (Below I’ll leave links that expound on each of these)

It’s time to navigate back to yourself.

This is how you start to awaken.

As Ramana Maharshi once said, “Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”

The answers are in us. It’s all there and available for those brave enough to take the journey to the inner world. It’s right there. The Kingdom of Heaven is within. As the brilliant psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, recognized “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

And as Herman Hesse discovered out on his travels, “There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside of them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.”

To become who we are is to die many deaths. The day you’re born is the day you begin dying. To become who you are is to be constantly dying to one way of being so that you can become something else, something revitalized with eyes open and soul on fire.

“We’re not on our journey to save the world”, as Joseph Campbell advised us, “but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes.”

It’s time to deprogram yourself and come alive! Come Alive! The world depends on it!


Below I put together what I consider an essential reading list to true awakening:

  1. Waking Up by Sam Harris
  2. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein
  3. Hiking with Nietzsche by John Kaag
  4. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
  5. The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety by Alan Watts
  6. Freedom from the Known by Krishnamurti
  7. When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection by Gabor Maté, M.D
  8. The Undiscovered Self: The Dilemma of the Individual in Modern Society by Carl Jung
  9. The Healing Power of Essential Oils: Soothe Inflammation, Boost Mood, Prevent Autoimmunity, and Feel Great in Every Way by Eric Zielinski, D.C
  10. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
  11. The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
  12. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

Erik Rittenberry

Written by

Everything has been figured out, except how to live.

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