Toxic Positivity Culture: Why Pagans, Polytheists, & Occultists Should Guard Against It

Toxic Positivity Culture: Why Pagans, Polytheists, & Occultists Should Guard Against It August 14, 2018


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“You attract what you are.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

I’ve seen a variety of these sorts of phrases. They’re typically found in the New Age and LoA (Law of Attraction) communities, but it’s not unusual for pagans, polytheists, and occultists to fall under the trap of this type of thinking. A lot of this tends to stem from the notion that intent is everything (or at the very least the main thing) which you need in magic, therefore if you “just think positively” your magic won’t fail.

Obviously this isn’t the case, and magic is far more than just intent. And if you’ve noticed that these phrases tend to sound victim blaming/shaming, you’re not alone and you’re quite correct. I’ve frequently noticed that people who gravitate towards such philosophies are desperately seeking a sense of control over their life and surroundings, including over events they have no way of being able to otherwise prevent or handle. But this can also be used to turn on people in order to discredit or gaslight them, and be New Age bullies. Such tactics are also used in order to silence victims of abuse and oppression: “You brought this on yourself, no one can harm you without your consent.”

The other aspect of this poisonous philosophical trend is what amounts to spiritual bypassing. By focusing only on the positive in regards to thoughts and emotions, you are preventing yourself from confronting your problems, healing from past traumas, and in short not allowing yourself the necessary personal development in order to work on your issues. A fantastic example of this is quite honestly what amounts to the darker aspects of the so-called light side of the Force from Star Wars. By avoiding fear, pain, anger, and hate out of the notion that it will “make you evil” or “turn to the Dark Side” is usually how people wind up not handling those very issues and become a self-fulfilling prophesy by going to the said Dark Side. And the perfect example: Anakin Skywalker.

Part of being a well rounded witch, magician, or occultist in general is being able to confront and deal with your crap. It also means recognizing that yes, there will be events beyond your control and that of others. It doesn’t mean that magic isn’t real, that you aren’t an effective occultist, and/or that you somehow deserved it or otherwise brought it on yourself. There’s a great deal of superstition that I sometimes see even in the Hellenic polytheist communities. A streak of bad luck occurs, and people ask why the gods hate them or how they managed to piss them off. That’s not how this works; that’s not how any of this works! Blaming the gods for bad things that happen to you and other people’s bad behavior isn’t even remotely accurate, let alone appropriate.

The LoA community likes to pretend that everyone is “switched on” and that we’re all in control over the forces in our lives and what happens to us. The reality is that most of people are in neutral gear while a minority of us contend with a volume knob that can go up or down due to reasons not entirely our own. Bad stuff can happen to good people regardless of who or what they are. Not acknowledging that is essentially denying our humanity and reality at large. You’re not going to become a better magician or witch by only focusing on positive emotions, or blaming others or yourself for when bad stuff happens. But you will find that your magic will be far more efficacious if you learn how to harness your anger, control your responses to your emotions, and allow yourself to feel and process those emotions. They are valid, and so are you.


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  • nikkidarlin

    Great blog post! Love the use of Star Wars as an example of spiritual bypassing. Yoda is majorly guilty of this, IMOA. I was just waxing philosophical about this very thing with my partner. The Jedi created Darth Vader by trying to shove Annakin into an emotionless mode, by not allowing him to understand the depth of his power.

    I have heard LoA people blame others for being sick, for having cancer for poverty, etc. It can be worse than right wing bootstrap thinking.


    GREAT POST!!!!! finally someone is aknowledging that suffering (like rejoicing) is part of the human experience!

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I dont know about the you brought this on yourself spiel, but everything is a lesson is more what i can relate to. New age philosophy isnt alway right, but neither is it always wrong either.

  • sdsures

    When you’re disabled or chronically ill, it is SO AWFUL when people say this kind of shit to you.

  • nikkidarlin

    That and blaming someone for poverty are my top problems with this kind of thinking.

  • I think you see a lot of the New Age positivity within modern witchcraft because, I would contend, that what a fairly decent majority of today’s witches practice is largely New Age techniques. Some might see it as watered down witchcraft, but most of what I see are people working with candles, crystals, stones, incense, and depending upon yoga or meditation as the bulk of their practice. Digging deep into the dusty old occult books for ancient spells isn’t the norm. Maybe it’s our instant gratification culture, or maybe it just works for today’s practitioner.

    Before I began practicing Wiccan in 2002, I thought New Age was hooey. I still think holistic medicine for serious medical conditions is ridiculous, but I do think that New Age practices are what many people are using to manipulate energy to create their desired effects.

    All that said, yes, there are New Age bullies. Thinking positively or magically is not going to change your life. Action is required. And some people are affected by depression or mental/physical conditions, or just a victim of bad luck. People waving positive memes in their face and blaming them for their circumstances bothers the hell out of me.

    I know your article wasn’t just specifically about New Age, but since it was mentioned several times, I just wanted to toss in my two cents.

  • kitKat

    The flip side of this that I’ve seen (which is equally annoying) are people who have been blessed by luck, circumstance, other people’s work, etc. but take ownership of it through positive thinking. Is it a self-esteem thing that people can’t just admit to not producing every aspect of themselves, by themselves for themselves? This idea of manifesting is so dangerous because it both flatters and applauded the fortunate and punishes those who are not.

    In the past I worked for a boss whose very rich parents bought her a house as a wedding gift. She was convinced that she had manifested the house through positive thinking – which totally undermines the thought and sacrifice her parents made in the gift! Not to mention, made me feel scrappy after getting married and NOT receiving a free house from my working class parents. It’s my fault for not putting it on my vision board right?

  • Trellia

    Or “just think positive!” when my depression and/or anxiety are rearing up.

  • Jim Redman

    I was discussing this issue with a Christian lady who had been an active member of a couple of large, well-known Pentecostal type churches, which typically are big on miracles. She had seen and been part of a number of events she considered miraculous. On the other hand, she was disgusted by the same attitudes you mention in the article – essentially, that if one is still sick or if anything bad is happening, there must be a lack in the individual.
    She had health issues despite doing everything “healthy” she could find. Her marriage had turned abusive because of male-superiority “authority” preaching. And she encountered those who thought she must not have exercised faith enough or her health and marriage would be just fine and dandy.
    BTW, she divorced the abuser and eventually left those churches.
    I thought it was interesting that there are those with these views that appear in all belief systems.

  • Madison Rhue Baker

    This is an awesome post! I remember going to church and hearing these things too; you’re depressed because you aren’t close enough to God, etc… I think it’s just in human nature to want to feel like you’re somehow better than everyone else. As someone that has suffered from anxiety disorder and depression on and off, the most important thing you could ever do is accept yourself just as you are. There is nothing wrong with feeling negative emotions– it’s all apart of being human!

    I actually do come from the frame of mind that everything happens for a reason… but, to me, that reason is to learn, grow and sometimes face your demons. Growth is a painful thing. It sounds very cliche, but it’s often during the hardest times that you’re shaped the most. You can find strength and value in every experience; doesn’t mean it’s a fun ride by any means…. But that’s why I’ve never understood why people blame the gods, etc… Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had the mentality that things are predestined. It’s always just made the most sense to me for some reason. The only reason I use magic is to speed things up a bit, or add a little boost, or maybe help myself through my own journey.

  • Barros Serrano

    It is not an accident that this sort of “New Age” thinking appeared alongside Reaganomics, by the platitudes of which the public was being told that any problems you have are due to your own bad choices, that there are no victims, only people “playing the victim”, and so on.

    I call the New Age movement “Reaganomics for hippies”. It seems to have been at least in part intentionally designed to make counter-culture/alternative types more individualistic, less responsive to the struggles against oppression, more apathetic… in other words, good Republicans!

    I was abducted and tortured. Anyone want to blame me for this? Or do you think perhaps the PERPS are those possessing the blame?

    If only you’d thought positive, you wouldn’t have been raped, right? and so on… puh-leeze…

  • Barros Serrano

    oh yes, reminds me of the ultra-Calvinist predestination-believing Protestants. I have more money than you because Jesus loves me more…

  • Barros Serrano

    Everything is a lesson, but if you were victimized, then the victimizer should be addressed. That person DECIDED, CHOSE (to use 2 favorite New Age words) to hurt another person, and for the victim then to be told THEY are to blame for “attracting” this… well, I call bull$hit in no uncertain terms.

  • Brandon Wright

    Yes, the perpetrator chose to commit the act. And it is wrong to get all uppity and throw those words to a victim. However, the perpetrator could have chosen someone else that had low energy in their field. That is what patterns are, they show us where we are lacking. Its the story of the girl who always chooses abusive boyfriends, or the boy who gets picked on throughout childhood and is then not accepted as an adult. And by doing the shadow work to rectify the feelings of powerlessness, victimization, etc we can attempt to pull better things towards us. That’s real magick, working the energy that underlines how the world works.
    Most of us were taught as children that “you have to work hard for your money” or “money doesn’t grow on trees” and we wonder why struggle to pay the bills. Trump or Musk certainly don’t believe those things. Not that I’m perfect, but I have not taught this to my kids. And since they haven’t been indoctrinated like I have, they can literally walk into any store, stand, or shop and be given free things! They believe they can get what they want and expect it to come to them. They ask to eat out. Then you know what? Our day takes so many twists and turns that we literally cannot eat anywhere but where they asked to go. Its frustrating for me right now, but I know that they will be far more successful than I. That is, until I work on my own areas of lack.

  • Nicole Krieger

    It’s hard because sometimes we DO see our loved ones making poor choices with predictable results, but acting all blamey and “I told you so” is really not helpful.

  • amylynn1022

    I think “toxic positivity culture” is a good term for a concept I have been trying to understand and deal with most of my life (at least since my adolescence in the ’80s). One aspect of it that doesn’t get addressed enough is the power aspects. I have often heard the call to “have a positive attitude” from people in a position of authority who simply don’t want to acknowledge their contribution to a problem or conflict–or admit that there is nothing they can do about a situation. It is easier to blame the subordinate for causing their own problems by not being positive enough.

    A “popular” variant — posting tips about stress reduction in your workplace. These tips are always addressed to the the stressed-out workers and imply that the stressed-out worker is solely responsible for addressing the stress. Workplace stress tips, at least the ones passed out, never address what employers need to do to help their employees experience less stress. The sad thing is, often the solutions are fairly simple and low cost. Even when they are more expensive they are almost always cheaper than hiring and on-boarding new employees!

  • Lindsay Jones

    I have Endometriosis (and also an childhood abuse survivor) and this is SO true. I didn’t ask or want this. It just happened when I was too young to remember.

  • sdsures

    I’m sorry. I have painful periods and other gut issues that each exacerbate the other. It’s so socially isolating because I’m afraid of not being able to get to the toilet in time, so I’ve been mostly staying at home since the whole mess started in February. Awaiting tests.

  • Peter Raftos

    We used to call it the Shirley McLean school of Positive Thunking. It has been around for ages and hurts good people. Another great article.

  • Trellia

    Good luck on getting some answers, and hopefully relief as well. (Painful periods suck.)

  • sdsures

    Thanks. Fingers are crossed.

  • DesertRose

    What gets me riled about the New Age stuff is the way that holistic medicine and allopathic medicine are treated as an either/or proposition, when it really ought to be an “and.” Like, yes, absolutely, see a medical doctor (or nurse practitioner or physician assistant) for your medical needs, but you can also, say, use meditative techniques to reduce pain (I do that a lot with my migraines; there really isn’t much I can use in terms of pharmaceutical medication for a number of specific-to-me reasons, but a focused meditation can often at least get the migraine symptoms down to a tolerable level) or use lavender to help yourself relax or whatever. It doesn’t have to be one or the other; both can be helpful at least at times.

    And yeah, the whole Law of Attraction thing just irks the daylights out of me.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I believe spells fail because life isnt perfect and it shows that life wont always give you want you want. ALso toxic is the peace love and light movement. because you cant be kind all the time because not everyone deserves kindness

  • sdsures

    Wanted to check in and see how you’re doing, Trellia. 🙂

  • Trellia

    Thank you for your kindness. Actually, quite well. I leave in a few weeks to visit two of my dream destinations, Bali and Singapore, and have been studying the Indonesian language and for a certification at work. I’m very excited to see the Indian ocean and am planning a night-time beach picnic, snorkeling as Indonesia has some of the world’s best coral reefs, and seeing the aquarium, zoo, and botanical gardens in Singapore. How did your test results go?

  • Trellia

    I also do ‘and’. I have a few medications to keep my pain and depression under control, and also do stretches, dance, essential oils, tea, and revamped diet. My personal philosophy is prevention as much as possible, and the meds to clean up what’s left. 🙂