When Positivity turns toxic

“Everything happens for a reason”

“Don’t cry about it”

“There are worse things”

These are perhaps well-intentioned phrases that we often hear when we are going through difficult situations. However, they can be toxic because they deny your true feelings. The best thing to do is to express what you really feel without guilt and you will see that you feel much better.

What is Emotional Bypassing?

Emotional bypass is a term and concept coined by John Bradshaw in the early 1990s. It is most often used today to describe a type of “positive thinking addiction” that can be found in the spiritual community and leads people to ignoring, denying, or repressing negative emotions instead of dealing with them in a healthy way.
Experiencing difficulties such as illness, loss, or grief can be difficult to deal with emotionally. Some people may try to defend themselves by saying things like “everything happens for a reason” or “everything is going to be okay.” This positivity can make you feel better in the moment, but if you constantly try to be positive and ignore the problem, you will only create a false sense of peace. It is important to allow yourself to experience the full range of emotions in order to heal, grow as a person, and move on.

What can you do about instead?

If you have a friend who is going through a difficult time, help them process their emotions by giving them space to express themselves and validating their feelings. Focus on listening to others and showing support.

Develop an attitude of “it’s okay to not be okay.” This will help shift your perspective from thinking it’s wrong to have negative emotions, to instead accepting that it’s not reasonable to expect to be okay all the time.

Try to manage your negative emotions, but don’t try to push them down or deny them.