In listening back to all of my Season 1 episodes, this one probably hits me the hardest.
Today's four-years-later take on Season 1 is for Episode 10: "Spiritual Bypassing: Why Feeling Good Is Not Enough."
(I skipped Episode 8 ["On Valuing Time & Managing Bipolar Disorder (with Phil Tieu)"] as I wanted to honour my guest episodes and leave them as they were without analyzing or critiquing what I might say differently. Those were special conversations!
I'm also skipping Episode 9 ["Spiritual Goodies"] since I've obviously expanded the types of resources I turn to for my spiritual growth. The Resources page on the website is a good place to check out what I've been reading and listening to more recently.)
In this episode, I mentioned a book that triggered me into speaking about spiritual bypassing on the podcast. At the time, I was too hesitant to name the author and so-called “spiritual leader," but now I don’t give a shit.
Her name is Peta Kelly, and the book is called Earth Is Hiring: The New Way To Live, Lead, Earn, Give For Millennials And Anyone Who Gives A Sh*t. Worst money ever spent.
As I mentioned in the episode, in the book (as she does elsewhere), Peta promotes the teaching that our job and purpose in life is to raise our vibration. And to achieve that, what we all need to do is to feel good.
Because the more we feel good and do things that make us feel good, and the more we send out those positive vibes, the more and faster we will receive what we want from the universe.
She also wrote that we basically need to stop complaining about things, given how privileged we are to be living in a “free country” (she was obviously only speaking to certain parts of the world, although even then using the word "free" is highly questionable).
In this episode, I talked about how I had zero doubt in my mind that those kinds of positive-thinking, law-of-attraction, abundance-mindset approaches couldn’t be the whole picture.
I knew with conviction that also doing the shadow work was necessary to address a lot of deep-rooted issues from the past that were still getting triggered in my everyday life in the present. No amount of positive mantras was making that shit go away.
At that time, I was just starting to learn about trauma, the abandonment wound, and anxious attachment. I commented in the episode that learning this knowledge was both insightful and sad. I felt nostalgic hearing myself talk about it, remembering how new it was to me back then, and how many times I ended up in a puddle of tears.
(Please don’t let that scare you from your own exploration of these topics! As I’ve mentioned in another episode, I didn’t have any guidance in starting this work and dove in too quickly. It’s important to pace yourself and go slowly. It’s also probably a good idea to work with a trauma-informed professional who can be a grounded presence and create a safe container for you to do this work.)
It feels really good to know that four years later I am continuing to learn the trauma psychoeducation and can do so without getting triggered virtually at all. And that I can continue doing the healing work itself without fear of what it might bring up for me, because I have built the capacity to always come back to myself and a sense of grounding despite the challenging emotions and tears that might come up (thanks to my therapist modeling that for me).
Four years later, I am so grateful that I followed my intuition and that path of doing the shadow work and NOT just the light work. Because it is so obvious to me now that the deeper, not-always-feel-good work was (and is) necessary for the positive-thinking type of work to truly be effective in a sustainable, ongoing way.
But of course, I can’t and won’t push anyone to do the shadow work. I know it can feel scary to step in that direction, and I know that sometimes we just don't have the capacity at the time. I've certainly experienced that myself. It's a decision that only each individual can make for themselves.
So I will only share my own experiences and the information that has helped me so that others just know that this is even an option. That these aspects of "self-development" and healing also exist in addition to positive affirmations, giving gratitude, meditation, and the like.
As I said in the episode: The more tools we have in our toolbox, the more empowered we are to pull out the right tool to use at any given moment. Because not every challenge is going to be solvable by doing positive, feel-good things.
And if we limit ourselves to thinking that, then we'll likely feel a sense of shame and failure when those tools aren't pulling us out of a "negative" thought spiral or intense, challenging emotions. We'll wonder what we're doing wrong instead of seeing that we just might be missing a tool in our toolbox that's better for the job at hand.
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The reason this episode hits me the hardest is because of what I said at 19:29:
“The reason I get so emotional about this issue is because I think about the life I get to live now, which … is much more privileged than it used to be.
But I think about that in comparison to my life back then and how much potential I clearly have and always had – that there is evidence of now – but how little of that I knew and could realize back then because of all those barriers I faced as well as the internalized oppression and very low sense of self-worth that comes along with that.
And then I think about all the people in the world, or even just within my own country, going through that same shit right now.
Not because they don’t have the potential as well to have a better life.
Not because they don’t want it just as bad as everyone else.
Not because they aren’t actively working hard to get to a better place in their lives.
Not because they don’t try to think positively to get through all the negativity that they feel.
But because, straight up, not everyone is privileged enough to have it easier in life.”
There are many inequalities in this world that make for a hugely difference experience of life depending on which end of the power dynamic you’re on. In my opinion, inequalities regarding class or socioeconomic status is a particularly huge one.
I believe that many people who have never struggled financially or lived at or below the poverty line have ZERO clue what that experience is like – I mean "know" in their bones and soul.
I've often heard people in that position give their perspectives about others who haven't had the same level of privilege, and it's pretty clear to me that they can't even imagine what it feels like for a person to live that way.
What it feels like when you’re worried all the time about whether you can pay the rent every month. And what it feels like when you actually can't.
What it feels like to work dead-end, minimum-wage jobs without seeing any hope for a significantly better future income – and therefore better housing, health, etc.
What it feels like to have no reliable source of financial support outside of just yourself to know that you can fall back on something (and someone) if things go badly.
What it feels like to know you’re just as smart and hard-working than your peers, but you have to work at least twice as hard to make it to the same place as them. And maybe even then, you still won’t get the same opportunities as they do.
I could go on, but I get tired just thinking about it. The difference is not just in the actual tangible things you get to have when you have more privilege – like money, time, other resources, an advantageous network/connections, etc. – which ALL matter in the capitalist world we live in.
But the difference is also in the deeply ingrained belief of whether you even feel worthy or capable enough to have a different life. It’s in the hope you feel or don’t. It’s in the belief you hold (or don’t) that if you reach out for help or opportunities, you’ll receive it.
All of these internalized beliefs and ways of seeing yourself make a huge difference in what you believe is even possible (and of course, they can also lead to serious mental health issues that further compound the challenges). If all you’ve internalized is that you belong at the bottom, because that’s the only place you've seen yourself (and perhaps your family as well), then that will shape your beliefs about how high your ceiling is.
Now that I know what it's like to live both realities, I understand why people can't put themselves in the other person's shoes when they've only known one of those worlds.
Because as I've gained more financial privilege, strong networks, a Master's degree, better housing, social capital, and so on, I have also seen how certain doors open for me, how I'm looked at and treated differently, how my beliefs have changed about my worthiness and the choices I have (because I do actually have more choice).
And I've also come to see how all these things influence how effective a narrow "think positive, vibe high" approach actually is.
* * *
So I just want to remind all of us that the hyper-individualized approach of many "self-development" teachings doesn't often embody a comprehensive understanding of how this world actually works.
It often doesn't take into account the vey real social barriers and inequalities that exist and that real people experience in their everyday lives. It often doesn't include community in the "solution" and the need for broader changes in society to affect change at the individual soul level.
I can sit on the fence about a lot of things. I can say "it depends" for a lot of things. But this is one thing that still makes me feel a hot fire in my chest.
Because we ALL have the potential to do great things. We're all capable of feeling alive, connected, and embodied. We could all experience "better" wellness and health. We all have the ability to use our talents, skills, and passion to create a fulfilling life for ourselves while inspiring and helping others.
But only under the right circumstances. And those circumstances aren't just about what we think in our brain. Again, it's about understanding what are the actual underlying issues and causes of our challenges with mental health, living life more authentically, doing meaningful work, and so on? Once we truly understand the answers, we can understand which path and actions need to be taken.
So use the positive-thinking, positive-vibe strategies as much as you need to gain peace, grounding, and fulfillment – as I said in the episode, they can absolutely be helpful and add to our spiritual growth. Just be aware of how to use them without causing harm to either yourself or others.
With love, Janice xo
P.S. You can listen to "Spiritual Bypassing: Why Feeling Good Is Not Enough (S1, EP10 | The Soul's Work Podcast)" on: the website | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Podchaser | Stitcher | Please subscribe + leave a rating and review to help others find the show! ❤