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Can you come visit, like really soon?
I stood in the café this morning, waiting for my latte, and tuned into the music playing—it was a male voice over a pumping techno beat, demanding, “Good vibes! Good vibes only tonight!”
I think it might be fair to say it is somewhat violent to demand positivity. Spiritual bypassing is the term these days, where we feel discomfort—the natural part of life on Earth. We then instantaneously engage our fight-flight-freeze instinct, letting those feelings of unease, irritation, and all its icky cousins of grief, fear, anger, and resentment whirl around a wanting to control and creating a tornado inside us.
We put on a happy face and find something to do. Something. Anything.
On the outside, we smile. We think, “Fake it till you make it.” We jackhammer our sad, mad feelings into the smile of submission. Well, because the guy on the radio sang it.
Smash those negative thoughts, opinions, feeling down to the base of our souls, hoping, wishing that everyone else will do the same, and we will all play “Pretend to Be Happy” until we are.
But we really need comforting because, at our deepest soul level, our heart of hearts is saying, “WTF? This is not going to work! Stuffing feelings down just makes the drain clogged. What this soul needs right now is a roto-rooter.”
But we don’t listen to that voice. Instead, we lean into our addictive patterns; we all do—it is a human response to avoid pain and cling to pleasure. I wonder if faking a positive attitude can be just another chronic pattern, a way of using that highly activated stress response, fight-or-flight in disguise, a tricky action of positivity that seems like a good idea.
We also hear others yelling, “Just be positive!”
Now, it is a social pattern—participating in the group, thinking that a fake smile will eventually win out over our feelings of unease.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the power of tuning in with appreciation, wonder, and awe. But I don’t think you can fake it when there is a tornado inside.
There is a necessary healing step missing in this spiritual bypassing: it is the pause.
Where we offer our out-of-tune, autonomic nervous systems a little tune-up before we turn toward the light.
Think of a crying five-year-old at the store, sobbing, flailing on the floor. Mom is using her somewhat strained but careful massage therapist voice to say, “Use your words. Use your words.” The wailing continues. The child can’t possibly, not until their stress response has had time to reset.
Those two—exhausted Mom and the little one—get home after a calm car ride, some deep breathing from Mom, space, and time. Then, all synced up, nervous systems co-regulated, Mom helps little one out of the car, and there is a sweet embrace. Feeling supported, safe, and ready, that five-year-old will look up with open eyes and drink in everything Mom has to say and, now, be able to use their words. I can almost hear that sweet, trembling voice and Mom’s clear kindness.
We are the same. We need the Pause. Kindness. Willingness to wait for the inner tornadoes to settle, listen, just be, slowly softening like flakes in a snow globe.
A little loving patience with ourselves and each other as we navigate our inner storms.
On my way out of the coffee shop, I tilt my head up at the cloudy skies and think how easy it is to complain, get irritated, and drop healthy behaviors (like a walk outside) just because…there’s water in the air. But everything seems monumentally frustrating, irritating, or just plain overwhelming these days.
Some days, all I want to do is sob and flail on the floor.
I stare at the sky, knowing that if I try to ignore clouds or pretend the sky is blue when it clearly isn’t, I am causing deeper harm to myself. The sky is grey. I hold that for a moment. I breathe. I look at the edges of that grey and see movement, the wind slowly winding through all that water in the air. I sigh, a clear sign my nervous system is releasing energy. I know change is coming. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I can breathe with the grey. For now. I give myself a little hug. You can do that, you know. Even in public.
When we breathe, notice, move with mindful clarity, focusing on the sensations in our bodies, that sensation of discomfort transforms naturally. The drain gets opened; the stuck energy begins to move. For that moment.
We need more practices of mindful movement, focus and breath, more moments of the Pause, all collected in our souls, raindrops pooling into an ocean of compassion, which naturally open to curiosity, creativity, clarity, and joy. It takes a brave choice to trust this natural healing process.
Rather than settling in patterns of pain or pretending there is no suffering, if we choose to actively rest, breathe, and just be with our experience, we give our natural healing mechanisms the time and focus to slowly shift.
It isn’t instantaneous, but quick fixes are a lie just like that fake smile.