Yesterday, while browsing Facebook, I happened upon a post which stated that if you’re feeling fear or anxiety, you’ll be attracting more of the same. And it’s the perfect illustration of the danger of toxic positivity.
On the surface, the post may seemingly be offering a comforting, reassuring, and practical way to feel better. After all, what’s easier than thinking thoughts of joy and believing the universe will send more joy straight your way?
But it is harmful. And it’s harmful because sometimes it’s almost impossible to vibrate at a ‘high frequency’. If you’ve ever suffered any type of loss, been diagnosed with an illness or dealt with anxiety then you may well be feeling fear. To suggest people should avoid taking the time to process difficult emotions, is to heap yet more guilt and shame on a struggling person,
What’s wrong with positive thinking?
As a counsellor, I work with people who are dealing with difficult emotions all day. It’s my job to support my clients as they tell their stories and examine their feelings. It’s a job I love, and I’m always struck by how honest, brave and open my clients are. But it’s hard to get the benefits of counselling if we feel we can’t be vulnerable in our sessions, for fear of, “attracting things of a similar vibration”. To repress feelings of fear, guilt or shame, is rarely a good idea. Nor is it an effective long term coping strategy. This is toxic positivity and it’s poisonous to our wellbeing.
You can feel bad sometimes and still be successful
Please know there are many people who live a meaningful and successful life alongside managing unpleasant, ‘low frequency’ feelings. Most recently the British handbag designer Anya Hindmarch spoke about her panic attacks . She discussed how she manages them, alongside her multi million pound business and her five children. This isn’t to minimise panic attacks, but to debunk the belief that if you sometimes feel bad, you’re attracting only bad things.
I do understand the intention of a ‘positivity post’ is usually to be supportive and motivational. However, the pressure to stay positive can cause harm. I’m not suggesting that people fixate or ruminate on their feelings of fear and shame, but exploring them with a counsellor can be a great way to work through them.
If you want to share your own experience of positive spiritual psychology, and whether you feel it helped or hindered your mental health, I would love to hear from you.