How to identify and deal with Toxic positivity?

How to identify and deal with toxic Positivity? Your Professional life may be getting affected due to it!

Nikhil was a practising HR junior manager at a well known MNC. His company was paying him a very handsome stipend, and everything was going on as he had thought of. But suddenly after the emergence of COVID – 19 when his company started laying off the employees, he started getting anxious. His fears became a reality when his boss told him to go for the leave for some days. Its been three months since he had discontinued going office, an uneasiness has engulfed him, but everybody in his proximity advises him to “STAY POSITIVE”. 

In this article, we would talk about toxic positivity and gaslighting effects on your personal as well as professional life. Toxic positivity and Gaslighting are some of the problems many people face unknowingly, which affects their career growth and profoundly impacts personal equilibrium. Both these topics are closely inter-related and sometimes complement each other. 

Let’s know about toxic positivity through some examples?

Toxic positivity could be defined as denying as well as defying emotions which we think or people have made us feel are nothing. These emotions couldn’t be described and therefore have no significance or value at all.

Toxic positivity refers to focusing on positive things and rejecting anything that may trigger negative emotions.

When people are positive to the point of being toxic, even “Genuine concerns” wouldn’t be no longer recognized as GENUINE. Phrases masquerading as “positive thoughts propagators” have a big-time potential to corner these “Genuine concerns”. You need to understand that by denying contradictory thoughts, you don’t get the assurance that your boss is going to recruit you back anytime soon. It would help if you took particular actions through which you rid of deep psychological blots.

Is it possible to stay positive when your career seems to be disembarked for a long time? This question is valid, especially in the post-COVID era, when the unemployment rate has risen across the world? A dilemma, negative thoughts, procrastination and lack of self-worth are some “normal” thoughts a person go through during the struggling phase. We acknowledge the fact the humans are a social animal and try to socialize every object in its surrounding. So when “unforeseen circumstances” erupts, it is our first instinct to think positive. 

Hence, sometimes people do not acknowledge and exacerbate circumstances further by using well-furnished platitudes like, “Everything will be fine”, “You are just thinking too much” and “Forget and think of positive memories only”. The result of which is, the real problems never see the light of the day, and they become “the elephant in the room” which people do not want to look at

Never sitting and addressing a person’s issues is not a good thing. Those issues escalate and exaggerate over time. A study has found that accepting and not rejecting our negative emotions helps us better defuse them and leads to fewer negative emotions over time. Addressing problems, tinkering them for solutions that cause win-win a situation and practising positive result-oriented approach improves psychological health a great deal.

Gaslighting and its psychological effects

Gaslighting can be described as a manipulating tactic used to deceive people into doubting their credibility, such as whether they can do any particular activity or not, whether they are suitable for that specific purpose or not. It makes people sceptical of themselves. It makes people feel that their emotions are not justifiable; therefore, there is something wrong with them. 

Nota bene the fact that gaslighting is not always expressed or done explicitly. In most of the cases, it is as subtle as possible. Can we assess and help in eradicating the ground problem from our lives?

Do you know what the most astonishing thing about gaslighting is?

It’s not just the gaslighted victim is affected, but also the person who gaslighted her/him would face serious repercussions. Some of the problems I’ve mentioned below:

  1. The person who gaslighted another person would never recognize the problems of others which according to her/his stance has no significance. 
  2. We, humans, possess a tendency to delegitimizing the things which we can’t efficiently process by discrediting them. This kind of puritanical attitude could be detrimental when you have colleagues. Not everybody could walk past an affront. 

How our well -intentions may have negative effects due to Toxic positivity: 

Have you noticed that after the emergence of COVID – 19 and nationwide lockdown, there was a wave on social media platforms, trends on twitter, hashtags on Instagram? These were disseminating the messages like “wake up! Now is the time to learn some new things. Inculcate new skills”? I’m not implying that doing the activities above is wrong, but applicabilities of different things vary with circumstances. Each individual has a different capability of coping. Telling people the ways to utilize their time best is well-intentioned but many times rebounds like in the below scenario: 

  1. Preaching optimism to the people who are already dealing with mood disorders and anxiety, prove to be detrimental rather than affirmative. As the US-based therapist, Sherry Merriam best put it “It’s as if this turned up the gravity on the planet. For those people, whatever they were trying to do feels harder and heavier now”, and these people feel like a failure when they couldn’t do anything constructive when there is so much preaching cum pressure in the air to do something better.
  2. Rather than appraising them about what to do and what to not, it would be far more heartening if we could ask them how we can validate what they are going through, what works for them, not in a way that feels good for us, a practice that sounds more in tune with them.

Positivity is just a step away from becoming toxic if we are not heedful of the circumstances, timing and the topic.

The most significant problem faced by the female workforce, better known as harassment is another example—harassment in the form of both physical as well as psychological, racism, and not considering equal stakeholders. Despite having a progressive and positive outlook, if somebody brutally put down arguments that there exist no discrimination at all at workplaces vis – a – vis females or any other gender, Could there be any cooperation at all? In most cases, there wouldn’t be. 

Two probable outcomes could be -the accused would have to face sanctions from the company regulations committee, or women’s concerns would be suppressed. They would undoubtedly lead to further alienation amongst them.

How to deal with toxic positivity, according to experts?

Psychologists from all over the world have pointed out that “mind-over-matter” message isn’t always the right approach, because this technique often portrays itself as ignoring, suppressing or dismissing negative feelings caused by grief, trauma or mental illness.

Experts in this field acknowledge and argue that if someone is struggling, looking on the bright side may not be helpful. Trying to reason away negative feelings or demanding that you “Snap out of it!” likely won’t do any good and may be harmful.

Instead, when someone expresses their emotions, listen, then acknowledge and validate their feelings. Instead of assuring them that everything will be OK, say, “I’m here for you, I care for you,” and ask how you can support them.

“Those who were seen dancing thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”. Just because some people in your proximity don’t understand your problems doesn’t mean your issues are not legitimate.

Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s true that a lot of things would never make sense even if something valuable comes out of them. But we need to acknowledge what these COVID times have made us learn, that there would be uncertainties in life, but we have to learn how to sit with discomfort.

Remember, life might have a semblance to a bale of cotton, but not a one itself.

Going to work does not excite you anymore? You may be working on toxic environment.
Read here to know more: How to Identify and Deal With Toxic behaviour at Workplace

Asif Ali
Aasif is a freelancer writer for the time being. He is a Undergrad in Chemistry (Hons.) from Hansraj College, Delhi University. He likes to be articulated about the Developments going around the world and pen those in his words. He posses a ardent affinity for the policies which pose to impact and help every strata of the society in a constructive way. He endears writing and singing punjabi music.