Toxic Positivity

Team IIBP Anveshan, Issue 4

Ms. Mount Sridhar

Embrace the Blues

You are calling a friend right after something bad happened. You seem to be broken,ost and worried. All you are looking for right now is some comforting words. But your friend responds to you with a“Oh stop worrying so much, others have it worse”,“ you are going to be fine, just be happy”“Don’t be so negative, it’s all in your head”. Ouch! Feels like this hurts a lot more than the problem itself, doesn’t it?We human beings, like to keep things simple. It makes us uncomfortable when things do not go as planned,and there is this intense urge to get things back to normal, as quick as we can.
By imposing an unrealistic tendency to be ‘happy for no reason’,we believe to put an end to this misery. Ahh, well! If only it was as simple as it sounds,we would all be on cloud nine!

In this era of ‘Good vibes Only’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’, perhaps we are all unknowingly succumbing to the pressure of having to paint that happy rosy picture about life. We only want to process what we think is good and easy, eliminating the flip side to this. This then brings us to the paradoxical term of ‘toxic positivity’.

Toxic positivity refers to the idea of holding unrealistic optimism. It is the tendency to exaggerate the bright or the less negative end of the spectrum, while undermining the effect of the negative experiences under any circumstance.

Yes, this is when being positive is no longer healthy, on the contrary, it becomes harmful.

Why are we doing this?

With us being glued to various social media platforms, we get excess unsolicited motivation. We constantly receive messages of how we need to be unreasonably happy,because apparently that is hat everyone else does. We tend to self sabotage while trying to put on the ‘ It’s okay, I’m alright’ face. When it comes to dealing with negative emotions, we were all taught to hide our heads in the sand. So when a friend talks to us about something that is bothering them, we do not know how to respond. We then make a miserable attempt to solve all their problems at once, and call the superman in us to our rescue. He wraps us in a warm cozy blanket of unrealistic positivity, and all we say is, “everything is okay, just stay calm”, “It’s alright, just leave it”

How is it a problem? While consciously maintaining a positive self talk, and having an optimistic approach to life undoubtedly has its own benefits, anything in excess is poison and showering excess positivity is no exception.

It sometimes does force us to mask our true thoughts and emotions. When telling someone, “ to just be positive”,“it’s not so bad” we unknowingly invalidate their emotions and belittle how they feel. This makes them feel guilty and ashamed for expressing their emotions. The person then forcefully goes into a cave where they try suppressing their negative emotions, making it seem like they never existed. Dismissing these painful feelings comes right back to you like a boomerang. At the same time, giving them false hope with a statement like “it’s definitely going to be okay” just temporarily waives off the problem, but doesn’t really help.

What can we do?

Here are some rules of thumb for a healthy communication –

● LISTEN to what the other person has to say, do not jump to conclusions or solutions. Sometimes all they want is a went out space.

●UNDERSTAND what they are going through from their perspective and try to be empathetic. Do not overgeneralize every situation.

● ACKNOWLEDGE negative emotions. Be mindful of these feelings.

● VALIDATE and respect the thoughts, feelings of another person. Accept them just as they are.

● AVOID toxic statements of positivity, rather try to instill a realistic sense of hope.

● CONFRONT the sadness, stress, pain. Address them using healthy coping strategies and do not push them away.

Ms.Mouna Sridhar is a trainee Counsellor, currently pursuing her Masters. she is interesting in working with families in the near future and look forward to unraveling the maze of life together!