February 27, 2020
Examples & Alternatives To Toxic Positivity
I have seen this in the birth work field (ESPECIALLY IN BEREAVEMENT AND POSTPARTUM), in Noah's journey, in expressing my surrogacy journey and more, and I'm way over it, so I am here to make this a learning experience!
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is thinking you are being helpful, hopeful, and positive, when you are actually entirely invalidating the person's current experiences, and you probably genuinely did not mean to, but you can grow, like we all can!!
To quote Dr. Allison, a psychologist, "Toxic positivity minimizes and ignores painful feelings. It invalidates real experiences. And it denies basic human emotions. Toxic positivity stifles feelings that deserve attention and compassion. It damages relationships. It's shaming and blaming. Toxic positivity is stifling, sending a subtle but clear message that there's no space for pain. There's no room for the hard stuff. Toxic positivity invalidates heavy emotions, leaving us feeling alone and isolated. Put simply, toxic positivity makes things worse."
Some examples of toxic positivity:
"But not all experiences are bad."
"You can try again for another baby in the future."
"Let it go! Be positive, and move forward!"
"Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy and bad things will not happen to you."
"I could never survive a day in your shoes."
They are in a better place now.
So what to say instead when you are in an uncomfortable situation and someone is expressing their raw emotions and grief?
Sit with your discomfort. Listen to why it's there. Were you not taught how to handle yours and others emotions as a child in a safe and healthy way? Me neither, so it's a work in progress, right? And we can do this together.
Here are some examples of genuine support:
"I am here for you. Thank you for sharing your feelings with me. Do you want to tell me more about _____?"
"How can I help?"
"Your experience was horrifying. I am so sorry. You did not deserve that, allow yourself to grieve openly. I will hold space for you."
"Take your time with your grief. Do not rush through it and work at your own pace. If you need someone to talk to, please reach out at anytime."
I miss them so much, too. This is really hard. My favorite thing about that person was ____. Do you want to tell me yours?
NOTHING. Sometimes, you do not need to say anything. A warm consensual hug, a shed tear next to your friend, just existing in their space, checking in on them and more, is amazing.
I hope this helps others and the community as a whole!