Have you ever experienced a situation where someone said something positive but it felt off to you? If so, you may have encountered the concept of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is a term used to describe a situation where someone tries to push away or ignore difficult emotions instead of acknowledging and dealing with them. But what is the root of toxic positivity?
At its core, toxic positivity is a coping mechanism used to avoid or minimize any internal distress. This stems from what psychologists call a ‘low distress tolerance’, or an inability to be with discomfort. It’s the idea that we should be positive all the time and never talk about negative thoughts or emotions. The problem is that this can lead to a denial of reality, and in some cases can even make things worse.
So why do people engage in toxic positivity? It may be that they’re trying to protect themselves from uncomfortable emotions or they’re not equipped with the tools to talk about and process their feelings. It could also be that they’ve experienced trauma in the past, and are using positive thinking as a way to shield themselves from further pain.
But whatever the reason, it’s important to understand the root of toxic positivity in order to move towards a healthier and more sustainable way of dealing with our emotions. In this blog post, we’ll explore what the root of toxic positivity is, what positive psychology says about it, and how to beat it. We’ll also take a look at the opposite of toxic positivity and the positivity paradox. So let’s dive in and find out what lies at the heart of toxic positivity.
What is the root of toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is the idea of being overly optimistic and disregarding any negative emotions. It’s the idea that it’s wrong to feel anything other than happiness, and that anything else is to be avoided and pushed aside. But why does this mindset exist? What is the root of toxic positivity?
At the core, the root of toxic positivity is emotional avoidance, a coping strategy used to push away or minimize any internal distress. It stems from having what psychologists call a ‘low distress tolerance’ which is an inability to sit with discomfort. Low distress tolerance is often a result of developmental trauma or attachment issues, or a combination of both. In order to cope with the overwhelming emotions that these experiences bring, people will use various strategies to avoid them.
One of the most common strategies is to focus on the bright side of things, no matter the situation. This is where the idea of toxic positivity comes in. People will put on a false smile and say something like “Look on the bright side!” or “It could be worse!” in order to push away their own feelings. This strategy is often used in order to avoid having to sit with and process the difficult emotions that come up.
Why is Toxic Positivity Harmful?
Toxic positivity can be incredibly harmful, as it is a form of emotional suppression which can lead to a number of mental health issues. People who engage in toxic positivity often struggle to process their own emotions. This can lead to an inability to recognize and name what they are feeling, which can further lead to issues such as depression, anxiety, and even addiction.
Additionally, toxic positivity can be damaging to relationships. If a person is constantly pushing away their own feelings, then it can be difficult for them to empathize with others. This can lead to a lack of connection and understanding, which can make it hard to build meaningful relationships.
What Can Be Done?
The key to overcoming toxic positivity is to learn how to tolerate distress. This can be achieved through different coping strategies such as mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and even journaling. It is important to remember that it is okay to not be okay, and that it is important to take the time to process your emotions in order to move forward.
It is also important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to emotional processing. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. It is also important to seek help if needed, as talking to a professional can be incredibly beneficial.
The root of toxic positivity is emotional avoidance, and it is important to take the time to really understand why it exists in order to overcome it. With the right coping strategies and support, it is possible to learn how to tolerate distress and live a happier, more fulfilled life.
What does positive psychology say about toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is the act of avoiding, suppressing, or rejecting negative emotions or experiences. It is a way of thinking that is often seen as a positive attitude and is based on the idea of “look on the bright side”. However, it can have a damaging effect on our mental health, as it stops us from processing our feelings in a healthy way.
Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life worth living. It is focused on understanding how people can be happier and more fulfilled, and how they can use this knowledge to improve their lives. As such, it can offer insight into the effects of toxic positivity on our mental well-being.
The problem with toxic positivity is that it can prevent us from recognizing and dealing with our negative emotions. This can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, as we are not allowing ourselves to fully process and work through our difficult emotions. By suppressing our feelings, we are unable to learn from our experiences and grow as individuals.
In addition, toxic positivity can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as relying on alcohol or drugs to numb our feelings. This can be dangerous, as it is not a sustainable way of dealing with our emotions.
The Benefits of Positive Psychology
Fortunately, positive psychology provides a healthier alternative to toxic positivity. It teaches us to accept our emotions and to recognize them as part of the human experience. By doing this, we can learn to accept and appreciate our emotions, rather than denying them.
Positive psychology also encourages us to focus on the positive aspects of our lives. This can help us to see the good in difficult times, as well as to appreciate our successes and accomplishments.
The Power of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a key part of positive psychology. It is the practice of being aware of our thoughts and feelings, without judging them. This can help us to acknowledge our negative emotions, without getting overwhelmed by them.
Mindfulness can also help us to become more mindful of our actions and decisions. This can help us to make healthier choices and to avoid making decisions while in a negative emotional state.
Developing a Growth Mindset
Positive psychology also encourages us to develop a growth mindset. This is the belief that we can improve ourselves and our lives, even if we have failed in the past. This helps us to see our mistakes and failures as learning experiences, rather than as personal flaws.
By developing a growth mindset, we can become more resilient in the face of adversity. This can help us to cope better with difficult situations, as we will be better equipped to deal with them in a positive and constructive way.
Overall, positive psychology can provide an alternative to toxic positivity. It can help us to become more accepting of our emotions and to focus on the positive aspects of our lives. It can also help us to develop a growth mindset, so that we can become more resilient and better equipped to cope with difficult situations.
How do you beat toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is the habit of enforcing overly positive thinking, which can often cause us to ignore the complexities of difficult feelings. It’s a form of avoidance, and although it may feel like the ‘right’ thing to do, it’s not always the healthiest way to cope.
By recognizing the warning signs of toxic positivity, you can learn how to challenge it and take better care of yourself.
Recognize Toxic Thinking
Toxic positivity is all about oversimplification and generalization. It encourages us to think that all emotions are good or that all problems have a ‘positive’ outcome.
It may sound like this: “You just need to think positively!” or “Everything happens for a reason!”
These statements may be well-intentioned, but they can actually be quite harmful. They can make us feel like we’re not allowed to express our true emotions, or make us feel guilty for being ‘negative’.
Don’t Ignore Your Emotions
It’s important to recognize that our emotions are valid and should be acknowledged. Ignoring them can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, or even depression.
Instead of trying to ‘think positively’ all the time, try to accept your emotions without judgement. Acknowledge that your feelings are real and that it’s ok to feel them.
Accept Other People’s Emotions
Toxic positivity can also be harmful to our relationships. It can lead us to dismiss other people’s feelings or to put pressure on them to think positively in difficult situations.
Instead, try to be understanding of other people’s emotions and allow them to experience their own feelings without judgement.
Be Realistic About Your Feelings
It’s ok to have negative thoughts and emotions, and it’s important to be realistic about them. Don’t expect yourself to be ‘happy’ all the time, and don’t try to push away difficult feelings.
It’s ok to feel sad, angry, or frustrated. Acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to experience them.
Embrace the Complexity of Emotions
Our emotions can be complex, and it’s important to accept that. We don’t have to fall into the trap of toxic positivity and try to ignore our true feelings.
Instead, try to accept the complexity of emotions and acknowledge that it’s ok to feel a range of different things.
The key to beating toxic positivity is to recognize it, challenge it, and be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to experience emotions without judgement, and be understanding of other people’s feelings as well. Embrace the complexity of emotions and be realistic about your feelings.
What is the opposite of toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is the idea of ignoring or overlooking negative experiences or emotions in order to focus exclusively on the positive. It is often accompanied by phrases like “everything happens for a reason” or “look on the bright side”, and its goal is to encourage people to stay upbeat and hopeful even in the face of challenging circumstances. However, this approach can be damaging, as it can lead to feelings of guilt or inadequacy in those who are unable to stay positive all the time.
The opposite of this type of thinking is tragic optimism, a philosophy that recognizes the suffering and sorrow that we must inevitably face in life. Rather than denying these emotions or pretending that they don’t exist, tragic optimism embraces them and looks for ways to move forward in spite of them.
Understanding Tragic Optimism
Tragic optimism is based on the idea that life is full of suffering, and that it is impossible to avoid it. It acknowledges that while we can never truly escape tragedy and sorrow, we can still find value and meaning in our lives even in the midst of these challenging times.
Tragic optimism encourages us to accept our difficult circumstances and to find strength in our struggles. It is about recognizing that life can be difficult and painful, but also recognizing that it can still be worth living.
It is important to note that tragic optimism is not about denying or ignoring our negative emotions, but rather about accepting them and learning to cope with them in a healthy way. It is about recognizing that pain and suffering are part of life, but that they do not have to define our lives.
Benefits of Tragic Optimism
Tragic optimism can be beneficial in a variety of ways. By embracing the idea that life can be difficult, we can better prepare ourselves for the hard times that are sure to come our way. It can also help us to appreciate the good things in life, and to find joy even in the midst of sorrow.
Furthermore, tragic optimism can help us to develop resilience and to cope with difficult situations in a more healthy and effective way. Rather than avoiding or denying our negative emotions, we can learn to accept them and to find ways to move forward in spite of them.
Finally, tragic optimism can help us to develop a more realistic view of life. By recognizing that life is not always easy, we can become more realistic in our expectations of ourselves and others. This can help us to focus on the things that are truly important, and to find meaning in our lives even in the midst of difficult times.
Tragic optimism is an important and valuable philosophy. It encourages us to recognize the suffering and sorrow that is part of life, and to find strength and hope in spite of it. By embracing this idea, we can become better equipped to cope with difficult situations, and to find joy and meaning even in the midst of tragedy.
What is the positivity paradox?
The positivity paradox is a phenomenon where people often overestimate the positive impact of future events. This is because of the gap between what we think will make us happy and the reality of our actual experience.
For example, you may think that getting a promotion or a raise will make you happier than it actually does. Or, you might think that a new job or relationship will bring you joy, but it turns out to be much less fulfilling than you anticipated. This is known as the impact bias.
At its core, the positivity paradox is a reminder that our expectations of life’s experiences often don’t match the reality. This can lead to feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction, and can even be detrimental to our well-being.
The Impact Bias
The impact bias is the tendency to overestimate the intensity and duration of the emotional responses to future events. This means that we often overestimate how happy we will be when something positive happens.
For instance, you may think that you’ll be ecstatic when you get a raise, but in reality, the feeling of joy may be fleeting. Or, you may think that a new job will make you incredibly happy, but after a few weeks, the feeling may have dissipated.
The impact bias can lead to what researchers call “miswanting”: you pine for futures that don’t end up making you very happy.
The Positivity Paradox and Miswanting
Miswanting occurs when you overestimate how satisfied you will be with some event or experience, and then end up feeling less satisfied than you expected. This is partly due to the impact bias, which can lead us to overestimate the positive effects of future events.
It’s important to note that miswanting doesn’t mean that you don’t want something or that you don’t value it. It just means that you overestimate the positive effects of the experience.
For example, you may think that getting a promotion will make you incredibly happy, but in reality, you may find yourself feeling complacent or even unfulfilled within days.
How to Overcome the Positivity Paradox
The best way to overcome the positivity paradox is to be mindful of your expectations. Try to be realistic in your assessment of how happy you will be with a particular event or experience.
It’s also important to remember that positive events don’t necessarily lead to long-term happiness. Even if something initially makes you happy, it’s important to consider how it will affect your overall well-being in the long run.
Finally, it’s important to focus on the things that really bring you joy. Think about what truly makes you happy, and pursue those activities and experiences. This will help you to avoid miswanting and the positivity paradox.
Toxic positivity is a dangerous coping mechanism that can lead to a wide range of mental and emotional issues. It is rooted in emotional avoidance and low distress tolerance, which means that individuals struggle to sit with their discomfort. In order to protect ourselves from the dangers of toxic positivity, it is important to recognise the signs and address the underlying issues.
We must start by developing our own individual distress tolerance, as this will allow us to sit with our discomfort and process our emotions in a healthy way. We must also learn to be more mindful of our reactions to difficult situations, as this will help us to remain emotionally grounded and connected to our true selves. Finally, we must seek professional help when needed, as this can help us to better understand and manage our emotions.
Toxic positivity can be a difficult issue to tackle, but it is possible to overcome it with the right strategies and support. By cultivating awareness and self-care, we can learn to recognise the signs of toxic positivity and take steps to address the underlying issues. With patience and dedication, we can create a safer and healthier space for ourselves and those around us.