This table we are going to shake has very expensive drinks on it but let’s shake it anyway; Toxic Positivity. This sounds like an oxymoron because how can positivity be toxic unless it’s a lab test. We are living in an influx of motivational speech and so the question is how far is too far?
Well by definition toxic positivity is a dysfunctional approach to emotional management that happens when people do not fully acknowledge negative emotions, particularly anger and sadness. One might ask what is wrong with refusal to feel negative emotions and live on positive vibes throughout, the answer is simple life is made of balance. We spoke to Severus Owamparo the Executive director of Taala Foundation and this is what he had to say about toxic positivity, “Feelings are feelings, they aren’t good or bad they just are. The apparent negative emotions are as important as the ones we’d call positive because they help us learn more about ourselves. Why does this particular thing make me sad, why did this make me angry? When you take feelings as they’re and use them to learn more then you’re less worried about whether they’re positive or not. Most people think toxic positivity comes from just within but it’s possible to be positive in a toxic way to someone seeking for help. Statements like; you will be fine, you’re alright, you will be okay are toxic because do you really know that? Can you guarantee that this person is going to be okay? There are statements that give power to the person that is hurt and still demonstrate that you’re with them for example; I cannot imagine what you’re going through and you’re very strong, anybody would feel the way you’re feeling if this happened to them as well, this must be tough but you’re wearing it really well. Recognizing what this person is going through without invalidating it or covering it up with a fake positivity.”
Self toxic positivity usually presents by forcing yourself to be a constant cloud of sunshine even when you’re going through very difficult situations. You find that your answers to questions regarding how you’re doing are, I’m okay! You have been conditioned to think of feelings that aren’t rainbows and sunshine as evil with no room in your life; you find that you beat yourself up for feeling these things instead of learning what these emotions want to teach you about yourself.
As we return to basics this mental health awareness month, it is important we go back to that place where scrapped knees meant we are learning to walk and they were not bad thing, same as sadness or anger teach us things about ourselves happiness could never. Care givers, your role is not to become a misplaced motivational speaker, you’re primarily expected to listen without invalidating a single emotion.