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Quick Thought #19 – Loneliness and Toxic Positivity

I posted an article the other day about the importance of processing negative emotions instead of insisting on being positive and grateful no matter what. I added this sentence because I think it’s true:

Of course, the one thing I will say about that is this. Be prepared to do that work alone, or very nearly alone. The world is full of people who are not comfortable with their pain, sadness, grief, etc., and refuse to do anything but “be grateful.” They also have zero tolerance for other people “bringing them down” with their own emotions.

Here’s the thing that sentence led me to later when I reread it. We have what has been described as an “epidemic of loneliness”. This term was created well before the pandemic, so we can’t just blame it on lockdowns and concerns about being in public. Many people want to blame this epidemic on technology, social media, etc. People stay home and look at Instagram instead of seeing people in person.

I don’t think that’s it. Not completely anyway. I think the real damage has done is to make toxic positivity popular. For every person celebrating their “good vibes only” lifestyle, there are at least 2-3 people who have lost a friend because they’ve been cut out by someone unwilling to be with them in their pain.

After all, if the goal is to eliminate all the negative people in your life, where do people go when they are in pain, grieving, or simply need support?

Nothing makes you lonelier than having no one to turn to during those times, and, increasingly, the message we are getting is to aspire to be that uncaring towards people in need.

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