Psychology Chronicles Series #27: The Dark Side of Toxic Positivity

in OCDlast month (edited)

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“Don’t worry, everything will be fine!” How many times have we heard these words before? This is called toxic positivity and it seriously compromises our well being.

I am not a pessimist, in fact as an author of this article I strongly believe in the undeniable power of positivity. I do not question it's prowess nor doubt its influence and there’s nothing inherently wrong with positivity. In fact, it can be a force for good that helps motivate you for a brighter future. However it is also important that we acknowledge the fact that positivity can become dangerous when it’s insincere, forceful, or delegitimizes real feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, or hardship.

In this case, it’s not healthy positivity, it’s what I call tragic optimism...


I have a friend who would always maintain a positive outlook in life. He would always say that everything is fine and that we shouldn't worry about him. He believes that one should always be positive no matter the circumstances or no matter how difficult things might be. For years we admired him for that. I was envious of how he seems unfazed about his personal problems. He looked as if he is not bothered with all the stressors around him despite of how big his problems are. He was sort of my role model. He reminded me of Peter Pan when he said to only think about happy thoughts as he fly through the night sky with the lost boys of Neverland. But I soon realized the façade his hiding throughout the years of concealing a less pleasant or creditable reality.

When he denied or avoided expressing unpleasant emotions, he allowed these toxic feelings to get bigger. Neglecting negative emotions reinforces this idea: Because he avoided feeling them, he did not pay attention to them. He let himself trapped in this cycle, these emotions become bigger and more significant as they remain unprocessed. Soon I then realized that his so called "positivity approach" is simply unsustainable. He slowly lost his significant others and experienced financial problems as he goes deeper into debt.

Because of this " too positive" mindset he lost track of his finances, relationships and even his competence at work. His circumstances hit me and made me realize how scary toxic positivity is.

Toxic Positivity is Real and It's A Serious Threat to Your Well Being

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What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is the excessive and inappropriate overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all conditions. The whole facet of toxic positivity results in the denial, understating, and invalidation of the valid human experience. We know that anything done in excess may result in more harm than good and when positivity is used to conceal or reject the human experience, it becomes unhealthy. By negating and refusal of acknowledging the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions. We pretend that we are fine when the truth is, we are flawed. We get envious, sad, resentful, and greedy. Sometimes life is unfair and cruel. When we pretend to believe the notion of “positive vibes all day,” we deny the validity of a genuine human experience we should embrace.

Toxic positivity can take various forms: It can be one of your friends who scolds you for crying instead of smiling as you lost someone very dear to you . It can be a comment on your social media post to “always be happy” or “be grateful for what you have.” It can be a quote that tells you to “just change your mindset in life and to always be happy.” It can be your own feelings that you shouldn’t dwell too much on your negative emotions.

“The pressure to appear positive invalidates the varied scope of emotions we all experience.

Obvious Signs of Toxic Positivity

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Below are some common expressions and experiences of toxic positivity:

  1. Concealing your true emotions.
  2. Trying to “just get on with it” by suppressing certain feelings.
  3. Blaming oneself for feeling what you feel
  4. Rejecting other people’s difficult circumstances with “positivity” quotes or statements
  5. Trying to advise people like "be grateful it could be worse" instead of embracing their emotional experience
  6. Shaming others for expressing unpleasant feelings.

Overcoming Toxic Positivity

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Recognize your feelings , and embrace all your emotions, good or bad. Neglecting your feelings will only heightened the distress your currently experience. You and others are entitled to your own feelings. Don’t chastise another person for their emotions and how they cope with it. It’s really important to acknowledge that others may not cope with things the same way you do. If you’re overwhelmed and tired ,allow yourself to rest or do something imperfectly, free of guilt. Healthy positivity recognizes genuine emotions. Remember, what makes positivity unhealthy is that it rejects other authentic emotions. If the message is that positivity is the only or best way to go, then it may become complicated and problematic.

It is undeniably critical that we look out for both our physical and mental health for us to feel all our emotions. We risk worsening our affliction if we don't acknowledge it completely. Our emotions will eat us alive and eventually our body protests and we then get physically sick simply because we don't initially address this psychological concern. If we don't direct a psychological matter right away then we are putting ourselves on peril of choosing this monochromatic mindset.

While it may be favorable to try to look on the comforting prospect of things and finding the silver lining in all life circumstances, it’s also important to concede and attend to our feelings whether they are pleasant or displeasing. Validating and acknowledging our emotions as they come and go may lead us in understanding ourselves better and to those people important to us. In reality,no one can be little miss sunshine 24 hours a day because we are naturally flawed and that is already a part of our existence.

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References:

1.FYI, Being "Too Positive" Is An Actual Thing! It's Called Toxic Positivity, And It Seriously Compromises Our Well-Being
2. Toxic Positivity: Why Positive Vibes are Ruining You
3. ‘Toxic Positivity’ Is Real — and It’s a Big Problem During the Pandemic
4. Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes

Images:

1.,2.,3.,4.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

       @sakura1012 is an ambivert, a non-conformist, a clinical psychology graduate student, a proud feminist and a life traveler. She is currently a part time writer- a mental health advocate and a mental health professional. She promotes mental health awareness and psychology related topics through her blogs. Join her as she do the things that she loves by putting her thoughts into words and by raising her voice though her articles.
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“Don’t worry, everything will be fine!” How many times have we heard these words before?

And do not forget the "What could go wrong?" question. That is also very regular, yet it is mostly heard before something bad happens.

True, and then the cycle goes on. Too bad people forget about the dangers of toxic positivity and still clings on the idea that everything will be okay. We need to face reality and that reality says things are not within our control anymore and we need to do something.

This article about toxic positivity is very useful. Thank you for uploading it. It's true, sometimes people try to be wise about an event that has just happened to their friend. "It's okay, everything will be fine." Instead of embracing, from a critical angle, we can guess how we have buried the problem into an emotional residue that could explode like a ticking time bomb at any moment. On the one hand, we're actually being the easiest alternative with those ways, I mean, like advising someone who is having trouble with soothing sentences. This means that we actually don't want to be too bothered by other people's problems. Instead of embracing it emotionally, we run away in such cowardly ways.

True. I have always planned to write an article about tragic optimism, thats why I wrote this. Sometimes we need to acknowledge the fact that toxic positivity is real and people should stop romanticizing it because its no longer healthy.

It's nice, the ecosystem now has an active psychologist. We need more critical articles, related to habits that have been considered common, even positive on the one hand, but destructive on the other. Open the veil for us.

Yes I will and thanks for dropping by. :)

U're welcome.

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Thank you so much @hivebuzz

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