What is toxic positivity?

Hello dears, since I am interested in psychology, especially Jungian theories, this blog is also dedicated to the same field.

As you may know from previous blogs, I had workshops about woman’s archetypes based on Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book and Jungian theories. We finished this series of workshops, I had 2 participants, who discovered that they had minimum 3 well-expressed archetypes at the moment in their character. It is absolutely normal and according to the author, best way to balance archetypical interventions.

Today I will provide you some information about very popular approach in society, that person have to be positive and thankful always and in every situation. Yes, cultivating a positive mindset is a powerful coping mechanism, especially in tough times. But positivity needs to be rooted in reality for it to be healthy and helpful. Upon expressing disappointment or sadness, someone may respond that “happiness is a choice.” This suggests that if someone is feeling negative emotions, it’s their own fault for not “choosing” to be happy.

First, it’s helpful to understand what toxic positivity is.  According to Tabitha Kirkland, a psychologist and associate teaching professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Psychology, it’s important to recognize that positivity is two different but related things: Our internal emotions and the emotions we project to others.  “It’s a belief that no matter how painful a situation is or how difficult, an individual should maintain positivity and change their outlook to be happy or grateful,” licensed psychotherapist Babita Spinelli, L.P., J.D.

“Toxic positivity is a way of responding to your own or someone else’s suffering that comes across as a lack of empathy. It dismisses emotions instead of affirming them and could come from a place of discomfort,” she explains.

Toxic positivity usually isn’t intended to cause harm. Often, it happens in situations when we want to help but don’t know what to say, for example, if a friend reveals they received a difficult diagnosis. 

“With toxic positivity, we want to make someone feel better, but it doesn’t typically have the desired effect; it shuts the other person up,” says Kirkland.

Toxic positivity is an obsession with positive thinking. It is the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic.

One of the most said phrase “it could be worse”.

Why is it dangerous and harmful?

  • It’s shaming: Receiving toxic positivity can lead to feelings of shame. It tells people that the emotions they are feeling are unacceptable.
  • Ignoring real harm – Optimism, hope, and forgiveness increased the risk of people staying with their abusers and being subject to escalating abuse.
  • Demeaning a loss – that makes people feel that their loss, their problem and existence is not important
  • Isolation and stigma: People who feel pressure to smile in the face of adversity may be less likely to seek support.
  • Communication issues – once you bomb someone with toxic positivity, they will never be frankly with you again, and you lost trust.
  • Low self-esteem: Everyone experiences negative emotions sometimes. Toxic positivity encourages people to ignore their negative emotions, even though stifling them can make them feel even more powerful. When a person is unable to feel positive, they may feel as though they are failing.

How to avoid being toxic positive?

Focus on listening to others and showing support. When someone expresses a difficult emotion, don’t shut them down with toxic positivity. Instead, let them know that what they are feeling is normal and you are there to listen. avoiding trying to have a positive response to everything a person says.

Non-Toxic Alternative phrases:

  • I’m listening.
  • That must be really hard.
  • Sometimes bad things happen.
  • Failure is sometimes part of life.
  • Your feelings are valid.

Coping With Toxic Positivity

If someone you know has a tendency to respond to your negative feelings with statements that aren’t supportive or emotionally validating, ways to deal with a toxic positivity person include:

  • Be realistic about what you feel.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge the person being toxically positive. While challenging this type of response can be uncomfortable, confronting the person’s approach provides them the opportunity to grow.
  • Notice how you feel and express
  • These feelings are real, valid, and important. They can also provide information and help you see things about a situation that you need to work to change.

At the end of the day, it’s really all about balance. Balance between positivity and being honest with yourself; gratitude and grief; and finding the silver lining without rushing the healing necessary when we’re hurting. Being able to stay positive in times of trouble is great and can help with resilience, but the truth is, processing and integrating tough emotions builds resilience, too.




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