The Danger in Fake Positivity and Spiritual Bypassing

Vanessa Smith Bennett, AMFT, addresses faux positivity and encourages seeing destructive feelings as a possibility for progress, not one thing to keep away from.

These days, the realm of spirituality (and generally psychology) can really feel faux. Instagram and different social media are jammed with influencer posts about optimistic vibes, about not permitting destructive power or ideas to get to you, about surrounding your self with solely supportive, optimistic individuals.

Unless you reside in a bubble or on Mars, this isn’t solely unrealistic, but additionally a recipe for by no means rising or really studying who you might be. If you try to transcend or keep away from tough experiences, you possibly can stay emotionally stunted. Spiritually minded psychologists and lecturers check with this as non secular bypassing. Like it or not, the ugly components of our humanity are the place progress can happen.

In the phrases of Buddhist instructor, creator, and nun Pema Chödrön:

“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and concern… are literally very clear moments that train us the place it’s that we’re holding again. They’re like messengers that inform us, with terrifying readability, precisely the place we’re caught.”

Many feelings function flags indicating a possibility for us to study. Challenge, sorrow, change, discomfort, battle, hatred, despair, and nervousness are paths to progress and alter. We can discover and settle for the components of ourselves society urges us to maintain tucked away. Painful or uncomfortable experiences allow us to develop previous our present emotional and non secular states.

Fake positivity can perpetuate lots of the stigma round psychological sickness. Encouraging somebody who has scientific despair to deal with the optimistic just isn’t useful and may really do extra hurt. This recommendation can bolster the sensation that they’re at fault as a result of they can’t merely pull themselves up by the bootstraps. I inform individuals scuffling with despair that they’re extra tuned in to actual human expertise and emotion than these pushing the positive-vibes-only agenda.

Clients don’t come to remedy or search life teaching as a result of every thing of their lives goes splendidly. They are caught in a sample chock-full of destructive feelings, and so they can not appear to interrupt free. Sometimes we’d like an unbiased third social gathering to assist us see what we’re working from or problem us to face what we’re unwilling to really feel. Friends and family members can’t do it for us; we’ve got too many emotional ties. Doing this tough work can result in lasting change. It takes actual braveness to cease pretending you’ve all of it collectively and shake palms with deep disappointment or childhood trauma. (Yes, this can be a plug for going to remedy. I can’t assist it. I’m a therapist.)

The path of individuation asks for whole integration of all aspects of the self: good, unhealthy, and ugly.

Sometimes there’s nothing to do with or about these feelings. Sometimes we have to merely acknowledge these emotions—to sit down with sorrow, resentment, or jealousy with out attempting to alter the expertise or decide it aside. We have to permit ourselves to unfold, to witness feelings flooding our system, to breathe into the locations in our our bodies the place we’re caught. We expertise a softening after we enable area for all feelings, not simply those who really feel good.

If we are able to enable ourselves the area and acceptance to be multifaceted, we’ll expertise life to its fullest. Being human means going through struggling. There is not any mild with out darkish, no pleasure with out disappointment. If we don’t expertise all emotions, we’ve got no foundation for comparability. If we run from sure feelings by staying busy, expressing faux positivity, or abusing mood-altering substances, we’re reducing away half our existence. When we cease and honor tough feelings, we’ve got the chance to dwell totally and combine all components of ourselves. These emotions will torment us till we cease working from them—and from the reality of who we’re.

Next time you are feeling a way of anger, concern, or sorrow, I problem you to pause, get nonetheless, and stay quiet. Notice the sensation in your physique and take a deep breath into that area. You would possibly even place a hand on the spot—the chest, the abdomen, the throat—the place the emotion appears to reside. When you acknowledge these emotions, you really honor your humanity. You could really feel a loosening or a difficult emotion washing over you. But it can fade, like a wave that crashes on the shore earlier than receding into the ocean.

It’s additionally essential to personal your emotions. No one could make anybody really feel any specific method. It could seem to be another person is triggering us, however the supply of discomfort is at all times inside. Blaming your anger or resentment on another person is a very simple technique to bypass the interior work.

The path of individuation asks for whole integration of all aspects of the self: good, unhealthy, and ugly. Don’t get discouraged by the tough moments and feelings, and don’t push them away or diminish another person’s expertise by encouraging faux positivity. Uncovering and understanding the self is a lifelong journey that calls for rejection of typical attitudes and the masks of positivity.

June Singer, famous American psychologist, put it this fashion:

“It is a straightforward factor to say “be your self” however fairly one other factor to know who you really are. How are you able to be your self if you happen to have no idea that self? Therefore, the method of individuation turns into a in search of after self-knowledge.”


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