This article is about processing tough human emotions like ‘grief’, and understanding the difference between ‘toxic positivity’ and ‘authentic positivity’.
Wait a minute, did you even know there is something like ‘toxic positivity’?
I am sure majority of people don’t understand it, because they never paid enough heed to how toxic positivity feels like. Also, we have been conditioned to buy ‘toxic positive words’ from our well wishers, assuming it to be ‘normal’.
‘Toxic positivity’ is the ‘belief’ that no matter how hurt you feel, or how painful a situation may be, you must maintain a positive mind-set. Its about having ‘good vibes only’ approach.
Of course, it is beneficial to have a positive outlook towards life for our mental well-being, however, life doesn’t always dole out positive situations, and everyone comes across difficult situations in their lives, in different forms.
Everyone has to deal with painful emotions and experiences in their lives, at some point or the other.
Unlike popular belief, ‘Toxic positivity’ is in fact quite harmful, as it rejects difficult emotions; it denies the pain in favour of a cheerful, often false positive facade.
It is therefore imperative to understand the difference between the two, to allow ‘authentic positivity’ to emerge naturally, and be felt in its true essence.
It is particularly relevant in current times, when the global pandemic has wreaked havoc in many people’s lives and caused trauma. During the global pandemic, people have faced lockdowns, business shutdowns, job loss, loss of livelihood, separation, financial struggles, health crises, debilitating illness, mental and physical exhaustion, and most tragic of all, loss of loved ones. During such traumatic times, even a suggestion, “stay positive”, “look at the positive side”, “count your blessings” to an aggrieved person could sound insensitive or rude.
Although, no doubt, it is better to have a positive outlook in the face of difficult experiences and challenges to feel calm, but please understand it has to come from within, and not forced upon. People going through trauma or extreme sadness don’t need to be judged for not maintaining a positive outlook, and need not be told to “stay or feel positive”.
It is “human” to feel intense negative emotions like grief and anger, in such traumatic situations, and sometimes it takes time to process the emotions and overcome them. Forcing happiness, cheerfulness with ‘toxic positive words’ instead, leaves a person unhealed and bitter from within. The reason being, ‘toxic positivity’ denies a person’s pain, making them feel their emotions are being ignored, dismissed or outrightly invalidated.
Don’t buy insensitive remarks made by people around, and suppress your feelings in the name of ‘staying positive’; also don’t talk yourself out of pain forcefully, ignoring your internal state, or negating your physical or emotional pain, as that’ll leave you unhealed.
‘Toxic positive comments’ by others or ‘toxic positive self-talk’, while being in grief, looks like:
– “stay positive”;
– “look on the bright side”;
– “look at the silver lining”;
– “everything happens for a reason”;
– “it’s okay, it happens with everyone, you aren’t the only one”;
– “it had to happen, just let go and move on”;
– “count your blessings”;
– “it must have happened for some good”;
– “its because of your past karma, let go”;
– “you aren’t the only one, toughen up”;
– “look at people around, so many are more miserable than you, you are still better off”;
– “you are still fortunate, so be grateful”;
– “happiness is a ‘choice’, sadness is your own choosing”;
And so on…
These are few examples of ‘toxic positive words’ which well-intentioned people generally use, thinking it’ll help a person to let go of the pain and help soothe them; however it has been observed that it does more harm than good. Instead, the person often regrets sharing the painful feelings. The person feels that he’s being blamed or shamed to feel negative emotions, and as a result, creates distance from ‘well-intentioned people’, for feeling misunderstood or judged.
Well, others aren’t necessarily to be blamed for using toxic positive words, most likely they just don’t know what else to say, and don’t know how to be truly ’empathetic’ with someone, who is in pain.
Not many seem to be aware that, ‘empathising’ implies to ‘understand’ and ‘share’ someone’s feelings, and that could be achieved just by being present with their dear ones and their intense feelings, and not trying to shut them down with ‘toxic positive words’. Simply join with them in a silence that understands. Deep understanding is at the very basis of all healing.
Frankly, it took me quite sometime to decipher this, and I have worked on myself ever since I achieved clarity, and here I am now sharing my insights with you.
Forgive such people for their honest mistakes as they didn’t know any better. Forgive yourself too, for you may recollect the times when you too may have uttered ‘toxic positive words’ in the past to yourself or someone else, not knowing that it’s toxic.
You need to first learn to ‘accept’ that you are ‘allowed to feel negative emotions’. Feeling negative emotions, doesn’t make you a negative person, it just implies you are ‘human’. You are allowed to take time and space, to heal yourself.
Know that, its your loss and you have the right to grieve, regardless of what others think. Whether a person loses health to a debilitating condition, experiences/witnesses a traumatic event in life, or loses a valuable asset, or a loved one to death or separation, it’s a personal loss, and a person is allowed to grieve their loss.
I am not suggesting that a person should feel these emotions eternally, and not make an attempt to come out of that state at all.
No, I am just suggesting that your emotions are valid! There’s no shame in feeling them. You are ‘human’ and these are natural ‘human emotions’ that generate for a reason upon facing difficult situations.
Human Emotions are like energy entities felt within the body and are present for a reason. It’s your personal experience, and your emotions are rising up to make you aware of your internal environment. You must feel these emotions completely and not try to suppress them or negate them in the name of ‘being strong’ or ‘positive’.
Don’t bury your feelings inside when you want to cry your heart out. Don’t brush it aside by forcing yourself to affirm ‘I am all good’, ‘I am positive’, ‘I am strong’ ‘I am healing’ when it doesn’t feel true within, yet. Please understand, suppressed emotions often cause depression. Don’t worry about others judging you weak for showing your vulnerable side. It isn’t about them, anyway. It’s your loss, your grief! You have the right to feel it! You don’t need validation from others to feel your emotions.
Of course negative emotions are often hard to deal with, but in order to release them, you need not manipulate yourself by affirming mechanically, or negating your emotions by keeping fake sunny outlook by buying others ‘toxic positive words’.
“Feel your emotion; embrace grief with love to heal it”.
In order to be released, emotions need to be dealt with honesty and sincerity and felt fully. In fact, our emotions help us in understanding our ‘internal environment’ which in turn helps us to gain deeper insights, and grow as a compassionate human-being.
Step by step guide
Here’s how you could help yourself release difficult emotions like grief:
– Acknowledge your emotion is here for a reason;
– Give yourself permission to feel your emotion fully; understand that it just means you are human;
– Admit to yourself, ‘Yes, I am feeling immense sadness, I feel broken’;
– Be present with your emotions, and feel them as long as it takes;
– Understand grief is as sacred as love, don’t judge it as a ‘negative emotion’;
– Don’t hold your tears, let them flow, tears have healing powers;
– Just grieve “the loss”, don’t mix it up with mind-made stories of ‘if only’ and ‘whys’ thereby generating further emotions like anger, frustration or guilt;
– Don’t force yourself to get out of ‘the negative feeling state‘, as that’d mean denying your pain;
– Be gentle with yourself;
– it’s okay to choose not to share your feelings with others when you know they can’t seem to understand, even if you may come across ‘cold’ to them;
– Allow yourself some time and space to heal, don’t rush, for it does no good;
– Letting go of the pain comes from within, it takes time sometimes, and it’s okay;
– And finally, when you feel ready to let go (we do get a subtle signal that feels I am now ready to let this feeling go), tell your emotion out loud (as if you are talking to someone), “I hear you, I understand you”, “I allow you to now get released from my body”, then take a deep breath and feel the emotion ‘grief’ leaving your body as you release that breath. This generally works and helps pretty quick, but at times, you might want to repeat it a couple of times to release an emotion completely, which is attached to an extremely traumatic experience.
Sit in silence and run this step-by-step process, and do share with me how much it helped you, I’d love to hear from you.
“Honoring emotions, feeling intense emotions fully and giving them the full run, is in essence the path to healing completely.”
Once you overcome your emotional pain, and heal your trauma, “authentic positivity” then generates from within automatically, which becomes visible from your natural joyful and vibrant state of being. And, this is the space where any affirmation or visualisation technique would feel like a reality/truth, helping you to heal a lot faster, that’s because you are now ready (internally) to allow it to work on you.
Your grief is valid my friend; feel it to heal it!
P.S. Apart from the healing technique I have shared in the article, you may also want to engage in journaling (writing your heart out), or pursuing a hobby that makes you feel light, engaging in yoga or deep breathing, walking in the nature, exercising, as taking care of physical well-being eventually helps in our mental well-being. Do talk to a therapist if nothing seems to be working for you. But, don’t brush your emotions under the carpet, or talk yourself out of your pain, using toxic positive words. Process your grief well, to ensure it doesn’t resurface again, for the same loss.
P.S.S Dear Reader, I sincerely hope my write-up helps you in some way to overcome your difficult emotions. In case you know anyone who is feeling aggrieved right now, and you feel these insights could help them overcome their pain at some level, please do share the link of this article with them. Also, your likes ❤️ and comments help me to stay motivated, to write. Please do pour your love and support through your feedback, likes and comments. I genuinely appreciate it. Thank you.