Each year at this time, I look forward to the tulips 🌷 blossoming in my front yard, the geese returning, and seeing the children playing outside, their winter jackets all tossed in a heap on the last pile of melting snow. The spring season represents opening, rejuvenation, and renewal. The promise of spring shows us that after we emerge from a period of darkness and stillness, we are rewarded with rebirth and renewal.
It’s been a difficult couple of years.
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that COVID has inflicted a collective trauma on us, in addition to any personal traumas caused by illness, loss, or loneliness. Even the most optimistic people in my circles, those I can usually count on to remind me that “everything happens for a reason,” began wondering if that statement was really true. Personally, I think questioning this perpetual positivity is a healthy change.
While studies show that holding a positive attitude can be good for our health, there can be negative consequences when we don’t give ourselves any other option. When we don’t allow ourselves to feel our emotions — especially fear, anger, grief, or sadness — we become fragmented between our bodies and minds. We experience soul loss, as well as the loss of our authenticity. As the healing community reminds us, you have to “feel it to heal it.”
When we don’t allow ourselves to feel our emotions — especially fear, anger, grief, or sadness — we become fragmented between our bodies and minds.
The tendency to always seek a silver lining or allow “positive vibes only” even in the darkest, scariest, and loneliest of places in life has now been given a term: “toxic positivity.” Journalist Katie Couric recently wrote an insightful article about this, saying,
“I think I might have tried too hard to be positive when my husband Jay was sick, so he wouldn’t give up hope. Unfortunately, that prevents us from having some very important, meaningful conversations.”
~ Katie Couric
Forced positivity doesn’t do us any favors when it does not let us explore some of the darker sides of human experience.
When we remember that we are stronger than we think we are, and sink into our pain rather than avoid it, we ultimately grow wiser.
Spiritual teacher and author Andrew Harvey reminds us:
“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.”
~ Andrew Harvey
Toxic positivity forces the heart to stay closed. It demands you maintain an upbeat attitude, no matter what the body or mind needs or wants to express.
No matter what we think we should be feeling, our emotions and bodies always tell the truth. It’s a sign of self-respect to admit that a trauma, no matter how small, leaves a mark on our soul. It wounds us. However, these wound points are also access points to take us even deeper inside ourselves. When we remember that we are stronger than we think we are, and sink into our pain rather than avoid it, we ultimately grow wiser. This, to me, is what hope looks like in action. Hope is grounded in the reality of human life, yet crowned by the promise of rejuvenation and transformation.
When we start with the truth of where we are, we can look to the future clearly, and with resolve. No need for tinted glasses; this is what it looks like to be grounded in hope, rather than lost in it. Just watch and learn from the opening tulips, the geese returning, and the carefree children playing on a melting pile of snow.