Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Toxic Positivity is a lot like alcohol. At first; socially acceptable, encouraged and even cheered on…until the person gets downright annoying and it’s clear that said person is using the vice to mask real, serious problems existing underneath the surface. In both cases, it becomes increasingly obvious that the individual is being inauthentic.
Addiction is pleasure seeking. Compulsion is ritualistic behavior meant to satisfy an urge, quell anxieties and silence obsessive thoughts. So easy to mis-diagnose between the two, unless the provider is really asking the right questions. When I was dealing with my own compulsion patterns, and subsequently Shadow coaching people with compulsive and/or addictive issues, I noticed approximately 65-70% of individuals (myself included) would begin their journey by clinging to Toxic Positivity. Toxic Positivity, as defined by Medical News Today, is “An obsession with positive thinking. It is the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic”. I also noticed those individuals who refused to work on the underlying source of pain, and continued the energy draining practice of Toxic Positivity, ALL rebounded back to alcohol (either temporarily or permanently).
Positive thinking on a healthy, AUTHENTIC level is definitely a way to gain benefits, however NO ONE is positive all the time. Not even that gym instructor screaming at you to high five your neighbor and asking you to yell you’re doing great every 2 minutes. ESPECIALLY not that person. As a yoga teacher, I cringe every time another instructor smiles and saccharinely rattles off the obligatory “Love, Light and Namaste to you all” when they told me before class they were dying to get the session subbed and can’t help but hate the students who walked in the door. I’m not saying this world needs to unleash the “mean beast” and that yoga teacher should’ve said “Fuck you all and thank you for ruining my Sunday night!”, but there’s a difference between owning how you feel and channeling that energy to teach a solid workout, or outright selling a fake personality that no one feels comfortable around. Because trust me, not only can students see right through that behavior (or at least sense something is “off”), that “toxic positive” person is one step away from trying to sell you a membership on their essential oil team or get you indoctrinated in their cult of personality.
Compulsion is not about the vice we choose; but the sadness, trauma or emptiness we’re trying to cover up. I have so much love, respect and admiration for my fellow Shadow workers, really digging deep to learn and manifest from the struggle…And nothing but compassion for those still addicted to the stagnant cycle of Toxic Positivity.