By Valerie Rice | November 12, 2020
Toxic positivity. Have you heard about it yet? Maybe not by name, but you’re probably overflowing with sarcastic mental vomit because of it. This is an idea we tossed around and chewed on in grad school for hours, especially with the CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) crew. So, think happy thoughts and you will eventually be happy and all that. Ew. I am not a huge CBT fan or practitioner. Okay, it has its place, and its uses, so don’t write it off, but it is not my go to. But before I go off on a tangent, let’s get back to what I was saying: Too much positivity is toxic.
First and foremost, it forces you to hide your true feelings, stuffing them down where nobody can see. That is enemy number 1 of mental health. Oh yeah, we HATE that guy. Nobody benefits from you doing that except maybe Aunt Mabel who is uncomfortable around feelings anyway. But YOU are not Aunt Mabel, and IDGAF how comfortable she is. Stuffing your feelings is dangerous. Another problem is that it is incredibly invalidating, as if YOUR suffering shouldn’t count. Now, listen carefully, this is important. YOU MATTER. In fact, when it comes to your experience, you are the only one who matters. Does that sound selfish? Well it isn’t. I am an existentialist, and you are the only one who experiences your life, so nobody gets to decide how it feels but you, because nobody else feels it. So there.
HOW IT SPREADS
We talked about Aunt Mabel, but others are going to try and minimize your experience by telling you it could be worse. In fact, almost everyone is going to try and have you “get over it,” whatever it is, by having you avoid it. Guilt is a big tool. Trying to shame you or make you feel guilty for having “negative” feelings is huge. I will tell you a secret: feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are. And each one is valid. You do not need to be ashamed of sadness, or rage, or fear. That just complicates things. You do not, and cannot, just smile happily and get over what creates these things. But do you know what I hate the most? I mean, the MOST? When someone tries to rationalize your experience by saying “It is what it is.” NO. it isn’t. Whatever it is shouldn’t make you feel that way and it is probably a problem that needs to be addressed but you are too lazy or uncomfortable to take a stand. (and take a deep breath…….)
WHAT TO DO
Shut. Them. Out. they may mean well, but the fact that they are quick to invalidate you for their own comfort means they do not mean well for YOU. Find someone who cares enough about you to listen to your struggles, to validate your feelings, and won’t compare you to others. If you do not have a BFF who is like this, find a counselor. We are not only empathetic by nature, but we are trained to listen and validate you. In fact our entire day is built around listening. Seriously, we are not in it for the money, we actually care about people. As an added bonus, we have tissues and comfy chairs as well as several days available to help you work through things and will never, EVER tell you to “get over it.”
Things happen in our lives, and some of them upset our lives in horrible ways. Nobody else gets to determine how we experience them. The only one living your life is YOU. Repeat that when those positivity monsters come out. You are not being childish, or stupid, or selfish. You are being human and are responding to something that is greatly disturbing in your life, which is completely normal, allowed, expected, and okay. You know what? I only say this on special occasions and wit special clients, but f*k those guys. Seriously. What do they know? Nothing, because they are not you. Feel what you need to right now. Acknowledge it, embrace it, accept it. And find someone to talk to about it.
Nobody likes a cult, especially one who wants you to put on a happy face all the time. Nobody likes liars. Okay, I don’t like liars, and you will feel a lot better if you don’t lie to yourself. Being your authentic self and working through your life is a whole lot better than flying around like a magazine ad in a Black Mirror universe. Okay, let’s get existential for a second. There is no meaning to life. You create your own meaning, therefore you are the master of your universe, and the only one experiencing it. So master it, live it, experience it, and share the ride with those who aren’t going to make it awful. Be well.