Look, I get it. We are living in challenging times. And we do what we can to cope.
I regularly do yoga because it helps me cope with life, both physically and mentally.
I practise mindfulness because it is helpful to count one’s blessings, especially when feeling overwhelmed.
I have a collection of crystals because they are things of beauty made by nature.
But I’ve also recently read some convincing investigative journalism that reported some awful stories about the conditions some third world people work under in order for people like me to own a chunk of rose quartz, and have decided, for ethical reasons, not to buy any more.
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of ‘inspirational’ ‘your thoughts create your reality’ type posts in my social media feeds.
Look, folks, that’d be lovely but it’s Total Bullshit.
And it is what is known as ‘Toxic Positivity’.
As a writer and thinker and educated person I experience this as a form of gaslighting. No, I’m not ‘negative’, I just have open eyes.
I refuse to be silenced by these (frankly cultish) notions that discussing reality is somehow ‘toxic’.
No change for the better ever came about from ignoring the world around you.
Sure, putting your head in the sand may give you a fleeting inner peace – until the real world conditions all around you start to bite.
In a pandemic, a revolution, a food shortage, a war … no amount of ‘thinking positive’ is going to help you, or others.
By all means, meditate, do yoga, practise mindfulness, try to be kind – whatever brings a sense of peace and release and makes life bearable. But quit the magical thinking! Unless you really believe the majority of the people in the world that weren’t lucky enough to be born in a wealthy first world country are somehow responsible for their own poverty.
These ‘beliefs’ have some pretty nasty flow-on effects. We’ve seen it in evangelical Christian churches that preach a success ideology (‘God wants you to be rich, happy, healthy and successful!’) The problem with this is it (a) ignores the words of Jesus entirely on this subject: ‘And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 19:24, King James Version)
(b) allows believers to absolve themselves of responsibility to care for those less fortunate. If we buy into this thinking, it follows that people who are poor only have themselves to blame, they should have prayed harder, and God clearly is displeased with them. In my opinion, any church that preaches this ideology is not practising Christianity; they are following a success-oriented, victim-blaming, selfish cult.
The same kind of flawed thinking occurs in what Jeff Brown labels the ‘New Cage’ movement. As a person who has lived with chronic illness and pain for a lifetime, I’ve heard it all: I am ill because of ‘Bad Karma’ from a past life; if I just thought more positively I would be healed; and endless variations of these. The reality is that the only true thing that Great New Age Con, ‘The Secret’ achieved was that it made one hippy from Byron Bay immensely rich. It also caused an upsurge in this warped mindset that minimises peoples’ suffering and simultaneously blames them for it – which gives these ‘enlightened’ people a good excuse to do nothing for others who aren’t similarly full of peace and light and endless happiness.
Sorry for the rant, but I know I’ve been unfollowed recently by a few friends for refusing to participate in this false ideology. These are people I like and care about, who share my interest in self development and cultivating a healthy body and mind. But they have this particular blind spot, and it pollutes our relationship and saddens me greatly.
So, be delusional if you like, and I’ll try not to judge you for it.
But I’ll just do me, thanks, and continue to use my brain to write and speak about things that maybe aren’t so easy to think about.
Your thoughts do NOT create your reality.
If avoiding reality makes you feel good, just admit that that’s what you’re doing and quit the shaming of those of us who are facing shit head on and working for positive change.
2 thoughts on “On ‘Toxic Positivity’”
Thank you Liz. I really rested to your words here. Makes a lot of sense to me!
I Survived Pret A Manger
Hi, brilliant post that rings massive bells with me.
I love the unexpected reality check / jump from:
I have a collection of crystals because they are things of beauty made by nature.”
“But I’ve also recently read some convincing investigative journalism that reported some awful stories about the conditions some third world people work under in order for people like me to own a chunk of rose quartz, and have decided, for ethical reasons, not to buy any more….”
Great post. Thank you.