“You’ll get over it!” “Others have it worse, so be grateful!” “Stay positive!” “No bad vibes.”
Sometimes, we rejoice when we hear these phrases. Words shelter us in a warm blanket of comfort. Other times, such phrases invalidate our pain, tearing the same blanket from around us and leaving us cold.
Toxic positivity on the surface is a beautiful, crystalline pool of water. Underneath the surface, however, it spreads out for miles and engulfs anything in its path, like a toxic current. These phrases ask the person suffering to suppress their emotions and to dismiss feelings.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, toxic positivity is a mindset that pushes staying positive at “all costs.” While its intentions aren’t bad, the mindset lacks empathy and compassion because it fails to listen and feel.
Positivity, the Canadian Mental Health Association wrote, becomes toxic when you dismiss any emotion that isn’t positive, feel guilt for experiencing sadness and only focus on positive aspects of a painful event.
When someone breaks an arm, you don’t tell them to shake it off! When someone feels sadness or anger, we also shouldn’t expect them to “stay positive” because someone else feels worse. Here’s how to say no to toxic positivity!
When venting to friends or family, tell them exactly what you want from a conversation. Some individuals might want to comment on the situation, offer advice or comfort you. The point is you never know how someone may react, so offer them a rubric.
If you want advice, say that! If you want a hug, voice that too. There’s nothing better than communicating your needs.
Mindfulness occurs when a person listens to their body, emotions and mind. Ways to practice mindfulness include journaling about your day or grounding yourself. When you journal, you write about emotions and spill your mind out onto a blank piece of paper, releasing frustration.
Ground yourself through using your five senses. Acknowledge five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. In doing so, you’re back in the present moment and focused on yourself.
Emotions are normal!
In order to accept emotions, we have to understand where emotions come from. According to Psychology Today, emotions helped us survive when we lived in the wild. Fear, sadness and anger all alert us to a threat and allow us to react to stimuli. When we lived near other animals, our emotions kept us going and made us competitive, self-aware predators!
So, next time you feel sad, feel it and remember it’s completely natural. Feelings and emotions kept us alive then. Today, they alert us when we’re hurting and in pain.