“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaingful life” – Dr Susan David
Most of us are conditioned to, “suck it up”, “keep your chin up”, “this to shall pass”, etc. Our conditioning from childhood dissallows us from experiencing the challenges of life and the emotions that come with that. Since we learn this from our earliest ages, we then bring that to our own children, and thusly we perpetuate this forced false positivity.
Toxic positivity is essentially where we pretend everything is ok, when, in fact, it isn’t. Doesn’t this contravene all the wonderful anecdotal evidence we have for the efficacy of affirmations, positive visualisations, gratitude practices, etc. , you may ask? What about the practice of finding gifts (positivity) in every situation I promote myself? It is a fine line, very fine line I grant you. However, the key difference is what you do with those emotions when they come up to be noticed and acknowledge. Toxic positivity is a masking practice when you have uncomfortable emotions come up, rather than the aforementioned mindset change practices. These practices you exercise whenever you can, but when that emotion comes up, you give it your full attention without judgement, critisism nor analysis. You basically manage your thought processes that engage with any given emotion, while allowing the emotion the space it needs to express itself.
Toxic positivity, at its source, has less to do with you not wanting to experience the discomfort of emotions, than people around you being uncomfortable with you experiencing it. It is that external discomfort that conditions us to surpress and dismiss our emotions. We force our positivity on others when we are uncomfortable with their discomfort or perhaps thinking we have no time to sit with them to give them our support with our presence. Part of that problem is that we don’t recognise the fact that we can feel their emotions as our own and if we have the self-awareness to differentiate between our own emotions and feelings and those of others, we can easily remove what doesn’t belong to us and fully and unconditionally hold space in peace with the person who is suffering. As an intuitive empath, I suffered greatly from this until I learned to manage the energies within my energetic body, and as a coach I work with these energies to be fully present and supportive of my clients. We can all learn it, but because it is not considered hard science, most ignore it and perpetuate their own toxic positivity.
If you want to try for yourself, start, in meditation, by learning to observe your own experiences from the perspective of your awareness. Notice emotions, feelings, and sensations. Observe them without attaching to them, allow them to reveal themselves to you. They will communicate with you their shape, colour, name, density, texture, etc. They are there as a means for your body to communicate with you as the consciousness that there is something going on that needs your attention. When you become more adept at this practice you can ask the emotion, feeling or sensation, “Do you belong to me?”, if it doesn’t, you can gently ask that it leaves. However, if it does belong to you, you follow the practice above. Here is a link to a guided “Body Communication Meditation” that you can start with. Imagine if we all develop these skills and allow our near and dear to evolve their emotional intelligence, not to mention our own, where would be as a species? How would it be if we trusted our compass as opposed to the map?
The challenge is that we are poorly resourced to deal with our own crap, so how can we be expected to hold space for others when they are going through their own? Perhaps you can be part of the solution and take your responsibility to resource yourself to be the rock that someone needs to become a rock themselves for others to lean on.
I believe in you.
I want to acknowledge Brené Brown and Dr Susan David and their discussion on this topic that gave me a platform to explore it with my own audience, thank you. Click here to listen to their discussion. Also, thanks Sarah for putting me on to the episode