Updated: Apr 12, 2021
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is when something happens instead of discussing it or dealing with it; people are told that they must maintain a positive mindset. Toxic positivity is a way to mask the issues that people are experiencing with false ‘happier’ perceptions. This differs from optimism since optimism is rooted in the reality of the situation not fantasy.
Why is toxic positivity harmful?
Toxic positivity is harmful because it is a silencing tactic that shames and guilts the other person for expressing themselves with natural emotions. When toxic positivity is expressed people can feel unheard. On top of feeling unheard they can feel guilty for not looking at things through an ‘happier’ lens. Combining feeling unheard with false optimism keeps people stuck without processing their experiences.
People learn to compartmentalize their issues by avoiding issues that can be easily resolved. Engaging in toxic positivity is not a replacement for being a safe person. Many people engage in toxic positivity because they believe that their problems will magically solve themselves with time. For example, insert the “everything is going to be ok” statement. Well, not everything is going to be ok if you are bypassing active work to figure out solutions by using critical thinking skills.
People also utilize toxic positivity because they are not comfortable with the current discussions taking place. They either are not aware of their own trauma or have not dealt with them. It’s a way not to deal with their own stuff so they say it as a reminder. They have repressed their own emotions so to hear someone discussing their experiences can retrigger old compartmentalized feelings.
Can people toxic positivity themselves?
Yes, people can self utilize toxic positivity to a degree. This is avoidance of issues by masking emotions. Being able to override emotions does isolate your real emotions therefore teaching your body to ignore your internal nervous system and intuition. Moving away from your intuition does enable people to stay in dangerous situations for longer periods than they should have.
Why do people usually find people who use toxic positivity harmful?
The reason is because it’s a brainwashing technique. To people who are intuitive it does not sit well with them when others tell them that what they are feeling is not truthful. Toxic positivity takes away from the person’s ability to find active solutions to their real current issues. “Just think positive” is not applicable to every situation especially when it’s rooted in systemic oppressive factors.
My own personal thoughts around toxic positivity:
Toxic positivity people like to keep avoiding every difficult topic with platitudes to shut down healthy and healing conversations. They act like even being in the same room with people who are expressing themselves is hard to do so.
People who utilize the toxic positivity method also expect everyone around them to shut down any heavy conversations. They do this because they are intolerant and incapable of having these specific types of conversations. In order for toxic positivity to exist there has to be enablers locked into place.
These enablers are the defenders of toxic positivity types of people who are ready to combat anyone with statements like... “all you’re doing is creating hate”, “adding fuel to the fire”, “what you are talking about is divisive. Can’t you show love instead?”, “Maybe if you thought positively things would manifest for you.”, etc. Have you noticed these people come apart at any discussion if they aren’t appeased right away?
Any heavy conversations they turn around and say “I hear you” but they don’t take the time to really hear others. They are just saying that to look neutral and to SHUT THE CONVERSATION DOWN. If you ask for reflection or feedback, they will probably say things like, “I see things differently”, “we need to respect different opinions”, “there’s so much hate in the world”. The hate stems from AVOIDANCE and that’s a direct source to mask their mentality.
Some toxic positivity people actually stay silent to make the other person FEEL uncomfortable enough to change the subject. This is a projection tactic to shift their uncomfortable feelings to the other person. All of this is rooted in avoidance.
What toxic people are really doing is; they are gatekeeping, prolonging and WITHHOLDING healing to stay in their “positivity” light because they BENEFIT from their system. Imagine withholding well deserved healing from others on purpose!
Toxic positivity is a form of narcissism. It’s meant to control people through another manipulation lens. This is why I personally write extensively about toxic positivity. I have noticed that abusers do exhaust their normal methods of manipulation tactics. They make the switch over to toxic positivity to reengage with the victim/survivor. They sound positively new. They do sound like they’ve received some help. Or they might need to reel in a new source of supply.
Do I believe all toxic positivity people abusers?
No, I do not. Some people fall prey to toxic positivity because they do not have enough support to start on a healing journey especially from abuse.
My personal experience with toxic positivity:
Toxic positivity affected me at the beginning of my own healing journey. I fell prey to toxic positivity because I thought that’s what healing was. I shamed myself and castigated myself for not being nicer. I shamed myself for getting angry at all my past experiences. I also shamed myself for feeling the trigger emotions and not addressing things in a ‘better’ way. I learned how to mask my emotions instead. I put my fawning (people pleaser) conditioning into overdrive. I wanted to help as many people as I could. One thing I didn’t account for was that my underlying anger. I did not deal with the bubbling emotions because I thought I was not supposed to.
Everything came to the surface one year into my healing journey. I found myself in the middle of a trauma workshop with underlying toxic positivity messaging. I saw myself sitting there in complete isolation in another state away from any safety. I was retraumatized at a trauma event due to the workshop exercises. I remember having major panic attacks in the hotel room that night. That moment taught me that I desperately needed to address all my emotions and seek help from people who could really help me process in safety. I was not being optimistic and counting down healing time but I was masking emotions instead. It has taken me longer to process due to undoing the personal abuse I have endured and added toxic positivity masking.
I believe through having spaces where people do not feel shamed or judged provides a space where they can be heard. People need spaces of support and acknowledgment. They also need facilitators who are experienced in niche areas. This means holding true kindness areas that are safe for survivors to express themselves authentically. Trust must held as a priority.