Gratitude, Spiritual Bypassing & Toxic Positivity: Why We Need to Embrace Our Triggers

Are you ready to face your triggers? Last week we deep dived into the basics of toxic positivity, the beautiful lies society loves to weave with it and the importance of recognizing privilege in our quest for success. This week I wanted to add more pieces to the positivity puzzle: triggers and gratitude

I love gratitude, I have a daily gratitude practice, I can HONESTLY say that having a gratitude practice changed my life but the only reason it was effective is because it was authentic. It would not have worked if I was not truly in a place where I could be grateful for the things in my life or if I had used the list of what I had to blatantly ignore what I was missing in my life. 

When we are authentically grateful, or want to be grateful, we are able to tap into the mindset benefits of gratitude. If we don’t believe the gratitude statements or affirmations we are saying they do not have the same effect on our mindset. When we use gratitude as a way to repress or escape from our thoughts or negative behaviors we are repressing emotions that NEED to come up and be processed.

Spiritual Bypassing 

Spiritual practices that encourage “love and light” or “positivity” only can intensify this issue. This practice of actively suppressing, ignoring or rejecting negative emotions through spiritual beliefs is called spiritual bypassing. Most major religions have practitioners that live and preach like this. There are individuals who believe that their faith calls for them to not experience negativity and disregard hard or uncomfortable situations.They may say toxic positivity phrases like “God will always take care of it;” they mean well but they might also be excluding themselves from taking responsibility for their actions. I believe that it is ok to be supported by your faith and to ask for guidance but if you do not take action and sit with the hard moments nothing will change. 

People who participate in spiritual bypassing are ironically stunting their growth under the guise of being evolved. By refusing to acknowledge the uncomfortable and hard experiences in life they are exhibiting an inordinate amount of privilege and diminishing any authentic human emotions.

In summary, spiritual bypassing is using faith or trust in the universe as an excuse to run from our challenges instead of mustering up the courage to grow from them. Spiritual bypassing adopts the idea of gratitude and uses it as a toxic positivity tool to tell others to “always look at the glass half full” or “look at the bright side” without leaving space for people to process negative emotions. 

I think we can all admit to being guilty at feeding someone an inauthentic toxic positivity lie. So how do we overcome this issue? 

Embrace Triggers to Process Emotions 

The best way to combat toxic positivity and spiritual bypassing is to embrace what triggers us. *This is referring to trigger in a day to day scenario such as social media, things that irk us and benign annoyances. If you have larger triggers due to past experiences I highly recommend working with a mental health professional on this! 

To face our triggers we need to stick with what we are feeling and face the emotions head on. When something triggers us we have the opportunity to do some deep self-reflection to get to know ourselves a little better. 

If we want to be authentically positive we have to wade through the muck and get to know who we are! If we do the hard work when our emotions come up we can move out of the negative space and into our positive space faster. 

It’s hard work but we don’t have to go at it alone. I’ve got a program on triggers that includes a 30 minute 1×1 session available if you want to face this with a buddy! Regardless of how you approach it the most important factor is to make sure you embrace the emotions, accept how you feel for what it is and then you can work through it and make your way to Good-vibes-ville (if you want)!

Conclusion

Yes, having a gratitude practice is great if it feels authentic to you! Participating in spiritual beliefs is a wonderful way to live your life – as long as you aren’t negating your human experience! Yes, you need to face your triggers head on if you want to grow from them. Your positive experiences are beautiful and valid but don’t forget to accept the beauty in the negative and neutral! 

Hope this helps you and inspires you to live a more authentic life! 

*I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Please work with a licensed professional on all health changes. 

toxic positivity

Toxic Positivity Detox: How to Get Out of the Beautiful Lie

In case you missed my last post we are going on a toxic positivity detox! We have all been telling each other beautiful lies and it is time to pull back the curtain and get real! 

This topic is super important to me because in the coaching world there is a LOT of toxic positivity. I’ve had a coach tell me it’s all “mindset” or “I’ll get back whatever I am willing to invest” and while they may believe these statements they are wildly misleading. As someone who does believe that we can live in an abundant world I also understand that there is so much more to these cliches and everyone’s journey to success looks different. When we invest in ourselves we always get something back but it may not be financial and it may not look the same for us as it does for others. It’s a lot less sexy to say – but it’s true. 

As a coach I truly believe in the power of a positive mindset but I understand that it’s not the only ingredient to my clients success. Hard work, strategy, good timing, trial and error – they all play into our success. Doing something you love everyday makes the hard work feel easy but it’s still effort and energy you put into your growth. 

Our friend toxic positivity tells us that my statement above is pessimistic and #workhardplayhard always prevails so let’s dig into it. 

Toxic Positivity Defined

Toxic positivity is the overgeneralization that EVERYTHING and every experience must be viewed through a positive lens. When we participate in toxic positivity we mean well but usually we end up doing more damage than helping. 

This is because toxic positivity revokes authentic feelings. When we say things like “look at the brightside” we are asking people to not feel their negative emotions for the sake of our comfort – because we want to HELP! We put our need to feel like we have “fixed” people over their need to process their emotions. It is not fair! 

Think about it – when you complain to a friend and they tell you something like “everything happens for a reason” do you honestly feel any better? I don’t!

To detox from this we need to work on responding authentically, asking about how our statements make people feel, actively listening or setting boundaries around when we can take on emotional labor from others. 

It’s Ok to Say “No” or  “Not Right Now”

I used to be REALLY bad at saying no. This is not an admirable trait because it causes burnout, makes people bitter and usually made me into a shitty friend. Instead of saying no to people I would agree to help and lack the ability to pay attention or run out of energy to take care of myself. It was toxic, it’s not a good idea and it’s why we always need to put ourselves first. 

We also need to be ok with setting boundaries. It is ok to not have the energy to actively listen to someone. To handle this appropriately we just need to be honest. You are always welcome to say something like “I’m really sorry this is happening to you. Right now I am unable to engage in this conversation but I want you to know that I support you.” We can offer resources to them such as online counseling or coaching, other friends that may be available or a better time to chat with them. We can have boundaries and still be actively engaged in our friendships. We cannot pretend to listen, through some cliches at people and then let ourselves feel like we “fixed” the problem (because we all love that sweet dopamine hit of being the saviour)!

Happy to Help 

If we are in the space to listen to and comfort our friends we need to do exactly that. LISTEN and COMFORT. 

Some people love hearing anecdotes of times when the same thing happened to you, others just need to vent and others might just want to sit in silence together and process silently but with your company. None of these are wrong – but unless you are a Jedi you might struggle to read their mind. 

Normalize asking people what kind of support they would like or need. It is ok to ask and if they don’t know or are too worked up to decide try active listening and see where the conversation goes. 

A quick lesson on active listening! Active listening is a way to show that you are engaged, focused and willing to support the person talking to you. You can practice active listening by repeating back to people what they say, nodding, asking questions that engage the speaker in the conversation, withholding judgement and clarifying. These are skills we can dig deeper into on another blog post or we can practice in a 1×1 coaching session. *You can sign up for a FREE coaching consultation here

This does NOT mean you need to overthink the conversation or not talk about yourself at all. Instead it is a reminder to think of the best way to support your friends instead of spewing cliches at them. It’s a reminder to have a REAL conversation where you listen instead of lecturing your friend.

Ready to embark on this detox with me? Hold me accountable and if you ask I’ll hold you accountable to it too! 

Authenticity, Protecting your Energy & Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity is the most powerful weapon against authenticity. Don’t believe me? Let me explain. 

Before we start here’s little background on toxic positivity

I love love. I love play, excitement, joy, fun! But it is wildly ignorant to believe that everything will always be rainbow and sunshine! I preach that our mindset matters and having a generally positive outlook is helpful for our mental state BUT we can go overboard in the positivity department. This is when positivity becomes toxic. 

Toxic positivity is the overgeneralization that we should be positive and optimistic ALWAYS. It stems from an unwillingness to acknowledge or experience negative emotions. Toxic positivity can feel fake at best and can force participants to repress their negative feelings at worst. 

Youtube Breakdown of Bossbabe culture!

What’s so bad about ignoring our negative emotions? Any emotion we ignore, bury or try to hide is just a bubble of trauma waiting to be burst. If we do not FEEL and ACKNOWLEDGE our emotions they maintain power over us and slip into our subconscious. They start impacting how we make decisions with or without our knowledge. 

In other words, toxic positivity is being SO optimistic we refuse to acknowledge who or what we are. It buries our authenticity and convinces us that we shouldn’t feel negative emotions (and we all know how I feel about shoulding”). 

Toxic positivity is not just “look at the positives” it’s saying to actively ignore and avoid the negatives. 

Toxic Positivity in the Wild

So now that we have our definition let’s jump into how it is used against us (usually against women or femme members of society). 

I’m going to use the phrase positive vibes to explain this. Let’s say I have a neon sign that says “positive vibes only” in my living room. Cute, right? 

Sure, BUT what if you, my bff, come over and need to complain. You really need to let out all the big sad feelings you are having because your husband left you, he stole your favorite cat, he wants custody of your aquarium that you bought and paid for and he was cheating on you with an employee at the pet store. Rough right? 

We sit down on the couch with the sign hanging on the wall behind me. As you tell me all about the AWFUL things that are happening to you, I sit there, with my glaring sign behind me and tell you “everything happens for a reason” or “you don’t want to be with a man like that anyway”. By saying this I begin subtly (or not so subtly) SHAMING you into positivity when you really need to feel all your feels instead. 

That neon sign behind me begins making you feel ashamed for bringing “negative” vibes into the space. It invalidates your feelings and makes the statement that you shouldn’t be feeling or sharing these negative experiences. Toxic positivity tells you that it is shameful to not be positive, to feel bad for yourself, to have emotions. Because of this, toxic positivity forces us to stay stuck where we are. 

Two Reasons Toxic Positivity Causes Stagnation 

  1. It causes us to repress how we feel and hide parts of ourselves to keep the peace. When we ignore our humanness we prevent ourselves from processing the pain. We would rather stay exactly where we are than deal with the emotion due to the fear that it may not be a positive experience. 
  1. When we pretend everything is ok (or convince ourselves that everything is perfect) we can’t see where we need to grow. Toxic positivity glosses over all the places we can grow. It smooths out any blemishes, it prevents us from seeing things as they are and if we can’t identify the issues we can’t fix them. 

Toxic positivity creates inauthentic and fake happiness. It tells us that just being in this moment means that we should (you know how I feel about should) be happy. Asking people to use perspective before they have had a chance to process their emotions marginalizes their experience and dehumanizes them. By forcing people to repress their emotions we are telling them that their baseline emotional level is “too much” or “inappropriate” under the guise of making other people comfortable. You should never make yourself less to make others comfortable (but you should respect their boundaries). 

Toxic Positivity in #Bossbabe Culture 

As I mentioned earlier, toxic positivity is usually used against women. The power of positive thinking is a marketing tool used by MLMs to convince women to invest in their programs. MLMs or “multi-level marketing” schemes are organizations that operate by recruiting salespeople who are not employees of the company. In most instances these sales people are then asked to recruit other sales people to make more money. Women are fed the line that they will “be a boss babe”, “own their own business” or #workhardplayhard to fuel their success. 

Who doesn’t want someone to give them the blueprints to success! It all sounds fun until you run out of friends and family to recruit from. All you have to do is plug in your network and build like the inspirational woman in the video they showed you with the sad sob story. When you no longer have the ability to add anyone else to your team because you’ve tapped your network dry, your dreams of being a #bossbabe begin to feel like failure.

In a lot of these organizations the person who recruited you is making money off your success SO they will feed you lies of toxic positivity or shame you into believing that you aren’t working hard enough. According to your bossbabe boss you are not allowed to fail or failure is not an option. Unfortunately for your bossbabe mentor, you can (and probably will at some point or another) fail.

A major issue with this failure is the financial burden it causes on the women who are duped into participating. These organizations do not just prey on suburban middle class women – they don’t care who they make money off of as long as they can get them to pay for their products. They do this by telling rags to riches stories to “empower” the women involved. But they don’t disclose the failure rates of women who join.

The Power of Positive Thinking

I think MLMs are totally fine if you have disposable income and want to try to make money but I do not believe they are the environment that can pull you out of poverty – and they are willing to take anyone’s money regardless of the odds of success. So, if you are spending your last pennies on a product that you then have to encourage others to buy before you can make money you are probably making a poor financial investment. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE to succeed from this position but it is harder. 

This power of positive thinking makes you believe you are the anomaly instead of normal. It will shame you into believing that you have to be willing to do “whatever it takes” to succeed. It’s bullshit- positive thinking isn’t the only piece that leads to success – and we need to throw toxic positivity away. 

Conclusion

Please don’t take this as an anti-positivity post – I love having a sunny disposition when it’s authentic! I truly believe that there is power in positive thinking – but there is just as much value in honoring your emotions, listening to your own intuition and rejecting inauthentic positivity. Please remember when you feel anything other than positive – that’s ok, normal and important as well! 

*I am not a doctor or therapist.