Toxic Positivity and the Dangers of Spiritual Bypassing

Learn when positivity becomes dangerous, and what you can do to avoid this from happening

You might have heard of the whole toxic positivity trend where people put a mask over their true emotions – to appear like they’ve got it all worked out.

So you hear that everything is always wonderful. Everything is always positive, despite how difficult things really are.

People get trapped in this image and believe that they NEED to always have their shit together. They get this idea in their head that negativity is a bad thing, when in reality it’s just a part of life.

Therefore, every time something goes wrong, they smile their way through it, think happy thoughts and tell themselves ‘it’s all for a reason, it’s all okay‘.

And there’s nothing wrong with being positive – as long as it’s genuine.

When you force yourself to be positive when you’re actually hurting, that’s when this whole charade becomes toxic.

Emotions NEED to be felt. Painful experiences NEED to be had. In fact, it’s human, you’re not a fucking robot.

When you neglect the shadow self, or the inner child, and pretend that life is all sunshine and rainbows, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.

You’re causing disintegration, and disconnection from your true, authentic self which I can guarantee you is way more beautiful than any phony façade. I wrote a whole article about integrating yourself through shadow work here if you want to get more into that.

Taking off the mask is the only way that you can reflect, heal your wounds and expand as a person. As long as you’re playing games with yourself, you’re never going to reach the level of well-being that you want to achieve.

What is spiritual bypassing?

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Spiritual bypassing - fake smile when you're internally hurting

Many people go through life wearing a mask, but the the real issues causing the pain are never actually addressed.

Spiritual bypassing is a form of escapism, where people pretend that everything is always positive – to avoid facing their true emotions.

You often see this in the spiritual community – where everything is love and light, everything is perfect, everything is positive.

But it’s not.

And more often than not, those people who act like they’re perfect are usually the most dysfunctional. They’ve just become so good at faking it, that they’ve lost themselves in pursuit.

We live in a dualistic world where darkness, suffering, and bullshit DOES exist.

Experiencing the ugly side of life isn’t just part of the human experience, it’s thoroughly weaved into every aspect of it.

The more trauma you have, the more karmic wounds you need to heal, the more shit you’re going to have to deal with in life.

Pain is complementary to growth.

Suffering is complimentary to happiness.

Loss makes you appreciate what you have.

Falling apart helps you rebuild yourself even stronger.

You see how it all works together to create a WHOLE picture. If you’re forcing yourself to only experience one side of the equation, first you’re going to become increasingly disintegrated, which is a step back in your journey of spiritual growth.

Then you’re probably going to become unstable, and you’re going to miss out on all the benefits that you get through dipping into the dark side of life.

We go back and forth for a reason.

It doesn’t mean you’re less evolved. You’re not the Buddha, stop putting so much pressure on yourself to have it all figured out.

Is there a difference between spiritual bypassing and toxic positivity?

The way I see it, spiritual bypassing is consciously avoiding unpleasant thoughts and feelings with a façade of light.

Toxic positivity is framing something that is actually harmful in a positive light.

For example, if you’re feeling hurt by something, but push yourself to think positively about the situation to distract yourself from that unpleasant shit you’re feeling – that’s spiritual bypassing.

Toxic positivity is celebrating something that’s not good for you.

If you’re morbidly obese and you’re telling yourself that you’re telling yourself that you’re beautiful just the way you are, that’s toxic positivity. sure it’s good to give yourself love and feel good about yourself, but you’re also avoiding looking a a very real health problem, and what’s causing it in the first place.

Both spiritual bypassing and toxic positivity come from a disconnect with reality, by pretending that you’re someone, or something you’re not.

You’re faking it, and not being true to yourself, which ironically comes back around and screws you in the long run.

By playing make-believe to make yourself feel a little better, you’re preventing yourself from looking at the roots of the issue – and actually making proper, sustainable changes.

You might mistake spiritual bypassing with reframing an event, but reframing something is changing the way you see something, which changes the experience you have with it.

Instead of just plastering a positive label on something that really needs to be addressed, it’s not caused by, or intended to distract yourself from experiencing something. It’s to draw a different reaction from the experience altogether.

Why is spiritual bypassing harmful?

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Forcing yourself to be positive can be harmful, especially when you don’t give your real thoughts and feelings an audience.

This is because avoiding leads to neglect.

Instead of exploring that pain and organically healing it, you just push it’s ugly face back under water so you don’t have to look at it.

By avoiding looking at the darker aspects of yourself which are triggered by certain situations or experiences, those problems are going to keep causing damage under the surface.

You’re not actually treating that infected wound.

The surface might look all nice and shiny, but the inside is rotting. This is a golden ticket to mental illness as your well-being, over time begins to deteriorate. This can lead to all sorts of issues within your life experience.

Painful emotions are necessary to experience, process, and learn from. 

This is an essential part of the healing process, and if you just pretend that everything is always positive, or you put a crappy plastic façade over your true feelings, you’re stopping yourself from actually healing.

Why is that? Because healing comes through accepting, feeling, and processing.

I write all about it in this article here and here.

That’s why I always say how important it is to really just sit with your emotions without judgment and feel them fully. That’s when you actually start making progress.

So if you cover up your true feeling about something by saying ‘oh, let’s look at the bright side!’ You’re really only screwing yourself over because you’re preventing yourself from doing the inner work.

Why do people cover up their real feelings?

People who believe that everything must always be positive have usually cultivated a mentality that it’s not okay to feel negative.

They get the picture in their head that negativity is a step back in their spiritual evolution, and therefore pressure themselves into having it all together to save face.

People who believe that they always must have a handle on their shit usually feel pressured.

It really doesn’t help that we live in an increasingly disconnected society where everyone’s wearing a mask.

Spend five minutes scrolling through Instagram and you see hundreds of happy people living their best lives.

But for the most part, it’s all an illusion.

Everyone’s playing the same game, even if they’re aware of it. But you keep doing it because it’s easier than facing those darker feelings of having something wrong with you, or not being as ‘good’ as other people.

You worry about what people think, and if they’ll judge you.

You avoid confronting your shadow self because he’s ugly to look at.

You’ve been told by other people that thinking positive is a good thing. It engrains into your psyche that this is the way it’s done.

But it just causes more problems in the end. Sooner or later, that house of cards is going to fall apart.

By constantly being positive, you’re acting as a block to your own self-betterment.

You need to be transparent with yourself

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Feeling something painful isn’t a bad thing.

It sucks, it’s not fun, but it’s an integrated part of the human experience. You need to accept that you will hurt at times.

Sometimes, you’re not going to have it all together, you’re going to feel like you’re regressing, or going back into old patterns.

And that’s completely natural. It’s normal. It’s HUMAN.

What are you trying to prove? Really think about it.

People avoid experiencing their lower-self because they feel inferior in some way when they do. They think ‘highly spiritual people are meant to have it all worked out, I can’t be seen showing sadness, or anger, because that affects my merit as a spiritual superstar.’


This desire to have it all under control comes from the ego.

While you’re spending so much energy appeasing your ego, at the same time you’re deferring responsibility.

Because you know that really looking at yourself and doing the shadow work is by no means a fun process. IT’S HARD!

But as I’m sure you know, there’s no getting around that one. If you want to evolve into highest version of yourself, you need to be willing to experience your lower-self when it’s triggered.

So allow yourself to feel this way.

Be transparent with yourself. Look at WHY you’re feeling these things, and address the root cause.

Be calibrated with your emotional body

If you want to become more in touch with your true feelings, you need to be honest with yourself.

Authenticity is so important, because it allows you to get to the heart of the matter instead of beating around the bush.

If you’re feeling something really painful, allow yourself to sit with that pain and express it.

Cry if you feel like it. Shout if you need to. Write in a journal or have a conversation with yourself while walking in nature.

When people swallow their emotions, they bottle these painful energies in their body.

That’s why expressing yourself is so important. It’s a purge which helps you expunge certain energies from your body.

It’s like clearing the dam to let things flow organically.

And once you’re in calibration with your emotional body, you end up becoming much healthier.

Ask yourself these questions

If you want to see if you’re covering up something, be honest with yourself and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Are you calibrated with your emotional body?

  • Are you faking it to avoid doing the hard work?

  • Do you try to make yourself feel better rather than doing the shadow work and healing organically?

  • Do you believe that you should have it worked out by now?

  • Do you feel ashamed when you’re experiencing painful emotions?

  • Do you tend to act really happy, even if you’re going through something?

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