The Horror Of Toxic Positivity:
Positivity feels great. Trust me, I am a positive guy. I believe in finding the silver lining even in the worst situations and looking at the brighter side of life. But does that make the dark side disappear?
Can avoiding the darker side of life bring a lot more darkness? Can positive thinking be a bad thing? Is there such a thing as too much positivity?
There are a lot of things in life, simple and little things, that can make us feel positive and happy. From a good book and warm cup of coffee to spending time with your friends and even getting a good sleep on a Sunday morning. Positive vibes and energy make us feel better about ourselves and help us navigate through the ups and downs of life.
But when you focus on “Good vibes only” and “No drama”, then ironically it can lead to negative vibes and a lot of drama. Happiness is a great thing to pursue, but when you try too hard it can become pretty harmful. And that’s when your positivity turns toxic.
When positivity turns dark
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton
We have all seen those cringy “not here for negativity” and “positive vibes only” posts on Instagram. It can certainly be motivational to some extent and help people develop a much needed positive mindset. But fake positivity can limit us from experiencing our wide range of emotions – good, bad and ugly. What we need to realize is that positive thinking doesn’t necessarily lead to positive action. It is only by truly acknowledging our real emotions, whether happiness or depression, we can grow, evolve and experience happiness as it is meant to be.
Imagine what telling a person with clinical depression to look at only the positive things in life and ignore all feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression can do to him. It can make him feel that as he is unable to feel naturally happy, that there is something wrong with him. He will start feeling ashamed and blame himself for struggling with depression. He will become more withdrawn and isolated and fall into further depression.
Now imagine the same person acknowledging all his emotions, reflecting on them, and being tuned in to the true experiences of being a human. Once he realizes what emotions he is going through, he will be better able to seek help, go for therapy and start to rebuild his life. Understanding all your emotions and thoughts makes you self-aware which leads to self-development practices and habits.
Avoiding your difficult emotions and looking only at the positive and brighter side of life is actually more harmful and pushes you further into the darkness that you wanted to avoid in the first place. Having said that, I am not against positivity. As I said, I am a highly positive person. But too much of fake positivity and superficial ‘self-love’ can make you confuse ‘being positive’ with ‘toxic positivity’.
What is toxic positivity?
“Even the most beautiful things can be toxic.” – Jodi Picoult
When you only focus on being positive and staying positive in your life, then it becomes toxic positivity. It can be defined as ineffective and extreme overgeneralization of an optimistic, happy and positive state of mind in any given situation. Toxic positivity leads to minimization, denial and even invalidation of the real human experience on an emotional and mental level. It is when you focus only on positive thinking and avoiding any and all negative emotions.
Just like everything else in life, too much of anything is not good. The same goes with positivity. When you abuse positivity to silence those emotions you are actually feeling inside, you’re doing more harm than good. By unacknowledging certain difficult emotions, we are repressing those feelings and making them bigger. We, as humans, are not meant to be perfect. We feel sad, stressed, anxious, resentful, angry, greedy and jealous. This is how we are designed.
When you pretend to have “good vibes only”, you are denying yourself the authentic human experience. The unprocessed emotions that you deny to feel keep getting bigger as you look the other way. But the problem is this process is unsustainable. Sooner or later, you will crack and experience a rush of uncontrollable, unpleasant emotions.