As a business book editor scouting for authors to write about tech product development, I clued into the problems of the tech industry long before the release of the The Social Dilemma documentary. Listening to keynotes at tech conferences last year, I realized they said “customer empathy,” when they meant, “emotional manipulation for commercial gain,” and “curiosity,” when they meant “spying on in-app behavior and personal data.”

My friends encouraged me to blog my indignation, but I feared it would have adverse professional consequences. Who wants their editor asking, “By the way, have you noticed your profession has joined the…


There’s a book in the Bible called the Song of Songs: ecstatic love poetry extolling female beauty and using pastoral metaphors for sexual acts. Conservatives deny the sexuality of the poem, saying it’s just an allegory about the depth of God’s love for humanity. Liberals deny the spirituality of the poem, complaining that you don’t need some sort of spiritual metaphor to justify or erase the sex.

For me, this poem is about a sexual love so pure, joyous, and so holy that it can be used to communicate God’s love. The narrator of this poem is a Black woman…


The perils and possibilities of trauma processing and collective mourning

When my church was cyber-attacked during Zoom services with a child pornography video, my body reacted with a day of migraines and vomiting, followed by a day of crying, followed by weeks of insomnia. Although mental and emotional harm can be as serious as a physical attack, it’s difficult to get people to take it as seriously. In general, people prefer to blame the victim. Saying, “Did you set a password?” is a little bit like saying to a rape victim, “Did you wear a short skirt?”

At the time of the attack, my church was following similar security practices…


Many of us define our self-worth in terms of the goods and services and benefits we bring to others. With the massive layoffs caused by the pandemic, that way of thinking is about to take a huge hit.

The first time I really questioned the difference between worth and productivity was when I was laid off from a tech company and feeling like a foolish waste of space. My friend Gina relentlessly texted me about my intrinsic human value, knowing that my time at home would lay siege to my self-worth. …


Talking about dark things is the only way to feel better about them. But if the pain is too intense, you might feel reluctant about sharing, not wanting to overwhelm yourself or other people. I sympathize.

Since I’m an abuse survivor, I have tons of inner darkness, and I’m always deciding how much to let out. The topic of abuse makes people very uncomfortable. Most people have probably experienced abuse from someone they love, and many cope by avoiding the topic, even in their own thoughts. Those who have moved beyond avoidance are often focused on figuring out who to…


I’ve read months of heated social media posts arguing between the candidates of the Democratic primaries. Why does the discussion of who should be our next President hold so much emotional energy?

Think about it. We are avidly following the blow-by-blow of televised national politics, while local politics receive far less of our time and energy. If we were motivated purely by the opportunity to be good citizens, local groups would get at least as much of our attention as the national news (if not more!)

I also see people investing more energy in arguing with friends and family members…


It’s a challenging question

Back when I was married, I was doing most of the domestic labor even though we both had challenging full-time jobs, which is not an unusual predicament for a woman in America. I’d work hard to make sure he always had a good dinner available, and then I’d be criticized for not doing things to his liking, spending too much money on groceries, or creating too many dishes. (In theory, dishes were his job; in practice, I ended up doing them much of the time.)

I used to think that domestic abuse only happens to mousy women. The mousiness is…


And what made it so hard to say in the first place

My first word was “no,” or more precisely, “noing,” which was how I pronounced it as a baby. My dad’s favorite story of my toddlerhood (not counting the time I managed to swallow an entire lump of wasabi and deafen a sushi restaurant with my shrieks) is about my love of noing. I was trying to build the perfect city out of blocks, but I couldn’t bring about my vision. …


In our society, we criminalize extreme need. If a homeless person doesn’t have a place to go, they’re “camping illegally.” If someone is despairing to the point of suicide, we don’t offer them help dealing with their emotional problems — we threaten to lock them up. I know the mandatory reporting policies that incarcerate suicidal people in asylums are theoretically about violence prevention. However, depriving someone of freedom is in itself a form of violence. The most popular post I’ve written on this blog so far, talks about my fear of being thrown in an asylum against my will.

Treating…


Embracing lament in the age of positivity

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the damn darkness,” was advice I once believed in entirely. I was raised to be an optimist. If you couldn’t change something, don’t complain about it. If you can change something: get to work! I saw my mother and my grandmothers keep a “stiff upper lip,” through the ups and downs of life, and I wanted to be just like them.

In my twenties, my church friends introduced me to the practice of “gratitude journaling,” and it became a key part of how I kept my upper lip stiff. Every…

Charlotte Ashlock

Social commentary, spiritual musings, and dark humor from a soul-weary business book editor. We can create a better world, I know we can.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store