The “toxic positivity” is a paradigm of social behavior that leaves no room for “the negative” and leads to repressing sad or inappropriate feelings in that environment. We explain why it is important that emotions of all kinds come to light.
In social networks, users tend to show their best face and a permanent happiness seems to take over. They always smile, show their good humor and post colorful and funny images, which generate many “likes”. Comments are often tagged with #staypositive or #goodvibesonly. Is this normal?
At first glance, positivity promises contagious and lasting happiness, but people who get into that game may stifle unwelcome emotions. Not only that, but they continue to be cheerful even when they aren’t. This conflict is the cause of suffering and disease.
WHAT DOSE OF GOOD HUMOR IS HEALTHY?
It is normal for people to strive to feel good instead of being sad or angry. Resilience, that is, the ability to survive difficult times without psychological damage, is a decisive quality in overcoming life’s shocks.
Optimism can be learned and can help build resilience. It only becomes problematic when you want to erase “inappropriate” feelings or put them down.
Obsessive or forced positivity can affect those around us, whether in the digital or analog world. It can often lead to a fatal cycle: you feel bad and you do not receive any sincere accompaniment, but instead you hear empty phrases like “everything will be fine” or “consider misfortune as an opportunity”.
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Together they end up convincing you that negative feelings are not desirable. So you repress them to be accepted. The same can happen to your peers when they approach you with their problems. You want to appear positive and strong in a crisis situation, but this camouflage does not allow for empathy.
AM I REALLY HAPPY OR AM I ALREADY INTOXICATED?
From so much pretending that you are completely happy, you can come to believe it. But believing it is not going to eliminate the conflict that you live. It’s only going to bury you deeper and getting over it can get complicated. There are red flags that may indicate that toxic positivity is becoming a problem for you:
- Looking for a distraction when you’re overwhelmed by emotional clouds isn’t always a bad thing. It can help. However, if you do it to leave no room for sadness, pain or anger, you are a victim of toxic positivity. As is well known, time heals all wounds. Travel those emotions. If you don’t give them their time, you run the risk of unconscious and unprocessed pain accompanying you for years.
- You consider negative things to be unnecessary and unpleasant. Unpleasant feelings can be helpful. For example, fear makes you act more attentive and cautious.
- Do you feel like you need to be happy all the time? Toxic positivity creates pressure and forces you to feel happy. So if you fail in that endeavor, you become frustrated and miserable.
- Toxic positivity makes you feel lonely. Because you feel (or are made to feel) that “bad” feelings are unacceptable, you isolate yourself. You don’t want to be the brake on fun, you don’t want to upset others with your problems. Friendships are particularly important in difficult and stressful times.
- Real emotions are difficult to imitate. Most of the time you will realize that the other person is cheating on you. People find mixed signals irritating. It is disturbing when a person smiles when they are actually angry. You probably just want to be perceived as positive, but it conveys tension and artificiality. As a consequence, you also treat her artificially. In this way you gradually move away from real and living communication.
- Imagine that you are opening your heart to someone and they respond to things like “focus on the good things in life” while pointing to a passing butterfly or dog. This is toxic positivity and it is dangerous because your concerns are being dismissed and trivialized. This behavior makes people less sensitive.
HOW DO YOU DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM TOXIC POSITIVITY?
It is important to understand that happiness can only be given in the moment, it is not a permanent state. What is normal and desirable is that emotions follow one another. Here are some tips to help you break out of toxic positivity:
- Set a good example by expressing your feelings at the right time and to the right people, and acknowledge those of your friends and family. Be empathetic, phrases like “I understand that you feel bad” help.
- Pay attention to your friends. True friends listen to you and are with you, even when you are in a bad mood.
- Get rid of everything that pressures you on social networks to tell you how you should feel.
- Write a journal. In it you can let all the feelings flow without filter on the paper. A “happiness journal” can also help you become more aware of the positives, but it shouldn’t be your only tool.