Psychology.

The Dangers Of Toxic Positivity.

Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

“Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time.” — Voltaire.

Toxic positivity is the effect of a generation of people who were told to think happy thoughts, stay positive, good vibes only, don’t be a negative Nelly, keep smiling, and chin up.

When we avoid the thoughts, feelings, people, and events we don’t like, we prevent learning opportunities. Denying negativity makes it very difficult to process the information needed for growth.

“… including having a greater appreciation of one’s life and relationships, as well as increased compassion, altruism, purpose, utilization of personal strengths, spiritual development, and creativity.” — Scott Barry Kaufman.

Toxic positivity invalidates negative feelings. When you consistently invalidate your emotions, you risk losing control over them. Repressed emotions build up and return stronger and more often until they’re processed.

Positive statements are normally made with good intentions, though their effects are often negative. Consider telling someone in chronic pain or suffering the loss of a close friend to think happy thoughts, it’s not only cold and uncaring, but it shuts down the conversation altogether.

People already in crisis are likely to ruminate over painful conversations and too much toxic positivity and invalidation can lead to depression and anxiety.

Rhonda Collins reminds nurse leaders to be mindful of toxic positivity in their responses to uncomfortable and negative situations and emotions. Collins suggests four strategies for avoiding toxic positivity as a leader:

  1. Don’t rush into finding a solution; allow people to vent.
  2. Listen without giving false reassurances.
  3. Avoid getting frustrated or defensive when clarifying your decisions.
  4. Work with staff to come up with solutions.

Susan Cain also questions the tyranny of positivity and reveals the value of negative emotions for strengthening relationships in her book, “ Bittersweet: How sorrow and longing make us whole.

If you find yourself invalidating your feelings or the feelings of others with toxic positivity, remember how important it is to work with and through those emotions to truly make progress.

Thanks for reading.❤

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BA(psych), GradDipArtsPsy(student), DipHlthSc(NatNut)|Parenting, personality disorders & trauma.