What is toxic positivity? Is “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” a bad approach to life?
Sometimes the worst thing you can say to a person who’s feeling bad is: “Cheer up!”
Chip Hooley learned this the hard way. At the beginning of the pandemic, his daughter, Hilary, called him in a panic. She and her husband had recently purchased an apartment in Brooklyn. Now, she was worried that real-estate prices in New York were falling and her friends were leaving the city.
Mr. Hooley, 60, a financial-firm executive from Cazenovia, N.Y., interrupted her. “Don’t worry, this will all work out for the best,” he said, launching into a pep talk. “I gave her all these positive thoughts,” he said. “I felt like Batman saving the world.”
Then his wife, who was sitting next to him, piped up. “That was the most annoying conversation I’ve ever heard,” she said. “Your daughter wanted to talk to her dad, and you didn’t even listen.”
Always look on the bright side of life?
Pushing away difficult emotions, such as sadness or fear, and forcing ourselves or others to be positive can be harmful to our mental well-being and our relationships, psychologists say. This is because practicing false cheerfulness—which they call “toxic positivity”—keeps us from addressing our feelings, and the feelings of others