What are the downsides of excessive positivity? What are you struggling with?

 Jordan Bates (@bashfulkoala)5 years, 6 months ago

HighExistence is a very positive, optimistic community, and I think most of us (myself included) love it for that. 

However, I do think there is a danger in being excessively idealistic about life, or in choosing to discuss/represent only the positive aspects of life without also admitting the negative. I think many people fall into the trap of thinking that they need to be positive all the time, so they force themselves to try to be cheerful from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep, masking (even from themselves) the more complex reality of our emotional lives (which are not always cheery and pleasant). 

So, I wanted to ask all of you: what you think might be the downsides of excessive positivity? And also, in the service of staying real and true to the full spectrum of experience: what are you struggling with? Or, what do you struggle with? I already talked a bit about the first question, so I’ll write a bit on the second one now. 

I have had the honor these past few months to become one of the main writers/creators of this website, and I’ve enjoyed much of the experience, gained a lot from it, and look forward to working for HE into the foreseeable future. There is a certain amount of pressure, in being one of the faces of a website called ‘HighExistence,’ to present oneself as a perpetually happy or enlightened being who sees nothing but radiant wondrousness everywhere he goes.

But, I hope I haven’t given anyone this impression, for that is surely not me. True, I perceive beauty and wondrousness often in my day-to-day life, but often I do so in the midst of some sort of struggle. I am no stranger to anxiety and depression, and I have struggled over the years with intense feelings of guilt about past actions, torturing myself over the question of whether I am a “good” person. A few months ago, I went through the hardest breakup of my life. It was a long,  drawn-out breakup, the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through. I still think about her every day and wonder if I made the right choice (I loved her deeply but felt we were in very different places, wanting very different things). 

I also might mention here that ‘following your bliss’ sounds extremely rosy and exciting, but as with any path in life, it’s also fraught with challenges. Choosing to uncompromisingly follow the whispers of one’s ‘authentic soul’ (or whatever you might call it) can be decidedly lonely and depressing at times. I consider myself to be a hyper-sensitive person (as I believe many of you are), and I am keenly aware of the judgments of others. It can be very difficult knowing that I have defied the expectations of most people I grew up with and the expectations of my society by choosing to value freedom and experiences over money, status, and possessions. 

This is really only the tip of the iceberg. The point is that (my) life is not an endless series of ecstatic, merry experiences. Sure, I’ve had plenty of those, and goddamn they’re wonderful. And goddamn do I believe life to be worth living. If nothing else, always that. I affirm the fuck out of this chance to see, breathe, smell, taste, touch, dream, laugh, play, create, and experience. But the negative is always there too. Difficulties and demons always eventually creep back into my day-to-day existence. And I really believe that’s okay. I think, like Nietzsche did, that our suffering is a catalyst for growth, resilience, and compassion. Our suffering balances our joy; the contrast lends poignance to both. In some sense, then, our suffering is a gift. I try to acknowledge and accept it as such, while also aiming to take care of myself and to live a virtuous life, so as not to create unnecessary suffering for myself and others. 

But the point of this ramble, once again, is that there is suffering. Sometimes the aches are so much that all I can do is sob. There have certainly been times when I haven’t been sure how to go on living. But I have, and I will continue to. 

Everyone can respond to any or all of this — whatever part resonated or made you think of something. Or just say whatever’s on your mind. I really appreciate whoever takes the time to read all of this. Peace and love, everyone. 

yours,

jordan

December 14, 2015 at 1:41 am
Peter (116) (@Gismo) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

First off congrats with your new position within HE, I’ve read many of your posts and consider you to be an honest, constructive and sincere contributor so I think you’ll be a great asset to the site :-)

I resonate with your holding the “reality” of reality in hand and lifting it up for all to see, because it’s the truth! – Life is a game of contrasts and as pointed out by so many prolific characters, it’s the relativity of experience that enables us to differentiate what we consider the “positive” and the “negative” experiences.. 
I Do think there’s a risk of running one’s head too abruptly or unknowingly into the wall of the harsh reality if one thinks that a “step up on the stairs of consciousness” delivers a universe of eternal bliss and free of challenges.. But I think that I’ve continuously seen both perspectives of reality mentioned and brought into the light of discussion on this forum / blog – so for me it has been a source of good reminders helping me to keep a constructive mindset and constantly giving me new perspectives of others experience of life that I feel is applicable to me in my own challenges as I roam the confines of this weird existence ;-)

I too have struggled and scraped the emotional rock bottom as well as flown high with the eagles, but still today I feel that as long as we apply the positivity to the current or recently passed experience and NOT to our expectation of how the future “should” unfold, then be as positive as you can, not distorting to please yourself but facing reality with a “growth mindset” saying, positively, that I can learn, grow and accept myself as I am/was in this/that moment.

On your breakup, I feel your pain from likewise experiences and can’t tell you whether it’s the right decision or not, but in my experience we have a tendency to romanticize the perception of past relationship, so when you sit down alone and reminisce, do so with a full perspective of past experiences because “something” brought you to the place you are now and maybe the emotional impact is your challenge to bear to progress on to better things.. and maybe it’s not and you should run right back, only you will know when you really ask yourself independently of all external influences ;-)

Great post! 

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Anjelica (101) (@Anjelica) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

Thanks for writing this :) I feel most loving when allowing myself and others to exorcise themselves. Which needs to happen every day. I think going into pain is the only way to be free of it and find authentic bliss. Even though this is a community focused on freedom, the task of personal development is another chain if you are doing it because you feel required to. It’s another way of saying your honest needs aren’t okay and you have to live up to an artificial standard. Which is what the fake boundaries this community protests asks as well. Darkness is only dark because we keep it there instead of letting it out. I don’t judge people for being lifeless or violent. 

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jazzz (30) (@jazzz) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

If one was to participate in some ‘struggle sessions’ of controlled negativity at a time convenient to them, would they be free to go about the rest of their life wrapped up in a cloud of positive bliss? Possibly!, but most likely, not. Life is unpredictable and turbulent but we could essentially have smoother sine wave like experience if we accept and not resist the valleys and peaks. Replaying a slideshow of the past in ones mind is like carrying around a heavy bag, it will only make the journey more exhausting. Instead we should be welcoming the idea that we are the suffering as we are the bliss and living without regret. 

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Alex Z (28) (@GanjaGuru) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

Everything you’ve said resonated so much with me man :) I also am in the unfortunate situation of being with a girl I love but knowing that we probably won’t last due to us both being on very different paths in life, suffering is all too real to ignore it is to be delusional, if reality is what we seek, suffering we must face. How can we rid ourselves of suffering without understanding it? I would love to hear more about how you handled your relationship issues, this person in my life is very real and I love her so much, I don’t want to hurt her

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Ellie (1,363)M (@tangledupinplaid21) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

It’s true that trying to always be positive is a trap. I was in it once; rejecting anything that didn’t align with my self image of being a “positive person”, or “present”. This is a recipe for disaster, and leads to suppression of issues that need to be faced and dealt with.

It’s wonderful once you have this realization, because once you stop being afraid of those bad, scary, negative thoughts, you realize they are not so bad, and it frees up your mind and energies for things you want to focus on, and growth… Instead of continually running away from this undefinable thing (only undefinable because you refuse to acknowledge it) lurking in your subconscious and affecting/poisoning every aspect of your life. This refusal to see has an innumerable variety of dysfunctions that can result: anxiety, addictions, nightmares, etc.

What I am struggling with is figuring out what to do with life, juggling hopes for the future with nagging thoughts of self doubt, wanting things and fearing that they are not possible, all while knowing that doubting yourself only trips you up.

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Manimal (2,998) (@manimal) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

Positivity is only nice in moderate doses. Acting like everything is sunshine and pink clouds is not even real positivity, it’s just plain delusional.

When I was younger, that was my stupid approach. Life was shit in so many ways, but I just kept suppressing it and “seeing the bright side” with a dumb fake smile on my lips.

As a result I developed tics and ocd-like tendencies, even had some mild psychotic episodes. Physical and mental problems of all sorts ensued. I refused to accept reality for the grim, staggering, sadistic ride it is. So my mind replaced it with nicer things, at the expense of my wellbeing and consciousness.

Later I snapped out of it, saw this world for what it is, and slowly a joy that is real started growing in me.

Positivity is like a drug, moderation is crucial.

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Fernando (68) (@fercgomes) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

I think I can relate to that, could elaborate on the “I developed tics and ocd-like tendencies”?

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Anonymous (1) (@) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

This really resonates with me, I think i’m going through something like that right now it’s good to hear someone else has experienced basically the same thing and that you overcame it

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sandy (15) (@sandytorna) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

If Buddhism has taught me anything it is, of course: suffering is constant.  With confrontation being the path to liberation, humans so often prefer to avoid their suffering instead. Now this is exactly where excessive positivity comes in. Positivity, in a very real sense, can become an escape. A battle, if that; a battle between pain and freedom. However, unfortunately any behavior pattern based upon the avoidance of pain becomes a doorway to the pain itself. That being said the downside to ones’ excessive positivity holds: You can run. You can hide. You can lie to yourself all you want that you’re doing great, so great, so fucking great in the job you refuse to admit you hate, in the relationship you refuse to admit is not working, with the heartbreak you refuse to bear, and convince everyone around you too. But the pain will not subside. And that bandaid of excessive positivity you stuck on your wounds, will eventually fall off too. Leaving you vulnerable and weak with two options: more positivity or pain. And I pray to god you stop being so scared, so weak.. and confront your pain, for once. If you let it, it will teach you more than you can imagine. You will experience true spiritual growth, true happiness, true positivity, with appreciation for the complexities of life. Be mindful and see how your life will change. 

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Peter (116) (@Gismo) 5 years, 6 months ago ago

I think your post carves out the, at least, two ways I can read the word “positivity” – one being the “in-denial-positivity” of “nevermind, it’s going great”, “ignore that gutfeeling, he/she really loves you and the relationship is going great”, etc. etc.
The other being the “I-Can-Positivity” of “Something’s wrong, but I can change it with effort”, “I must acknowledge this feeling, but however it turns out I will be ok”, etc. etc. – the latter is mindful positivity to me, so I think we agree, I just wanted to throw the perspective in there..

I see the word equally valid in both perspectives but the meaning/consequence/action is completely different.. I’m not sure as to how to read OP’s perspective on the word, but my own perspective is the latter, so I feel … positively… about… positivity ;-)

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Jordan Bates (4,683)A (@bashfulkoala) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

i was referring more to positivity as an avoidance mechanism, so the former. i practice a form of what you call ‘mindful positivity’ for sure — or, i at least accept that i will keep going regardless of what happens.

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Jordan Bates (4,683)A (@bashfulkoala) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

wow, this is a profound response. thank you so much for this.

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Jordan Bates (4,683)A (@bashfulkoala) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

the timing of your comment is uncanny, too (though perhaps everyone would feel that since everyone is always suffering in some way, as you said). i’ve recently been through the most difficult breakup of my life and have definitely repressed and avoided some of the pain, choosing instead to distract myself in various ways. a few days ago, i found out my ex moved to another country, and the news seemed to wrench open the floodgates of another level of emotion that i hadn’t yet allowed myself to feel. i was a mess internally for a couple days. there have been multiple intermittent times like that, but i’m glad i am being forced to confront and be with the pain. i’m trying to face it and process it through meditation and writing about it now. i believe have grown significantly through this process in the past, though it has never been this intense, as this was by far my longest relationship and deepest bond. again, thank you so much for your words.

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sandy (15) (@sandytorna) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

I am currently healing from a breakup too. …We had plans, lots of them at that… I understand now the dangers of writing anything in sharpie marker on my life. Because get this: people aren’t ours to own after all. And ink is awfully lasting …. I’ve been on my knees for three months trying to scrub his name off my skin and scorching myself in steaming showers to wash his memory away. But his name has sunken deep into my skin by now and is swimming in my bloodstream from the top of pounding head, to my troubled hands, and down to my weak legs, his memory has made a home inside of me.  I suppose I can only  drain myself now to rid myself of it. I advise you to do the same. Let this take us back to ourselves.  

 I think we are speaking at the right time and that must be what is all about. You tell your story to everyone, to your family, to your friends, to the random person you just met but are drunk realizing that it’s maybe too soon to go out still, and you HOPE, that someone ANYONE will say something that can take away this pain.  But then you’ll realize that, that is just it. No one can take away this pain for you…you can only can endure it. And you’ll meet people along the way that suddenly make this all worth it, you’ll meet people who are doing the same, and then you WILL be filled hope…but not hope to be saved, but hope to save yourself, and that is all the difference. Keep going. The only way out is through, my friend. Best of luck. 

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Jordan Bates (4,683)A (@bashfulkoala) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

wow, thank you so much, sandy. your words mean the world right now. best of luck to you too in weathering the storm. i’ll do my best to let this take me back to myself. <3

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Matheus Pinheiro (44) (@Mattgood) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

It is a good point of view.

There is no right way, because people feel good facing the positive in different ways. We usually follow what makes us feel good. So if we do not get frustrated being too positive there is no problem with that. It is bad when we are in a fake path of positivity like being positive just because we “must” be.

Because there are occasions where you really feel like positive because you are just being it (as Alan Watts says). When we get connected with what we truly are, it is almost impossible not to be positive because there is a connection with every thing and action that happens around us!

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Matheus Pinheiro (44) (@Mattgood) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

Perception before fellings, feelings before decisions, decisions before actions we take for our lives…

It is also a way to think of positivity all the time. But when kept real there is no way of that going wrong.

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Jon Brooks (4,512)A (@JonBrooks) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

Kind of an unfair question because you wrote “excessive positivity”. Excess by definition is too much. Too much positivity is too much and too much negativity is too much.

On being real: Manners are important so I would rather we didn’t all start being 100% real 100% of the time because then I’d want to punch a lot of people. That would be okay but then I would get punched back which would not be okay. Have a few close friends/family members you can express your innermost feelings with and accept that there will be an inherent level of acting in social life.

I heard something a while back and it’s stuck with me ever since. 
“People are addicted to whatever emotions they feel the most.” 
I will not break that down but I think everyone should think about that sentence and make their own inferences.

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Ian (1) (@Ian-Duncan) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

Hello again Jordan, some thought provoking stuff you got going on :-) Asmper my view on reducing alcohol intake, if you omit the negative then you won’t learn to get better. Avoiding the negative may be positive in the shorter term but no so much in the long term. Say going back to alcohol or other substances. If we chose to omit it the ‘bad things’ associated but continue to think of only the good bits of substance use – its something we continue enjoy. 

If something makes us feel crap its easy to just avoid it rather than digging deep and getting to the core reason. Usually its us that make the issue so problem solve it and move on. Not addressing or making no effort to understand what’s going on in ‘yer heid’ may just continue to promote the feelings of negativity associated with something without us realising. Its a right moment when you have made an arse of something, chose to forget it, then it happens out of the blue- its like nooo why did I just do that lol…. 

:-)

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Forever learning (4) (@Foreverlearning) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

I can definitely relate to your feeling Jordan. I found myself on a positive psychology binge after a hard break up and what followed was a dangerous change in mindset. I began to consciously categorize my thoughts into either negative or positive and just blindly brush away the negative instead of investigating the cause of such thoughts. Right now I feel I’ve gotten better with this struggle and while I always try to keep a positive mind even when things go awry, I actively acknowledge the negative and try to feel it and dig deeper into why it exists. I think it’s very important people are aware of this trap because I believe supressing or disregarding the negative and not facing it head on will always result in it resurfacing later in life.

Something I’m expermentating with now is embracing the negative and trying to be grateful for it. When I encounter some negativity in my life I try my best to be grateful that I have this challenge ahead of me because I know I will grow from it. If I think about what is important to me, growth and daily improvement as a human being, then negativity can only bring me closer to my goal PROVIDED I act and learn from the experience. It by no means alleviates the pain, but I find it gives me an inner sense of strength to pull through.
Btw thanks for being for so open and just remember you’re going to come out a hell of a lot stronger the other side

Paddy

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Ommatech (13) (@Ommatech) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

I think positivity has to come after realism. otherwise it can spiral out of control into unhealthy self delusion. Living in reality ensures that you do not ignore the negatives but rather you see how they relate to positives – For instance though there is struggle yes, without struggle there is no empathy or strength. the danger comes fi you try and have empathy or strength without any struggle – its not possible and will make you very exhausted chasing something that does not work.

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Mike Wuest (510) (@mikeyw829) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

The dark side is as important as the light. Everyone has a dark side.  But if you disown and refuse to acknowledge it’s existence, you risk becoming one of those spineless, new-agey nice guys. You end up becoming ambiguous, and lack any authenticity or ability to stand up for and assert yourself when needed or relevant. Or you go to the other end and always try to prove your worth by being “macho.”  I’ve been to both extremes, and still experience them both sometimes.  

I think you’re right about facing pain and depression.  Not necessarily in validating it and wallowing in negative thinking, but more like facing and acknowledging it and transmuting it into “gold.” True alchemy. Pain, depression, anxiety, etc. are fuel.  
The more you integrate your dark side, the more depth you have as a human being.  

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Jordan Bates (4,683)A (@bashfulkoala) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

thank you for this one, mike. your comments are always on point for me.

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Afroditi (0) (@Afroditi) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

Can anyone really grasp the potential of their capabilities of being positive within themselves to a natural state with out experiencing swallowing pain ? I feel your definition of excess could be custom to all. Of course balance is necessary for all things but I also find that positivity is a savior from being consumed by your pain. I’ve met individuals hat are controlled by their negative retrospect of the world while others that have been blatantly beat down by the evils of this world that allowed themselves to be lead by blinding positivity. Balance is needed but I feel positivity is the gauntlet of self appreciation and success. 

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Hozzam (29) (@Hozzam) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

Well the downsides are there in the word ‘excessive’. As I’m sure you are very aware that anything measured at excessive imparts a level of negativity. The problem here IMO, as with any learned behaviour, is it’s over application. Defying your intuition and forcing your trained auto pilot to kick in to somehow see a positive side to a tragic event whilst appearing like a welcomed alternative to depression, is simply unnatural and will move you further from being a grounded person you probably desire to be.

Instead, I would just tell oneself that with the good comes the bad. But to further progress, nothing really is bad or good it just IS and ALWAYS WILL. Teach yourself to as much as humanly possible be uninfluenced by external matters. Again this cannot be administered every day but pick your battles. 

Good luck.

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Filip (2,818)M (@filipek) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

This is a great post Jordan! 

I believe we should have more of these types of posts and articles written, especially for people who are just becoming familiar with Higher Existences and the ‘New Age’ movement. 

I too have been completely sucked into this positive way of thinking, the Secret style, for more than a decade now. Initially it all seemed to make so much sense, why cannot we all have a positive outlook on life and just be good towards each other? Sounds like an ideal thing right? 

Yes sure, in essence this is true, in essence we would be so better of if we just made a collective effort in making the world a better place. Positivity is great and I prefer to talk to an optimist than a pessimist most of the time, however pessimists do often have a more realistic view of the world. This has been something I have been struggling to admit for a long time, and I have been having countless arguments with my father whom I would describe as a the perfect example and definition of a pessimist. Of course, there is a downside to this as well, as I also believe in self fulfilling prophecies and that our attitude helps creating our reality. In fact, it may be even defining our reality. 

One of the downsides of excessive positivity, and let me frame it under the term ‘New Age’, a movement we have seen growing bigger since I believe the late 70s or so, is that we tend to focus all our attention and energy on the positive emotions and positive side of life. The first pitfall here is that we are the one defining what is positive and what is negative and it is only a human definition not bound by any laws of nature. In nature things simply are, there are no negative or positive connotations. There are opposites, which we have defined as positive or negative. However, one is not better or worse than the other, we need to understand this. A positive magnetic force is not better than a negative magnetic force. A proton is not better than an electron. A gravitational pull is not better than a gravitational push. And vice versa. For the sake of understanding I will be using the terms positive and negative in the way we know it, e.g. happiness is a positive emotions, whereas anger is a negative emotion. 

Now, the New Age movement, often times, if not most of the time, showing itself by westerners searching for eastern happiness. May it be in Buddhism, Hindoeism, or other easter philosophies/religions. A term I stumbled upon during my journey through monasteries in the far east is the so called ‘Spiritual Bypassing’. A term which perfectly describes the flaw of excessive positivity and the New Age movement (see for more info on this term the following link: http://www.robertmasters.com/writings/spiritual-bypassing/). What most of us have been doing, yes even the ones thinking to be untouchable by Spiritual Bypassing (take some time for deeper Ego reflections to understand what I mean), is to believe that we can solve our western problems by stilling our minds, focusing all our thoughts on positive emotions, thoughts, outcomes and beliefs. Wrong. We cannot run or hide from the negative emotions. No, most of the time meditation, yoga or any other type of Eastern method will not solve our negative emotions. What it usually does is simply suppressing or denying the negative emotions, putting our focus on the positive only.

However, life does not work like that. We cannot solve any problem by suppressing, denying or hiding from it. It always comes back, it is a law of nature. When you squeeze into a balloon the air doesn’t leave the balloon, it simply moves to another place of the balloon. If you squeeze hard enough, the balloon will explode. The same happens with our emotions. If we keep on suppressing and denying our negative emotions, it will just reside in a different from, in a different area of our lives. Most of our physical illnesses are caused by imbalances in our energy levels and yes those are caused by suppression of negative emotions. Whether it is a headache, a tootache, a cancer, a heart disease, etc., most of it is caused not by a faulty physical life style, but by a faulty coping mechanism with life, emotions, situations etc. 

There are no exceptions in life, in order to overcome problems, we need to face them. Meditating or thinking positively will just create a mask around those problems, but they will not leave. We need to understand where the anger, the fear, the sadness, the sorrow is coming from. We need to grief, to deal with them in a proper and healthy way.

Unfortunately society nowadays has taught us to suppress it. We have labeled negative emotions as negative and most of us have been brought up in a home where it was not okay to express our anger. Where men are labeled as weak when they cry or express their sadness in another way. Our macho, patriarchic society is driven by greed, corruption, power and our ratio. We are losing touch with our feminine, matriarchic side and this is the reason why numbers of depression, loneliness, divorces, suicides etc., are slowly but steadily rising all across the world, specifically the polluted western societies. 

We have lost touch with our inner selfs, and this New Age movement has its big downsides. There are a lot of good things coming from positive thinking as well, and it has definitely helped me deal with many problems in my life, however, it needs to be used diligently and in a down to earth matter. There are certain phases we all go through when dealing with difficult life events. Denial, anger, grief, acceptance. Once we go through these phases, we sure need some positivity to help us move forward and understand that everything in life is just temporary. That all things end, but that there is also nothing wrong with these endings. Each ending is a new beginning, yes we need this positive attitude to move forward.

To summarise briefly. If we use positivity in a proper and timely way, it is a great tool in life. Just as well as negativity is a great tool in life. We just need to make sure to balance it all out, use it on the right moments, in the right situations and at the right time. 

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Leora Wright (4) (@Leora-Wright) 5 years, 5 months ago ago

I can definitely say I’ve struggled with the balance between being positive and being honest with yourself. I used to have severe anxiety over being happy because I felt like I was trying to hide the darker side of things. I believe in just letting yourself feel what you feel. That’s basically how I’ve remedied it. I ride out the feeling whatever it may be. If I have in an anxiety attack instead of pushing it away I sit with it. I face it head on. I let myself cry or do whatever it is I need to do. I’ll talk myself through it for hours,  talk with a loved one about it, or a combination of both and eventually the feeling will fade as things in this life tend to do. I believe that sometimes you just have to sit in your own shit for a while before you can come out on the other side and allowing myself to just feel all the emotions that run through me has both terrified and left me with an overwhelming sense of peace. I believe that facing feelings – good and bad and confusing – head on is the only way to truly be a positive person.

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