During a casual lunch with a group of gluten-free foodies the other day, two people brought up a woman they knew who had started a health food store in their area that stocked products they needed to maintain their health. They described her as ‘bubbly’, which is a term most people associate with super-positivity. But after a while this lady disappeared – her shop was permanently closed and she did not keep up with her weekly blog writing. A few months later, she sent an email to everyone on her business list explaining that she had had a nervous breakdown. This is very sad, but I have seen it far too often, and unfortunately, it could have been avoided.

The way to stay psychologically healthy is to feel all of your dark feelings and think all of your dark thoughts. This does not mean that you will become a serial killer, or that you will drop ten steps on the (metaphorical) ladder of enlightenment. No one is happy all of the time but the commonly held belief and practice (especially amongst ‘spiritual’ people), is that you are not doing something right when you experience feelings of anger, sadness, hatred, frustration, fear, or guilt – Normal Human Emotions.

Putting a lid on these emotions, and squeezing tighter every time something uncomfortable bops to the surface, turns you into a pressure cooker that may explode and do harm to others, or implode by way of doing harm to yourself, usually via a breakdown (sometimes even suicide, or attempted suicide). Smiling all of the time, making jokes, repeating positive affirmations all day and reading self-help books that perpetuate the perpetual positivity myth as a higher way of being, lead to major psychological – and physical – health issues.

Don’t get me wrong – looking on the bright side is part of maintaining wellness but not at the expense of fully experiencing pain. At the heart of it all, this is what you are doing – looking for anything to take away the pain. Perpetual positivity is more acceptable than any kind of addiction (even though you could probably consider this type of avoidance of pain an ‘addiction’, too), because on the surface it seems so productive, so good, so healthy – it isn’t. You do not need to stay stuck in it all. If you are having difficulty, ask for help.

In the meantime, try this affirmation (it took me a few minutes to come up with it):

Perpetually Processing your Pain is Powerfully Palliative.