By Carmen Pouerie
Life isn’t always “love and light” and not every situation needs a silver lining. Here’s why all vibes are welcome here.
I recently came across a term I’ve never heard before: toxic positivity. It intrigued me and I searched the internet for more information on the subject. The Pagan community on Instagram did not fail me. There were endless memes and posts about this exact topic.
My research led me to understand that it is often used when you are expressing thoughts or emotions that express anything that is not positive (like feelings of sadness, discomfort, or anger) and the person you are venting to then dismisses your words as negative. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before. You’ll pour your heart out and someone will simply say “Look on the bright side” or “Find the silver lining in a situation.” Or maybe they advise you to work harder on your situation (without taking into account your unique struggles) and you’re left feeling worse than before.
For most of my spiritual journey, I’ve been bombarded by this idea of “love and light.” And to be quite honest, it just never seemed to work for me. It’s very hard to think positively all the time. But does that make me less of a “spiritual” person? Not as "good" as others? Is my spiritual approach flawed in some way? But then, I learned about Shadow work and it resonated with me on a very deep level.
Shadow work is a process that works by letting yourself feel and understand the painful aspects of yourself (or your situation), thus embracing yourself as a whole being, both light and dark. By seeing the uglier side of humanity, we can then learn to appreciate the true beauty of this world. If your spiritual belief lacks the inclusion of your shadow self, you are essentially denying 50% of life as we know it. The world we live in is an eternal balance of opposites. Life and death. Summer and winter. Light and dark. To deny half of yourself because it looks or feels unpleasant eventually leads to imbalanced and discordant energy.
All beings are experiencing life through the lens of their perception. So we must be compassionate and show empathy to all, regardless of where they are on their journey. Loving yourself, even on those bad days, nurtures growth and leads to gentle healing. When we ignore our darker nature, we are treating half of ourselves like a castaway.
Not every situation needs a silver lining. Sometimes the hard truth is required. Realizing that we can get through something and also have a support system that will let you ‘cry it out’ is more healing than just denying or dismissing the reality of a situation. Sometimes it’s okay to vent. It’s okay to not feel light and love and airy and magickal all the time. It’s okay to accept that sometimes you just feel like shit and that’s where you’re at in the moment. It doesn’t make you less spiritual. It doesn’t make you less of a witch or less woke – it just makes you human.
Instead, let us validate each other with love and kindness, no matter where we are on our path. Let’s allow ourselves and our loved ones to experience negative thoughts without judgment, without any added guilt or shame. By acknowledging our Shadow self, maybe we can get through the rough patches with new understanding – instead of dismissing it and covering it up. And if we’re truly acknowledging feelings like pain, anger, and fear (and those feelings in others), maybe those issues won’t come back to haunt us later on.
Witch Tip: Burning a Crystal Healing candle helps to acknowledge those emotions and process them in a healthy manner.
We’re all probably guilty of doing this to others, too. So here are a few ways you can stop yourself from falling into the “toxic positivity” trap:
––Rather than say “Just be positive” to a friend who’s going through something, try saying “I hear you/feel you. That must be really hard.”
–– Instead of saying "Don't be so negative," try saying "It's normal to feel bad about situations like these."
–– Don't tell a friend that "happiness is a choice" after they tell you a sad story. Try to do or say something that makes your friend happy at that moment.
–– Telling a friend to "get over it" doesn't help. Instead, remind them that they have dealt with difficult situations in the past and that they're strong enough to handle anything that comes their way.
–– Sometimes you don't have to say anything. Just being there and listening is enough.
When we make space for our loved ones to vent to us, we are showing them that we accept them just as they are. We silently tell them that their mental state does not denote how much they are worth. All vibes are welcome here.
For more stories on shadow work, check out this interview with tarot experts Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed.