リア充の振りは身体に悪い?:Toxic Positivity(ポジティブ中毒)

こんにちは!

オーストラリアでは、InstagramやFacebookで、パーティとか新居購入とか、充実したプライベートを垂れ流す人が多い。今、住んでいるメキシコでは、ほとんど見かけない。日本はどうなの?とオールラリア人でメキシコに住んでいる英語の先生から聞かれた。

「日本のおじさん世代は、最近、Facebookに投稿なんて止めてしまった。もともと、それほど、プライベートをひけらかすようなことはしてなかったと思う。」

「唯一、毎週末、妻と娘と一緒に食事に出掛ける写真を投稿する同僚が一人いた。本当に家族仲が良さそうで、彼の家族愛が伝わって来る微笑ましい内容だった。それでも毎週となると、さすがに辟易感があった。彼も最近は投稿していない。」

「日本では、Instagramに、比較的若い女性が、レストランの料理やデザートとか綺麗な写真を投稿するケースが多い。リアルライフが充実している様子を競争で投稿しているように見える」と答えた。

それと関係する話で面白そうな話を見つけたと彼女から紹介を受けたのが、下の英語のブログ記事。

Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes

ポジティブ中毒(ポジティブな雰囲気の悪い面)」つねにポジティブ。ネガティブな感情は見せない。他人や友人にもそれを求める。このような、本当の感情を隠すような行動は、結果的に身体やメンタルに悪影響があるというような内容だ。

ポジティブ中毒」の兆候(不正確かもしれないが、思いっ切り意訳)
  • 本当の感情を隠す
  • 感情を殺し、うまく行っているように振る舞おうとする
  • 感傷的になることは罪と思う
  • 聞こえの良いことわざで、他人(の不幸)を慰める
  • 他人の(悲しみの)感情に共感せず、最悪ケースではなくて良かったねとあくまでもポジティブな見解を伝えようとする
  • ポジティブでなく、苛立ちなど感情を出す人を恥じる
  • それが現実と、悩ませてるものに向き合わない

この記事の結論は「人間は完璧ではない。ネガティブな感情も持つ。つらい経験や本当の感情に向き合い、同じような人と適切な距離感で付きあうべき。そうすることで、健康で、より豊かな人生となる」みたいな感じ。

この記事を読んで私が感じたことは「他人が集まる場所(職場、学校とか)で、日々、悩んでいるとか、落ち込んでいるとかの感情は、なかなか出せない。友人関係でも同じ。毎回、愚痴るような人とは距離を置きたくなるだろう」

「通常は「ポジティブ中毒」ほどではないとしても、誰でも、外では、ネガティブな感情を隠して生きていると思う。本当に心が許せる人にだけ、必要に応じて、本心のような裸の感情を見せる。そうすることで、気持ちが楽になったり、健全な精神状態が維持できるのだと思う」

問題は、プライドも邪魔するし、人に迷惑をかけたくなくて遠慮もする。本当の気持ちなど、簡単に出す相手を持っている人も少ないかもしれない。まさに私のような寂しい人のパターンだ。

そう言う時は、日記のような、誰にも見せないところで「ポジティブ中毒」は忘れて、心の声を思いっ切り叫んでみるのも良いかもしれない。その日記を落としたりしたら、笑えないことになるので、いっそのこと、匿名ブログで、気持ちを吐露するのはどうだろう。私みたいに。

Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes

By: Samara Quintero, LMFT, CHT and Jamie Long, PsyD

We’re not negative Nancies. In fact, as the authors of this post, we strongly believe in the undeniable power of positivity. While there is certainly something to be said for having a sunny disposition on life, it’s also possible to overdose on the sickeningly sweet nectar of platitudes such as “everything is awesome!”

This blog post will address the dark side of the “positive vibes” trend (called toxic positivity), how its overuse causes harm and leads to the very suffering it aims to quash.

“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

What is Toxic Positivity?

We define toxic positivity as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.

Just like anything done in excess, when positivity is used to cover up or silence the human experience, it becomes toxic. By disallowing the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions. The truth is, humans are flawed. We get jealous, angry, resentful, and greedy. Sometimes life can just flat out suck. By pretending that we are “positive vibes all day,” we deny the validity of a genuine human experience. 

Signs of Toxic Positivity

Below are some common expressions and experiences of toxic positivity to help you recognize how it shows up in everyday life.

  1. Hiding/Masking your true feelings
  2. Trying to “just get on with it” by stuffing/dismissing an emotion(s)
  3. Feeling guilty for feeling what you feel
  4. Minimizing other people’s experiences with “feel good” quotes or statements
  5. Trying to give someone perspective (e.g., “it could be worse”) instead of validating their emotional experience
  6. Shaming or chastising others for expressing frustration or anything other than positivity
  7. Brushing off things that are bothering you with an “It is what it is”

Why Toxic Positivity is Bad for Our Health

Shame

To force a positive outlook on pain is to encourage a person to keep silent about their struggles. Most of us don’t want to be seen as a drag or “bad,” so when the choice is between A) be brave and honest or B) pretend like everything is going great, we might be tempted to adopt the latter.

Author and researcher Brené Brown teaches in several of her books, presentations, and interviews that the energy source of shame is silence, secrecy, and judgment. In other words, where there is hiding, secrets, and denial, shame is usually in the driver’s seat. 

Shame is crippling to the human spirit and one of the most uncomfortable feelings we can feel. Often, we don’t even know that we are feeling shame.

Here’s a clue on how to know it’s there, ask yourself, “If they knew __________ about me, what would they think?” or “Something I wouldn’t want the world to know about me is _______________.”  

If you can fill in that blank with ANYTHING, whether it be a situation, a feeling, or an experience there is a high likelihood that there is some shame around that.

Suppressed Emotions

Several psychological studies show us that hiding or denying feelings leads to more stress on the body and/or increased difficulty avoiding the distressing thoughts and feelings (see here, here, and here).

In one study, for example, research participants were divided into two groups and shown disturbing medical procedure films while their stress responses were measured (e.g., heart rates, pupil dilation, sweat production).

One group was asked to watch the videos while letting their emotions show whereas the second group of subjects were asked to watch the films and act as if nothing were bothering them.

And guess what? The participants who suppressed their emotions (acted as if nothing bothered them) had significantly more physiological arousal (Gross and Levenson, 1997). The emotional suppressors may have appeared cool and calm but on the inside stress was erupting!

These types of studies show us that expressing a broad range of emotions (even the “not-so-positive” ones), having words to describe how we feel, and facial expressions to emote (yup that can mean crying) help us regulate our stress response.

When we don’t want to show a part of ourselves, we create a fake face or public persona for the world. That face can sometimes look cheery, with a happy smile, stating, “Everything happens for a reason, it is what it is.” When we go into hiding like that, we deny our truth. The real truth is, life can hurt sometimes. If you’re angry⁠—and the angry feelings aren’t acknowledged⁠—they get buried deep within our body. As described above, suppressed emotions can later manifest in anxiety, depression, or even physical illness. 

It’s important to acknowledge the reality of our emotions by verbalizing them and moving them out of our bodies. This is what keeps us sane, healthy and relieves us of the tension caused by suppressing the truth. Once we honor our feelings, we embrace ALL of ourselves, the good, the bad and the ugly. And accepting ourselves just as we are is the path to a robust emotional life.

Isolation & Other Relational Problems

In denying our truth, we begin to live inauthentically with ourselves and with the world. We lose connection with ourselves, making it difficult for others to connect and relate to us. We might look unbreakable from the outside, but on the inside we’re just scared little teddy bears longing for a hug.

Have you ever been around a sweet, sugary, “just think happy thoughts” pollyanna kind of person? How comfortable are you with spilling your guts about the deep emotions you’re feeling?

Even though that person might have the best intentions in the world, the message they are mindlessly sending is, “only good feelings are allowed in my presence.” Therefore, it makes it really difficult to express anything but “good vibes” around them. Consequently, you end up complying with the implied rules of, “I can only be a certain kind of person around you, I can’t be myself.” 

The relationship with yourself, is often reflected in the relationship you have with others. If you can’t be honest about your own feelings, how will you ever be able to hold space for someone else expressing real feelings in your presence? By curating a fake emotional world, we attract more fakeness resulting in counterfeit intimacy and superficial friendships.

Examples of Non-Toxic & Accepting Statements

Toxic Positivity

Non-Toxic Acceptance & Validation

“Don’t think about it, stay positive!”

“Describe what you’re feeling, I’m listening.”

“Don’t worry, be happy!”

“I see that you’re really stressed, anything I can do?”

“Failure is not an option.”

“Failure is a part of growth and success.”

“Everything will work out in the end.”

“This is really hard, I’m thinking of you.”

“Positive vibes only!”

“I’m here for you both good and bad.”

“If I can do it, so can you!”

“Everyone’s story, abilities, limitations are different, and that’s okay

“Delete Negativity”

“Suffering is a part of life, you are not alone.”

“Look for the silver lining.”

“I see you. I’m here for you.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“Sometimes we can draw the short straw in life. How can I support you during this hard time?”

“It could be worse.”

“That sucks. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

Conclusion

Being a healthy human being involves being conscious of ourselves and how we show up in the world. If you recognize yourself as a transmitter of toxic positivity, it’s time to cut it out. You’re hurting yourself and the people you care about most by insisting on this monochromatic mindset. Instead of practicing toxic positivity, aim for balance and the acceptance of both good and bad emotions rather than all-or-nothing thinking.

If you’re being influenced by toxic positivity, we encourage you to set healthy boundaries with anyone who passes judgment on your authentic experience and speak your truth. We get one chance at this beautiful, painful, imperfect life…embrace it entirely and you’ll reap the rewards of bountiful aliveness.

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