The “Positivity Parent” Nightmare - Teal Swan Articles - Teal Swan Jump to content

The “Positivity Parent” Nightmare

While it is tempting to think that positivity is always a good thing, the plain and simple truth is, it isn’t true. There is such a thing as damaging and toxic positivity. A person can do a lot of damage with their positivity. And one area where this is especially true, is in parenting. When a parent uses positivity as a coping mechanism, they can and often do destroy their child’s life. I invite you to do a deep dive with me into the positivity parent nightmare. So that this is one nightmare no child in the future has to endure.

Being able to recognize and really take in the positive in life, is a valuable life skill that will serve you well. But just like anything, positivity can be misused and misused severely. This is especially true when positivity is something that a person uses as a coping mechanism. Sometimes, a parent feels they cannot handle reality. And so, they use positivity to deny reality. They use positivity as a tool of avoidance. They create a positive “overlay” reality for themselves that makes their life feel good or at the very least, manageable. 

When a parent does this, the truth is, they are using a strategy that they used when they were little to escape from the reality of their own painful childhood. Their own childhood experience was painful. They felt vulnerable and powerless to making it better. The adults in their life did not bother to really attune to them and make changes, so as to make their experience better. Because they could not make it better, they took to pretending as a means to make their life feel better. They took to the art of creating mental overlays. To understand overlays, I want you to imagine a little girl in a home with an anxious alcoholic father and a codependent mother. There are always furious outbursts in the home and the child is expected to be a helper and a pleaser. The child has to find some way of coping with the experience. So, she decides to pretend and focus on things that feel good and craft a narrative of reality that fees good. She pretends that she is an angel that was sent from heaven to help mommy and daddy to be ok. She wears toy angel wings around the house. And she pretends to have special powers that help people to love each other. When her dad takes her to the store to get candy, she tells herself that she is a daddy’s girl. When he flies into a rage at night, she climbs on the roof and sits outside and stares into space, thinking about how wonderful it is that so many planets could exist out there with other life on it. When her mother fails to protect her and set boundaries for her, she focuses on how peaceful and Christ like her mother is because she won’t start a fight.

For a child in this scenario, their only way to feel ok and to continue to be close to the people upon whom their life depends, and to belong with them, is to disconnect from their own pain and disconnect from the negative aspects of their reality. After all, to stay connected would be too painful and scary and powerless and vulnerable. They choose to un-attune to it. And by doing so, they choose to go into denial and out of reality.                 

The mind has the capacity to play pretend and reframe things and focus only on the positive to such a degree that every element of reality can be seen as a different element in our fantasy reality. A fantasy reality that our mental and emotional survival depends on. This fantasy reality sits over actual reality like an overlay

It is common for children to use this coping technique because childhood is such a uniquely powerless experience for so many children. They cannot escape. They cannot make choices to change their reality and so they often end up developing coping mechanisms (like overlays) so as to not be stuck in a tormenting reality where they have no control. But this coping mechanism continues past childhood. It extends past when a person actually does have the capacity to change their reality. When this is the case, this coping mechanism gets people into serious trouble. If you want to learn more about this, you can watch two of my videos titled: Overlay, What Prevents You from Having a Real Relationship. And 8 Hidden Dangers of Reframing Your Thoughts.

When a person uses this coping mechanism and goes on to have children, it is a recipe for absolute disaster. Why? Because when the going gets tough, including when the going gets tough with their children, they will use this coping mechanism. 

So, what happens when they use this coping mechanism as a parent? They choose to leave their child in reality, in pain and alone. They abandon their child, without ever physically leaving them and they end up doing all the wrong things. By doing this, they put their child in the same position they were in, in their childhood. Thereby putting the child in the position to choose to be in pain and alone, or to do what they did, choose to feel better and belong by creating a positive overlay of their own. Perhaps even adopting their positive overlay. This becomes an intergenerational cycle with some children joining up with the bandwagon and coping. And others, becoming the family problem and failing to thrive.

When a parent copes with positivity, any painful reality the parent does not want to acknowledge, will be denied, ignored, suppressed, minimized, negated and distracted from. This includes any painful reality about their own child. The child is gaslit about that painful reality and is also abandoned to deal with that painful reality by themselves. If the child does not validate this parent’s better feeling fantasy reality, the child is then made the problem. The parent fails to face the negative element of reality, meet the child where he or she is and co-regulate with the child. The parent also fails to respond to the child or the issue in the right way. They do not change anything so as to improve the actuality of the situation that is causing distress for the child. And as a result of this chosen un-attunement, the parent starts to feel like they can do nothing right. And they cannot. They cannot because you cannot do the right thing according to what is actually happening, if you are in another reality about what is happening.

Assuming a child does not or cannot follow suit with the parent and craft a fantasy reality that validates their parent’s fantasy reality, the child will fail to thrive. The child will be in a hell all by themselves, with a parent who is feeling pretty good, except of course for the fact that their child is so unhappy for no obvious reason. The child soon finds themselves in a nightmare built for one. And because their pain is not being seen, heard, felt, understood and therefore is not being responded to correctly, in fact it is being denied, dismissed, negated, and suppressed and they are being neglected, the child resorts to behaviors like cutting and other forms of self-injury, drug addiction, video game addiction, eating disorders, social withdrawal and isolation, aggression, oppositional behavior all the way to even suicide or murder.

So that you can understand this better, here is an example. Bonnie has a daughter named Chloe. Bonnie had children because she imagined the incredible, unconditional love she would get from them. So, when Chloe would get upset at Bonnie as a young toddler for this or that, and wanted to do things for herself, Bonnie felt she was being denied the approval and love she deserved and always wanted and always thought should be there between herself and a daughter. Bonnie reacted very badly to this, withdrawing and acing exasperated. This only caused Chloe to attach to her father instead and avoid her mother. Their relationship got worse and worse. It became adversarial. To make matters worse, the family lived in an area where Chloe could not make friends because their family was a different religion from everyone else.

To make matters worse, Chloe’s father was very disengaged when it came to parenting. To make matters worse, Chloe was molested by a neighbor. Chloe was really, really unhappy. In middle school, she started to wear all black. She would get into fights nearly every day with Bonnie. She also started to cut and listen to death metal music. Any time Bonnie noticed Chloe’s unhappiness, she felt that familiar feeling of not being able to deal with it emotionally. So, she resorted to her go-to coping mechanism. Positivity. Bonnie would write about all the things that were going right in her life in a journal. She would sit outside and appreciate the sunset. She would tell herself that Chloe was going through a phase, just like all teenagers do. And that Chloe was exhibiting all of these behaviors because she is was an artist and all artists are a little bit tormented. She would read books about moms and daughters that ended up close, after years of struggle. She would go to sleep early, so she could dream about good things, even if Chloe was awake alone late at night. She would read the birthday letters Chloe wrote her in elementary school as proof that there was so much love there between them. Bonnie would tell Chloe to be grateful for what she had, and to watch the sunset. She would buy her books about being an HSP. She took her to a psychiatrist who could help her balance her brain out right, because Bonnie had provided Chloe with such a privileged life, there could be no other reason for Chloe’s unhappiness than faulty brain chemistry. After all, depression ran in Chloe’s father’s family. Bonnie would not look at the actual painful reality, her daughter’s reality. As a result, Bonnie escaped from her own child into a feel-good reality that she could live in. And Chloe was left alone in pain in an emotionally tormenting situation she could not change. And because of the chosen un-attunement, everything Bonnie did to respond to the situation was out of reality. And so, it made things progressively worse, rather than better. Chloe moved to New York right out of high school. After a very serious suicide attempt, she is still struggling with an eating disorder and neglectful relationships. She has such a bad relationship with her mother that she often says she doesn’t know whether she will even cry when she dies. Bonnie is painfully envious of the relationship her friends have with their daughters. She still cannot understand what she did to have such a difficult and distant relationship with her daughter. Especially after everything she did for her. But Bonnie tells herself that there is so much we don’t understand about this universe, it may not even be something that has to do with this life, it may be because of a past life Chloe had. 

The reality of a parent who copes with positive overlays, is that they are choosing their own comfort over the wellbeing of their child. They are choosing NOT to have a real relationship with their child in the process. They are choosing to occupy a different, more feel-good reality from the one that their child is occupying. This means they are going way from and are neglecting their child, especially emotionally. By un-attuning to the negative aspect of reality, including the negative emotions, thoughts and truths of their child, they are not responding correctly, nor are they responding to the actual issue. And so, they will be able to do no right by their child. One of the most important things you can possibly do as a parent, is to stop coping with positivity. Attune to your child and your child’s reality instead, no matter how painful or scary it is. Only then, will you be able to do the right thing for them.


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