Our COVID-19 Policies and Responses | Learn More

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity can present itself as dismissing feelings, avoiding problems, and believing people should maintain a positive mindset at all times. While having a positive outlook is good for our mental health, it’s unrealistic.

For individuals in recovery and the family members who support them, staying hopeful about the future may encourage them to continue in their healing journey even when things are tough. 

However, staying positive isn’t always healthy, and sometimes it isn’t best to always “look on the bright side”. If your outlook on life denies reality and ignores emotions or experiences, you might be engaging in toxic positivity.

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity demands a positive outlook on life, no matter how challenging the circumstances might be. While it can be healthy to feel hopeful about the future in difficult situations, toxic positivity denies the reality that life can be hard.

When negative things happen, it may be impossible to simply “choose happiness”. Toxic positivity denies feelings of sadness, hurt, anger, loss, or grief. It places responsibility on the individual to be happy, no matter what they are going through. 

Maintaining a positive outlook can be possible, but everyone is different. Those who’ve experienced trauma don’t need to be told to stay positive – everyone deserves to heal at their own pace.

Toxic Positivity and Addiction Recovery

For many people in recovery, there is a litany of difficult circumstances, trauma, and pain associated with their addiction. Moving forward and healing often requires acknowledging hurt from the past.

For someone struggling with addiction, toxic positivity can be dangerously optimistic. It asserts that you control your happiness and can decide not to feel pain or anger. However, if you are facing addiction, refusal to honour your emotions can further cause problems.

If someone is suffering, they need to know their feelings are valid. Toxic positivity can be dismissive and cause feelings of shame in those sharing vulnerable emotions. In reality, it’s simply ok to not be ok sometimes.

women supporting one another in group therapy

Hope, Growth, and Healing

While toxic positivity requires seeing the good in everything and everyone, hope sees the potential for a better future. Sitting with emotions can be extremely difficult for those in recovery. However, knowing there is support and compassion available rather than judgment can help.

In recovery, it is crucial to acknowledge and honour painful experiences in order to grow. Through support groups, therapy, and other therapeutic methods, individuals in recovery can honour the circumstances that have brought them to this point in their life. 

Denying toxic positivity doesn’t mean seeing the world as all bad or life as always hard. Instead, we encourage gratitude and hope. Hope looks forward to a better future and believes that you can grow and heal. Gratitude acknowledges that there are good things in your life, whether that’s your support system, a hobby you enjoy, or feeling grateful for the progress you’ve made in recovery.

At Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, we are here to help. Through group therapy, one on one counselling, and an individualized treatment program, we aim to equip you with tools that will stay with you beyond our program. Give us a call today to learn more about our program and facility.