Polarity is an integral element of life. Contrast is a reality in this universe. This means that both positive and negative co-exist. Both positive and negative are inherent to reality. To have a full picture of reality, one must be able to recognize both in anything. But the ability to recognize both the positive and the negative in anything is, for lack of a better way of explaining it, an unbiased, impartial, objective skill. We get into trouble when we become bias towards either aspect of reality.
People become heavily bias towards the negative or the positive. They lose their objectivity and their perspective becomes subjective. They start to manipulate their perception of reality in whatever way serves them. For example, a person will start to ignore positive elements and only notice negative ones if they have been traumatized by disappointment enough to decide to never get their hopes up again, and keep themselves expecting the worst; so as to not be let down ever again. Or for example, if a person does not trust in their ability to feel negative emotion without experiencing huge consequences or trust in their power to see a negative and do something proactive to exact change upon it, a person will start to re-frame every negative they see into something positive instead.
Metaphorically speaking, we can get into trouble when we only wear rosy colored glasses through which to view reality and we can get in trouble when we only wear dark glasses through which to view reality. And today, we are going to talk about one dysfunctional behavior that is rampant within human society and that occurs when we slip into a bias towards the positive polarity inherent within reality… Negating negatives with positives, which is a form of toxic positivity.
When we negate negatives with positives, what we are actually trying to do is to make the negative thing un-real. We are trying to convince ourselves or other people that it does not exist. We are nullifying it, abolishing it and making it either un-true or less true. It is a form of denial. It is a direct and deliberate invalidation of the negative thing. We do this because we feel we cannot handle it being valid, true or real. Because the behavior of negating negatives with positives belongs to the coping mechanism of denial, you would benefit by also watching my video titled: How to Call Bullshit on Denial.
So that you can understand this behavior better, I’ll give you an example. Amy was ecstatic to find out that she was pregnant. But at three months along, she suffered a miscarriage. Amy was absolutely devastated. So much so that she became depressed and developed serious anxiety attacks. Amy’s heart was broken, so was her faith in the future that she wanted. A few of the people in Amy’s life did not know how to deal with their own painful emotions and thoughts that crept up when that happened. As a result, they did not know how to hold any space for Amy’s painful thoughts and emotions. And so, the coping mechanism they reached for and encouraged Amy to reach for was negating the negatives with positives. They wanted to make the negative invalid so they did not have to deal with it. They said things like: “Now you have an angel looking out over you”. “At least it was early and you didn’t get to know your baby”. “You got pregnant and so you know you can always get pregnant again”. “If it happened, it was probably for the best, there must have been something wrong”. “Well, the upside is that you and your husband can focus on each other and do some more traveling in the meantime, there won’t be space for that when there is an actual baby in the home.” Needless to say, these perspectives only compounded Amy’s trauma. As a result, she felt totally not understood, isolated and alone with her pain and made wrong for her perception of the experience, therefore she started questioning her own sanity.
There are several dangers inherent in negating negatives with positives. I’m going to list some of them for you.
- When you negate a negative with the positive, you are actively stepping out of reality. You’re trying to cancel out the negative element of reality, so that you can convince yourself that it doesn’t really exist and you can feel better because you are in an illusion that the positive is the only thing that is real. Reality is actually your only axis for power. This means any action you take is not one that is exacted upon what is real. It will not lead to the intended results. Therefore, you have rendered yourself not only out of reality, but also powerless. This can get you into some real trouble. To understand this, I’ve got a real-life example for you.
Jen was a single mother who really needed a partner. She met Nicholas and got attached to him quickly. They started living together after a few months of dating. Jen started seeing a lot of red flags and negatives about Nicholas. For example, Nicholas definitely fostered an emotional dependency in her. He seemed intent on convincing her that no one in her life actually knew, valued or cared about her and that to the opposite, he was the only one who did. Nicholas had no friends his own age whatsoever and whenever they would go to a social gathering together, he would not engage in adult conversation with her, instead he would seek out the company of whatever children were there and she would find him wresting with them and tickling them. Often, Nicholas would get up in the middle of the night and make any number of excuses as to why he needed to do something other than stay with her in bed for a bit. She couldn’t shake the feeling that he had some kind of double life. Nicholas was unexplainably nervous about police officers and if there was ever a police car parked somewhere that he made plans, he would immediately change plans and keep driving. Sometimes Jen felt that Nicholas was more interested in her daughter than he was in her. He would often suggest that Jen should go on vacation or go to the gym and let him do her the favor of watching her daughter. He was always offering to spend time with her and to drive her to ballet practice. Often, because of this, Jen felt left out of their little “club”. Well, as it turns out, Nicholas was a child sex offender who had established an incestuous relationship with Jen’s daughter about one month into them living together.
The problem is, Jen uses positivity as a coping mechanism. And she especially employs the technique of negating negatives with positives. So, with every negative, she had a way to negate it. She told herself he cared so much about her that he was so afraid of losing her that he felt threatened by her being close to other people. She told herself that it is amazing that he is so good with children, that it was a sign that he was young at heart and was repelled by the impurity and pretense in adults. She told herself that the good thing is that she found a man that is so interested in her daughter and so willing to step up and be an integral part of her life too, unlike other men. She refused to get up when he got up at night to snoop on him. Instead, she told herself that some people are night owls and being up at night is integral to their creativity and that her ticket to being a good partner by loving him the way he is, is to allow him the space to be that way. She told herself that Nicholas’s avoidance of the police was proof that he was being protective because as we all know, there is so much corruption in the police force, they are simply legally supported criminals. Jen put herself out of reality and into an illusion that felt good to her. Unfortunately, by being out of reality, she could not act upon reality and therefore, she failed to keep her daughter safe in such an extreme way that neither of their lives will ever be the same. You cannot make the right choices or do the right thing in any situation if you are not willing to see the full picture of reality, including the negative elements of reality.
- When you negate the negatives with the positives, you run the risk of mentally and emotionally abusing yourself. You gaslight yourself when you invalidate the part of you that sees a negative reality. It is to suggest to that aspect of yourself that what you see, you didn’t see, what you feel, you have no good reason to feel and that you should doubt your estimation of reality. You emotionally invalidate yourself when you do this. You dismiss and reject your painful feelings and thoughts. This is to send the message that those thoughts and feelings are unimportant, unacceptable, inaccurate, insignificant, irrational and not real. When you do this to yourself, this is how you are making a part of yourself (or many parts of yourself) feel. When you invalidate the part of you that sees the negative or that is in pain because of it, you are refusing to see, hear, feel or acknowledge it. Therefore, you are condemning it not only to isolation. But to being alone and in pain. It makes you doubt your own sanity and feel like you are going crazy, which will make you afraid of yourself. It also denies you the authentic support you need in order to deal with what you are facing.
- When you negate the negatives with the positives, you run the risk of mentally and emotionally abusing other people. You run the risk of gaslighting them, making them feel like something is wrong with them for what they think and feel, dismissing and rejecting them, making them feel like what they think and feel is unimportant, unacceptable, insignificant, inaccurate, irrational and not real and condemning them to being not only alone, but in pain alone. It makes them doubt their sanity and feel like they are going crazy, which makes people afraid of themselves. It denies them the authentic support they need in order to deal with what they are facing.
- When you negate the negative with the positive, you are in a coping mechanism. To cope with something is by definition to make a specific alteration mentally, emotionally or physically so that you can manage or adapt to something that is causing you stress. By definition, we only cope with a situation when we perceive that we cannot change or eradicate it. But the thing is, we often cope with something that we can change or can eradicate. And so, when we negate the negative with the positive, we are often keeping ourselves in detrimental situations unnecessarily and failing to change things we should change. We have succumb to false powerlessness, albeit disguised with a positive façade. Metaphorically speaking, instead of realizing we are in jail and getting out of the jail, we are making ourselves ok with being in jail by convincing ourselves that it isn’t jail. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: How To Let go of a Coping Mechanism.
- When you negate the negative with the positive, you are in a state of avoidance and resistance. You are misusing recognition of the positive elements of a thing by turning it into a tool of avoidance of the negative and a tool of resistance against the negative. You are trying to shut part of reality and anything associated with that reality down. In a universe governed by the law of mirroring, whatever you resist, persists. Also, it is an invitation for the reflection to get bigger. If you refuse to see a reflection and are thus unresponsive to it, it will escalate until it becomes something you literally cannot deny. So, it is a set up for future disaster.
- When you negate the negative with the positive, it prevents growth and it prevents expansion. Growth comes from facing the unwanted, gathering insight regarding it, letting it define what you want instead and the process of alchemizing oneself and one’s life so as to create improvement and ultimately, to achieve what is wanted. Recognition of the negative is what creates movement and change. Without it, stagnation occurs. For example, imagine that a family has many dysfunctional patterns. Patterns that have caused real harm to the individuals in that family and that have set them up for failure in their other adult relationships. That dysfunction will never change, it will simply be perpetuated if the members of this family refuse to acknowledge the negatives inherent within their family dynamics and patterns. If each member of the family only recognizes the positive in the family and uses positives to negate every negative about the family, they are in an illusion about their own family. They are creating an overlay and expecting every member of the family to buy into that overlay. Anyone who tries to make the family system improve, by bringing up and trying to change the dysfunction, will then be ostracized. The consciousness of this family has then stagnated and is not growing and progressing and expanding. The dysfunction simply passes from one generation to the next. And believe me, the universe has some serious tricks up its sleeve for shaking up families like this. When you negate the negative with the positive, you thwart progress. You thwart it in yourself, others, the world and the universe at large.
Toxic positivity, in its many forms, is often very subtle. We are normalized to it in our current society. Because we don’t recognize how detrimental it is, we still think all forms of positivity (including negating the negative with the positive) are good. But don’t forget that we once thought that heroine was a fabulous cough medicine. So, we need to recognize when we are doing this and when other people are doing this and put an end to the misuse of positivity.