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So many of us have come across a situation where we are sharing our sorrows and problems with a confidant, and they end up responding with a generic positive statement such as – “Have gratitude for everything you have. It will get better.”
The confidant or friend with whom you are sharing your miseries, troubles, and unhappiness, is not really listening and understanding what you are trying to convey. Such a person, is in fact, urging you to bottle up your negative emotions, and somehow miraculously get past them. This behaviour is called toxic positivity, and it can seriously impact the mental health of the person trying to share their feelings and thoughts with a person indulging in toxic positivity.
This behaviour is based on an all or nothing attitude. Either a person can feel good or bad, and there is no room for rumination or scope for experiencing complex emotional states.
Toxic positivity operates on extremes that only happy or positive emotions are acceptable, and a positive attitude will help solve all of life’s miseries and troubles. A person indulging in such behaviour is discarding the feelings of the other person, by imposing a false sense of manufactured positivity, that could be applied to all aspects of life.
Although positive affirmations are known to be helpful with improving mental health and self-esteem, a constant denial of negative emotions is not a healthy way to lead life. People who impose their toxic positivity on their friends and closed ones, end up denying them the experience of fully getting abreast with their issues, and discourage them to utter or think bad or negative emotions.
“I am just trying to motivate you, how bad can that possibly be?”
This is a common sentiment across people who exhibit traits of toxic positivity. Such an attitude is detrimental to the emotional health of people who are looking to talk about their issues:
Confusion and aloofness: It is almost confounding how certain people just ignore the feelings and thoughts of others and label them into ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘acceptable’, and ‘unacceptable’. Imagine that you are seeking help from a doctor for a wound on your knees, and convey your pain. The doctor, instead of listening to you and providing an ointment, ends up telling you that talking about the knee pain is ‘bad’, and how breathing exercises can help you feel better.
This is the degree of confusion, invalidation, and aloofness one may feel when talking to a person who is constantly projecting positivity as the ultimate solution to all problems.
Self-judgement and disillusionment: The need to suppress unpleasant feelings, grief, anger, and sadness, can be really high for people who end up believing the notion of toxic positivity. Such people may end up feeling even worse, as they could judge themselves for experiencing a ‘bad’ feeling in the first place. They may also start questioning their functionality and positivity as a person.
This compounds negative emotions, causing a person to lie to themselves about their true emotional state, aggravating their disillusionment, anger, and sadness.