When there is only room for positivity, or high vibes, or love and light, or whatever you want to call it, what we’re doing is hiding the fact that our love, support, and empathy aren’t whole and unconditional.

The condition is, I will witness you in this, but only if you’re just a little less messy about it. Only if you look on the bright side. Only if you’re vibrating at a higher frequency.

This is not love and this is not empathy.

Empathy is about meeting someone where they’re at, even if it’s not comfortable and even if it’s not pretty. These are rough waters we’re navigating and true empathy calls us to say, “I am here with you, in whatever way you are right now”. It calls us to acknowledge pain and anger and grief and fear, not to attempt to chase it away, or reframe it, just to sit with it. To behold it.

I think where this gets all mixed up is that we can easily get sucked in and swept away. The powerful storm of emotion (ours or another’s) can overtake us and have us feeling like it’s just too much.

But the storms are a natural part of life, and we can learn to weather them.

We can learn to build our resilience so that we can stand at the edge of the storm and behold its intensity, while remaining safe and whole and not getting swept away.

There is suffering, which is (according to Buddhist teachings) an inevitable part of life. And then there is the suffering ABOUT the suffering. We can tease these apart, but we must do it without erasing the inevitable suffering with requirements of only love and light, or asking that others quiet down about it under the guise of empathy.

“Just be positive” sucks the air out of the room.

It sucks the kindness out of the room. How about we work on, “Just be as you are, which will always be enough, no matter how big/loud/messy/painful/challenging”?

Honouring our experiences and being non-judgementally witnessed in that is deeply powerful and deeply healing.