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The Myth of Positivity

February 14, 20248 min read

We have it all wrong. We’re made to believe that healing is all about being positive all the time, about burning candles and having epsom salt baths. We listen to affirmations, punish ourselves for having negative thoughts. We scroll on Instagram or Facebook and see yet another picture of Jessica on her vacation in the Maldives talking about how “positive thoughts attract positive things”. Yes Jessica, when you’re on a fucking beach in paradise that average people can’t afford unless they sell their soul. We’d feel pretty amazing in a bikini sipping on a coconut too, but this isn’t real life. We envy these ladies on social media who seem to never shed a tear, the ones that seemingly have their life figured out, smile all the time on videos and everything goes smooth for. No negativity, just good vibes. 

I’ve seen this over and over again - the thing that takes us further away from ourselves. The thing that disconnects us from our real pain, from being human. The positivity mask… There is a lot of noise in society, thousands of pieces of information being sent our way every single day. The influencers and life coaches of Instagram tell us to just “think positive” or “raise our vibration” so that all of our problems magically disappear. We believe the narrative and punish ourselves when we notice a negative thought or emotion. We want to get rid of it, without realising that those thoughts and emotions are parts of us. Parts that will only get louder and louder when we don’t give them the space to be witnessed. But because of the pain held deep within us it’s so much easier to push down, disconnect and try to escape to the world of positivity and spirituality. 

As someone who’s had a pretty traumatic childhood I really get it. I had complex PTSD, panic attacks, nightmares and life was pretty dark. Then I discovered the world of positive thinking and it was like meeting God. It saved me from experiencing the deep emotional pain I was in. I got obsessed - affirmations, meditations, visualisations, going to every single wellness and manifestation workshop. It really worked, for a while. Until all the emotions and memories I never dealt with started to rush back and the positivity bubble burst. Everything came crashing down, it was too much for my inner world. The desperate attempt to get away from pain backfired big time and I was back at square one. Feeling worse than when I started.

The world of personal development became an escape mechanism for me. As it does for so many of us. We like personal growth when it’s superficial, but we don’t want to allow ourselves to go to the core of our pain. Very rightly so, it can be so emotionally overwhelming at times. But here’s the thing. We can’t truly heal and experience deep joy if we never meet the deepest sorrow within. The only way to truly heal is to go to the source of our pain. To meet the deepest parts of us and give them space to really be seen and heard. Only when we integrate the pain can we begin to experience real inner peace. 

And I’m not just saying this - shadow work is what enabled me to meet my deepest traumas and find deep peace. I’ve seen this work miracles for my clients too. And many more people out there doing this deep healing work. Some call it inner child work. I use the theory and practice of Internal Family Systems psychotherapy in my work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that personal development and spirituality is bad. I see a lot of value in pursuing the personal growth path. We have the right to experience joy, inner peace and abundance in our life. The trick is to notice our intention behind doing something. A question I often ask is “Am I doing this to numb my pain, or am I genuinely ready to let go and invite new energy?” My message is that we shouldn’t buy into the positivity hype at the expense of disconnecting from the deepest parts of us. As the old saying goes, we need to feel it to heal it.

So what does this mean and where can we begin today? Let’s start from the beginning. We were all once a child who may have experienced some hardships and adversity - some of these were severe experiences which we call big T trauma, and some left a significant impact but were maybe seen as less severe which we call small t trauma. Either way they have created an emotional wound within. A wound that our inner child, the version of us from that time, has been carrying. This younger part of us didn’t just stay in the past, it stayed and lived deep within our subconscious mind. We carried on through life never attending to this wound, saying that it’s in the past and it’s over. But still, life situations have triggered this wound from time to time. Because the wound was so painful we formed protective mechanisms to help us numb the pain. The protective mechanism may have been people pleasing, trying to be positive at all costs, addictions (this includes addiction to personal development). The protective part of us allowed us a real safety blanket. It promised that the inner child carrying the pain wouldn’t hurt us anymore. So we locked this inner child in a room, for it to be forgotten about. But the thing is, if we lock something in a room does it disappear? No, it starts to feel abandoned by us and so the pain grows deeper. The deeper the pain the more we want to avoid it, and so we go to another seminar, do more yoga and trick ourselves into a high vibe life. 

So here we are today, knowing deep down that there is more to our daily struggles but not being able to place our finger on it. When I first heard about internal family systems and inner child work it was like everything suddenly clicked, the missing puzzle helped me to see life with clarity. It expanded my awareness and allowed me to understand why I have been desperately trying all the techniques in the world. This awareness helped to make a U-turn from the outer world and towards my inner world to attend to all the parts of me I abandoned over the years when I didn’t know any better. 

My invitation and hope for you is to create that U-turn also. I have a pretty simple guide you can begin using in your own life. Simple, but not easy sometimes. 

Step 1 - Curiosity: To simply invite more curiosity to your day to day life. When you notice a common pattern or an emotional reaction ask within - where is this coming from? Is it my protective mechanisms that are afraid of the deep pain? Is it a deeply wounded inner child? How long has this part of me been there? Does this part of me know how old I am today, or is it still stuck in the past trying to protect me from a painful situation? You may ask these questions through a journaling practice, or maybe through a meditation (you can find free inner child meditation on my social media platforms).

Step 2 - Acceptance: Whatever you discover, try no to analyse it or criticise. Simply let these parts of you know that you see them, you feel them and it’s okay that they are there. Let them know how happy you are to be re-connecting with them after so many years. They may not trust you straight away, let them know that that’s fine too and that you know trust is built over time. Don’t under-estimate this part of the process - it’s so important for our parts to receive validation and acceptance internally. 

Step 3 - Compassion: When you’re building the relationship with your parts let them feel your compassion for the experiences you went through as a child. Treat them just like you would your own child or children - with great care, love and compassion. When we start to feed ourselves the compassion we so freely give to everyone else we’ll experience great healing. 

You can treat this as an experiment, to see what you discover. The prize for doing this work is inner connection and self-love like you never experienced before. Please reach out for help if you touch something painful and feel you’d benefit from a therapist working through this with you. You can find IFS trained therapists on IFS UK Institute. I know finances can be tough sometimes and not everyone can afford the luxury of therapy. In that case I highly recommend finding some local peer groups where you will still experience the benefits of having a safe space to explore your inner world. This work is difficult, it’s the work we all love to avoid. But it’s also the work that enables us to live with joy and peace in our heart, have fulfilling relationships and create the life we dream of. 

Oliwia Viktoria is a psychological therapist specialising in inner child healing. She also holds regular workshops in Manchester to help people reconnect with and heal the deepest parts of themselves. Oliwia combines IFS, CBT, breathwork and ancient healing techniques in her work. After living with cPTSD for years and a suicide attempt she found ways to heal her own nervous system and she pursued psychotherapy studies and started a mission of helping others heal from past emotional wounds.

Oliwia Podana

Oliwia Viktoria is a psychological therapist specialising in inner child healing. She also holds regular workshops in Manchester to help people reconnect with and heal the deepest parts of themselves. Oliwia combines IFS, CBT, breathwork and ancient healing techniques in her work. After living with cPTSD for years and a suicide attempt she found ways to heal her own nervous system and she pursued psychotherapy studies and started a mission of helping others heal from past emotional wounds.

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