I recently heard a very popular, highly respected self-help guru say that ALL of her suffering was because she had "believed her thoughts."
In other words, all suffering is caused by "wrong" thinking.
All of it?
And this particular self-help guru is a wise-looking older woman, so she seems very trustworthy and believable.
Maybe she should go share this with the mother who just lost her four-year-old to cancer.
Or tell it to the husband whose wife just became paralyzed in a car accident.
Or tell it to the burn victim who is navigating excruciating physical pain on a daily basis.
Are these people causing their own suffering simply because they are thinking wrong things?
Of course not.
This is not ok.
This type of toxic positivity, spiritual bypassing, "cotton candy" form of self-help just has to go.
It has to go.
It is causing people to believe that their perfectly normal reactions to the sometimes heart-wrenching realities of life are wrong.
Life can be hard.
It just can.
Things happen that are out of our control.
If you are a person with pain receptors and an emotional response system, you will likely suffer things in life that you can't do anything about.
And it would be unhealthy to ignore the need to take any type of tangible, real-life action or allow yourself to mindfully navigate the grief process because you are too busy thinking your problems are simply "all in your head."
I'm not saying our thoughts don't matter.
Of course they DOOOOO!!
This is why I am in therapy.
This is why I am consistently trying do the good, hard work of sorting out which things are in my control and which things are not.
This is why I am learning how to more clearly recognize when my thoughts ARE actually contributing to or causing my suffering.
Sometimes life is just painful.
It requires us to navigate complex issues.
It requires us to sort, process, and grow in ways we never thought possible.
But simple, it is not.
Honestly, I think this "cotton candy" form of self-help is enticing because it is so simple and also PARTLY true. These gurus aren't wrong in saying that our thoughts play a role in our lives, but I do believe they are wrong in saying they play the ONLY role.
Our thoughts are PART of the story, but they are not the WHOLE story.
This type of black-and-white thinking makes us think there is an easy solution to help us control and get through life, but as much as we would like to pretend that life is simple, it never actually will be.
Even when it is that simple for some, there will always be some of our brothers and sisters in humanity that are suffering unthinkable pains and heartaches that deserve our love, respect, and validation - not our sugar-coated, misguided judgments.
I think I'll skip the cotton candy and take a nutritionally dense plate full of CBT therapy, radical compassion, and serenity prayers any day of the week.