The Harmful Effects of Love and Light Culture

The Harmful Effects of Love and Light Culture May 10, 2018

Psychology and spirituality should ideally work together for the benefit of all humanity. However, it’s not as common in experience as one would hope. While I am not a new age practitioner (I am a witch but I am not new age), I encounter many people who have been harmed by new age teachings about what it means to be spiritual, the most prevalent of which is the ideal of being “totally positive,” “fully in the light,” and “high vibration.” The harm of love and light culture often takes the form of shaming, censorship, rejection, and ostracizing for those who are considered not “in the light” or “low vibration” or “toxic” or “negative” – many of whom are people living with mental illness.

Spotting the Harm

The harmful effects of the “love and light” culture aren’t always easy to spot unless you’re on the receiving end. These effects become apparent when you’re told to hide your pain. When your experiences are invalidated. And when you’re encouraged to “think positively” when it is unhealthy to do so. When you’re told that you have “negative energy” (an effort to silence and shame). You may have been on the receiving end of someone cutting you out of their life for being “toxic,” but what that really meant was that they didn’t like your point of view. Your weren’t abusive. Perhaps your humor was too dark, or you were just telling them things they don’t want to hear.

Believing that you must be “in the light” at all times is a denial of authentic human experience, and trying to force others to do so through psychological warfare is a denial of the collectively authentic, and is incredibly damaging to individuals. The truly spiritual person knows that depression has just an important a place in the human experience as happiness does. At one point in history, those who we consider depressed today were sought after for their wisdom. What if people living with mental illness were seen and accepted for the unique gifts they offer, instead of ostracized for being different?

The Hidden Roots of Love and Light Culture

The ideal of being a “positive” person of high vibration, living in the light, is the same principle espoused in Christian theology about getting rid of the ‘sin nature’ (the less socially acceptable aspects of our humanity), and being totally holy. It’s just playing out in a different format while creating division and more victims.

Except this toxic positivity is more sinister because there is truly no space for those living with any form of mental illness to find solace. At least Christians agree in theory (if not always in practice) that Jesus is solace for those living with mental illness. Any form of grace is absent from many new age teachings and actions. What’s worse is that many new age teachings take it a step further and encourage the complete denial of emotions such as sorrow, fear, doubt, and anger- natural human emotions we need.

Toxic Positivity is Self-Destructive

It’s self-destructive and unhealthy, no matter the theological paradigm, to “get rid of” a part of our nature. We need these aspects of ourselves. They are valuable, they are where strength and protection come up from. What is considered “negative” or “toxic” speaks to us about who we are, what we need, and what needs aren’t being met.

This aspect of our nature is the part of us that will protect us against our will when we are making choices that consistently deny our inner boundaries and needs. Although it may be socially jarring when we act from this place, that doesn’t mean this very necessary part of ourselves should be denied. It means we should look closer at what we are ignoring within ourselves.

Gifts of the Shadow

The sacred lives in this darkness. It’s where the mystery resides, where the fount of creativity springs forth from, where power pulsates. This place contains a cornucopia of wisdom. How much healing could occur if people were encouraged to explore and understand the darkness within, rather than encouraged to deny it because it causes discomfort for others?

The last point I want to touch on is the shame regarding medication in spiritual community. I take a holistic view of everything including the human experience, meaning I believe that the mind and body and spirit all act upon each other and are inextricably intertwined. If a person needs conventional medication for mental illness or physical illness, there should be no shame from the spiritual community for this, only support and encouragement.

Love and Light Culture is Not Superior

Anyone who tries to force conformity through shame and suppression, subtle (or overt) ostracizing, are not spiritually enlightened. It is not spiritual enlightenment to discourage the sharing of true thoughts and feelings. These people are acting from their fear within and they don’t even know it.

Not one of us is without issues, and that’s really the point. We can’t “spiritualize” our way out of our humanity. We can label what we don’t like as “faults” if we want. However, we’re just creating cracks in ourselves when we do. Wholeness requires total acceptance and love of all the aspects of ourselves, and healing requires compassion. Spirituality is not an escape from ourselves, it is a road map to understanding ourselves. It requires facing and embracing the dark.

About the Author

Jessica Jascha is a Clinical Herbalist, Intuitive Consultant and writer in Minnesota. She also writes for Witch Way Magazine. She owns Jascha Botanicals and Owl in the Oak Tarot where she gives readings, teaches ritual, and provides holistic consultations. You can find her on Facebook.

Featured image via pixabay.

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