Positivity is a good thing, but…
Full disclosure: there is nothing wrong with being positive. In fact, I highly recommend it. But there is a dark side to the rose-coloured glasses that no-one is talking about and I feel it needs to be shared.
Someone I love recently experienced something awful. They got the rug pulled from under them and it plain ole sucked. What unfolded next, in my observation, initiated a lightning bolt of realization of how expectations affected her. Her “positive-minded” friends expected her to “look at the bright side and find the silver lining”. It made her feel like she had a serious obligation to rationalize and repress her authentic feelings about the experience. Her summer plans just totally blew up in her face. Of course she should feel pissed off, disappointed, deflated, or whatever emotions were triggered by her experience.
Sharing a lesson
As I contemplated what was unfolding before me, I realized how this pushing of positivity was seriously and deeply hurting her in this situation. In fact, when I looked back at the history of her life, “grinning and bearing it” was at the core of her deepest issues and emotional suffering. I’m sure you know people just like her… maybe you are one! I had a moment of clarity and I need to share with you what I shared with her that day.
I sat there filled with deep sorrow in the realization of how the positivity perspective had inadvertently caused her to suffer. She was doing what was expected of her and being congratulated for her courage and perspective. She was being who “they” wanted her to be.
I looked her straight in the eyes and said “I want you to know that it’s ok for you to be pissed off about this. It’s ok to get angry, to swear, to kick and scream if that’s how you feel. I don’t want you to think that you have to put on a false mask of positivity for me. Yes, you will make peace with this. Yes, you will find the blessing and opportunity in the experience.
But, that can only truly happen once you have given yourself permission to own and process your authentic feelings around this experience. That needs to happen first; the false smile might cover your true feelings but there they remain, brewing and rotting at your core. Sooner or later, they’ll come to the surface. Process them now before they ferment inside of you and you will save yourself from dragging them unknowingly in your wake.”
The expression of relief on her face spoke a thousand words. She didn’t need my permission, but I knew at that moment that it was the validation she needed to be honest with herself and begin her healing journey.
The Positivity Pill
So often, we are blinded by the “positivity pill” that we forget that spreading icing on a pile of sh!t doesn’t make it a cake. What it does do is give you the false sense of security that you’ve dealt with your experience. Later it comes screaming back at you as the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. We try to fast-forward through the transmutation process of our experiences because we want to avoid feeling “bad”. We want to remain positive! But jumping to acceptance and wisdom simply represses these emotions in lieu of our good intentions.
Baggage and permissions
You’ll often hear people talking about their “baggage”. The incapacity to process our experiences is essentially what makes up this baggage. If you’re like most people, your suitcase is way above airline weight restrictions! Do yourself a favour; try giving yourself permission to feel what you feel. Avoid trying to rationalize and justify your need to move into acceptance.
To be clear, this isn’t permission to take your anger or frustrations out on others. Where do you think road rage comes from? 😉 It’s just an invitation for you to step away and take time for yourself, when appropriate, to be real.
Listen to your internal dialogue
The next time something happens that can trigger you, witness your internal dialogue. Are you processing your feelings intellectually? Emotions aren’t intended to be rational. They are there to guide you to your authentic perspective of your experience. They are a window into your strengths and shadows. Approach yourself and your emotions with compassion, without judgment, and you’ll create a healthy supportive inner environment and reduce unwanted emotional baggage.
If you’d like support unpacking your suitcase, check out my Emotional Release Technique Meditation. It is intended to support you to do just that.
Be real, it looks good on you!
Anik J. Malenfant
Transformational Mentor, Educator & Speaker