Chances are you’re familiar with the phrase, ‘good vibes only’, but what does this even mean? And is it healthy, toxic, or something in between?
In this article, we’ll explore why only thinking positive thoughts isn’t always a good thing — and how it becomes toxic. If you aren’t familiar, ‘good vibes only’ is an ideology based on focusing entirely on the positive as opposed to anything negative. In theory, it makes sense — after all, we know what we focus on expands.
But, what happens when the desire to only think positive thoughts keeps us stuck?
The Ultimate Avoidance: Spiritual Bypassing
The ‘positive vibes only’ mentality can lead to spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypassing occurs when you use spirituality to avoid past trauma and hurt. For example, let’s say you were abused as a child. But, rather than allowing yourself to honor your emotions, process what happened to you, and give love to that deserving child — instead, you block your emotions and view the past as a necessary learning experience.
While it may be true that the past helped shape you, that doesn’t mean you’ve healed from it. And until healing takes place, it’s impossible to truly learn the lessons life has to offer.
In addition to impacting you, spiritual bypassing also affects those around you. When someone comes to you feeling angry, sad, or overwhelmed, and instead of listening to them, you tell them to think happy thoughts, you aren’t helping them — you’re disregarding them.
And while others who seem ‘negative’ about life (because they are honoring their emotions – including their anger and sadness) are able to move forward as a whole-being, those who follow the ‘positive vibes only’ dogma end up suppressing negative emotions to stay aligned with this mindset, and limit themselves.
The longer we bypass our negative thoughts and emotions, the more we bottle up. Eventually, little things like dropping car keys really start to upset us and we are left questioning why. The truth is, this happens because we didn’t deal with our past hurt and trauma. Instead of facing it proactively, and working through it, we bury it inside and pretend it’s not there.
How to Effectively Deal with Your Emotions
Rather than judging your feelings and emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, instead, focus instead on figuring out what they’re trying to tell you. Emotions are an internal guidance system, put in place to help us understand where discord exists in our lives. Without acknowledging the negative emotions, we delay our own healing. This puts us in an insidious and unconscious cycle of never learning what life is trying to teach us, and questioning why we feel stuck and unhappy.
Until we face our internal discord head-on, it’ll be in the back of mind creeping in at often the worst time. This is by no means a bad thing, just a very real aspect of spirituality and our emotional well-being. Working through the hard times we experience is an opportunity for us to grow in ways we never thought possible because it forces us to look within and reflect on what is triggering our reaction to the events happening around us.
Using Self-reflection as a Healing Tool
Self-reflection is a simple tool we can access at any time to understand what our current mindset is, what issues or limitations are holding us back, and what steps we can take to heal our internal discord.
Take a moment right now to reflect on your life. Is there experience or emotion you’re trying to block from surfacing? If yes, write it down.
For example, let’s say your partner cheated on you so you left the relationship. But, rather than allow yourself to move through the emotions (including feeling anger and sadness, and eventually… forgiveness), you instead try to ‘think good vibes only’ and end up not mourning your relationship or ever really healing from it. In this example, you may end up attracting a new partner who does the same… or worse — you might close your heart off to future relationships that would bring love and joy into your life.
As we surrender to self-reflection, we gain a sense of understanding about ourselves that we otherwise wouldn’t have (if we only focused on positive thoughts).
Once we reflect on how we’re feeling, and what those feelings are trying to tell us, we can move into unconditional acceptance.
This happens when we take full responsibility for ourselves, relinquish the desire to judge our experiences as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and approach life with a willingness to experience it completely — without denying or blocking certain emotions from surfacing.
Doing this brings balance into our lives. And having balance is key to spiritual growth and fulfillment. The ying-yang symbol is the perfect representation of this. It reminds us there is a light side to us, and a dark side too. When we learn to balance these parts of ourselves, we introduce light to them.
Doing this means sitting with our negative emotions and thoughts, diving into why we feel the way we do, where in our lives our hurt comes from and most importantly how we can start accepting and validating this part of us. The inner work we must do to achieve this acceptance and balance is one of the most important parts of our spiritual practice because, at the end of the day, it is up to us to take ownership and responsibility for our own healing.
As we introduce this balance and duality, it becomes a part of our spiritual practice and we expand exponentially. Because now we are letting ourselves heal and grow without judgment, which helps us appreciate our journey as we allow ourselves to embrace everything that comes with spirituality.
We can reframe the ‘good vibes only’ movement by understanding that yes — thinking positive thoughts (when they’re authentic) IS empowering and uplifting. But, embracing AND accepting our emotions in the moment, honoring them, and then working through them is equally as empowering.
Perhaps rather than trying to think positive thoughts all of the time, we instead focus on honoring balance and duality. This gives us the unique opportunity to live authentically, and accept ourselves as we are.
About the author:
Hi! I’m Charlie — a 21-year-old living in Australia, with a love of coffee. I am currently doing a Social Media Marketing Course and have a dream to run my own Digital Marketing Business. I usually will spend my time in cafes, and you’ll find I’m the loudest one in the room.
I stumbled into spirituality through my love of psychology and from there I have been diving into anything personal development and spirituality related. I wasn’t always like this. I used to have quite the victim mentality and I want to share my story to bring light to the fact that growth, spirituality and self-awareness is not all love and light. That there is another side to spirituality that we need to face to get to the good stuff and that this “dark” side is what leads us to our growth.
Although it hasn’t always been easy, I am so grateful for the spiritual journey I have been on. The lessons I have learnt and the self-awareness I have found has been completely life changing. I hope that you stay on your spiritual journey and be gentle on yourself through the tough times and push through. Healing may not be linear, but it is worth it in the end.