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Stop the Positivity Performance: What To Do When Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work

“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”

We’re taught to fear the dark, to illuminate our homes and our internal worlds with artificial light under the guise that it will keep us safe from whatever’s lurking, ignored, in the shadows.

Like our night lights, we light our minds up with artificial iridescence; crutches of promised light to hide our deeper darkness: drugs and alcohol, shopping, affirmations, Netflix, gossip, food. Positive thinking.

That’s the catch right there—enforced positivity is yet another means of giving up our own power to external systems. It keeps us stuck responding to an idealised version of the present instead of living in the real present.

It keeps us in fear of ourselves.

There’s a statistic that shows a group of adults were asked if they’d rather sit with their thoughts for 20 minutes or receive an electric shock. 60% of men and 30% of women chose the electric shock. Over their own thoughts.

How are we at this point of being so uncomfortable with and disconnected from ourselves that we can’t be alone in our own heads? It’s the ultimate in giving our power away.

But what we aren’t told is that our empowerment is in our darkness, in the parts of us we’re hell bent on hiding. The light of enlightenment doesn’t come from being positive; it comes from being honest and being aware.

And now is our time to reclaim our honest darkness.

It’s time to set our whole, wild selves free, and transmute the fear into transformation.

When you can be with your whole self, without judgement or fear, you have total self empowerment.

Because the truth is, we don’t have time to ignore our internal worlds anymore. The world needs us to know ourselves enough to be fully present, not acting from hidden emotions, but full, wholly us so that we can be strong and stable to support the ascension.

As we move into 2020, away from 3d and towards 5d reality, our consciousness is expanding to such a level that we can’t keep hiding from ourselves any longer. It’s growing bigger than us and calling us out on where we need to grow.

Old paradigms made it easy to ignore our inner truths and believe that positivity is the zenith, the ultimate, the unwavering state we need to be living in—but we can’t do that anymore if we want to rise with the new vibrations.

How awakened can we be if we refuse to acknowledge the truth of our own feelings?

The Duality of the Mind

The subdivisions of our mind—the conscious and the subconscious—are independent of one another.

The conscious mind is the creative mind, the one that imaginatively weaves our positive stories, even in times of barren positivity.

Then we have our subconscious mind. Our subconscious is formed largely of stimulus-response tapes of learned behaviour we recorded as young children. The subconscious mind is habitual; it plays the same, ingrained behavioural responses to life's signals over and over again.

Yet we usually have no idea at all that we’re functioning from these subconscious tapes of decades-old responses that trigger the unmet needs of our inner child.

This subconscious mind we cannot control, because it’s subconscious. It’s work to even find out what is programmed into it—we can’t short circuit what’s going on in there with the positive thinking of the unconnected, conscious mind.

If the subconscious mind is programmed on trauma informed patterns, limiting beliefs, or fear responses that conflict with the positivity of the conscious mind, it will take more than positivity to truly reset our conditioning.

Positive thinking only works when the subconscious mind agrees with the same positive belief as the conscious mind. This is why reading self help books is never enough to illicit real life change, because the books work on a conscious level and not with our deep subconscious programming.

We understand it intellectually but haven’t rewritten our subconscious to agree with our conscious desires.

Likewise, the subconscious mind, then, will always deviously sabotage our well-intentioned positive thoughts.

Based on this duplicity of our mind, enforced positivity creates friction within us—it functions as a means of control rather than acceptance, it prevents us from surrendering to what is.

When positivity is performative—when it’s being used to mask how we really feel underneath the affirmations and daily gratitude lists, there is a detrimental power to it that distracts us from our reality and creates a depleting coping mechanism.

Give Up the Positivity Performance

There absolutely can be power in positivity, of course. The placebo effect is real. But the kicker is, you have to actually believe the positive message you’re projecting. Performance doesn’t work.

So why is there such a blinding cultural spotlight shining on having a positive attitude?

Positive thinking really gained its hero status with the popularity of The Secret, which pushes the importance of positive thinking to get onto the right vibration for the Law of Attraction to work.

Yet we forget, or don’t realise, that for manifesting to truly work, we also need to surrender to total acceptance that we would be fine if we never manifested the thing we want most.

The Law of Attraction acknowledges the opposing force, the ‘dark’ side, and surrenders to it.

You want a positive life? Then you have to completely surrender to your dark. Feel into and release the fear of your own shadow.

It’s like Law of Attraction shadow work that needs to be done before the positive vibration can draw in what you desire without fear and disconnection getting in its way.

Once we have done this inner work, we can reintroduce positivity in the form of unwavering, optimistic belief in our ability to heal, to transform, or to make empowering choices during the inevitable undulations of life.

So, here’s what to do when your positivity blinkers have failed to transform you into a calmer, happier, more grateful human.

Disclaimer: Whilst I am a certified yoga and meditation teacher and have studied and worked with energy healing and yoga psychology, this information is based solely on my own experiences, what has worked for me, and what I have learned through my own (meticulous and extensive!) research. Do not take this as medical advice and always always seek professional help for mental health issues.

1. Firstly: stop pretending everything is fine

Let go of the socially imposed charade of perfection. It’s not your responsibility or purpose to try to conform to the impossible standard of socially imposed perfection.

Chanting ‘I love my life!’ will have very little functional impact if your body is simultaneously dousing itself in cortisol in response to underlying chronic stress.

Being aware of the fragmentation is the first step, and this usually takes a lot of courage. It takes being brave to admit to not being perfect, to be honest and non-judgemental about the raw, clunky, unnerving feelings that come with being a modern human being.

2. Feel, Don’t Think

Think with your heart instead of with your head.

Instead of exerting the mental energy required to turn negative thoughts into positive ones, tune into your feelings.

When you move from your head to your heart, you might even find you don’t feel as bad about a situation as you thought you did. You might also discover you feel worse than your mind was allowing you to acknowledge—both are fine, they just are and they’re true. Relax into the hardened parts and meet them with softness.

Your pains aren’t threatening tricksters— they’re arrows telling you ‘come this way!’.

Just hold space for how you truly feel right now in this moment. How you feel is valid and worthy of attention and it is unnecessary and detrimental to try to conceal your feelings with inauthentic thoughts.

Don’t judge yourself or create stories around why you feel angry, sad, frustrated, disappointed, ashamed, just feel it. Notice where you feel it in your body.

Get comfortable with your real, true, messy, human feelings. Be unapologetic in your full experience of life — bad, sad, inconvenience, shameful, angry — all of it. This is called ‘radical honesty’ in many spiritual circles, and in this age and culture of farce and false reality, being honest about life’s apparent messiness is radical.

As I say often, and will never stop saying: we’re here as human beings on planet Earth to experience all emotions. Whether you consider them ‘good’ or ‘bad’, they have purpose and they are a part of life in Earth School. It’s what we signed up for.

If you keep your emotional world attended to, seen, and nurtured, you can begin to create a stable ground for positivity to prosper naturally.

Understand that what we are really seeking when we attempt to think positive thoughts is actually positive feeling. It’s our feelings that matter, it’s our feelings that are authentic and ultimately it’s our feelings that create our thoughts.

Our feelings exist in the present moment. No matter what situation led to the emotion in the first place, if you feel it, it exists now. Feelings, then, are masters at keeping us present in the now.

Our thoughts, though, are time travellers. They take us on exhausting journeys into the past and future, they create stories about terrifying scenarios that might never happen, and tell us to look on the bright side when, actually, we want to feel into our truths. They make up tales to trick us out of feeling our feelings, out of making friends with our soft, dark, feminine sides.

The more comfortable you can get with your own darkness, the stronger you become and the more self empowerment you reclaim by gathering up the discarded pieces of yourself into wholeness.

3. Then, detach from the feelings

Of course we don’t want to dwell in the less nice feelings, and this is where detachment is important.

A meditation practice is a powerful asset here: practice observing your feelings with perspective. Step back from them and observe: where did this come from? What might it be telling me?

This is important because it allows you to byass 'wallowing' and attaching your whole being and identity to your pain — because flipping the positivity performance to a negativity spectacle won't get you any further along the road to healing.

Neutrality is the new mindset for those wanting to ascend.

So move away from identifying feelings and emotions as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. Instead, consider them as just being. They just are.

When you can meet your feelings with objectivity and neutrality, they become valuable roadmaps to guide you through life.

You are not angry; you’re feeling anger right now for a reason—become a detective to uncover that reason.

Anger points to the presence of passion and is a transformative energy that can be channeled into action.

There lies the doorway to the subconscious reason behind it.

Once you know the reason for the underlying emotion you’ve been trying to cover up, you will have the power to forgive yourself and everyone involved, move it along and transmute it.

And you won’t have had to utter a single positive affirmation.

These first steps require consistency: you need to make a habit out of repeating them, living them, and making them your new way of being.

4. Reframe Your Thoughts

Now you’ve created stability and trust in your emotions and your heart, we can move back to the head and reframe the narrative up there a little.

Rather than, for example, forcing the positive affirmation ‘I feel great and I'm grateful for everything’, be honest.


‘I don't feel great right now, but I know I can feel great again soon and I’m thankful for my ability to create change.’

Or, ‘Everything sucks right now, but one day I’ll be grateful for the lessons I learn from changing my reality to one that doesn’t suck.’

This way, positive thinking isn’t being employed as a distraction but is supporting our ability to envision a different outcome once the work has been done.

The ability to recognise the positive (because there always is some!) even when acknowledging less than positive situations is an important skill because it enables us to stay out of victim mentality and defeatism, nurture hope and trust that the situation will change, and creatively imagine ourselves in a different place.

Begin to take positive action towards changing your reality. Actually acting upon your problems instead of trying to think your way out of them teaches you to trust yourself and begins to gently reprogramme the subconscious mind so it can better align with the conscious.

5. Purge

Find a way to move the energy you’ve been storing up and out of your body.

  • Remember

  • Write

  • Speak

  • Breathe

  • Shake, dance, stamp your feet

  • Tapping/Emotional Freedom Technique

  • Scream into a pillow

  • I burp! Honestly! In plant medicine ceremonies and when I am giving reiki healings/receiving energy healings, I BURP all of that energy out!

The only way out is through.

Work through it with a therapist if you need or want professional support and human feedback.

But also know that talking isn’t necessarily the only way. In fact (depending on the magnitude of the emotion that needs to be released)—to release an emotion, you don’t need to attach a story to it at all.

Emotions are just energy.

And like any other kind of energy, they are released through motion. Breath work and movement in particular create apana—upward moving energy—which can facilitate shifting trapped emotion and moving it out of the body.

They also produce feel good hormones, which generate feelings of happiness, contentment, and ease. Our hormones work on an inner, biological level to generate a positive feeling authentically in a way that mentally-constructed positive thoughts cannot.

Once you’ve processed the pain you might notice lessons, gratitude and self empowerment shining through, but this time, these feelings will be grounded in authenticity rather than being forced prematurely through performative positivity.

But don’t be in a rush to find the positive, the lesson, the silver lining. It will come. But being present in each moment is the important part of growth and healing.

In the spaces previously occupied with stored emotion, you will now have brand new space inside you to fill with light and peace, and this time you will know this inner world.

Consider shadow work. If you’re really interested in making friends with your own shadow and delving in to shine light on specific underlying events or traumas that might be causing your hurt and frustrations at a fundamental level.

Start with Carl Jung and Byron Katie and remember to be safe and be kind to yourself, but be vulnerable. You might also consider plant medicines, under ceremonial guidance with a shaman.

The more you face your shadows the more you’ll learn resilience and develop an ability to work through and release negativity so that positivity becomes a natural baseline mindset.

7. Reintroduce Positive Thinking

While you’re doing the work of moving through your true, unmasked emotions, you can use mindfulness techniques to reintroduce positivity as support and light (rather than distraction).

These include connecting to the high vibrations of positive memories, those infamous gratitude lists, acts of kindness towards others and using kind language towards yourself.

You don’t need me to tell you that being mean to yourself is a form of self sabotage that will never help you to change a situation or emotion.

Working with these means you’re not getting lost in the unconscious beliefs that exist to help you come into the present.


Rachel Bednarski.jpg

Hi! I'm Rachel

I'm a yoga, breathwork  & meditation teacher, reiki healer, Shake Out co-founder & writer for entrepreneurs in the wellness space. Here you'll find inspiration from me on how to come back to the wisdom of your body using embodiment practices. Get to know me.

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