Today I walked by this adorable little sign in the store.
It had rainbows and said “Good Vibes Only” and I thought, that’s cute. Maybe I’ll get it for my office.
Then I thought, oh gosh, that phrase is so misused, and I don’t want to promote this movement toward good vibes only in the wrong way.
The good vibes only movement is robbing us of being seen, heard, and validated!
Now, I am super spiritual, a yoga teacher, meditator, and lover of all things positive and I know this saying has good intentions, but I’ve also got a few psychology degrees, so hear me out.
The high vibes only movement is promoting the idea that we must always be in a high vibrational or positive state and so must those around us, and that’s not humanly possible.
I know many spiritual people who will feel bad if they aren’t always high vibe, and I’ve seen amazing women withdraw from social groups because they “don’t want to bring us down” because they’re feeling low.
Yet, this is the time people need the connection most and instead they’re alienating themselves.
It’s also allowing so many people to avoid their real emotions in the name of being high vibe, which has its own consequences and even worse, it’s hurting the very people who need support from their high vibe friend. Especially, at times like these.
“Toxic positivity is an obsession with positive thinking. It is the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic.”
It sounds like this, and I’m sure you’ve heard it.
You tell someone you’re having a hard time and hear the following…
“Everything happens for a reason”
“Every cloud has a silver lining”
“It could always be worse”
“You just need to focus on the positive”
“Happiness is a choice”
Here’s a real conversation I’ve had in my life to illustrate this at work.
Me: “My mom passed away suddenly last month and it’s been really tough.”
High Vibe Person: “I’m sure your mom is in a better place. You just need to take care of yourself, and you know everything happens for a reason!”
I didn’t feel any better. And luckily I have a lot of faith, but when I was younger and agnostic at best, that would have seriously pissed me off, because at the time, I didn’t believe there was a better place!
Now, I understand the meaning of all those sayings and I know many people who say them have good intentions. I have most definitely used some of them myself when I was younger, and particularly when I was a new spiritual seeker learning about amazing stuff like the Law of Attraction circa 2006.
I know there are situations when you do need to focus on the positive, but dealing with the negative is imperative to living a mentally happy and healthy life!
Pain is a powerful teacher, and there is much wisdom in sitting with your own and heeding the messages it has for you. Pain often tells you it’s time to grieve, move on, get help, or even make a change in your life.
Having someone hold space for you and doing the same for them is the core of trust and connection. We all want to be seen and heard and too many people don’t have someone they can call and say, “Hey, I’m having a rough day, can we talk?”
Now, of course you must have healthy boundaries and you do not need to be the dumping ground for your friends and family.
In some situations, someone needs professional help or they simply just want to complain without ever making a change and that’s okay, but you get to do what is healthy for you as long as you’re not avoiding negative emotions as a rule.
I sadly see so much toxic positivity in the self-help industry. I’ve seen people share deeply hurtful or traumatic things and experts respond with, “How can you feel differently about that?” I am sure that if people could easily feel differently they would!
You are human, you have emotions that are meant to guide you to what needs healing or to be felt so it can pass, and when you shut them down, you create energetic blocks and even health issues after long periods of time.
And remember, you can’t feel only one part of the spectrum of emotions. You can’t feel the joy without the pain. Love and light include hatred and the darkness; you can’t know one without experiencing the other. And you sure can’t change the world without seeing both.
So, what’s the well-meaning spiritual person supposed to do?
First, ensure you’re sitting with your own emotions. Because if you can’t sit with yours, you can’t sit with others’ deep emotions. Journal, get grounded in your body, and breathe. Of course, get help if your emotions are overwhelming or you struggle with your mental health.
And if you’re empathic (meaning you feel, sometimes viscerally, how others are feeling) work on your energetic boundaries. Many spiritual seekers and healers unwittingly avoid the deep emotions of others because they honestly don’t know how to deal with them or clear the energies. This is something I’ve worked a great deal on personally, as I work full-time helping people clear blocks and traumas with Energy Psychology!
Here’s what you can say instead to someone experiencing a difficult time. You may just help them shift out of it or get the support they actually need.
“I know things are difficult right now; how can I support you?”
“I’m so sorry that happened; do you need to talk about it?”
“It’s alright that you’re not okay. Feel what you need to feel.”
“It’s okay to struggle or not know what to do; what are your options here?”
“I may not have ever been through what you’re experiencing, but I’m here for you.”
Imagine having and giving that kind of support in your life.
You’ll develop a deeper connection to yourself, others, and even spirit.
Witnessing another is one of the most validating and loving things you can do, but, of course, take care of yourself as well.