We belong to a generation of people who are alone. We live in crowded places, big cities, follow the same cycle every day.
Therefore, it becomes crucial to stay optimistic about life for the sake of one’s mental health. However, that optimism should not come at the cost of suppressing one’s emotions.
Emotions are an essential part of our life. They are like the guardians that keep us protected and vigilant. Feeling sad helps us to pause and introspect, feeling anxious before a presentation means that you care about what you are doing. Stress helps in performance enhancement only when it’s channeled right.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and channel your emotions in a healthier way. To be able to communicate well, relieve stress, empathize, make better decisions, and deal with conflicting situations. One can achieve emotional intelligence through self and social awareness.
A few phrases given below are examples of unnecessary replies that we receive or give out during a conversation. That usually involves sharing in which the person who is advising needs an easy way out and doesn’t want to listen.
Let’s break them down one by one –
What if I don’t want to smile?
How is smiling going to solve anything?
What if I am always smiling, but inside it’s killing me?
“This is hard, and I understand that. But you have done harder things before, and I believe in you.”
This alternative response tells that you get it, that you understand and can relate to what they are going through.
This reply would make someone feel better because sadness and anxiety make us feel alienated from reality as we don’t see much of it around us.
Yes, it’s my blood group. Is that the solution?
I know it’s pretty hard to stay positive right now. There are so many things that could go wrong. What do you think can go right?
This alternative response shows that you recognize the depth of the problem. You heard and got that what that person is going through. It’s pretty severe, and it requires a practical solution, and you feel them.
You are also calling them out on this unconscious pressure of being positive in that situation for no good reason. You are telling them to feel what they are feeling. In this process, you are making them ponder on a possible way forward.
“Stop being so negative”
How will I acknowledge that something has gone wrong without being negative?
It’s pretty normal to have some negativity in this situation.
Our biggest weakness is overthinking scenarios when we are going through a rough patch in our lives. We think about all that has gone wrong and all that could go wrong.
Nothing seems right, and we can’t help it. And at that time, if someone tells us not to feel any negative vibes, honestly, I would not want to be with that person at that moment.
Here is the thing we need to understand the situation and respond to it with our best of abilities. Sometimes, all the situation demands, is you to embrace that situation rather than trying to make it right by forcing positivity on yourself.
“It’s going to be okay”
It’s probably not going to be okay any time soon. And that’s okay not to feel okay right now.
Okay, so this one gets on the nerves the most. We fail, we struggle, it happens all the time. And it does NOT FEEL OKAY. It feels like nothing in the world is ever going to be good again.
It’s okay to feel that way. We shouldn’t have the desperate need to feel like how everyone else is feeling. We all have our battles.
This alternative reply tells that person that you both live in reality and not inside some fairytale. That you understand the struggle of not feeling your best, and that’s okay!
So what can we do? Should we just feel wrong? Should we not see the light after the tunnel?
It is essential to see that there might be light beyond the tunnel. That after a stormy night, the sky will clear and the sun will shine again.
However, positivity isn’t the best way to help others. It can even have damaging effects when someone is looking for some support.
The term ‘toxic positivity’ refers to the concept that focuses on so-called positive emotions, and rejecting anything that may trigger negative emotions is the right way to live life.
If you are going through a hard time, just take a pause. We sometimes get this urge to keep ourselves busy, to distract ourselves, to move forward, to think of a solution.
No one is telling you not to wait. Take a pause. Feel. You are human. You are allowed to process. It may seem like time is running out, but you have it, you have the time to feel.
Just breathe in and breathe out. Focus on your breathing. You have to come out of it at some point but let those few moments be yours, for yourself, for your well being.
You get a burn, you scream, you cry, you shake your hands, you put ointment on it. Treat it the same way you treat a wound. React and solve. Don’t rush into things.
Impact of forced positivity on mental health
Unfortunately, we live in a time where people are ashamed about expressing their emotions. There is a lot of toxic positivity on the home page of most of the social media apps that we use.
There has to be some motivational quote on positivity, every time we open these apps. Open Instagram, go to anyone’s profile, and tell me if there is a single picture of them not having the time of their lives.
There is nothing wrong with what they are doing, but it’s this need for validation that most of us have. Therefore we think we need to look our best on social media.
There is an unspoken pressure in our minds about creating an image on these apps. Seeking validation in itself is toxic, and we add this hunger of creating a positive image of ourselves on top of it.
If you are feeling sad or experiencing a decrease in your confidence because of using these apps and seeing your friends have fun, you probably shouldn’t use it.
It’s a vicious cycle of feeling a certain way after looking at someone on social media posting about their lavish vacation. It pressurizes you to post pictures looking happy and seeking validation from your friends, and the loop goes on and on.
Suppressing your emotions
The best thing about humans is that we can think, feel, be rational, choose. It’s like a switch inside us that makes us human. Therefore, the worst thing you could do to yourself is shutting off your humanity switch.
Our feelings, our emotions, strengthen our decision making. When we shut them off, we are unable to make these decisions wisely.
And this craving to stay positive, this advice that we take so seriously does just that. It takes what we feel and puts it all in a jar, locks it, and throws away the key. It clouds our judgment in the long run.
Men are portrayed to be tough and often shown not to feel anything. They suppress it, and that is why most of them(not all) are not as emotionally connected as women are.
It’s how society breeds them, it’s not their fault, but it impacts them and everyone around them. We should not push negative thoughts and feelings away or tell others to do the same. Instead, we should normalize them.
It’s high time now for the world to understand that you can’t force happiness, not on yourself, not on others.
If someone comes up to you, looking for advice, just listen to them. Don’t pull out your standard answers. Instead, listen to them and just know that things happen to us all, and it’s okay to feel sad and frustrated when it happens.
Like when you tell someone your problems, you don’t want to hear a googled quote, you want to make sure that it’s not just you, feeling that way, that someone is listening to you. You want your problems or feelings normalized.
Limbic Resonance is an idea that echoes this; it’s the ability to mirror the feelings of another person to strengthen our connection with them.
Just feeling sad with someone when they are feeling sad would help them feel better because they’ll feel heard and understood.
Yes, if someone fails in an assignment, you could tell them to cheer up. But if someone or someone close to them has cancer, you can’t ask them to cheer up or just smile through it.
Depending upon the gravity of the situation, your responses should vary, and that could only happen if we listen and empathize.
It’s essential while facing a problem, to identify what is or what’s not in one’s control. That will help in developing one’s problem-solving skills.
So smile when you feel like smiling. And it’s okay if you don’t want to.Radha Paul
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Radha Paul is a writer, a poetess who has a tendency of looking at quotidian scenarios with a broad perspective which is evident in her writing. She began writing as a teenager throwing light on mental health and stigma surrounding it and then followed her passion by opting for English literature from Delhi University and creative writing from the British Council.