In the age of social media, it’s common for you to see posts from friends and family about having a positive attitude all the time. The phrase, “Positive vibes only” has become a mantra for many. Being optimistic is important, but what should not happen is wanting to always force a sense of joy and wellbeing because it is normal, as a human being, for you to experience different emotions, and they all are valid.
The phrase “toxic positivity” refers to the concept that keeping a positive attitude is the right way to live. It means focusing only on the positive aspects and rejecting any stimuli that could trigger negative emotions.
When you deny unpleasant emotions, you magnify them and reinforce the idea that, since you’re avoiding feeling them, you don’t need to pay attention to them. While you are trapped in this cycle, these emotions become larger and more significant as they remain unprocessed. This approach is simply unsustainable. Evolutionarily, human beings cannot be programmed just to feel happy.
By avoiding difficult emotions, you lose valuable information. For example, when you are afraid, your emotions are telling you, “Be aware of your surroundings.” Emotions themselves are information. They give you an instant idea of what is happening at any given moment and even help you identify a potential threat. Feeling fear is a way of receiving alerts and reacting to threats.
How to manage emotions
Accepting difficult emotions helps you cope with them and reduce their intensity. Think about how good it feels when you can finally talk with your loved ones about how difficult your day was. Getting things off your chest, including the negative ones, is like lifting a weight off your shoulders, even if it’s harder than pretending everything is okay.
Emotions are not “good” or “bad,” that is to say, they’re not all positive or all negative. Instead, think of them as a guide: emotions help you make sense of things. If you’re sad about leaving something behind, it probably means the experience was meaningful. If you feel anxious about a presentation, it probably means you care about how you are perceived.
Emotions aren’t just a way for your mind to give you a clue about what’s going on; they also convey information to the people around you. If you’re sad, seek comfort.
While it can be beneficial to try to look on the bright side of things and life experiences, it is also important to recognize and listen to our emotions when they are not as pleasant. No one can be a ray of sunshine 24/7; humans just don’t work that way. In fact, paying attention to and processing your emotions as they come and go can help you better understand yourself and those around you.