Why I'm No Longer a Positive Person
I like to think I’m a fairly positive person.
In many circumstances this can be useful. Like waiting in line at an airport: “Oh well, at least I’m on time.” Or when you go out for dinner and the service is terrible: “Yes but I liked the entree and the company.” Sometimes it is good for us to look for the beauty and the light in a situation.
But in other cases positivity has drastically stalled my growth and progress. I’ve stayed in cycles being regularly derailed, avoided making important choices and taken much longer to get to a state of happiness, ease and flow because I’ve only looked at one side of the coin.
You see, perpertual positivity for me prevented me from leaving circumstances that I knew it was time to move on from.
Perpetual Positivity Syndrome
Perpetual Positivity Syndrome is one of the most common obstructions to awakening on the spiritual path. Defined as ‘the addictive need to default to positivity under any and all circumstances’, it prevents a maturation in the deep within because sufferers refuse to be present for all that is. Symptoms include a constant need to find the light in every situation, a tendency to forget or ‘rise above’ the negative aspects of their partners, an inability to fully support and hold the space for other’s suffering, and a turning away from the growth work demanded by life’s challenges.
— Jeff Brown
Yep this was me pre-mindfulness days.
And here's why it matters: when making important life choices, being positive only gives us half the information we need to base a decision on.
We stay in situations for longer than we need to because we're only looking at the “good stuff”.
This can be true for relationships, jobs, volunteer roles, finances, weight loss - the works.
We are composed of both negative and positive, joy and sorrow, light and dark, yin and yang.
Mindfulness allows us to contact all of our feelings for greater wisdom. We are more self-aware and can look at the big picture. We have all the information we need to make a wise choice and take action.
Our cultural conditioning is to look at only the positive. This is known as spiritual bypassing. We can do it with meditation, affirmations and yoga - we just avoid the painful stuff and go for inner peace and feeling good. Yet this stunts our growth and potential to evolve into a new phase, and a new us.
Our society also conditions us to think that any unpleasant feeling is wrong. When really, maybe a part of us is trying to get our attention and say: “I think it’s time to change something”.
Reframing every situation into a positive is a recipe for the same repeated mistakes. Diving down into our true feelings is where we grow and learn, even though it hurts.
It can be helpful to journal on the following. Think of a time in your life when you grew the most. Was it when everything was safe, comfortable and pleasant?
Or was it when you looked at your hurt deep within? When you're wisdom told you what needed to be done?
If you took a snap shot of your life right now, how do you really feel about it?
What sensations and feelings arise when you think about your relationships?
Don’t reframe it, feel it. See if you can turn towards your feelings with an open curiosity rather than resisting them.
Presence, Love and Compassion
Reframing someone else’s pain into the positive can be deeply hurtful. I used to try and reframe others situations to the positive because I didn’t like feeling their pain or seeing them suffer (oh dear). I wanted to fix things. How frustrating that must have been for them!
Often what others need most is to be seen, felt, understood and heard, not told to look on the bright side. I have learnt that for some situations there are no words that I can offer to comfort someone else, I can only give my company. And learning that no one needs fixing was a big eye opener for me.
I like to think that being positive is useful in some situations. Yet in other circumstances it's ok not to like something anymore or know it's no longer for you. It doesn't mean you're a failure or that there's something wrong with you. It's acknowledging that there are many colours that add to the canvas of life. What we dislike, and our losses and sorrows gives depth and beauty to the painting. It's all part of the human experience.
In the short term we avoid pain by only seeing the positive, but in the long run it actually keeps us stuck in a painful situation for longer.
Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.
— Jerzy Gregorek
For life’s big decisions or when we are experiencing great loss, sorrow and grief, what our heart needs most of all is presence, love and compassion.