In today’s episode of SelfWork, we’ll focus on toxic positivity and how it’s very different from gratitude. I was motivated by an intriguing interview I heard on the podcast “Terrible – Thanks for Asking” with author and Harvard professor Susan David. She was talking about her own work with what she terms “emotional agility” – couching it in a story about her own father’s death. An 8th grade teacher gave her permission to not judge any feeling, but honor it. She now teaches that, “Being positive is a new form of moral correctness,” and reminds us that, “Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.” So today, in this episode sponsored by BetterHelp, I’ll pull in the work of other experts, Dr. Shauna Springer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and the authors of Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius. Finally, I’ll give you my own common-sense and hopefully helpful analogy to fully understand the benefit of being competent to feel all feelings, regardless of their valence or positive or negative power.
Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are, “We can easily become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It too can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self-serving and wrong.” So although positivity is something we definitely want to cultivate, it can morph into a rigid state of mind that can be hurtful to you, and to others.
Our listener email wasn’t an email at all, but an Instagram message to me by a listener. She wanted to know, as a therapist still in training, what direction would I suggest so that she can evolve into her own most competent therapeutic role. What an honor to be asked! So perhaps if any of you are thinking of being therapists or are in training yourself, my answers will be helpful.
BetterHelp, the #1 online therapy provider, has a special offer for you now!
Buddha’s Brain Audiobook
Wherever You Go, There You Are Audiobook
Emotional Agility by Susan David Audiobook
You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
My book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism or need for control which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions, long hidden away, that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.
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