What is Toxic Positivity?
As per Psychology Today, “toxic positivity” refers to the concept that keeping positive, and keeping positive only, is the right way to live your life. It means only focusing on positive things and rejecting anything that may trigger negative emotions.
This seems like such a great way to live. I, too, love a good “attitude of gratitude” but what happens when this way of thinking is actually harming us?
How could being positive be harmful?
Well, sometimes being positive at all costs is a lie and is repressive and does not honor a person’s human experience. This can create shame. And we all know that unchecked shame can lead us to make some terribly isolating life choices.
There is a marked difference in stopping to reframe a problem with a positive light and being solution oriented versus thinking everything is doom and gloom. But sometimes we have to become keenly aware of the gloom so it can go away.
By avoiding difficult emotions, we actually make them worse. What we resist persists. Essentially, your emotions are messengers and when we avoid the messages they do not disappear they keep coming back larger, louder, and in different ways.
How do I heal from possible toxic negativity?
This is where Buddha saying of “invite your emotions to tea” comes in. It might feel counterintuitive but sitting with all of our emotions and allowing them to be messengers makes the space for them to share their message and then leave.
Make active space for all your emotions by coming from a place of inquiry.
By allowing the space for these emotions we are giving ourselves the opportunity to practice compassion. Self compassion.
But also, if we get real with why an emotion is present, we can retrieve the message our body is sending us. Yes, our bodies are hardwired to have emotions. Therefore, we know that emotions must contain information to help our lives. Our emotions can help indicate when we need to make different choices or change certain behaviors. And sometimes, as with grief, feeling our emotions helps our healing process.
This is a practice just like your physical asana or breathing meditations.
I leave you with the words of Rumi-
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!…
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.