Try Emotional Acceptance Instead Of Blind Positivity
“Here’s your positivity pill, take one tablet before and after every meal.”
It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
However, many online gurus are making bank telling us to be positive, teaching us how to think positively, preaching about how positivity is attractive, and that positivity will attract all the good things into our lives. Sometimes, even our friends and family tell us that.
Don’t get me wrong, positivity is great!
In fact, it is my innate trait. I find it easy to look on the bright side and project how a current issue is just a little bend on the road to something better. Having an optimistic outlook on life gives me an additional perspective to see the good that can come out of a bad experience. However, there is a growing insurgence of something I call positivity’s evil twin.
*jeng jeng jeng*
It sounds like positivity, it feels like positivity, but unfortunately, it is blind positivity.
What is blind positivity?
Being blindly positive is acquiring and depending on positivity so much that we ignore the reality that life can be tough and hence, we mask our real emotions. Blind positivity is also known as toxic positivity.
You know how it is when you meet an acquaintance and they ask ‘How are you?’ and you go ‘Oh, life is good,’ and you tell them what you are currently doing and ask them the same; even though you may be battling an emotional heartbreak.
Wait, don’t jump the gun. I am not asking you to share emotional stuff with an acquaintance. However, this is an example of how we may treat ourselves when we go through emotional turmoil.
Blind positivity mirrors that conversation. We tell ourselves we are doing great, force a smile on our faces, and pep-talking ourselves on how we are going to win the day when we genuinely feel misery.
Sad to say, it is counterintuitive.
As a human, we are not designed to just feel and live on one side of our emotions – ONLY HAPPY EMOTIONS ALLOWED!
It is like going through life with only one side of the brain. Creativity or logic – pick a side.
When we have a mindset where only positivity is allowed, you’ll feel like something is wrong when a negative emotion crops up. We shun it and cast it out like a priest doing the exorcism of Emily Rose.
Unfortunately, the negative emotion just gets stored within ourselves, just waiting to ‘Peek-a-boo, I see you.’
The gospel of positivity is also not great to be used on people who are hurting. Imagine that your pal has just lost his beloved dog. He feels disappointed because he didn’t spend the last few years creating new memories with his dog as he was studying overseas. He tells you it, but because you believe in the power of positivity, you say:
‘Hey man, don’t worry. Don’t let it get you down. You must think positive, you can always get another dog!’
Wah lao, I think he will smack you lor.
Preaching positivity also poses the danger of us being desensitised to other people’s needs and emotions; because then we’d view negative emotions as something bad, and we’d tell others not to feel a certain way, but to feel *insert optimistic emotion here* instead.
Try Emotional Acceptance
If you’ve watched the Pixar animated movie Inside Out, you’ll find that the dominating emotion, personified as this sparkly yellow being named Joy, tries to steer her human to always be happy and positive. What happens is a tragedy, when all the other emotions are not allowed to be shown.
Some of us find it a necessity to bury our negative emotions. When we feel hurt, we suppress it because it does not feel nice. When we feel sad or hurt, we shove away because it is not a desirable emotion. That, my friends, is emotional avoidance.
Emotional acceptance, however, is the willingness to accept that you feel negative emotions without:
- Dismissing the negative emotion
- Indulging or feeding the negative emotion
The two are located on different ends of the spectrum.
But first, how do we know if we have unresolved emotions stemmed from avoiding our true feelings? It can look like this:
- When the first reaction to any negative feeling is to reject it
- When we feel something is wrong with us when we feel sad
- When we feel like it’s fake when we try to be happy
- When we experience sudden roller-coaster emotions that can range from being nice to suddenly being snappy for no reason
So, how do we practice emotional acceptance?
1. Know that you are in charge of your emotions
If you can force yourself to be positive, being in charge is somewhat easier. It is knowing that you can feel negative emotions, not be afraid of it (it’s not some voodoo taboo), and shift it when you have already embraced the emotion.
2. Identify the emotion
With the power you have over emotions (aiseh, feel powerful onot), think about the emotion you are feeling or have felt. Allow time for it to bubble it up and put a name to it. It can be anger, resentment, envy, sadness, guilt, or any emotion that you have labelled negative / been trying to avoid. Write it down on a piece of paper, just so you are mindful of it.
3. Sit with the emotion
Allow yourself to feel the emotion. If you are feeling sad, don’t try to control your tears. If you are feeling angry, you can scream into your pillow. Allow yourself to feel negative emotions. Show yourself some compassion. I usually give myself an hour to a day to feel all the emotions before I tell myself, times up, and I move to the next phase of emotional acceptance.
4. Balance it with facts
Don’t dwell and indulge in the emotion. You don’t need to feed it by feeling sorry for yourself, moping around, talking about how your life sucks, and how it is never going to be better. That is not emotional acceptance, that is making your emotion bigger than it is; and it opens a pathway for your emotions to overpower you.
However, balance it with facts. Ask, why are you feeling this way? What was the trigger? Should I feel differently?
5. Validate it
After taking some time off alone to embrace your true emotions, validate the emotion by penning it down in your journal, or talking to a close friend that will not tell you positive-nothings. Find someone who can give you an insight into the emotions you felt.
6. Choose to let it go or take action
Now that you have accepted the emotion, you’ll realise that having negative emotions are not that bad. It increases your emotional intelligence and strengthens your mental health. You can choose to let go of that negative emotion by verbally releasing it or take action. If it consists of a lot of unresolved emotions, make an appointment with a psychologist, and they will be able to help you sort your thoughts out.
Emotions are important; both positive and negative. I personally feel SO MUCH BETTER after a crying session when I am hurting. I’d like to think that is why some women are more empathetic (not scientifically proven); because they allow themselves to be emotional (not the Korean drama kind ok?). Some women complain that men are emotionless, and I think it is because some of them are brought up to ‘suck it up’ and ‘be a man’. Now, we see how important it is for both to hang in a balance.
Positivity is not the magic cure-all for everything. If it is, we could chant the positive quotes people flood on Instagram, and COVID-19 would be history. For the sake of our most authentic self, be positive but embrace the negative emotions as well.
So, how are you REALLY feeling today?