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Don’t harm yourself with positive thinking

The Weekly Seeker #5

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You’ve likely heard the term toxic positivity.

Maybe you’ve even experienced toxic positivity, or at some point engaged in it yourself. (No blame or judgment or shame; we all have.)

When you’re feeling angry, sad, lonely, depressed, or hopeless, it can be infuriating to be told to just think positive! To think positive thoughts. To put out positive energy into the world.

Of course, it can be helpful to focus on the good things in your life. To try to shift into a state of gratitude. To not complain so much. To remember others out there in the world are likely suffering more than we are, right now.

But trying to force yourself to think positive — or be positive — can quickly turn into an act of self-suppression.

An act of denying the truth of where you are, how you’re feeling, and what’s happening inside your body at any given moment in time. (Especially when you’re feeling something uncomfortable or inconvenient.)

In many of our modern cultures, we’ve been conditioned or taught to suppress our feelings. Growing up, perhaps you observed your parents or other family members suppressing their feelings, so you picked that up as the most “normal” way to survive and make it through life.

But there’s nothing normal — or healthy — in suppressing your emotions, trying to outrun them by staying busy, or pretending they’re not there by forcefully thinking positive.

In the spiritual and self-development communities, we’re often told how much power and weight our thoughts carry. That our thoughts create our reality, so we better think really good, really aligned, really spiritual and happy thoughts.

Again, there’s some truth in this. Our thoughts are very important, and they absolutely influence our experience of life, how we see the world, and what we create for ourselves.

The problem is that this dictum to “think positive” or “stay positive” can create tremendous amounts of inner pressure, where we’re trying to think positive at all costs and therefore suppressing any emotions or thoughts that we might judge as negative.

When you’re under this much pressure, judging every thought or emotion you have to make sure they’re positive enough, you’re not leaving any room to feel your authentic feelings, to acknowledge your emotions, to befriend your emotions and allow them to breathe.

The more you suppress — for instance, by toxic positive thinking — the stronger backlash you’ll experience when those suppressed emotions or thoughts re-surface. (And they always do re-surface, eventually.)

All of your thoughts and emotions are simply trying to be expressed, to be seen or felt. The best thing you can do is find a middle ground where you can acknowledge, honor, and be with whatever emotion or thought is coming up… then let it pass through you.

This is healthier than going to either extreme of wallowing in every thought or emotion that arises, or trying to erase them by thinking ONLY positive thoughts.

Do not harm yourself with positive thinking.

Instead, be with yourself and with any thought or feeling that comes up as compassionately and openly as you can.

With love, your friend on the path,

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