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“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience” -Mark Manson.
Hey there! Today we’re tackling something pretty important… Something that isn’t talked about openly in spiritual circles because it seems to go against the whole “positive vibes 4 Eva <3 UwU face” mentality. We’ve been talking about the importance of balance over here on the channel for what seems like eons now, but the thing is….it goes both ways, and just like negative emotions or the ego, it turns out….you can have too much positivity that it becomes toxic to you and your surroundings, especially when you put on a smile and pretend things are just so amazing all the time even when maybe things are a bit challenging.
I mean, take our videos, for example! Last week we posted a video called “The Secrets of Hollow Earth,” which was demonetized by Youtube specifically for what they said was “Extreme Profanity.” So I guess the word Conspiracy is a swear word now, or maybe they had a problem with it… Hollow… But in the spirit of today's discussion, we’re not going to sugarcoat it! There’s more stuff like that coming, so in the off-chance, future videos are affected, make sure to head to Spirit Conspiracies and get free access to all of our conspiracy content!
So, okay… Toxic Positivity - It sounds weird. How can you have too much of a thing that makes you happy or secure? Well, without meaning to, a lot of the well-intentioned blanket statements that come along with ‘Spiritual groups’ like “everything happens for a reason” or “it’s all part of the universe’s divine love plan” or the big one…” you create your own reality” are rooted in Ego traps that serve to deny the shadow aspects of our existence and cover them up with a blanket of false positivity. So...all together now…. Let’s heal some collective trauma and talk about the dark side of positive vibes.
First off, what exactly is “Toxic Positivity?” Aside from an oxymoron that would make even an English major blush….generally speaking, most psychologists will define it as an excessive overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations that almost always results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.
This idea was illustrated well in that fantastic short film called IN SHADOW - A modern odyssey - showing how depressed people put on these big smiling masks to try and appear happy when deep down they are deprived of essential nourishing love. We see it a lot on Instagram today, with so many people putting out this perpetual vibe that they are so happy and living the best life ever all the time!
I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone who’s been a part of some spiritual circle has experienced it at some point… And I think it mostly stems from that belief in emotional hierarchy. That certain emotions have arbitrarily assigned value and are somehow “better” than other emotions…. In a nutshell, there seems to be this belief that if you’re “spiritual,” you can only feel love for things - because that emotion “vibrates” higher, and if you feel angry, jealous, or upset at something or someone, you’re somehow “less” spiritual because of it.
At the risk of upsetting some hardcore New Agers, straight up - it’s just not true… Look, I’ll level with you… I meditate daily, drink Jasmine Tea like Uncle Iroh, burn incense, and work on my energy to embody love and compassion in my daily life every day…..and even I still get frustrated with people for being ridiculous and inconsiderate in the world! Just like anything done in excess, when positivity is used to cover up or silence our physical experience, it becomes toxic. And as any good psychologist will tell you, by ignoring the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions, which over time builds up trauma and gives rise to triggers.
In the words of the fantastic Samara Quintero, “the truth is, humans are flawed. We get jealous, angry, resentful, and greedy. Sometimes life can just flat out suck… but by pretending that we have “positive vibes all day,” we deny the validity of a genuine human experience.”
One of the darker sides of this whole thing has become known as “Spiritual Gaslighting,” which is a fancy way of saying regular gaslighting with sparkly spiritual words and context sprinkled on like some Sour Spiritual Sundae. It’s probably one of the most significant ego trips...and problems with a lot of modern spiritual circles….and yet, no one talks about it. Some of the most common phrases you’ll hear go around is stuff like “No bad vibes,” “Oh..just raise your vibration to manifest,” or “Just use the law of attraction,” and while these are usually rooted in good intentions…. the problem with all of these is that that mentality sometimes shames those who are not feeling that way, or who are unable to do this….and at the core level, it causes people who are struggling to think it’s their fault.
Another part of this is the whole student/teacher dynamic. We all have spiritual mentors in one way or another, whether they’re actual people, books, guides, or ourselves. Often I’ve found one of the biggest obstacles people need to overcome in self-development is this belief that someone is “more sensitive” or has better spiritual experiences than them. It happens in plant medicine ceremonies too, where someone will have a substantial visual experience and meet entities and see geometry. In contrast, another will have an entirely internal and visionless experience and then feel lesser or upset because theirs wasn’t as trippy. Everyone comes from the same source, and we’re all here to have the same experience, but differently, so why compare your individual experience with someone else's? Indeed it’s better to have your own unique experience?
Now, don’t get us wrong, we can understand that to have a better experience of life, you can shift your perspective to see more positive characteristics in the knowledge you’re having, and this is very valuable to do, mainly if we’re rooted or polarized in a negative aspect of life. As we’ve looked at with the 7 Hermetic Principles video, one of the principles is polarity. The hermeticists themselves explained that you could change your frequency by polarizing yourself to the energy you want to be in.
Simultaneously, people like Bruce Lipton are making leaps and bounds in epigenetics research, showing the power that your beliefs and attitude can have on your body and biology. I guess all that we’re saying is that if someone gets a severe disease or something.. to say outright “everything happens in accordance with the universe/divine plan,” or that “you caused it with your negativity” can be both dangerous and toxic, and facilitate disconnection in awareness between each other. Regardless of what factors, even if the person did do it to themselves like smoking or drinking too much or something like that, we could be in far more outstanding service by helping them come to the realization themselves, rather than telling it to them.
To come from this space fosters a belief that if we aren’t getting what we want or having an experience that feels good, it must be our fault. We aren’t trying hard enough or doing the right mediation to draw our desired outcome. To force a positive outlook on pain is to encourage a person to keep silent about their struggles, and it’s just not healthy.
At the same time, this is also true for behaviors or social constructs. Given the recent protests and civil rights movements regarding BLM and systemic racism, I’ve noticed a few “spiritual influencers” try to use spirituality as a means to gaslight the protesters. Blanket statements like “Everything happens for a reason” or “You create your reality” can often be used as an ego trap by people in higher positions of power in a process called “Spiritual Bypassing,” which has this mentality of exaggerated detachment, emotional repression and -my personal favorite, anger-phobia. It’s a weird phenomenon in New Age groups that talk about positivity. They argue that fear is the root of suffering, yet they often approach anger or other negative emotions in the same light, almost as if they’re afraid of them….It’s weird to see!
Maybe we’re just reading into this too much and stretching for connections. Still, the thing is…..by behaving in this way...dismissing the experience of aggression and trying to slap a fake smile or positive stance on it or saying that people somehow aren’t as “spiritually awakened” because they’re angry and upset, we are complicit in oppression and end up repressing or denying the pain and experience of oppressed and hurting people.
There’s no denying that we need a massive consciousness shift when you look at our society today. We live in a world where the current systems indirectly contribute to mentalities and causes that destroy people’s livelihoods, contribute to systemic racism and oppression, and leave millions worldwide in poverty and starving every day. We aren’t exempt from action just because we have a sense of universal love….or think “we’re not like them”...if anything, we have a responsibility to help heal the trauma.
See, toxic positivity is a mindset used because people either don’t want or aren’t able to face the darker aspects of themselves. It’s a phenomenon that tries to cover up someone’s past trauma and triggers so they don’t have to deal with them and are often used when people are afraid to hold space for emotions or challenging things. It’s like turning away from our pain or finding ways to dismiss it or numb it out. Think about it, as emotionally mature as you might be, most of the time; we don’t know how to sit with and be present with difficult or challenging emotions. Despite what we might say, people often don’t know what to do with someone when they’re crying.
Rather than turning away from people in a more challenging space -which includes ourselves btw, we can understand and be compassionate to the hard stuff. Self-growth is concerned; let’s not reinstate harmful beliefs from the past shame-based structures. They didn’t work then, and they won’t work well now. So….bringing this heavy topic to a close, what are some ways to recognize and effectively heal toxic positivity?
Well, once you understand what it is, it’s pretty easy to spot. You’ll have people spouting off “just get on with it” style quotes about how the universe has a plan while at the same time minimizing other people’s experiences. People might shame or chastise others for expressing frustration or anything other than positivity or the big one, rationalizing the cause of their circumstance as being from other people’s spiritual inadequacy rather than taking responsibility for their trauma and issues. And in case you were wondering, YES, all of these traits also apply when speaking to yourself and healing your own emotional and spiritual wounds!
One of the best ways to start healing the toxic positivity mindset is to shift your awareness into a state where negative emotions are okay. Understand that it’s healthy to experience pain and sadness and make room to sit with and consider those feelings before dismissing or transmuting them. And instead of making blanket statements rooted in this kind of mindset, choose your intent and words more carefully, even more so when dealing with and speaking to yourself. If you’re talking to someone else, one of the best things you can do for them is learning to listen. Sometimes people don’t want an instant answer or explanation; they want to be heard and received, allowing space to process what they’re going through. Same with you actually, instead of telling yourself “good vibes only,” ask yourself, “what’s going on?”
If you’re interested in healing up past experiences, taking responsibility for your healing, and entering into your heart to have more Heart-Centred relationships, both with yourself and others, we just released a course on Spirit Mysteries in collaboration with the Personal Development School where the amazing Thais Gibson will help you do just that, so please, from the bottom of my heart, I urge you to check it out!
Until next time, stay positive *cough* oh wait *cough* see you soon! Toodles.
Samara Quintero, LMFT, CHT and Jamie Long, PsyD. 2019: Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes. The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale: https://thepsychologygroup.com/toxic-positivity/
Sarah Norrad, 2019. Spiritual Gaslighting: the Unhealthy, Inauthentic practice of “High-Vibe” Culture. Elephant Journal. https://www.elephantjournal.com/2019/11/spiritual-gaslighting-the-unhealthy-inauthentic-practice-sarah-norrad/
Mackenzie Eason, 2018: Spiritual Gaslighting: What it is, and how to recognise it. https://www.kenzieeason.com/written-blog/2018/8/29/spiritual-gaslighting-what-it-is-and-how-to-recognize-it
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