Toxic Positivity – What Is It?

I stumbled across this image earlier on Facebook and it got me thinking; or rather accelerated something I had already been mulling over in my head. It was a hammer that nailed a series of loose thoughts into a cogent steam. Toxic positivity. It exists, it’s a real thing, not just the product of my cynical, ‘glass half empty’ personality. Especially in these days of unremitting gloom when such personalities seem to gleam even brighter than ever.

It reinforced to me that it’s okay to feel sad during this unprecedented pandemic, plague, whatever you want to call it. It’s alright to be angry, to express the pain and frustration inside your heart. It’s not a sign of weakness or of not being a ‘team player.’ In fact, its healthy to honestly explore and express the negative emotions within as a means of purging and cleansing your soul. It is genuine, realistic and honest. It. Is. Allowed.

My social media feeds still contain the ‘happy crappy’ brigade who still appear to exist in delusional bubble where everything is ‘fine’ and we can smile our way through the coronavirus crisis. I still read unrepentant feeds where self appointed spiritual leaders declare this is all media exaggeration and things aren’t as bad as everyone is making out. Just send them some money and all will be well again.

120,000 worldwide deaths (and rising) would beg to differ. And don’t give me the whole ‘what about suicide, cancer, the common flu’ argument as that’s just downright insulting to the dead and their loved ones. What about when this hits Africa and truly explodes? When India and the Middle East succumb? For it is coming, make no mistake about that and no amount of prophetic words or Paypal donations are going to amount to a hill of beans when it does.

It’s good to retain faith, hope and love in these dark days. But they must be grounded in realism and sincerity. People sticking their heads in the sand and failing to grasp the disastrous scale of this need to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s going to leave permanent scars on this already broken world. It’s random, horrific and indiscriminate. It’s here, staring us in the face. Time we opened our eyes to the truth.

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

44 thoughts on “Toxic Positivity – What Is It?

  1. A positive outlook is not necessarily denial of reality or minimizing the pain and suffering of so many. I agree that some of the mouthpieces seem out of touch. If we’re going to help others through this troubling time, we must have a hope and vision of better days ahead.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi Denny,
      Having hope and a positive outlook is different than denying reality. We can have hope in the midst of the suffering–how that we will get through it, hope that we will be strong in the face of it, hope that we can be a blessing to others despite the suffering, hope that we aren’t alone.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There are some people who are in denial and some who have been struck down by the enormity of this. To be “Pollyanna” is one side of the coin. My hope is that the world created after this understands that we are all on the same planet and must work together. Let’s pray that this is a “wake up” call.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. THANK YOU!! Thank you for posting this. I have faith that we will get through this and that somehow it will change some of us for the better and some will actually turn worse. But I think it will leave some scars behind as you said.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A contrarian point of view? I enjoy your blog tremendously, Im troubled by the notion that you seem to be dismissing completely any alternative point of view as “insulting to the dead and their loved ones”. I dont disagree with your overall sentiment on the severity of the virus, but I see comments like these all over the web and its a very slippery slope.

    When we can simply brush off, and prescribe insult dismissively to counter points of view it can lead to all sorts of dangerous outcomes when applied on a large, national or global scale. I dont agree with people who are outright dismissive of Corona, but I respect their right to think and feel anyway they wish.

    I know you do to, ive read your blog for a long time. Take care and be well.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Amen and amen! I was talking with my wife about this last night. While I understand that I can only hear the death toll and number of new cases so many times, turning to syrupy positivity doesn’t provide me any real solutions to the pandemic either.

    It’s strangely absurd to create some unreachable standard of being happy enough all the time. Thank you for giving a name to this movement – “toxic positivity”. We don’t have to deny our feelings.

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  6. I am on board with your essential premise here. For me, one of the chief spreaders of the gospel of toxic positivity is the president of these United States. He has permanently tarnished the words, “terrific,” “beautiful,” and “perfect” by his chronic over- (and utterly insincere) use of them.

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  7. Bullseye. You hit the nail on the head. Whatever image is meaningful to you, use it. In my Christian tradition, we are not excused from suffering because Jesus wasn’t. We will have suffering in life. We will certainly learn lessons from our suffering (at least if we are smart, reflective and we survive it.) But faith won’t take the suffering away and the faithful shouldn’t expect to escape it. Our faith helps us endure it, to come out on the other side to where resurrection of sorts can happen. (And if we don’t survive it, be raised to eternal life.)

    Those Christians who deny suffering deny Jesus on the cross… at least that’s my take on it. Bless you and thank you for the new phrase… Toxic positivity is exactly what it is, I just never had a word for it beofre.

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  8. The book called “the upside of stress” notes exactly that, as does another book I read on resilience. Helen Keller was an optimist…she acknowledged her bitter reality while using hope of overcoming the odds to drive her forward. Best per research is acknowledging the “suck” while having a hope for future. Flat denial is never good! Agree!

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  9. I like the terminology and agree with it. Those overly happy and oblivious people can be obnoxious and annoying to be around. I doubt that anyone who knows me would ever say that I am always smiling, happy and positive to the point of denying life’s realities; however, I often choose to look for reasons to be positive and happy while acknowledging the uglier emotions and realities. The flip side of the tox positivity people are the downers who are never happy or satisfied, who complain about everything and are bitter at the world. I prefer to be in the middle.

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  10. Yes, I have noticed this too in Facebook. There seems to be two camps: the super optimistic that prefer to send out silly memes and play mindless games through this whole thing with their heads in the sand and not listening to anyone. Then there are the doomsday folks that are super pessimistic and super certain we are all going to perish. Some of these folks are venting a lot on my Facebook feed about the others. Hard to find some folks in the middle ground. But I can see why some people are choosing to be very nonchalant about this pandemic. It is their way of coping and coming to terms with unfortunate and terrible realities. It reminds me of Seligman’s experiment on the dog and the eventual apathy and learned helplessness that results. Or Monty Python’s Life of Brian when they sing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Some people have just learned in their lives that keeping extremely positive is the way out of bad situations. Makes you wonder what they’ve gone through on a personal level.

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  11. Thank you so much for this post; I have shared it on my Facebook feed and asked my friends to call me out if I ever do this to them … I’m sure I have been! It comes from not being comfortable with my own pain and putting a brave face on it. xx

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  12. It is good to stay positive, however people need to look at the world around them. The world has changed since this virus has started. Even today on my personal Facebook account I saw that the Florida Beaches are going to start opening again. I think it is to early for this. I will continue to stay home.
    I hope you stay safe and healthy. Hugs.

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