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Say ‘No’ to Unicornitis: A Public Service Announcement

Protecting your mental and physical health by staying clear of UTIs (Unicorn Transmitted Irritations)

Overview

Unicornitis is a common irritation that can eventually lead to friction, frustration, and then misery if left untreated. It is most common in men and women who have been suffering from a terminal case of infatuation, or limerence, but it has also been known to sneak up on even the most resilient of human beings – occasionally, even those in ‘love’ or working in totally unrelated areas like business.

For most people, Unicornitis passes with the course of time, but the duration for which one is affected will be dependent on one’s ability to confront reality and to see the object of one’s UTI (Unicorn Transmitted Irritation) clearly. This depends on a variety of factors, including one’s ability to face the truth about themselves, the world, and reality, and also one’s capacity to handle loss in a realistic manner.

Though Unicornitis is most commonly caught in personal relationships by people who have unresolved ‘stuff’ that they can’t face within themselves, there have been reports of multiple cases of infection in the areas of business, ambition, and aspiration.

Essentially, Unicornitis can be caught in any situation where the sufferer enters primarily with their ego and its motivations instead of predominantly been driven by their realness.

The most succinct medical definition of Unicornitis is as follows:

Unicornitis (noun): Any instance of a human being wanting something that they can never have and so tricking themselves into believing that this thing (tangible or intangible) is something that it isn’t in order to avoid the loss of one’s illusions and having to face oneself.

Once those afflicted with Unicornitis have ‘tricked’ themselves in this way, they waste all their time and energy doing anything they can to keep the illusion alive (and, thus, not having to go through the pain of being separated from the object of their desire, even though they can never see it clearly). This self-trickery is what causes the symptoms of Unicornitis (discussed below).

For most people, reality (the only real cure for Unicornitis) will eventually creep back in and Unicornitis will resolve on its own. In some cases, if people are particularly demoralised by the condition, it can be deadly. People most at risk of suffering from complications of Unicornitis include:

  • Single men and women without a life purpose (i.e. those that got off the Train).
  • Those in toxic relationships that have self-esteem issues and don’t believe they can do better.
  • Anybody who lacks an abundance mind-set, in either personal or professional relationships.
  • Anybody who craves attention, affection, or validation because they are running away from themselves, not expressing themselves and their real values.
  • People who are desperate to see themselves in a certain light because they feel that something is ‘lacking’ within themselves (because of shame and ego).
  • Anybody who desperately seeks opportunity instead of creating opportunities.

The best defence against Unicornitis is always reality (often with a course of self-acceptance, forgiveness, and getting back on the Train). The rest of this article serves as a self-diagnosis and recovery guide.

Symptoms

Initially, Unicornitis may begin with feelings of excitement due to the perceived possibility of great potential and promise on the horizon. More often than not, this excitement is actually not rooted in reality but is just an instance of the Unicornitis sufferer seeing what they want to see, rather than what is actually in front of them.

This is most often done in an attempt to have their unmet childhood ‘needs’ met, to have the self-image of their ego upheld, or – in the most tragic cases – simply to maintain some kind of ‘hope’ about the future.

Eventually, reality creeps in and the Unicornitis sufferer is forced to either deny it and perform the Sisyphean task of fighting to keep the illusion alive or to face reality and walk away. Persistent cases of  Unicornitis are caused by the avoidance of reality and the associated confusion and conflict that is always destined to occur.

Symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • Friction between idea and reality: As sufferers cling to their illusory ideas in the face of contrary evidence, the increased state of cognitive dissonance causes friction between them and reality leading to anxiety, frustration, misery and irrational behaviour.
  • Restlessness: Caused by sufferers craving something they can never have but constantly dangling an imaginary carrot in front of themselves to keep the dream alive.
  • Going around in circles: As the sufferer of Unicornitis tries to put the object of their Unicornitis in a box and they fight to get out of it (only to be put in again and have the cycle continue).
  • Hopelessness: Knowing deep down that one is probably fooling oneself but constantly looking for any evidence that can keep the dream alive.
  • Irrationality: Those afflicted often suffer from the consequences of irrationality. This is because they act in an unreal way that causes them to ignore all evidence that their unicorn doesn’t exist and to keep the dream alive anyway. This leads to wasted time and energy.
  • Manipulation: Unicornitis sufferers need the object of their affliction to reveal the unicorn beneath the surface of their un-unicorn-like behaviour. This means they act inauthentically in an attempt to have the unicorn reveal itself (futile because not there anyway). This inauthentic behaviour is a form of manipulation – it would be easier to walk away but they are so emotionally invested in the illusion they can’t.

All of these symptoms contribute to a state of unnecessary friction and frustration that bring anxiety, panic, existential dread, and endless cycles of arguing with people as you try to make them be something they can never be so that you can attempt to receive the things you’re not ready to give yourself yet (love, affection, image of success, etc.).

When to see a doctor / coach.

Unicornitis often resolves itself as it is cured by reality and reality never goes anywhere (sufferers of Unicornitis can only turn their backs on it for a while). However, there have been multiple cases of people hiding from reality their whole lives and living sad, miserable lives of quiet desperation.

Cases of Unicornitis can last anywhere from weeks to years or decades, depending on the weight of a sufferer’s emotional baggage and the depth of the fear, shame, and trauma that led to the creation of their ego in the first place.

If symptoms persist or get too extreme then it may be time to seek professional help but you can usually cure Unicornitis by getting some balls and facing facts.

Request a Reality Check here if you feel that your Unicornitis is getting too severe.

Causes

The fundamental cause of Unicornitis is always the same: a fear of facing reality for some reason, usually because one needs a certain object to be in their lives and prevent them from having to face their own inner ‘stuff’.  In other words, Unicornitis is always a symptom of a deeper problem: the fear of doing the work and improving one’s basic relationship with oneself.

Common manifestations of this fundamental cause include (but are not limited to):

Identity / Ego / Scarcity: Unicorns can only ‘exist’ in the ego (because the ego is fuelled by unreality and unicorns can never exist). In short, Unicornitis is always about needing to see [somebody / something] as X so that the sufferer can see themselves as Y (with ‘Y’ being some symbolic quality that the afflicted believe they lack in themselves: e.g. ‘lovable’, ‘valuable’, ‘successful’, or whatever).

The question that Unicornitis sufferers need to ask themselves is “Why is Y so important to me?” – They need to determine why their identity rests on this one thing and to uncover why they can’t give this thing to themselves in the first place.

Shame:  The feeling that one is not good ‘enough’ as one really is. This shame of one’s real self leads to the creation of an ego that hides the perceived flaws and which one eventually becomes dependent on. In other words, shame forces us to wear a mask (ego) and then we forget that put it on, eventually believing we are the mask.

Eventually, sufferers of shame become reliant on their egos to ‘survive’ (i.e. not have their shame triggered) and will do anything to protect their ego and thus protect themselves.

Unicornitis often comes about as sufferers attach their egos to ‘Unicorns’ in an attempt to keep their egos in place; this works by having the Unicornitis suffer project out their needs and have them reflected back from the source of the UTI (Unicorn Transmitted Irritation).

Scarcity Thinking: The over-inflation of the value of the object of a sufferer’s Unicornitis eventually leads to an irrational fear of loss. When sufferers lack abundance, they decide that the object of their Unicornitis is much more scarce than it actually is and so will do anything to keep this object around, including, but not limited to, taking shit, having their boundaries transgressed, and demeaning themselves in various unsavoury ways.

In these cases, sufferers are usually overvaluing things like intimacy, opportunities, physical looks, etc. – all things that can be replaced in one way or another or aren’t really that important in the first place in term’s of one’s realness.

You can only be in scarcity thinking if you are in the ego and so this is related to the point made about shame above. Ultimately, this is an identity problem: the idea that the object of Unicornitis ‘completes’ you in some way whereas, when in abundance, we know that we are already complete (though always a work in progress on the Train).

Laziness / Passivity: A common but little-discussed cause of Unicornitis is laziness or passivity. Often, sufferers of Unicornitis only suffer because [something] passively came into their lives and so they trick themselves into thinking it has qualities beyond what it actually does (so they can keep being lazy and justify keeping it in their lives).

This is to help them avoid the pain of getting on the Train and doing the work required to grow real and bring something more suited to them into their lives. Ultimately, this kind of Unicornitis is a way of justifying the things we already have in our lives, instead of making choices about what we actually want in our lives.

Unresolved ‘Inner Child’ Stuff: More often than not, we seek and conjure up Unicorns so that we can trick ourselves into thinking we can resolve our own ‘stuff’ without doing any of the hard work (facing emotions, testing our assumptions about ourselves, the world, and reality, etc.).

More often than not, we need the unicorn to exist so that it can meet our unresolved emotional needs and give us what we can’t give ourselves.

For example, maybe mummy and daddy convinced us we were unworthy of unconditional love and this belief blocked our access to the unconditional love we can all give ourselves: in these cases, we will create a unicorn to ‘give’ us this love (actually, what is going on is that we are externalising it so that we can give ourselves this love without having to change the form of our ego). Some people even turn their pets into unicorns (they just stick around because we feed them but we often see this as them loving us, etc.).

Desperation / Outcome-Dependence: The motto of the Unicornitis sufferer may as well be “Desperate times call for unicorns”: Unicornitis sufferers are so invested in their own identities and a perceived sense of lack in themselves (again, related to scarcity thinking) that they create goals for themselves that they believe will fill the void and define them in the way they want to be defined (instead of setting goals that will make them more real). Being outcome-dependent in this way is always an identity problem (and goes back to shame, etc.).

When Unicornitis sufferers are desperate enough to meet a certain desire for the sake of their identity, they create unicorns – for example, maybe they are desperate to be ‘successful’ or ‘loveable’ or ‘sexy’ and so they create unicorns that allow them to feel this way.

Other unicorns are created because of a desire to be ‘completed’ in a certain way before a certain time; for example, maybe somebody wants to find The One™ before the age of 35 so they ignore somebody’s flaws/red flags and promotes them to being a unicorn; or maybe somebody wants to run their own business so that can look like an ‘entrepreneur’ and so they ignore the red flags of a business partner to create an opportunity.

These cases of Unicornitis are always linked to scarcity problems and identity voids that are funnelled into an over-attachment to the attainment of ego-motivated goals (outcome-dependence).

Hints and Hooks: Unicornitis sufferers often remain sick because they become ‘hooked’ to the object of their Unicornitis, either through confirmation bias or because they are being manipulated.

The reason that sufferers become ‘hooked’ or addicted to their unicorns is because unicorns often hint that their unicorn-like qualities are hiding beneath the surface: in other words, that the affection, connection, sexual passion, understanding, and literally anything that Unicornitis sufferers want are one day going to be available on demand.

This state of being ‘hooked’ usually comes about because these qualities are often given or revealed (many times accidentally) by unicorns and then taken away. This drives Unicornitis sufferers mad because they believe that if they act in the ‘right’ way or become the ‘right’ person then they will be able to convince their unicorns to behave in a way that embodies these desirable qualities all the time.

This is manipulative and unreal, thus causing the Unicornitis sufferer to go deeper and deeper into the ego and suffer further symptoms of Unicornitis (a vicious circle). The only cure is to accept the object of the Unicornitis as it is in its reality and to stop making unreal demands of it.

Conditioning / Social Programming:  A simple but common cause of Unicornitis is any social programming that leads to unrealistic expectations. These unrealistic expectations cause people to cling to ideas because they feel that they’ve somehow ‘failed’ if they don’t have these unrealistic expectations be met. This is where a great deal of the outcome-dependence mentioned above comes from.

Social conditioning and programming can come from anywhere (parents, educational establishments, the media) but the most common kind is the Hollywood bullshit that leads people to over-romanticise each other and to put people on pedestals that they don’t belong on (or want to be on because of the pressure this puts on them to be unreal in the sense of being ‘perfect’, etc.).

Fear of Killing Unhealthy Relationships/Attachments: When we invest TIME and ENERGY on [somebody] or [something], we need to believe that they’re a unicorn so that we don’t feel like we’ve wasted our time on them and made a bad investment (see: sunk cost fallacy). This is ultimately what leads to a fear of loss, not the object itself.

Even though things may be terrible on the surface, we want to believe that there is a unicorn deep down inside and that if we can just say or do the right magic words or gesture then the unicorn will reveal itself and meet our needs. This is always because we have been conditioned in some way to believe that we cannot meet our own needs.

The fear that if we walk away we will miss out on this magical moment is what keeps us attached. The truth is that there is no unicorn deep down– people are already giving us they best they can and we either accept it or we don’t. The only place a unicorn exists is in our heads. Unicornitis sufferers want there to be a unicorn deep inside the object of their affliction so that they don’t have to end the relationship and be left alone with themselves and whatever caused the Unicornitis in the first place. They are fooling themselves.

Harsh Truths: The ultimate cause of Unicornitis is the fear of harsh truths that sufferers are simply not ready to hear yet. In the face of these truths, they create intricate ego-defence mechanisms so that they can attempt to live in a state of unchanging bliss (really just a bubble that is doomed to burst) and maintain their current (erroneous) view of themselves, the world, and reality.

Unicornitis always means that a sufferer is avoiding some initially ‘harsh’ truth because they’re attached to their illusions and the temporary comfort they provide.

Examples of harsh truths avoided:

  • [They] never loved you.
  • You’re gonna die alone (everybody does)
  • You need to work on yourself.
  • You’re being used for [attention/validation/whatever]
  • You’re not as valuable as you think you are.
  • Etc.

In short, Unicornitis is always caused by the same thing: an inability to face the truth and then act on it. Unicorns are just embodiments of the emotional stuff that stops us facing the truth in the first place.  Only if we accept this truth can we be free and happy to have real relationships with ourselves and others.

Face it.

Prevention and Cure

Though Unicornitis is a relatively complex illness, it can be easily prevented by living in a way that aims to align you with reality instead of taking you away from it.

This can be achieved by ensuring that you have realistic expectations about what human beings and relationships are and that you strive to understand and accept people on their own terms, loving them as they want to be loved, and not only attempting to get the ‘love’ your ego thinks it wants from them (or money/power/whatever else in other contexts).

The only real cure for Unicornitis is reality but there are a number of proven techniques that can speed up the process of returning to reality and being cured:

Getting on The Train (finding and living one’s purpose): Ensuring that one is dedicated to one’s purpose means that one is less likely to ‘unicornise’ another human being. This is because being on one’s purpose is about taking action and action is always connected to reality in one way or the other.

Having a purpose also means that you will keep moving forward, growing real, pushing through your edge, and having healthier boundaries – all of which prevent you from treating [somebody] or [something] as your salvation.

In other words, living your real purpose allows you to be more real which allows you to see other people in a real light too (which means they can never be a unicorn because unicorns are always unreal). This is your gift to the world.

Check out my article about the Train here: The Train: A Metaphor for the Good Life and Growing Real.

Developing an Abundance Mind-set: The rarest thing in the world is a unicorn (because they don’t exist) and so the obvious cure to Unicornitis is to work on developing an abundance mind-set. Doing so will ensure that you are not lost to the scarcity worldview of the ego and the associated traps that come with it.

Check out my article about abundance here: Unshakeable Abundance: How to live from your realness and kill the fear of loss.

A strong dose of reality: Developing realistic expectations and assumptions about yourself, the world, and reality is the most sure-fire way to both prevent and cure Unicornitis. Understanding and aligning yourself with the way of things will help you to create less friction in your life and to be more likely to have harmonious relationships with yourself and others as you put less unnecessary pressure on things.

Check out Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness for a whole bunch of red pills that can help you to align yourself at the level of yourself, the world, and reality. In the meantime, here are some realistic expectations at each level to get you started:

Yourself:

  • Nobody can save you but yourself.
  • You are responsible for your own emotions.
  • You are not a ‘fixed’ entity – no personality is permanent and ‘You’ will continue changing and growing over the course of your life.
  • You are not perfect (nor do you need to be).
  • You do not know everything (nor do you need to).
  • You live your best life from the inside-out, not the outside-in (by having an Internal Locus of Control).
  • Your life is a product of the choices you’ve made and that you’re making right now (everything has an opportunity cost).
  • You’re going to be dead one day.
  • Etc

The World

  • The world is not reality; it can be changed.
  • Other people aren’t perfect (nor do they need to be).
  • Nobody knows everything (nor do they need to).
  • Nothing is fixed and anything that seems to be is a unicorn-in-waiting.
  • It is better to be change in the world than to expect change from the world.
  • The world is a set of interpretations, not facts. Ask yourself whose interpretation you are living according to.
  • The world is often a distraction, especially if we treat it as real.
  • No concept is real; though some concepts point more closely to reality than others (the world is made of concepts).
  • Etc

Reality

  • Everything changes in our experience.
  • Reality is about wholeness over fragmentation.
  • Conceptual knowledge is not reality.
  • Interdependence is more real than independence.
  • Ego is the opposite of reality.
  • Human beings have biological limitations (lick your elbow without chopping your arm off).
  • Uncertainty is the natural state of a human being.
  • Love is just basic.
  • Chaos will always enter your life at some state.
  • Everything is always okay.
  • Etc

Though these realistic expectations are by no means an exhaustive list, they can arm the Unicornitis sufferer with the strongest defence of them all:

  1. Finding the truth.
  2. Living the truth.

Good luck!

In conclusion, Unicornitis is a complex but common disorder than can easily be cured with a little dedication, a little discipline, and a lot of acceptance.

If you believe that you’re suffering from any of the symptoms listed above then remember that reality is always your friend, no matter how hard it may seem to let go of some of your most cherished illusions at first.

If you have any questions or need any support with a particularly severe case of Unicornitis, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Thanks for reading!


Check out Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness for more on this topic.

Kill your unicorns: To work with me get in touch about a Reality Check.

Oli Anderson is a fully-qualified coach working to help people close the gap between idea and reality so that they can live purposeful lives that make them feel truly alive. He is the author of Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness.

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