Toxic positivity is a relatively new term but most definitely not an uncommon concept. This “good vibes only” approach, is a type of coping mechanism, wherein people pretend like everything is perfectly fine and invalidate their obviously distressing feelings.
Saying things like “everything happens for a reason” and “look on the bright side”, they suppress any negative emotions and refuse to address negative experiences. Ignoring reality seems like a good option in the short-run but all those bundled up emotions eventually escalate and cause long-term repercussions.
Take the COVID-19 Pandemic. All we hear is bad news – families losing jobs, the economy falling, people falling sick and dying. We’ve all wanted to cut ourselves from reality and live in our own happy world. Although this comes with good intentions, it only makes things worse in the long run. Such thoughts get toxic when we become dismissive of our inevitable sadness. Of course, being grateful for what we have is imperative during such times. But so is taking care of our mental health, and that includes acknowledging all our emotions, even the pessimistic ones.
We don’t realise how we say such things, not only to ourselves, but also to others. When consoling a friend, saying something like “there are people suffering more” is the worst thing you could do. It not only invalidates their feelings, making them feel worse, but also dismisses the idea of actually helping them resolve the issue. These micro aggressive comments can aggravate situations and ruin relationships altogether.
The difference between positivity and toxic positivity is the ‘solution-focused’ approach. Positivity involves addressing the negative, and attempting to find an effective solution to improve it. Hence, solution-focused. Toxic positivity, on the other hand, negates true human emotions and considers being “just happy” the better option. It is an inauthentic and inconsiderate thought-process.
How does one overcome this? It is important to recognize that regardless of how positive we try to be, at the end of the day, we’re all human. We are bound to react to different situations in different ways. Negative emotions are natural and it is important to acknowledge it, both with yourself and others, and try to find a solution. Bad days are there to remind us that we have good ones to look forward to.