What is Toxic Positivity? | How to Avoid Spiritual Bypass

With the New Age spirituality movement, it’s hard to ignore the perfect Instagram-worthy photos that pull us in with their positivity and messages of hope. Spirituality can be a great way to enhance your overall well-being, especially mentally. But what happens when our sacred outlet turns into a world of people faking it and hiding behind all those positive messages?

It’s a misconception that New Age spirituality is all sunshine and rainbows, those who practice are not immune to the trials and tribulations the Universe throws at us. When we only focus on the positive it becomes toxic, which is how we get the term “spiritual bypassing”.

 

What is Spiritual Bypassing?

The idea of spiritual bypassing comes from a psychotherapist by the name of John Wellwood; he explains it as “using the goal of awakening or liberation to try and rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced and made peace with it.” To put it simply, it’s when we use spirituality as a shield to avoid facing hard or unresolved issues and emotions.

Here are some examples of Spiritual Bypassing:

  • Feeling detached
  • Avoiding tough emotions- especially anger
  • Only focusing on the positive
  • Projecting emotions or issues onto other people
  • Saying/pretending everything is okay when it’s not
  • Think of yourself as superior because of spiritual beliefs

As you can see, when we use spirituality as a way to gloss over the “negative” events or emotions in our life, it then turns into false positivity.

 

Your Feelings are Valid

It’s important to remember that emotions are normal, even the ones we perceive as negative. Our ability to understand, feel, and process emotions are all a part of the human experience. It’s okay to sit in sorrow or grief after a loved one passes. It’s okay to be angry when someone wrongs you.

Some New Age spiritualists will have you feeling guilty if you don’t “rise above” your emotions, but it’s even worse if you bury them down and don’t acknowledge them at all. With light, there is darkness, just as with good there will always be bad. It’s a natural part of human life.

 

What You Can Do in the Hard Moments

Whenever you are faced with trying times or negative emotions, first tell yourself it’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling. By acknowledging the heavy emotions first, you remind yourself it’s okay to feel the way you do.

One of the best ways to get feelings out is on paper. By writing your emotions down it’s easier to analyze and bring awareness to what’s going on in your mind. It’s hard to untangle everything going through your head by just thinking about how you feel. Writing them down is a way to release yourself from the intensity of the issues, and some would say it’s therapeutic.

If you’re not much for journaling, simply sitting with your breath and allowing the emotions to rise to the surface naturally is another option. With each thought that comes up, take a moment to acknowledge why it may be at the forefront of your mind. Allow yourself to cry or release these thoughts in the way that feels best.

The next time you are struggling with challenging emotions, don’t feed into the narrative that they are bad. You’re human and even though some may portray their lives as perfect, just remember everyone goes through stuff. It’s what you do in those hard moments that matter the most, and allowing yourself to feel is the best thing you can do.