Let’s talk about “toxic positivity” and how it can have a negative impact on your recovery. Being aware of this way of thinking, you can embrace your feelings and grow stronger in your sobriety.
Positive thinking is something that many people start practicing in recovery. We learn that negative thinking patterns can cause unnecessary worrying, judgment, emotional dysregulation, and mental health problems like anxiety or depression.
However, it’s important to realize that it’s not possible to be happy all the time. The human experience involves a wide range of emotions. By allowing yourself to experience these emotions, you can become a healthier, more confident person.
What is Toxic Positivity?
Toxic positivity is the excessive overgeneralization that you should be in a happy, positive state across all situations. Having a healthy perspective is important, but this doesn’t mean you need to be positive all the time.
So what’s the difference between having a positive mindset and toxic positivity?
In a nutshell, having a positive mindset is a coping mechanism that gives you a better perspective on the situation. Toxic positivity, on the other hand, is believing that the best and only way to cope is by putting a positive spin on the issue. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is not effective and can actually be harmful to your emotional health.
Why Toxic Positivity is Destructive to Recovery
Even though toxic positivity can be harmful to anyone, it can be especially destructive to people in recovery because you’re still learning how to cope and control your emotions. If you feel pressured to look at everything through rose-colored glasses, you’ll end up burying your emotions and they’ll become a bigger problem down the road.
As you’ve already experienced in your life, bottling up emotions can lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Numbing these feelings with drugs and alcohol becomes the norm for some individuals, and surely you don’t want to end up here again.
No matter how uncomfortable your emotions may be, you must allow yourself to experience and release them. This is difficult at first because you’re used to numbing unpleasant feelings with drugs and alcohol, but it will get easier over time as you develop healthy coping strategies.
Bottom line: Experiencing a full range of emotions makes you healthier and more whole.
How to Practice Positivity without Being Toxic
American culture values positivity. And positivity is something to be valued. But we’re also humans who need to experience a full range of emotions. Therefore, the best approach is to be true to the nature of your emotions while seeking optimism.
Here are some tips for practicing positivity without being toxic to yourself or others:
- Instead of “think positive,” understand your feelings and why you’re experiencing them. Your feelings are valid and it’s OK if your emotions aren’t matching up with how you thought you felt.
- Rather than belittling yourself for feeling negative, grant yourself the freedom to feel whatever comes your way.
- Look for ways to support yourself and others through hardships rather than simply saying, “You’ve/I’ve got this.”
- Realize that sometimes, giving up is the best choice. Once you’ve gone over the options or tried a few things, you may realize that walking away is healthiest for you.
Recovery is a long process and you’re likely to face toxic positivity at times. This is why we recommend limiting time on social media, continuing with talk therapy, and strengthening healthy coping mechanisms that allow you to cultivate optimism without dismissing your feelings.