I found that interesting, because they are two different things, yet not so different. Like, what’s so toxic about either of those things? And why am I talking about toxic things so much?
Let’s define some terms. For example, there is nothing wrong with either being positive or feeling shame, in the appropriate situations. Looking on the bright side, being grateful for good things in our lives, and being hopeful, are all good things. Shame, likewise, is the kind of emotional response that keeps us in line. It prevents us from doing something that would harm others and our relationships, which are also good for us and good for society.
Where things get toxic is when these outlooks and emotions are there for no good reason. When we pressure ourselves to feel positive at the expense of the rest of our emotional depth. When we no longer feel free to be sad or angry. When we ignore our own need to grieve or process difficult emotions, we end up setting up a system that is no longer emotionally healthy. Likewise, when we feel shame over simply existing. Or we are ashamed of someone else’s acts, like an abuser. That shame isn’t protecting us from doing harm with an outrageous act, it is keeping us stuck in bad patterns, always seeing the worst of ourselves, and hiding from other people. Both of these examples are simply emotional reactions taken to an unhealthy extreme. Those extremes prevent us from being in the real world, connected to real people. Toxic positivity alienates us from our own negative emotions and the real emotions of other people. Toxic shame alienates us from our own value and the value that others place in having us in their lives.
Of course, one of the tell-tale signs of depression, and unhealthy responses to trauma, like abuse, is overly black and white thinking. Going to extremes, if you will. So, it’s easy for many of us to fall into these toxic traps. It’s easy to think that we should feel shame about what happened to us, or that we can somehow rid ourselves of that shame, and anger, by simply refusing to do anything but be positive. But neither one of these is real healing. Real healing, like real emotions, and real people, are messier than that.
It’s still worth it though, as are a lot of those messy emotions and people too. If you let yourself get out of the black and white thinking, you just might see that too.