December 30, 2021

This popped in my head WHILE I was meditating — which is insane because I meditate to bring positivity and calmness in my life. But, here I am, listening to the soothing voice of Deepak Chopra and all I can think about is “toxic positivity”. After the meditation, I uncontrollably blurt out to my girlfriend; “I want to write about toxic positivity.” She takes a breath, locks eyes with me and replies “like saying positivity can be a bad thing?” I say “Yes”. “Okay baby, should be a good one.”

This conversation took place a few days ago and since then, I haven’t been able to think of anything else. So, what I have been mulling over and really trying to dissect is when I started using positivity as a weapon against feeling anything that I perceived as negative. I went all the way (mentally of course) back to 2002, the year my mother died. She and I were born again Christians and very active in the church. What stands out for me is how I worked excruciatingly hard to show that I was okay. I needed to prove that I was a strong, good, Christian who knew that what had happened was the will of God. Showing that strength and trust in God’s will meant that would show a brave face, dried eyes and glued smile.

No one talked to me about grief — grief counseling is not a thing in the church. People did talk to me about being strong. When the grief came over me (it comes in waves) — I would go to cry alone and when I was done, I would go back to the head high, eyes dry and that smile. This is how toxic positivity creeped in on me — dry eyes and a fake smile. I no longer subscribe to institutionalized religion but I am still a wounded by it and toxic positivity is one of the ways that wound manifests.

My preferred form of connection to divine energy is meditation, I am a religious affirmation reciter, meditator and when faced with “negative emotions” I IMMEDIATELY think of something positive — a possible silver lining. Part of my growing process has been the realization that this is a crutch. It is not effective and will ultimately stunt my growth instead of fostering it. I love growing. Toxic positivity takes away from the importance of experiencing and feeling all your feels. If you are constantly running away from feeling pain, anger, frustration, hurt and whatever human emotion you have deemed uncomfortable, you cannot grow. Growth always happens in the uncomfortable.

As much as I have unshackled myself from the chains of Christian dogma and what it taught me about strength vs. weakness — I am finding that I need to do the same with the spiritual practices that I have chosen. One of the things I saw as a flaw in my Christian circle was how we implored each other to “be strong”. I became that Christian who said “no, this hurts, take the time you need to BE in pain”. When some of my friends looked to me for help with their grief after loosing a loved one, I would say “I know I lost a parent but I do not know how YOU feel. No one can. So, I will not talk, but I will just sit here with you, in this pain and discomfort”. I don’t know how I began to know the things I knew then. I know that there was something my soul deeply disagreed with when it came to how church dealt with emotional pain and mental health.

Part of the work of moving away from religion and towards spirituality included seeking out non-religious spiritual teachers and psychologists. I found that they mostly agree on the necessity of sitting with yourself and feeling all the feels and then, letting them go. That shit is hard! It is so incredibly hard. The sitting is hard, the feeling is hard and boy, is the letting go hard. There has never been a point in my evolution where I felt like “yep, I got it now”! I don’t think I know anyone who has. I think it’s because we deal with different shit all the time. Yesterday’s drama ain’t got shit on today’s! The beauty is in the permitting ourselves the freedom to not fear being human. The human experience is about embracing it all — and yes, feeling it all.

I often find myself reverting back to that person who uses positivity to mask anxiety and depression. I catch myself proclaiming “It’s okay. I’m okay” even when it is clearly not. I have to remind myself that “It is okay, to not be okay” (cue in that Jessie J song here). In a recent podcast I was listening to — I don’t remember which one, I listen to so many, Elizabeth Gilbert said “a lot of us feel shame for having negative feelings” that was my “aha” moment.

I realized that in my desperate need for “positive vibes” I have thrown a blanket of shame over feeling “bad emotions”. My anxiety wasn’t just anxiety anymore, it was anxiety and shame. My triggers were coupled with shame. I am releasing myself — may we all release ourselves.

I am not saying we should be downers and pessimists, who don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We should see the light, but not be afraid to walk in the dark. Avoidance does not lead to growth. Growth is in the discomfort.


Khanyisa Mnyaka

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1 Comment

  1. דירות דיסקרטיות בחיפה לאירוח מושלם

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