By Linsy Hilton

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”- Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

Good vibes only!” I’m sure you’ve read this caption thousands of times scrolling through your social media feeds. The positivity movement is rife in our current society,  particularly with Millennials and in the spiritual scene.

The idea of staying positive in order to be happy is continuously shoved in our faces on social media, in self-help books, and by online influencers posting perfectly contrived pictures with captions encouraging their fans to avoid negative energy or thoughts. But is the concept of focusing only on positive thoughts and experiences a realistic or productive way to live? And are there any constructive benefits from incorporating a positive mindset into your life?

Spiritual Bypassing

Today spirituality can sometimes feel fake. A certain element feels more like a scene to be part of rather than an avenue to connect with yourself or your chosen higher power. Modern-day spirituality often incorporates the idea of focusing on only positive scenarios and avoidance of anything negative in order to reach a destination of enlightenment and happiness. This is referred to as spiritual bypassing. 

Spiritual bypassing is avoiding, suppressing, or escaping difficult and uncomfortable situations to transcend. However, life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Try as hard as you like, but it is impossible for one’s life to be only filled with positive thoughts, experiences, and emotions. Life can be hard, things don’t always go as you want them to, and it’s part of your unwritten agreement as a human being to experience challenges. And no amount of fake positivity is going to reward you with a hall pass for any of them. 

Take Carl Jung’s advice on this one: “What you resist, persists.” This implies that anything you avoid confronting will eventually spill out, so it’s best to confront it before a drip turns into an unmanageable stream.   

An Opportunity To Grow

Difficult or challenging situations aren’t all doom and gloom. There are silver linings that come with hard times. Hard times are prime opportunities in your life to grow, learn, and expand your mind. Avoiding negative experiences or uncomfortable situations will only stunt your emotional growth. Embracing the ugly parts of life and allowing feelings and emotions typically considered as negative, gives you a chance to see where you are stuck and the areas of life you might need to work on. 

Take time to observe these moments when they arise and explore what may be behind feelings like anger, embarrassment, or jealousy. This can be a hard concept to grasp. Society has long taught us to cover up or hide negative emotions, but these uncomfortable experiences will propel you forward on your spiritual or personal growth journey.

Learning how to cope with difficulties offers you greater rewards than a fake smile. If you take the time to look, there is usually a lesson to be found in every experience, good or bad. Reflecting on harder times with this attitude allows you to appreciate the full spectrum of life and not just the positive elements.

Harnessing Positivity In A Healthy Way

Though life isn’t one big happy ride on a rainbow with a unicorn, it is important to acknowledge that there is some truth behind the benefits of positive thinking. Looking on the bright side or focusing on the positives can be incorporated into your life healthily and productively. Replacing the mindset of “positive thoughts only” with mindfulness and gratitude is a much more realistic approach to improving your emotional and mental state.

Starting or ending your day by acknowledging who and what you are grateful for–including yourself–is a great tool to reinforce and remind yourself of the positives, particularly when life can feel a little burdensome. The critical part here is acknowledging the aspects of your life that are positive while still making room for the parts that cause discomfort. 

That said, journaling about the difficulties and hurdles you face is a helpful way to clear your mind and process what is going on when uncomfortable feelings arise. This makes room for more pleasant thoughts without ignoring parts of yourself that are asking to be acknowledged.  

Fake positivity can equate to fake people. This is the last thing we need in a world already full of filtered Instagram photo lives and pretend Youtube realities. Be real with yourself and others. Embrace all sides of yourself and learn to love all the parts of you.

Acknowledging that real people aren’t happy and sprinkling sparkly glitter everywhere all of the time, is a positive step in the direction of a more wholesome society. Do your bit and give the “good vibes only” movement a miss!