Psychologists say toxic positivity is on the rise – but what is it and why is it harmful?

In one year, tragedy, resilience — and now, hope

One year ago, Vigo County health officials knew they faced a public health crisis, but so much remained unknown about COVID-19.

“We were facing a pandemic like we haven’t seen for 100 years,” said Joni Wise, Vigo County Health Department administrator. “There were more unknowns than knowns.”

“Those who work in public health don’t want to be in the headlines … we want to just do our job. Nobody is seeking any recognition. We want to do the best job we can as public servants,”

Dr. Darren Brucken

Dr. Dorene Hojnicki, director of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, recalls, “Everybody was learning from each other,” pouring through research articles, talking to other communities, looking for information from [the] CDC and studying the Johns Hopkins coronavirus website.

“We were trying to get a picture of what could we be experiencing, and then trying to prepare for it,” Hojnicki said.

Early on, EMA’s primary role related to logistics and finding PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] “for just about everybody,” Hojnicki said, including law enforcement, fire, EMS and long-term care. “It was a challenge,” she said, working with the state, private vendors and even other countries, to secure what was then a scarce commodity…

Psychologists say toxic positivity is on the rise – but what is it and why is it harmful?

Ever since Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret became an international bestseller, people have been obsessed with the power of positive thinking. The book gained fame for popularising the ‘Law of Attraction’ – the idea that thinking negatively or positively can attract more of these things into our lives.

“In order to move through pain, you need to feel it – and positive thinking can become toxic if you’re pressuring someone to always see the bright side of things,”

But a growing school of thought suggests this relentless brand of positivity can have a harmful side. You may have heard people using the term ‘toxic positivity’, which considers that if we’re always just looking on the bright side, we can fail to process important emotions like sadness, fear and grief, that ultimately help us to heal.

Whether you’re the type of person that always puts a happy spin on bad news, or you’re guilty of sharing an altered reality on Instagram, pretending everything’s always OK might not be so great for our mental health. And if left unchecked, experts warn that toxic positivity may even cause deeper issues, possibly playing a part in things like burnout, anxiety disorders and self-esteem…

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