Note: This is an opinion piece, and when I write, I always try to give another perspective on looking at things in this crazy world in which we all live. Sometimes I use humor. Sometimes I am as blunt as can be. Take what resonates. Leave behind what doesn't.
The term “toxic positivity” -- this seems to be rearing it's 'toxic' head all over the place. 😜
Toxic positivity involves dismissing negative emotions and responding to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy. It comes from people who feel uncomfortable with negative emotions.
And that is exactly why it's a term I absolutely CAN NOT stand.
It's a complete oxymoron at it's finest!
If a topic is legitimately positive, it could never be toxic!
Do bad things happen? Yes, and no one should say otherwise. Bad shit happens to everyone. It's life.
Do most people want to try to help out and put a positive spin on the bad things that happen to their friends & family? Yes.
MOST people have trouble dealing with confrontation and negative/bad things. MOST people have NO idea what to say to someone who is going through a tragic event. MOST people do not have the life skills to cope with tragedies.
Because most people have trouble dealing with bad stuff in general, it doesn't mean BAD things don't happen...or you are being dismissed by people from having bad feelings. YOUR feelings are valid, just as much as theirs are.
Unwanted things, sometimes terrible, tragic and awful things have happened in my life, BUT with mindfulness practice, some creative thinking, and some determination, I’ve been able to make rainbows out of shit storms.
Recently I got terrible news about our dog, Nala. She has been diagnosed with lymphoma and I wrote about it in another blog if you are interested in reading about it.
We were crushed. We were mad, sad, and 100 other different emotions... We literally went through ALL the emotions that come with getting devastating news.
Was it easy to get this news? Nope.
Was it easy for us to tell our friends and family? Nope, we cried every single time we had to retell it.
Did we get the typical responses? Yep.
Did we get angry when someone offered reassuring words? Nope... we took their words at face value -- they were doing the best they knew how. They were offering us words that they really didn't have.
I mean really, what "right" words are there to give to someone who received a diagnosis so grim?
Our dog is dying. So saying, "It's going to be OK" is probably NOT the best way to console someone... (hence the coined term, toxic positivity)
BUT(here's my but, lol) it MAY have been the only words they had to convey in that moment. It MAY BE the ONLY words they could think of, because to them THOSE words are better than the deafening silence.
Instead of me getting angry and crying "TOXIC POSITIVITY!!!" 😡
Because let's face it, I know damn well it won't be "OK", my dog is dying! 😥
However, I took a moment and said, "thank you for trying to reassure me."
This is where ALL my teaching of mindfulness come into play...
Having THAT type of mindset takes work. It takes practice.
It takes a completely different thought pattern to look for the good in people.
Imagine the world we could have if people just said, "Thank you" and didn't over analysis and project their views onto others. Imagine!!!
AND I will add, I am not perfect at my mindfulness practice, hence why I still practice! I still have my moments where I just want to punch someone in the face! 😁
THAT moment is when mindfulness comes into play.... That's when I stop. Take a breath. Collect my thoughts. Think. Then respond.
To become more proactive and less reactive. That takes work.
I STILL to this day work on mindfulness -- every. Single. Day.
WE as humans, are hardwired to always look for the negative. Negative information causes a surge in activity in a critical information processing area of the brain, our behaviors and attitudes tend to be shaped more powerfully by bad news, experiences, and information. It takes WORK to rewire that thought pattern.
If you have ever gone through difficult situations, you must have, at some point, heard some of the following phrases...
“Everything will be fine.”
“This too shall pass.”
“Stay positive! It could be worse.”
"It will all work out for the best!"
I don't think anyone saying those things are TRYING to be toxic. I truly believe they LEGIT do not know what else to say in these difficult situations, and feel compelled to at least TRY to cheer you up. They try to fill the silence with something.
Even if that means giving the cliché response... ("You Got This!")
I don't think anyone is genuinely going into the conversation with you, and saying those things to invalidate your feelings.
However, if statements like the aforementioned are all you’re hearing from your friends and family, that excess of positivity can probably be taken the wrong way...because YOU want to be validated that you are having a terrible time.
And let's face facts...we ALL like to be validated at sometime or another. It's OK to feel validation!
Being validated sometimes puts that feeling of, "I'm going crazy" at ease.
Validation does not mean you agree or approve. When you validate someone's emotions, you are showing that you care about and accept them for who they are even if you don't agree with them.
It's also OK to reply to the "cliché responses" with... "NO, it's NOT OK, and I need you to tell me that it sucks and it's terrible but then help me to get through it! "
Sometimes, a little communication on both sides of the coin can make a world of difference.
This is how we build healthy relationships. This is how we "get through" the crazy. Good communication!
Along the way, I think humans have forgotten how to effectively communicate. Instead, people like to make up terms like "Toxic positivity" and then be on their merry way.
Eewwwwuuuuhhh! LOL I still hate that term. 😫
I hope I made sense in my little musing - sometimes, words escape me too and I try my best to convey what is going on in this warped brain of mine!
Moral of the story: Toxic positivity should never of been a coined term. Communicating that you are NOT OK to another person is also OK and asking that person to validate that you are not OK is also perfectly acceptable. Getting mad at someone for not knowing how to respond to a tragedy in your life is indeed on you and your response to that is also on you -- it's not on them. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% in how you respond to it.
Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself.