The Dark Side of Positivity
Among the things she listed that she felt were holding her back from being truly happy, she lamented, “I have negative thoughts all the time. And I know everybody says that you need to think positive, and I try to, but sometimes I just can’t.”
I stopped her dead in her tracks.
I see this kind of dangerous thinking from all sides. Bullshit New Age content farms are hocking over simplified clickbait social media content on a daily basis telling people how they shouldn’t be negative, think negative, or hang out with “negative” people.
I told my potential client that it was perfectly okay for her to have negative thoughts. It’s perfectly human to feel negative sometimes. Or even more than sometimes.
This growing idea that in order to be spiritual, you must shun any and all negativity, is at best based on a surface-level understanding of spirituality and enlightenment and at worst, a form of intellectually lazy emotional repression and spiritual bypassing.
What is Spiritual Bypassing?
Spiritual Bypassing is a term coined by psychologist Robert Masters to describe the practice of empty spirituality devoid of real personal development. In spiritual bypassing, a person “acts” spiritual without actually doing the internal work to develop real spiritual understanding, often resulting in stunted spiritual growth, repressed emotions, inflated ideas about their own level of enlightenment, and a plethora of other detrimental activities and ideas. It’s very closely related to spiritual narcissism.
This sort of empty spirituality doesn’t facilitate conscious expansion or enlightenment, but rather keeps its followers trapped in the lowest levels of awareness. Oh, the irony…
Negative emotions, thoughts and feelings have their place. They alert us of where our boundaries have been violated. They can teach us about where we’ve been harmed, and in turn, have begun to harm ourselves. But they can only do that if and when we sit with and examine them.
I explained to my potential client that she needn’t be worried about having negative thoughts and that rather than attempting to ignore them or push them out of her mind, or feel bad about having them, she should find time to sit with them compassionately, allow herself to feel them, examine them, discover where they arise from and once she has truly found the source and understood it, then she can begin to work toward healing.
I know that sounds pretty simple, but what is simple isn’t always easy. This is the kind of work that can take years. No coach will ever be able to heal you, but they can teach you tools, strategies, and healthy coping skills that will help you begin to heal yourself.
*Note: Please work with a trauma-informed, licensed mental health practitioner in tandem with any coaching you may seek out. Make sure that the coach you hire is also trauma-informed.
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