My previous article explored the concept of toxic positivity and how it can stealthily creep into our lives when encountering difficult or traumatic situations and events. The article describes how toxic positivity creates an unhealthy energy imbalance due to the suppression, or ignoring of, emotions we deem “negative. “ It also discusses the need for reclaiming balance in our lives and breaking this harmful cycle in order to move toward wholeness. During my challenges with toxic positivity, Reiki has been an invaluable resource as it gently led me to accept and embrace all of who I am. Today’s article offers suggestions for Reiki practitioners to reduce or eliminate toxic positivity in their lives to help restore balance on the path to wholeness and authenticity. This article’s recommendations reflect what Reiki taught me during my journey through, and ultimately out of, the toxic positivity trap. These suggestions have also been effective with clients struggling with toxic positivity.
· Feel Your Feelings — This sounds deceptively simple. We can all agree that feeling your feelings is normal and healthy. Yet, how many times have you experienced an unpleasant emotion (rage, greed, jealousy, hatred, etc.) and immediately suppressed it, tamped it down, “stuffed” it? Humans have an astonishing ability to reject anything that creates discomfort or even its possibility. We are quite skilled at keeping our potentially distressing feelings under wraps, hidden from everyone, including ourselves.
It helps to remember that emotions are not inherently positive or negative, good or bad. They are simply “energy in motion.” But we label them according to the feelings the emotions create. We interpret those feelings through our “good or bad” filters and then reject or suppress those that elicit an uncomfortable or painful reaction. Even though, as energy healers, we know that this suppression is pointless because those emotions remain with us, in our energy fields and physical bodies, until triggered once again. Continuing to ignore them by focusing exclusively on “good vibes only” keeps us in a constant state of imbalance and limits growth.
So, the first step away from toxic positivity is to feel your feelings. This means allowing yourself to experience all your feelings as they arise, not just those we like or deem acceptable or worthy. Permitting ourselves to experience the full range of human emotions without judgment ultimately releases us from self-sabotaging behavior and thoughts. It frees us to live life in wholeness as an authentic Spark of the Divine. Although it can be challenging to break the unhealthy patterns, it is far more challenging to live life halfway — rejecting who we are and denying ourselves the opportunity for growth and wholeness.
When an unpleasant emotion arises, permit yourself to feel it without judgment. For example, when next you feel anger, let yourself experience it without attaching thoughts or labels that give it power and lead to a reaction. Recognize it for what it is — energy in motion. Of course, this will require some practice; be patient with yourself as you learn to become comfortable with the panoply of feelings that comprise the human experience.
· Identify and Acknowledge — As you allow yourself to feel the emotion, the next step is to identify it. What is it that you are feeling? Mindfully identifying the emotion provides space between it and an automatic reaction, offering a chance to view it dispassionately without giving it power. Identifying the emotion then leads to acknowledging it as a valid part of you that contributes to your wholeness and authenticity. In other words, the acknowledgment validates the emotion without labeling it as good or bad.
For example, when you feel anger rising, allow yourself to feel it without judgment or reaction, identify it, and then acknowledge it as a necessary and valid part of yourself. For myself, accepting the emotion of anger was a substantial challenge because I disliked feeling angry and believed that I needed to overcome those feelings to be a “good person.” So, I ignored and suppressed the anger when it arose and put on a happy smiling face. This behavior, of course, is toxic positivity in action. Unsurprisingly, the anger did not vanish, its energy merely stuffed away, and over time, it turned inward and eventually manifested as depression. Many years passed before I realized, with Reiki’s steady guidance, how self-destructive this pattern had become, and how deeply toxic positivity had ensnared me. But eventually, I learned, and now, when the emotion of anger (or any uncomfortable emotion) appears, I feel it, identify it, and acknowledge it, without judgment. As a result, I am healthier, stronger, and more balanced. Research studies have shown that those who routinely accept all their emotions without judgment or reaction tend to experience fewer “negative” emotions and can better manage stress. (1)
· Express Gratitude — It may sound counterintuitive to be thankful for the unpleasant emotions, but it is a necessary part of releasing toxic positivity. As we feel, identify, and acknowledge these emotions, expressing gratitude for even the unpleasant ones reminds us that we are fully human as well as fully divine. Being grateful for every part of our human experience also indicates that we are living in alignment with our spiritual selves by recognizing that we are whole and complete and that there is no light without the dark. And, practically speaking, uncomfortable emotions are protective mechanisms that let us know when something in our lives needs to change. For example, in the form of resentment or frustration, anger can signal the need for change in a relationship and may serve as a vehicle for that change. Recognizing the need for change allows us to learn more about ourselves and offers valuable lessons for growth. When we view unpleasant emotions through this lens of opportunity, we are more likely to be grateful for the full range of feelings that defines the human experience. With that in mind, expressing gratitude for “inconvenient” and troubling emotions becomes a natural result of accepting who we are — fully human and fully Divine. Additionally, just like feeling your feelings, identifying, and then acknowledging them, the practice of gratitude requires mindfulness and a focus on the present moment, serving to balance and center ourselves.
As noted earlier, Reiki’s guidance led me to implement the above suggestions as I worked to release toxic positivity from my life and reclaim balance. As with most of the life challenges I have encountered, Reiki guided me through the process of self-discovery and the release of limiting unhealthy patterns. And, as always, its wisdom continues to reveal the way forward. So, as you move through your life challenges, remember to feel your feelings, for only then can you set them free.