Many people are familiar with the term toxic negativity, when someone is so stuck in a negative headspace and way of being that it affects and harms those around them. They may push negative feelings, attitudes, and beliefs onto others due to their own inability to see any good in life.
What people in the spiritual community are less commonly aware of is toxic positivity. A form of spiritual bypassing, toxic positivity is where an individual is so caught up in wanting to stay elevated and positive, they neglect to sit with, understand, or feel any form of pain or suffering. This can leave friends, partners, or even parts of oneself feeling invalidated, misseen, or neglected.
There needs to be a healthy balance between gratitude and positive thinking, along with getting down in the dirt of pain and suffering without turning away. In fact, our ability to sit with and experience our own challenging emotions and experiences is a direct reflection of how much we are able to sit with and experience emotions and experiences that bring us joy and pleasure.
We live in a culture and time where we are taught to seek pleasure and pull away from pain or discomfort. We are given quick rewards and lean into addictions (from TV, to shopping, to alcohol or drugs) to keep us always feeling “high.” But the high we feel isn’t based in reality, it is based in fear. We can never actually enjoy the high, because rather than experiencing it we are constantly trying to keep it from disappearing out of our grasp. Life becomes a constant pursuit away from reality (which is sometimes hard and painful), and toward always feeling good. Meditation and yoga can even become a way to bypass our own reality when we find ourselves endlessly seeking the “yoga high” and avoiding our authentic, challenging experiences.
When we ignore our reality, it doesn’t just go away. It stores itself into our tissues as pain, disease, toxicity, and depression. This makes touching into it all the more painful and complicated later on. But, when you take a few moments to sit with and be with the experiences that challenge you, something really beautiful happens:
You become more REAL. You feel more authentic and true to yourself. You finally feel like yourself and it feels liberating, despite where there may be pain.
You tap into the bittersweet experience that is love. This brings you closer and closer to the Love which is unconditional and everlasting.
You increase your window of tolerance to be with hard experiences in life, which allows you to realize you can get through anything no matter how hard or unbearable it may feel.
You wake up to your connection to other humans in the world, many of who are suffering greatly. You become more compassionate and caring, and begin to give back to people and communities who touch your heart. This adds deep richness to your life.
You increase your threshold to experience true joy and pleasure.
You heal parts of yourself and your lineage you may not have even realized existed.
You can read more about my favorite process for learning to sit with hard emotions here.
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