Toxic Positivity and Spiritual Bypassing.
Toxic positivity and spiritual bypassing speak to the shallow end of the spiritual pool. They exclude empathy and ignore any trauma, abuse, racism, and antisemitism. Unfortunately, they are common and often are used by people unknowingly. Including myself I must admit.
As described in this blog post by McKenna Princing, “Right as Rain” by UW Medicine, “Toxic positivity involves dismissing negative emotions and responding to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy.”
The article mentions the common phrase, “everything happens for a reason”. Think of it from the perspective of someone who has experienced a traumatic event, or ongoing trauma. How does any ‘reason’ help them in their trauma? How does it help them heal?
In an article by Kendra Cherry titled, “What is Spiritual Bypassing?”, spiritual bypassing “describes a tendency to use spiritual explanations to avoid complex psychological issues”. Spiritual bypassing is hiding ourselves behind spirituality rather than allowing it to bring us closer to ourselves.
Spiritual bypassing includes minimizing our emotions, detaching, avoiding strong emotions. Again, I ask, how does this help anyone experiencing trauma?
They Ignore Emotions.
Both, toxic positivity, and spiritual bypassing, use spirituality in a way that ignores emotions and empathy. They are cute sounding slogans, but they don’t represent spirituality for many people. And they don’t represent my experience with spirituality.
My spirituality was born of deep inner work, also called ‘shadow work’. It was only after working on my pervasive inner critic, many triggers, and deep-seated fears, that I understood what it meant to conscious and spiritual. It was then that I could feel the full spectrum of emotions.
Humans are built for and intended to experience emotions. Our bodies feel, move, carry, and hold emotions. When we limit ourselves to only the ones that feel good, we limit our capacity to feel. We limit our humanness.
They Don’t Address Trauma Experiences such as Racism and Antisemitism.
When someone experiences racism or antisemitism, a higher vibration won’t help. The experience won’t make them stronger. It’s not about manifesting more positivity. They didn’t ‘attract’ abuse. That systemic reality wasn’t created by them. And the only lesson to be learned is for us as a society and for the perpetrator.
People who have experienced racism and antisemitism don’t need to hear false assurances and platitudes. They need for us to heal our society, to address abuse, and to address systemic racism and antisemitism.
Inspiration for this Post.
This post was inspired by an Instagram reel that highlighted toxic positivity and spiritual bypassing all in one. The reel was created by Jacquelyn @ogorchukwuu. From her Instagram bio, she is a racial wellness expert, entrepreneur and soon to be author.
The reel graphics read:
Phrases that don’t apply to experiences with racism
Just Vibrate Higher
Your experience has made you stronger
You attract what you are
You are responsible for your reality
The caption reads: “Toxic positivity and spiritual bypassing are often used when people express their lived experiences with harm and abuse. It’s okay to simply tell someone, “you didn’t deserve to experience that” or “we don’t deserve to experience that”.
No one deserves to experience abuse, racism, or antisemitism.