HYDERABAD: Open any social media app, other than the bombardment of unwanted news feed you also get a sudden gigantic sweep of positive messages, reels, videos and streams. Of course, you must have subscribed to these when you were feeling a little blue, a little down, a bit left out in the cold when even a cup of coffee and that soft furry feel of your pet also doesn’t work.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed all the hidden fears within, at the same time allowing people to carve paths to return to a better version of themselves. However, several self-anointed gurus have been preaching about positivity subtly injecting people’s minds, already dealing with anxiety and fear, with an overdose of positivity that in other words is termed as ‘toxic positivity’ and like anything toxic can do more harm than good.
An unnecessary overdose
Nimbus Clinic journal argues in one of its posts, “Toxic positivity is the excessive application of a happy, optimistic state during all situations. This can result in the denial and invalidation of our legitimate human emotions. When positivity is used to cover up or mute how we really feel, it can become toxic. By refusing to acknowledge that certain feelings exist, we can end up in denial, with repressed emotions. The truth is not everything in our lives will be a positive experience. Sometimes bad things happen, and it’s okay not to be okay with that. By forcing ‘positive vibes only’, we are not allowing ourselves to process and deal with the emotions we are really feeling.”
To this adds Wasim Rashid Kakroo, a clinical psychologist and child and adolescent therapist, “Using positivity is an essential approach to deal with the challenges of life however when it is overdone it can lead to invalidation of emotions. Positivity overdone leads to toxic positivity which proves counterproductive to dealing with the challenges of life. Toxic positivity may lead to a decrease in satisfaction about life and self-esteem issues.”
Some motivational gurus tried to make people feel that they should try to feel positive and good about themselves even when there was every reason to feel worried about the life because of the threat imposed by Covid-19 all across the world. Wasim adds, “People who are forced to feel positive start to feel guilty about the negative emotions that are a valid part of human emotions. By trying to vilify the negative emotions and make people forcefully to feel positive emotions, they lose contact with themselves. They start to pretend to be somebody who they are not. This puts a lot of pressure on their already disturbed emotional world. When such people get disconnected from their own self they fail to connect well with other people as well which in turn churn more negativity in their personal as well as interpersonal relations.”
A harmful belief
Studies show that toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. “It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life. And while there are benefits to being an optimist and engaging in positive thinking, toxic positivity instead rejects difficult emotions in favour of a cheerful, often falsely positive, facade. We all know that having a positive outlook on life is good for your mental well-being. The problem is that life isn’t always positive. We all deal with painful emotions and experiences. Toxic positivity takes positive thinking to an overgeneralised extreme. This attitude doesn’t just stress the importance of optimism, it minimizes and denies any trace of human emotions that aren’t strictly happy or positive,” says Kosuru Sangeetha Gowda, Mind Therapist and Life Coach.
During this current Covid-19 situation, people faced a lot of challenges in life both personal and professional. Many during their lows were influenced by self-styled experts towards toxic positivity. Adds Sangeetha, a Hyderabad-based pscyhologist, “Toxic positivity gives a temporary relief emotionally. However the damage it creates to mental wellbeing is quite alarming. As a psychologist, I feel that those emotions, while often unpleasant and hard to deal with, are important and need to be felt and dealt with openly and honestly. Reach out to qualified mental health professionals who can help you to vent, think through, and discover solutions to your current challenges. Emotions have to be dealt with and not buried.”