It is ok to NOT to be ok!! — R Voice

It is ok to NOT to be ok!!

Raj sundaram
Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

We are recently having many insightful discussions on mental health awareness, languishing and dealing with lows here at RVoice. Thanks to @Kakoli Majumder , @Shruti Turner and @Shaimaa Doma for initiating the recent discussions! Just continuing on a similar note...

Globally, we are going through unprecedented times of hardship and difficulty, which can be soul crushing, soul numbing, derailing, at least for some - if not many of us.

Managing emotions through hardship becomes even more difficult amidst toxic positivity - airising from within or outside. Sometimes, even the well-meaning "Just smile, be positive!" can sting. Being nuanced, accepting, authentic and empathetic in our responses to our own hardships and that of others seems an art, but we can try to learn and practice it. I really liked this summary of "positive responses" Vs. empathetic responses.  🙂

Would love to hear your views/opinions/experiences.


  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    That's a great poster (and post in general)! This is such an important point that can have huge negative impacts even when we are well-meaning.

    I feel like the left column can come across as dismissive and condescending. I feel a lot of the time, the courage to open up and share our vulnerabilities is underestimated. Open questions and the focus on what the sharer needs is the key!

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    Exactly, @Shruti Turner - condescending and dismissive are two things we can try to avoid while dealing with vulnerable people. Guess, this has become very important now that many of us are in vulnerable situations, one way or another...

    Guess, the left column can be labelled as "Generic Free Advice". :)

  • chris leonard
    chris leonard Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 145 admin

    I love the phrase 'toxic positivity' ! I am guilty of it myself occasionally (although don't think I've ever said the examples on the image). However, being aware of it, and the much richer interactions that could result from checking myself when I am toxically positive, are a great step forward.

  • Kakoli Majumder
    Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 203 admin
    edited May 12

    @Raj sundaram I agree with @Shruti Turner that the left column appears rather dismissive and disinterested. However, having said that, I've realized that many a time when I've been at the receiving end of such comments, the intent is not always "toxic" or even dismissive. People who are genuinely concerned and well-meaning - even my close family and friends - have sometimes used these. I feel that socially, we've been conditioned to seeing things in a black and white manner and missing the nuances. It's critical, especially under the current circumstances, that we respond to others' difficulties with more empathy and understanding.

    With regard to our responses to our own situations though, it's harder to comment as everyone's coping mechanism is different. Very recently, I've been guilty of this self-talk of "others have it worse" and "everything happens for a reason." I've even reprimanded the negative chatter in my brain several times saying "Think positive" and "This too shall pass." This has helped me get out of the numbness and start functioning once again. Having said that, I do agree that we need to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves space and time to figure what works best for us.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 573 admin
    edited May 12

    Great article @Raj sundaram! I quite like the poster too. Toxic positivity is one of the reasons I need a clean break from social media (especially Instagram) every once in a while. I came across a post just this past weekend that quite literally suggested "keep your mind occupied and you'll be fine" as a way to deal with depression. 😓 Especially now, when so many people are grieving losses, toxic positivity is just making matters worse.

    I agree with everything that's already been said. I feel like using responses like the ones in the column on the left might lead the person to feel invalidated. Also, often when someone is opening up to us, they aren't really looking for advice or a solution. Rather, they're just looking for us to listen and maybe offer a shoulder to them - a lot of people don't realize this unfortunately. We need to be more attentive, respectful, empathetic, understanding, and most importantly, I feel like there's a need to stop expecting people to get better or stop feeling a certain way after a single conversation - I've noticed that a large part of toxic positivity is brushing something off as "not that bad" because you don't want to talk about things that might make you uncomfortable.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for the responses....

    @chris leonard : Yes, you hit the nail on the head. Interactions could be richer and deeper if we delve into the "uncomfortable". Think it is great way to get to know people we think we know even better.🙂

    @Kakoli Majumder : Yes, it is possible that the intent of people who give such responses may not be toxic. However, I feel it is best to consider providing a response with the receiver in mind. Is this response going to cut across as belittling/invalidating/condescending? Before responding to ourselves and others - we can perhaps, question ourselves a bit on both our intentions and how our words might affect the receiver (which could be our own selves). 🙂

    @Andrea Hayward : Yep, yep and yep - for everything you said. 🙂

  • Lidia Lins
    Lidia Lins Member Posts: 48 ✭✭✭

    There is indeed a difference between toxic positivity and developing hope and optimism.

    In my opinion, what is most important is to acknowledge what you feel, be true to yourself first.

    On the other hand, our brain doesn't differentiate the real experience from what we create, and that's the reason why "faking" some habits can actually lead to change. For example, you have this "laughing yoga", where people have to laugh in a mechanical way. The acting of laughing, even when it's mechanical, can stimulate the production of hormones which will "in real" change our feeling state.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭
    edited May 24

    @Lidia Lins thanks for the input. Whatever works for individuals.

    Wish tricking the brain aka popularly called "fake it till you make it" works. Alas, did not in my case or in cases I have known - diagnosed as persistent major depression, PTSD, severe anxiety caused by non trivial life incidents or blatant unjust work/life conditions verging on abuse.

    (These also happen to be cases where it may not be good or appropriate to advice people that they have a choice on how to react to their misfortune...(some examples include - traumatic loss of loved ones, violence, abuse, etc. that shake the victim's core sense of self/world view putting people into a fight-or-flight mode.)

    In my case, "methods" to trick the brain seemed to complicate matters in terms of muddling reality and emotions. And also sent the wrong signals for those in support systems. The same things happen with stoic responses on the outside, while feeling vulnerable on the inside. So...I second being true to oneself and additionally, being allowed to be true to oneself and not be forced to stick a smile in the fear of being ostracized for "bringing negative vibes"

    A similar issue with "methods" is widely now being recognized with mindfulness or meditation techniques as well. Not a magic bullet for everyone, not in all cases. Studies are beginning to look into this... thankfully, and finally...people in the mainstream media are slowly talking about this.

    (This article covers certain aspects, and many clinical studies are showing up on this. There's been significant confirmation bias in this area of study, imo. Just my preliminary conclusion researching this area as a PTSD survivor, while training to be a an early-stage student, I still have a lot to learn and read about this.)

    Not saying these techniques don't work. really depends on individual cases, imo.

    Personally, I prefer to stick to reality and create a toolkit to make changes to or cope with triggers and environmental factors. After all, we and our behaviors are inextricably linked to the environment. I try to have a tool kit to recognize thoughts on triggers or unwarranted threat responses (mindfulness helps in recognizing) and practice changing time frames or thoughts to more bearable ones. And there's a tool kit to reach out for when nothing works. 🙃 I guess, each one of us needs space and time to work out what works for us. If one is lucky, people might actually support.

    Meanwhile, in trying times...I guess we can as friends/communities try to exercise awareness in how we respond to each other's calls for help or support without belittling or invalidating vulnerabilities, or making people feel even more lonely during their misfortune or worse traumatise people asking for help with less than thoughtful responses ..... especially when people are actually being courageous in expressing true selves.

  • Lidia Lins
    Lidia Lins Member Posts: 48 ✭✭✭

    Thanks for sharing @Raj sundaram . In your case indeed it is a lot of different factors acting together and you shouldn't apply this technique for major losses or events in your life. It is not a magical wand.

    And concerning the meditation techniques, there are different techniques which can be used. Some that can be tried by everyone, like the one I shared in the last days, and others which can only be practiced by experienced meditators, otherwise they will indeed trigger anxiety or panic if you don't know how to handle the situation. And to be able to handle the situation you need to develop resources, an that you don't get from one meditation session.

  • Yufita Chinta
    Yufita Chinta Member Posts: 125 ✭✭✭✭

    I have the same feeling with @chris leonard, a guilty of it myself.

    I think I do say all the sentences listed in the left column to myself too. It brings positivity of course, but sometimes in my low points, it adds the depressiveness, tiredness, and hopelessness. Others who seek my help may get the same at the moment. I didn't know before that it's called as the 'toxic positivity'. Thanks @Raj sundaram. Need to learn to take care of it.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    @Yufita Chinta : Didnt mention this to trigger any guilt.

    People probably mean well when coming in with comments in the left column. I guess responses need to be tuned to the benefit of the person receiving the response (including ourselves) - depending on situations, thinking about what the receiver might find supportive/soothing/helpful...

    What is nice about the righthand side is that many are questions or phrases meant to get more information from the other person. I feel most of us can figure out what might be beneficial by simply asking what they want.

    Asking such open-ended non-judgemental questions is usually empowering, helps the person think/talk about/through their specific situations and unambiguously conveys care and empathy from a position of mutual thinks. 🙂

  • Yufita Chinta
    Yufita Chinta Member Posts: 125 ✭✭✭✭

    Yes, @Raj sundaram I agree to "simply asking what they want" as the first step 😊

  • Kakoli Majumder
    Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 203 admin
    edited May 25

    @Raj sundaram Completely agree with you on this Raj. @Yufita Chinta I don't think you need to feel guilty about using some of the phrases in the left column. A lot depends on your tone and warmth as well - and knowing you, I'm sure even if you have ever used these phrases, they must have been loaded with so much of genuine concern that the person at the other end would feel comforted. But as Raj said, the phrases on the right side solicit a response and therefore, are more conducive to starting a conversation. Talking about their pain might make the other person feel lighter and more supported. I've started practicing this consciously Raj :)

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    @Kakoli Majumder - yep, nailed it with the left column can work if there is genuine concern and the other person feels comforted. 🙂

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    @Lidia Lins : Yep. Various techniques...and things take time.

    In my case - have been on formal meditation practices - trying different things since 2014ish through different life changes...and it has taken me years to kind of zero in on what kind of works for me in which situation.

    Guess it is the same for most people.

    For instance - Hata-yoga, Vipassana, metta, zazen/kinhin are not exactly "techniques" for me to "feel better" - but rituals for exploring myself. However, none of these helped when I needed to "feel better" ASAP in emotionally heightened states.

    With mindfulness helping me know that I am in a heightened state (and that is it...more mindfulness was not good for me) - I now know a bit better to use combinations of body movement and breathing techniques (ranging from vinyasa to various kinds of breathing techniques depending on the situation) to calm myself. And there are also times - when none of the tricks/mental programming works and I have come to sort of accept/cope/deal with it...

  • Soumi Paul
    Soumi Paul Member Posts: 138 ✭✭✭✭

    Understanding psychology and accordingly giving corrected responses is very much like learning another language to me. Really intense and beautiful. The language of the mind. I wonder if my own drowning made me acknowledging it so consciously. Whatever the reason is, it's very required.

  • Adaora Anyichie - Odis
    Adaora Anyichie - Odis Member Posts: 102 ✭✭✭

    Being positive and having great people in your circle is recommended.