Most of us have experienced a dose of toxic positivity at one time or another. It tends to happen in the most vulnerable moments when we're feeling down or worried, reach out to a friend or family member for comfort and instead get a message like this: think positive or it could be worse.
If you find experiences like these disheartening, you're not alone. While the person telling you chin-up usually means well, the result can be jarring. It's also possible that the person doling out the advice just isn't comfortable with harder emotions and so their forced silver-lining-attitude is really an attempt at prioritizing their own feelings over your experience.
In truth, pushing someone to think positively when they are feeling anything but, invalidates their experience. At best it can feel tone deaf and at worst it is a form of gas lighting leaving the person receiving the feedback doubting their own experience.
A common scenario these days is based on feelings related to the pandemic. I'll often hear clients recount stories of sharing their grief or anxiety with someone and being received with "at least you're healthy" or "at least you have a job."
In session, I support clients to unpack their experience more thoroughly, as well as relationship dynamics, but for the purposes of this post I'll say that yes, it may be true that someone is healthy and employed and there is plenty of room for gratitude there. At the same time, it may also be true that they are struggling with isolation, grief and worry about so many other aspects of the pandemic. Both can be true and one experience does not nullify the other.
So, what to do when faced with the toxicity? Well, first recognize it for what it is.
Pain, anger, sadness, grief, worry and the like are all part of the human experience. It is normal and healthy to experience these feelings. Please know that.
After noting the dynamic that's taking shape you have the option of either naming it to the other person and making a request OR you can remove yourself from the situation if that feels better to you. The priority is to tend to your emotional injury.
Next, consider seeking healthy support from a source you know to be emotionally safe - whether a family member, community leader or psychotherapist. Reparative experience (i.e. someone who listens, validates and attunes to you) is essential in the emotional healing process.
If you’re need of support please feel free to reach out here! And to learn more about my approach to supporting women and girls you can visit my Web site here.
Till next time wishing you health & ease,