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I want you to imagine you are struggling.  Perhaps work is challenging, or you are experiencing difficulties in your relationship.  Maybe money is tight, or you are struggling with never getting time to yourself.  You could be finding any number of things difficult, and it may be starting to have a real impact.  Yet, despite this, there are aspects of your life you are happy with.

You would like to speak to someone about how you are feeling but certain thoughts pop into your head, and it stops you dead in your tracks.

  • “It could be a lot worse”
  • “I have an awful lot to be grateful for”
  • “There are others who are suffering more than me”
  • “What have I got to complain about?”

And what’s more, you assume these would be the very same thoughts someone might have if you were to open up.  So instead of reaching out, you minimise your difficulties and remain silent.  This is called Positive Toxicity.  It is the assumption either by yourself or others that when faced with emotional pain or a difficult situation, a person should have a positive mindset.

How many times has someone told you to see the positives?  Or focus on what is good in your life instead of what is bad?  Whilst I agree there are times when this can be helpful, it should never cause someone to bottle up their feelings.

People often come to counselling worrying they are being self-indulgent, not bad enough and feeling guilty for taking my time.  They typically say they are aware there will be others who are far worse off than them.  Whilst that may be true, I remind them we live in a complex world and it is normal to struggle.  And for the client sat in front me of, I see their struggle as real, unique and “worthy” of our time and focus.

I would like to leave you with this thought: Who says you must be positive?  By acknowledging and recognising our pain, we have an opportunity to gain insight and understanding.  It enables us to work through our difficulties, experience better relationships and live a life where we feel less stressed and more confident.  And we all deserve the opportunity to have this.

Photo by Cristian Esobar and image from Rabbit & Bear make a wish by Tara Shannon.