Toxic Positivity: The Solution


a vial of medicine

Most likely, you are one of the millions locked in lockdown limbo. No matter how optimistic you were, there was no way out. We all struggled to find our way through an endless wait.

Negativity made matters worse. Positive Instagram posts have been shared over 100 million times.

Your boss set up another Zoom call. You have a job. Do your children interrupt you while you work remotely? Spend more time with your loved ones. Are you feeling anxious or lost? You are still healthy.

It is okay to see the positive in all things. Contrary. The problem is that we end up constantly wearing a positive mask. To appear positive, we end up bottling up our genuine emotions.

Toxic positivity is a false belief that one should only feel “good” or happy emotions. This belief is based upon the idea that positive thinking will solve all our problems, including mental health issues.

Jaime Zuckerman, a psychologist and clinical psychologist, defines toxic positivity as society’s assumption that we should be positive.

Zuckerman states that people who don’t have a positive outlook or focus on the positive feel like they can’t achieve happiness and cannot express their emotions. A global pandemic is causing collective trauma. It is uncertain, anxiety-provoking, and often grief-inducing.

The Dark Side of Positivity

It’s essential to keep your thoughts positive. Negative emotions shouldn’t be suppressed. Although feelings can mask symptoms, they should not be hidden. They will not disappear if you don’t express your feelings.

Carl Jung, a Psychologist, said it best: “Whatever resistance you have will not only continue but also grow in volume.”

The expectation that you will “stay positive” when in crisis can make you feel worse and force you to suppress your emotions. Instead of seeking help and support, you pretend everything is fine.
An unhealthy positive outlook can lead to guilt and shame.

Tallia Deljou is a coach in positive psychology and explains that toxic positivity refers to when we ignore or minimize the whole human experience in terms of emotions and what we can feel.

Toxic positivity believes only positive outlooks are worth having. You can either cheer everyone on or drag them down. Exercising too much positivity can lead to you only expressing the emotions that others will accept.

Studies have shown that depression, sadness, and unhappiness can be caused by emotional suppression. Isolation is another essential factor.

Brene Brown’s research shows shame can be fuelled by silence, secrecy, and judgment. When we try to control our emotions, shame is often the cause. Worst? Worst part? Shame can be a crippling emotion that can impact the human spirit.

It is dangerous to think of emotions as mutually exclusive. Everyone experiences different feelings daily, and multiple emotions can be experienced simultaneously. Multilayered emotions are standard. You can feel sadness, grief, and even hope simultaneously.

Negative thinking can lead to depression and low self-esteem. Instead of working hard, we rely on magical thinking to achieve our goals. It is possible to make a difference by using positive thinking.

Toxic Positivity: The Solution

You must learn to control your emotions to overcome toxic positivity.

Sue Varma, a psychologist, recommends that you have somewhere to keep your emotions safe. You could use a journal or even a hobby to help you acknowledge your feelings. We must allow our emotions to flow without judgment.

There are three types of emotional regulation.

1. You can feel the emotion and not suppress it. Suppression can cause the opposite result. Instead of focusing on positive emotions, we see them as unfavorable.

2. Acceptance of emotions. This is a better way to deal with emotions. This allows us to become more aware of our feelings and not react to them.

3. To be able to change your emotions, you must first recognize the patterns in them. Cognitive can also be used to describe emotional reappraisal. You can reduce your feelings by understanding them.

A cognitive appraisal can be used to combat toxic positivity. How you deal with emotions will determine your ability to feel more satisfied.

Susan David, the author of Emotional Agility, recommends that you be present. Be open-minded and courageous in how you feel and behave instead of trying to avoid difficult emotions.

Is there a reason for this feeling? What is it trying to tell me?

Emotional Agility is the ability to manage life’s challenges with self-acceptance, clarity, and confidence. Reframe your story with courage, compassion, and understanding.

People who can accept all emotions without judgment and practice unconditional self-acceptance are less likely to feel depressed.

When someone asks for your help, change the language. Instead of trying to place an emotional label on someone else, offer validation and hope.

Use the table below to reframe emotions. This is an example:

Instead of saying: “Think positively.”

Refocusing your emotions can help you breathe easier and feel better. Positive attitudes are acceptable. Toxic positivity means trying to make yourself happy, even when you feel down. Instead of suppressing emotions, embrace them.


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