Toxic Positivity

The Trap of Toxic Positivity

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Who would have thought the word ‘positive’ in itself would have ‘toxic’ as a prefix?

(major eye roll, right?

What went wrong in the course of preaching positivity that we have to discuss about the toxic side of it today? When did it start becoming a burden to be positive? 

The concept might be confusing to grasp as the line is really fine, but toxic positivity is real!  

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic Positivity is the dreaded cousin of positivity who is found sitting in corners in a family function. Hidden most of the time, hence people have not directly met him. But as soon as you start explaining the appearance, everybody seems to recognise him.

The concept of “good vibes only” appears to be harmless and well-intentioned most of the time. That’s exactly what it is at its essence. However, it ignores any emotions that are unpleasant in any way. Those feelings, on the other hand, must frequently be confronted. It’s time to unpack them. People who are experiencing certain emotions may require assistance in order to cope.

Consider a period when you were disappointed or shocked emotionally – possibly a job loss, a family member’s illness, an accident, a breakup, or life-altering terrible news.

Remember your frustration, hurt, grief, anxiety, fear, or worry.

Do you recall a well-intentioned friend or family member trying to cheer you up with optimism and hope?

Hearing “Just Relax” after an outburst enrages us more than anything else.

It’s worth noting that positivity isn’t good if it dismisses, invalidates, or reduces genuine human feelings.

When people feel shamed, guilty, or dismissed for feeling a certain way, optimism isn’t helpful.

Hope is useless if it ignores the gravity of a situation or does not allow for the natural rise and fall of emotions.

Stoicism is neither brave or courageous if it encourages you to suppress your own feelings and be inauthentic and incongruent with your true feelings.

When your experience is marginalised by your perspective, it is not helpful.

According to the study in the book There’s No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love:

“Unbridled positivity in an experience of failure or distress makes people feel worse, not better.”

It turns out that “too much of a good thing” might be harmful in the case of positivity.

Toxic positivity is defined as the overgeneralization and fostering of pleasant sentiments in all areas.

You might wonder how positivity can be toxic. Positive thinking has its time and place, yet when used inappropriately or in the wrong situation, it may be deadly. Everything should be done in moderation.

What Toxic Positivity is Not?

It’s just as mentally draining to be cheerful all of the time as it is to be miserable. Coming home after a long day and being advised to smile and think about all the beautiful things in life is not soothing, regardless of your intentions.

Toxic positivity isn’t the same as real encouragement when it comes at the proper time. Toxic positivity is the belief that one should always retain a positive outlook and express only positive emotions and thoughts, even when things are challenging. This attitude is harmful because it belittles and dismisses negative feelings.

Toxic positivity can be described as rejecting, denying, or displacing “any acknowledgement of stress, negativity, and possible disabling features of trauma” (Sokal, Trudel, & Babb, 2020).

Furthermore, toxic positivity is defined by Satrio Pamungkas, Yudani, and Wirawan (2020) as the persistent encouragement and excessive inclination to only perceive the positive side of things while failing to recognise the emotion that comes with the experience.

Again, we’re not suggesting that you should be upset all of the time, but when something terrible happens, you should be permitted to lie down and cry or scream into your pillow. Humans get negative feelings for a reason. It’s the body’s way of expressing its dissatisfaction. It is telling someone to disregard them that causes depression and even suicide.

Being depressed is not the same as being sad; it is the same as being numb. You’ve been told to keep all of your worries in your head for so long that you can’t feel anything. This is why it’s critical for us as a society to understand the difference between toxic positivity and positive psychology.

Life can be difficult, and disappointments and difficulties are unavoidable. There have been studies to bring focus on positive psychology. It moves the scientific perspective from a focus on stress, disorder, and dysfunction to a focus on well-being, health, and optimal functioning. If you learn to focus on positive emotions, you might like to read Positive Psychology in Everyday Life – xMonks

You might either be afflicted by toxic positivity or be the one who inflicts it on others. We’ll explore both categories, as well as symptoms and strategies for better understanding and dealing with them.

Signs You Are Affected With Toxic Positivity

How can you know whether you have a case of toxic positivity? Here are some obvious signals that it’s time to rethink your positive approach and make sure that all of your emotions are acceptable and even appreciated.

  1. You Hide Your Real Feelings

We’re all guilty of masking our feelings, but when it becomes a habit, problems can occur.

Hiding your genuine sentiments, whether in connection with your partner, family, or even just yourself, is usually a protective tendency. When someone you care about does something that annoys you, for example, you may opt to suppress your annoyance in order to protect them and your relationship.

Learning to embrace all emotions, positive and negative, might be difficult for some individuals, but releasing them in healthy ways with people you trust will help you move forward and rediscover those great moments.

  1. You Reject All Negative Feelings

When people suppress their emotions, they become stronger over time, wreaking havoc on both their bodies and minds. This can take the shape of alcohol or drug addiction, overworking, a strained relationship with food, or other interpersonal issues.

Finding healthy coping mechanisms that allow you to move through those feelings and their origins is the best way to go. This could include anything from exercise to meditation to talking with a trusted friend or seeing a doctor.

  1. You Feel Responsible For Feeling Sad or Angry

When you encounter someone who is in a worse situation than you, it’s difficult not to feel guilty about being sad, angry, depressed, or any other bad feeling. It happens to everyone from time to time, but if you’re continuously feeling guilty about having these feelings, it’s an indication of toxic positivity.

We all face problems and experience a range of emotions. Whatever you’re feeling, whenever you’re feeling it, it’s completely valid, and it’s just another obstacle to overcome in life. It’s critical not to feel guilty when these negative feelings develop so that you can work through and overcome them completely.

  1. You Hide Yourself Behind Positive Quotes And Sayings

Do you find yourself hiding behind a slew of positive affirmations such as “Always look on the bright side” or “Think happy thoughts”?

Not only is this reinforcing toxic positivity on yourself, but if you share these phrases on social media or tell them to your friends, you’re also making their negative sentiments obsolete.

Instead of reciting these quotes whenever a loved one is sad, try asking questions like “How can I help?” or “Are you okay?” You can use statements like “I’m here for you” and “We’ll figure it out someday” to express your support.

You may not be an expert on what they’re going through, but you can sympathise and listen to give support.

  1. You Need To Look Happy

When you’re among other people, do you always put on a pleasant face? You’re probably terrified of being seen as anything other than a shining beacon of happiness.

For a variety of reasons, people may not want to be regarded as unhappy. This could be to avoid burdening people with their unpleasant emotions, to protect themselves from vulnerability, to safeguard their relationships, or to keep up the appearance of a perfect life.

The sooner you understand that no life is flawless, the sooner you’ll be free of the pressure to live up to an unattainable standard.

  1. You Correct People Who Are Negative 

When your buddies are depressed, it can affect your mood as well, but that’s never a justification to lash out at them for their feelings. For some people, especially those who are dealing with mental health difficulties like depression or anxiety, it can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude.

 

By chastising them for their lack of happy emotions, you’re ignoring their bad ones, which are an unavoidable part of life.

When you don’t feel comfortable aiding or can’t provide what they require, the best thing you can do is listen when you can and advise professional help.

  1. You Tell Your Friends To Look For The Silver Lining

No, one should not delve into possibilities that things could be worse, but there’s no necessity to remind your buddies of this when they’re depressed. This statement invalidates their feelings and makes them feel guilty because others have it worse.

The truth is that everyone deals with problems in their own unique way. If two persons are involved in a traumatic event, it is possible that both of them will be affected, neither of them will be affected, or one of them may be affected but not the other. You can sympathise, but you can never completely understand what another person is going through.

  1. You Are in Denial About Negativity

Negative feelings are based on the fact that something is making us feel unhappy. When we don’t feel well, it’s simple to place the blame on the negative feelings that are causing us to be unhappy.

However, by doing so, you’re merely adding to your sentiments of rage and bewilderment. It’s essential to remember that while we may not always understand why we’re feeling low, and it can happen even in the greatest of circumstances, finding ways to work through the feelings and release them in healthy ways is the quickest way to get back to feeling your best.

  1. You are Always the Resilient Soldier

People who suffer from toxic positivity have a hard time stopping to realise how they’re feeling and instead prefer to “just get on with it.” There is a risk of developing unhealthy habits that are deep down coping mechanisms, such as work addiction, alcoholism, or other harmful behaviours if you do so.

Resilience is a valuable skill, but it requires people to fully recover from their problems or emotions rather than storing them for later. Not only is this going to blow up, but you’re also going to start suppressing emotions if they aren’t pleasant.

Signs You are Being Toxic Positive

Pause. Do you find yourself frequently saying these phrases? Then you may be a toxic positive sadly.

“It could be a lot worse…”

Just because something is relative doesn’t mean it can’t bring pain and suffering.

“Keep a positive attitude!”

This is not something everyone can do, because it invalidates someone’s sentiments.

“Happiness is a state of mind.”

It is often not someone’s choice to have negative feelings or to have something awful happen to them.

“Everything happens for a reason.” 

This is meant to comfort, and it aims to lessen and prevent the pain that is felt.

“Only good vibes!”

This makes it seem as if having unpleasant feelings isn’t an option, even though it is.

“You’ll get over it.” 

Everyone’s mental path is unique, and this does not invalidate current suffering.

Do you feel you are the toxic positive one in your circle?

You may come out as dishonest or uncaring if you provide similar words of positivity when your friend desperately needs empathy and compassion.

What You Can Do Instead of Being Toxic Positive

  • Empathise With Them

Empathy is the core of any connection, and we must meet people where they are emotionally.

Having a “positive vibes only” motto all of the time devalues people’s feelings and conveys a rejection message, which can be damaging to relationships.

Why do we sometimes use toxic positivity as a coping mechanism? Because there are instances when we simply do not have the correct words to speak to someone who is experiencing an unpleasant emotion.

We may avoid being a toxic positive by changing the language you use. Refrain from using statements like “it could be worse” and “be grateful for what you have” sparingly. While these optimistic mantras may appear to be beneficial in creating a happy outlook, they can also be destructive if used at the wrong time or for the wrong situation.

  • Acknowledge and Validate Emotions and Feelings

Most of us want and need for their feelings to be acknowledged and validated. Everyone wants to be heard and noticed. We don’t want someone telling us how to feel or how it ‘isn’t that horrible’.

However, You Must First Acknowledge Your Own.

When you don’t confront your feelings, they will always come back to haunt you.

The body exposes what the mind conceals.

Emotions and feelings don’t just go away whether you try to hide, push down, or ignore them. They have a profound effect on you. 

You must recognise and appreciate your feelings. It’s okay to be angry, exhausted, worried, or frustrated if you’re not feeling well. Feeling your emotions gives you a sense of release and keeps those sentiments from consuming away at you beneath the surface.

  • Make Space for Non-Toxic Validation

Sometimes, all it takes is a change in what we say. Toxic positive people blurt out words that do not validate emotions. Start practicing these non-toxic phrases.

  • “Describe what you’re feeling, I’m listening.”
  • “I see that you’re really stressed, anything I can do?”
  • “Failure is a part of growth and success.”
  • “This is really hard. You’re in my thoughts.”
  • “I’m here for you, for both good and bad.”
  • “Everyone’s story, abilities, limitations are different, and that’s okay.”
  • “Suffering is a part of life, you are not alone.”
  • “I see you. I’m here for you.”
  • “Sometimes we can draw the short straw in life. How can I support you during this hard time?”
  • “That sucks. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”
  • “What can I do to make it less stressful for you?”
  • “This is tough; can I do anything?”
  • “It must be hard. Tell me about it.”
  • “It’s so hard to see the good in this situation, but we’ll make sense of it when we can.”
  • “Do you want to talk about it?”
  • “I know things can get really tough. I’m here for you.”

Instead of pushing them away, you should validate their sentiments. This enables a person to first accept their unhappiness, then analyse it, and then seek help. If they are told to disregard their difficulties, they will not be able to go through this healthy process.

  • Reach for the Next Best Emotion

Most people use an emotional frequency spectrum theory in many spiritual fields, ranging from shame at the bottom to enlightenment at the top. Many spiritual instructors encourage people to seek out the “next best emotion” or to jump to the next comforting emotion.

When you’re experiencing fear, it’s difficult to shift from that frequency to one of delight just because someone offers perspective or positivity. You can instead work your way up the corporate ladder. You can progress from fear to bravery, acceptance, and finally love, joy, and peace if you can move from fear to courage.

So, don’t anticipate going from unhappy to happy in one easy step while you’re helping someone or yourself. It’s beneficial to take small steps up the emotional ladder; as long as you’re progressing, you’re on the right track.

  • Give An Ear To Listen

When someone we care about is in pain, all we want is to help them feel better.

Negative feelings make us uncomfortable, therefore we wish to get rid of them. You want to do something, anything, to cheer them up. Keep in mind, just listen.

Listening is an important skill to validate emotions. Listen to learn more about what’s going on. Allow them to openly share without fear of being judged, criticised, or shamed.

You can fully comprehend how someone feels about a problem if you take the time to listen. And you’ll be better prepared to reply when the moment and place are right if you actually grasp how they feel.

  • Just Be There and Validate Emotions

Most of the time, people only say those things because we don’t know what else to do, we often reply with inappropriate positivism or optimism.

Both hope and pain are real. When someone is in pain, they frequently do not require or desire anything from you. They just want to know you’re there for them, whether they’re happy or sad, in good times or bad.

Kindness is key. Be considerate of others. Validate their feelings. Make them aware that you are there for them.

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Dealing with life might be a lot more difficult than some people believe. You might think your child isn’t sleeping because they’re on the phone, but they could care less if they pass out from weariness. It may appear gruesome, yet it is accurate. You are undermining their emotional experience by doing things like this.

We’ve all learnt a lot about toxic positivity by now. 

So, the next time you see someone in need, consider how you can help. Stop ignoring emotions, accept that being sad or angry is normal. Don’t make snap judgments about others. Validate emotions and emotional outbursts. Understand that directing someone to stop worrying isn’t an efficient coping method. 

Most importantly, accept that negativity isn’t always the enemy. Stay tuned to this page we will talk about healthy negativity in future too.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is toxic positivity?

Toxic Positivity is defined as the overgeneralization and fostering of positive sentiments in all areas.

What are the signs of being affected by toxic positivity?

Here are a few classic symptoms of toxic positivity that it’s time to reevaluate your optimistic attitude and make sure that all of your feelings are acceptable and even encouraged.

You keep your true feelings hidden.

You reject all negative feelings because you believe you are to blame for being Sad Or Angry.

You hide behind positive quotes and sayings in order to appear happy.

How can we validate emotions of others?

Listening is an important skill to validate emotions. Listen to learn more about what’s going on. Allow people to openly share without fear of being judged, criticised, or shamed.

How to not be toxic positive?

There are signs that show when one is becoming a toxic positive person. If you find yourself saying these phrases then you need to stop right now.

“It could be a lot worse…”

“Keep a positive attitude!”

“Happiness is a state of mind.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Why do we feel negative feelings?

Humans get negative feelings for a reason. It’s the body’s way of expressing its dissatisfaction. It is telling someone to disregard them that causes depression and even suicide.

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