Reviews Elsewhere – Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America

posted in: Book Reviews | 0

Came upon this review from the Mental Health at Home blog, and something about it really hit home with me.

I think in the survivor, and mental health, communities we have a real problem, and that problem has to do with how many people have this very strange way of defining “thinking positively”. So when I saw this review, I thought, yes, this is absolutely what is going on, especially on social media:

The book looks at different ways that expectations of positive thinking with no room for anything else are actually harming our society.  The author doesn’t use the term toxic positivity, but she’s talking about the same kind of thing.

Ashleyleia goes on to talk more about her own impressions of the book, and I encourage you to go read those, and if you’re really interested pick up the book as well. But, while we’re on the subject, I also want you to think about this idea of toxic positivity. Because it’s not a matter of saying that positive thinking is bad, but when it’s all you’ve got, that’s bad.

Toxic positivity is telling an abuse survivor that “everything happens for a reason” or that being positive will help us avoid negative things in the future.

Toxic positivity is telling someone to “just cheer up” with major depression, or that they should just think differently when they have a serious mental illness.

Stop it. Go away. If you want to try and explain what happened to me as anything other than another person making a decision to hurt me, I don’t need you around. If you don’t recognize that someone with a mental health issue has no control over what their brain is currently doing, you are only hurting them, not helping.

I haven’t read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, but I already agree with the subtitle because I’ve lived it, and seen it play out too many times in other people’s lives. People who blame themselves for being abused, being a victim of a crime, the grief of losing a loved one, or having anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. All because there’s this entire industry built around telling people they can “just be positive” and make that all go away.

That’s nothing but an illusion.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Have you been a victim of toxic positivity? What better way would there be to respond to someone?

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