Lightworker Syndrome

November 13th, 2006 by Steve Pavlina

One obstacle that traps a lot of highly conscious people is what Erin and I call Lightworker Syndrome.  This is what happens when someone wakes up to a higher level of consciousness, but they can’t figure out how to live on purpose and feed themselves at the same time.  Such people have a lot of trouble staying connected to higher levels of consciousness while also remaining solidly grounded in the physical world.  Many of them get so frustrated with the experience they become depressed and have feelings of wanting to give up and just “go home” (i.e. return to the nonphysical world).

Spiritual connectedness vs. physical groundedness

These troubled lightworkers often feel they must compromise:  either stay connected up top and be totally ungrounded, or lose that higher connection and become more grounded.  But this is a really tough compromise, so many of them oscillate back and forth, never quite sure which is the right way to go.

Consequently, these lightworkers either do empty work they don’t enjoy but which pays OK, or they do purpose-centered work that hardly pays anything.  They end up sacrificing either their purpose or their income, since it’s very, very challenging to satisfy both at the same time.  But this either-or decision takes a toll in the long run.  It’s hard to stay on purpose if you’re worried about paying the rent, and it’s hard to generate good income if your work doesn’t inspire you.

The real trap is the either-or belief itself.  It’s a mistake to think you can’t attract abundant resources doing what you love.  It’s also a mistake to think that staying broke is the best way to help other people.  Many lightworkers are so sensitive to the idea of sacrificing their purpose for money that they figure it’s better to have no money at all… or barely enough to get by. 

As is typical of other lightworkers, I’m very sensitive to the idea of making money “the wrong way.”  I have a strong disinclination — I would actually call it total disgust — of violating my values to generate income.  However, when you’re faced with financial scarcity and have to pay the rent or lose your home, it’s really tough to maintain integrity because under stress you’ll likely lower your vibration and bring your awareness down.  You effectively become a different person.  When your survival and stability are threatened, those become your priority.  Fortunately I haven’t been in this situation for a long time, but I certainly know what it’s like.  It’s pretty darn hard to think about serving others when you’re behind on your rent, deep in debt, and you discover a 3-day pay-or-quit notice taped to the door of your apartment.

I’m not going to tell you the solution is to choose between your higher connection and your groundedness.  As you can probably guess, the solution is that you need both.  But you won’t be able to get there until you understand why you don’t already have both right now.

Fearing your own power

The reason you can’t maintain your stable connection to Source AND remain grounded at the same time is that you’re afraid of what it will mean if you succeed.

There’s a good chance you won’t agree with that statement — I wouldn’t have agreed with it a few years ago — but please keep an open mind while I explain why this is so.

First of all, it is possible to stay connected to Source and be grounded at the same time.  This isn’t just some new agey concept — it’s downright practical.

On the one hand, I have my purpose, my spiritual beliefs, and my feeling of connection to everyone.  When I resonate with those thoughts, I’m motivated to serve and help people all day long.  On the other hand, I also live in the physical world.  I need to provide the basic needs for myself and my family, which in practical terms means I need an income.  So I can’t be too airy-fairy if it means I don’t have a place to live.  I have to stay properly grounded.

Connectedness + groundedness = synergy

At their core these two sides aren’t really in conflict.  They may be different energies, but they’re not inherently opposed to each other.  In fact, they serve to support each other.  The spiritual side provides abiding motivation.  When I feel connected up top, I’m driven.  I’m passionate.  I’m energized.  And I’m also peaceful.  That’s powerful motivation to do some kind of work — work that could very well help me become more grounded simply by generating some income.  And on the other side, when I’m more grounded, more physically and financially stable, I have more freedom.  I have a greater capacity.  I don’t have to worry about paying the bills.  And that lends itself to the spiritual side because I have the capacity to devote more time to spiritual pursuits.  So these two energies are naturally complementary.  When they work together, they work synergistically.

Truthfully I can say to you that this is what I experience in my life as my normal state of being.  I feel I have a great balance of conscious connectedness and physical world grounding.  I attend to both sides.

This did not happen by accident though.  It happened by conscious choice.  I really had to stop and do a total life redesign to make it work.  That happened in 2004 before I made the decision to start this web site.

What will happen if you succeed?

Now this may sound a bit strange, but for me the decision wasn’t as balanced as I probably just made it sound.  I know a lot of would-be lightworkers are concerned they can’t make a living pursuing their purpose.  I didn’t have that problem though.  I felt confident I could make a living at it somehow.  What really held me back was whether I felt comfortable doing it at all.  My real fear was:  What’s going to happen if this actually works?  What if I succeed?

Only after I achieved a stable balance between connectedness and groundedness did I begin to recognize this same pattern in other lightworkers.  At first I figured it was unique to me, but I was wrong about that.  I see the same pattern everywhere now.  Whenever I see a broke lightworker, I invariably see an underlying fear of success.  If I confront the person about it, they will usually resist the notion, which I completely understand, but the pattern is so strong that once you see it, it’s undeniable.

The real barrier to achieving the connectedness-groundedness balance is the limiting beliefs you may have about what will happen after you achieve this balance.  What will realistically happen when you’re honoring your life’s purpose and making more than enough money to sustainably do it for the rest of your life?

Well, I can tell you what will happen because I’ve already turned that page.  Here’s what’s likely to happen.  You’re going to succeed in a big way.  When you’re doing what you love and generating plenty of income from it, it creates a positive spiral.  Those two sides support each other.  Your purpose drives your actions, your actions drive your results, and your results produce income.  Your income gives you more freedom and more fuel for your purpose.  And the whole thing just keeps going because once achieved, it’s a stable pattern.

With great power comes great responsibility

This might sound like a good thing.  And truthfully it is a good thing.  But I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  And that is exactly what lightworker syndrome sufferers fear most.  They fear that if they actually succeed, they’ll have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.

That fear is what kills their income.  The best way to increase your income is to help more people.  In practice it’s not that difficult to do — IF your beliefs will let you.  The desire to reach out and help more people is what drove me to build so much web traffic.  I’ve met many lightworkers who are able to provide genuine value to others, but they’re doing so on a very limited basis.  When I toss out a few simple suggestions on how they could fairly easily double their income (or more) by doubling the number of people they help (without working harder or longer), the usual response is resistance and excuse-making.  I can see the real answer in their eyes though — they fear what will happen if they actually succeed.  So they keep themselves in a position where they make just enough to maintain the status quo, but not enough to get ahead.  And if they do somehow make lots of money, they’ll keep themselves so busy they won’t have the time to seriously think about their true purpose for being here.

Overcoming fear of responsibility

I ran this exact pattern for many years.  The only way I escaped it was to confront those fears head-on.  I admitted to myself that I had the internal resources to be doing much better, but I was holding myself back.  I knew I wasn’t doing my best, but why not?  I wasn’t doing my best because I wasn’t ready to accept the consequences of doing my best.

If I really did my best, I’d have a bigger impact.  I’d draw a lot of people to me.  I’d end up with a lot of responsibility.  Scary.

Well, guess what.  Those fears were accurate.  I do have a lot of responsibility.  Once I achieved the connectedness-groundedness balance and got that positive spiral going, my results took off.  They’re still taking off.  This web site is now getting about 200,000 page views a day.  I’m generating way more income than I need to cover my basic needs… more than $1000 per day, whether I work or not.  I fully expect this increase will continue spiraling for a long time to come.  But I didn’t reach this point by focusing on getting more and more for myself.  That kind of motivation would have been too weak.  My real motivation comes from a deep desire to make a positive difference in the world.  My passion comes from my purpose, not my income.

However, I couldn’t tap into that motivation until I first overcame my fear of success.  I had to first accept that if I did my very best and succeeded, I was going to end up with far more responsibility.  I had to become a “vibrational match” for that scenario; otherwise I’d never be able to attract it and maintain it.

I had to answer those tough questions:  Who am I to reach the point of influencing thousands of people a day, even while I’m sleeping?  Who am I to tell people how to improve their lives?  Who am I to try to make a difference?

Subconsciously I couldn’t handle those questions, so for years I just maintained my status quo position as a seemingly contented computer game developer.  Occasionally I would journal about them though, but it wasn’t enough to get me past the underlying fear of success.

Position vs. power

What eventually allowed me to break that pattern was when I looked at the situation from a different angle.  I was thinking about the idea, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and I noticed I’d been assuming that my power would increase if I really did my best.  In other words I equated power with position.  As my position increased, so would my power… and thereby so would my responsibility.

At that point I had a revelation that threw me for a loop.  What if power didn’t come from position?  If I have the potential to achieve a greater position, but I’m not pursuing it, doesn’t that mean I actually do have the power?  If I don’t exercise my power, it doesn’t mean I’m powerless.  It just means I’m inactive.

I thought to myself, “Crap!  I’ve been thinking all this time that I’m staving off power (and thus responsibility) by declining to act.  But all I’m really doing is giving up control.  If I have the potential, then I have the power, which means I have the responsibility too, whether I act on it or not.”  Failure to act does NOT relieve one of responsibility.

It was then that I had an epiphany.  I realized I could never escape responsibility by failing to act.  The only thing I could escape was control.  This is why I say you can give up control but never responsibility.  Responsibility is a given.

That realization gave me a good kick in my complacency.  Even though I felt like I was in a relatively powerless position on the outside, in that moment I finally accepted my inner power.  That included accepting responsibility for that power.  And of course by the law of attraction, once I began resonating with that inner power, it was only a matter of time before the outer world reflected it.  If you’ve been following this web site for a year or more, then you’ve seen that manifestation unfolding before your eyes, and you’ll see that process continue over the next year as well.

Responsibility is a privilege

That thinking process got me out of my ego and past my fear of success.  When I realized I couldn’t escape responsibility no matter what my external position looked like, it made sense to just accept it.  My fear wasn’t at some distant point in the future — it was already here and now.

You see… even though my external position may seem more burdened by responsibility than yours, in truth you have just as much responsibility as I do.  And that’s because you have great inner power just as I do.  Maybe you’ve accepted it, and maybe you haven’t, but the power is there, and the responsibility it bestows is inescapable.

Even though we’ve probably never met, I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards you right now.  I feel honor-bound to do the best I can to help you grow — because I can.  It may seem like my position gives me the power to do that, but that isn’t accurate.  Power doesn’t come from position.  Position comes from power.  Because I have the power to help you grow, I must help you grow.  You may not accept my help, but that doesn’t make me feel any less responsible to you.  I feel responsible to everyone.

That feeling of responsibility, however, isn’t the burden I once feared it would be.  When I accepted my inner power, responsibility became a privilege.  I’m truly grateful to have the opportunity to help so many people each day, even while I’m sleeping.

Overcoming Lightworker Syndrome

So what does all of this have to do with overcoming Lightworker Syndrome?  Lightworker Syndrome is a lack of acceptance of one’s power.  That lack of acceptance is what manifests the apparent conflict between connectedness to Source and groundedness in physical reality.  As within, so without.  Your inner conflict manifests in your external reality.  In truth you are simply getting what you’re intending.  You fear your real power, so you silently intend it to remain dim.  This manifests a never-ending series of distractions to keep you preoccupied enough that you don’t have to think about what you’re really doing — keeping yourself small because you’re afraid of too much responsibility.

If you recognize you’re suffering from Lightworker Syndrome right now, I have a lot of compassion for you.  Having gone through it myself, I know how hard it is.  But you must recognize you’ll never solve this problem at the same level of thinking that created it.  Realize you’re the one who’s manifesting the annoying health problems, the “unexpected” financial crisis that suddenly wipes out your savings just when you start to get ahead, the unfulfilling relationship, etc.  You’re manifesting all of it because you’re resonating with fear — it’s one giant distraction.  You can hack at the branches all you want, but you’ll only be spinning your wheels.  Whenever you’re ready, you have the power to turn off those petty problems and stop manifesting them, but once you do that, you’re going to have to deal with the real issue of why you’re here.  Deep down you know that’s the truth, don’t you?

The major turning point for me occurred when I finally surrendered and said, “Enough already!  I’m done with living small.  I’m tired of dealing with one pointless crisis after another.  I know this isn’t what I came here to do.  I don’t know if I can handle what might happen if I tap into my real potential, but I can’t accept going my whole life without finding out.  So I’m going for it.  If I go broke, I go broke.  But if I go this route in good faith, the universe had damned well better back me up.”

I have to credit the results of the past two years to that decision.  That’s what cured me of Lightworker Syndrome.  Once I experienced the inner shift, I entered that positive spiral where my connectedness and groundedness supported each other beautifully.  Attracting more money and a larger audience just means I have a greater capacity to give.  And I’m always finding new ways for my connectedness and groundedness to move into better harmony with each other.

Embracing your inner light

If you consider yourself a lightworker, understand that your real work is to accept and embrace your inner light.  You are meant to shine, not to be snuffed out.  If you feel that life in this physical universe is dragging you down, it’s because you aren’t yet in vibrational harmony with your light.  The more you fear it, the more you’ll attract distracting problems that have little or nothing to do with your purpose.  But whenever you’re ready, you can say to the universe, “OK.  I’m ready.  I’m going to pursue my purpose with all my heart and soul, and you’d better back me up.”  Once you make a committed decision, you’ll attract all the help and resources you need.  You’ll be shocked at just how easy it is.

You came here to do some serious good for this planet, so get busy and go do it.  You’re not fooling anyone by standing still.  You’re responsible to do what you came here to do whether you do it or not.  And if you’re going to be responsible, you might as well accept and embrace the power to do something about it.  Staying small serves no one, least of all you.  This planet needs you now, not tomorrow… not someday.  Don’t let us down, and especially don’t let yourself down.

I shall leave you with a quote from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.


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