On Toxic Positivity

“Saying ‘be positive’ marginalizes and isolates people,” she said. “I’m autistic, I have depression and anxiety and I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. It’s not realistic to ask me to conform to these very specific, socially valued emotions.”

“If it works for you, it’s not toxic,” she said. “If it makes someone else feel invalidated, it is.”

Source: ‘It’s OK not to be OK’: Minnesota psychologists push back on ‘toxic positivity’ – StarTribune.com

If positive attitude changed everything, we wouldn’t need Universal Design. Precarity, systemic racism, ableism, and heteropatriarchy are built through policy and require changes in policies – not merely mindsets – to topple them. Sometimes we should be outraged and angry.

Judith Halberstam writes about the “toxic positivity of contemporary life”:

“As Barbara Ehrenreich reminds us in Brightsided, positive thinking is a North American affliction, “a mass delusion” that emerges out of a combination of American exceptionalism and a desire to believe that success happens to good people and failure is just a consequence of a bad attitude rather than structural conditions….. As Enrenreich puts it, ‘If optimism is the key to material success, and if you can achieve an optimistic outlook through the discipline of positive thinking, then there is no excuse for failure.’ But, she continues, ‘the flip side of positivity is thus a harsh insistence on personal responsibility,’ meaning that while capitalism produces some people’s success through other people’s failures, the ideology of positive thinking insists that success depends only upon working hard and failures is always of your own doing.”

Source: Making Room for Asset Pedagogies – Long View on Education

The more I loved myself, the less I was willing to accept toxic positivity that promised to heal me rather than help me exist in this body. The more I loved myself, the less I accepted momentary help at the expense of systemic change. The more I loved myself, the less I wanted acceptance from people who never bothered to know me outside of their own emotional need.

Source: Disabled And In Love With Me: The Ableds’ Worst Nightmare

My point, of course, is not that we should be relentlessly negative but that we should stop being relentlessly positive — and tiresomely stoic.

Source: The Overselling of Gratitude – Alfie Kohn

Positivity is often toxic, ableist, and steeped in deficit ideology. “Positive attitude!” is a fixture on ableism bingo cards.

See also,

One thought on “On Toxic Positivity

  1. Yeah, suppressing the negative does not seem wise, and telling people to “think positive” when they’re going through negative stuff often has the opposite of the desired affect (at least in my experiences).

    Liked by 2 people

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