Too much of anything can be harmful. Yes, even too much positivity can be harmful! We frequently hear phrases or mantras like good vibes only, look at the brighter side, happiness is a choice, among others. These statements promote being dismissive of all emotions and experiences that don’t feel pleasant or joyful.
There is a difference between optimism and toxic positivity. While optimism promotes a more hopeful outlook, toxic positivity forces us to ignore or suppress unpleasant emotions even though they’re valid considering the circumstances.
Statement- My mother is quite unwell and I’m really worried.
Response- Don’t be! Just think positive, everything will be okay!
This response trivializes the stress of the person and could also make them feel shameful or guilty about experiencing unpleasant emotions even though the situation warrants it. This could further make them want to not engage with their emotions at all and would consequently become a hindrance to their personal growth. This also could lead to feelings of disconnection and alienation from others.
Some helpful responses could be:-
l I'm here no matter what.
l I’m so sorry to hear that. That must be hard.
l Your feelings are valid.
We are allowed to feel unpleasant emotions such as sadness, guilt, regret, anger, etc. We can also feel more than one emotion, even if they are contradictory to one another. Emotions are meant to be felt, expressed, and lived. Having said that, it’s important to note that, we don’t have live with unpleasant emotions all the time. We can feel and manage our emotions, we don’t have to constantly run away from them.
Toxic positivity is equivalent to gaslighting oneself or others. Gaslighting also leaves people feeling drained, confused, invalidated, and questioning their emotions and experiences. Forcing yourself or others to accept and function according to a distorted version of reality.
How to validate and honor emotions (yours and others')
Ø Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is about noticing, acknowledging, and accepting our emotions as they are, without engaging with them, judging, or labeling them. This will help you understand your own emotions, be comfortable with them. This way you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable with your emotions or that of others.
Ø Recognize the importance of emotions
Emotions help us understand ourselves, and what we need and process everything that happens to us.
Ø Permit yourself to feel
Fortunately or unfortunately, we have to go through our emotions to process them and move on. While it’s important to sometimes distract and avoid yourself, doing this constantly and for a long period of time would deteriorate your mental and physical health.
Ø Be clear about what you need
You can let others know if you need them to just listen to you, give advice or empathize with you and validate your emotions and experiences. This would ensure that they know what to do and your needs are also met.
Please know that it's okay to not be okay!
If you have difficulty managing your emotional health, please seek help from a 0qualified mental health professional.