Are you an Optimist or Toxic Positive?

Toxic Positivity - The ugly side of positive vibes


For the longest time now, I wanted to write about toxic positivity but somehow it was never the right time. And as things usually go, yesterday I was filled with a burning desire to finally write about this very subject. Apparently, the time is now.

As a dowsing teacher and an alternate healing coach, much of what I do is helping others deal with difficult situations and gain a new perspective in life. The energetic-healing industry that I belong in however, has been inundated with «unwavering positivity gurus» which make true healing impossible. Healing becomes impossible, simply because of their single-minded focus on just experiencing positive emotions. Let’s make one thing clear, healing is a journey, it’s not easy and it certainly doesn’t happen while you sleep and without your knowledge or understanding. But let’s start from the beginning. What is toxic positivity?


Toxic positivity is an excess in positivity which means having a «Only Good Vibes» approach to life. And like all excesses it has its consequences and that’s never anything good. It’s a widespread belief that a positive mindset will overcome any situation, no matter how painful or difficult it might be. Of course, there are many, many benefits to having an optimistic life view and engaging in positive thinking is highly encouraged, since it can lead to much action and subsequent success. However, the main characteristic of toxic positivity is that it rejects all difficult emotions in favor of a sunny and often falsely-positive façade. Life is not a façade. Life can be complicated and it can certainly get messy.

In many ways, the clearing of negative energy seems to many like a promise of the forever «Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind» where all negative emotions are erased, never to be dealt with again. This is not healing however, it’s simply a self-delusion. I cannot tell you how many times people call me to say, that since their clearing (last year), they’ve had physical issues or emotional upheavals in their life, as if I promised them a problem-free life, simply because they had a clearing and healing session.

I realize a problem-free life is what people actually want. They don’t like problems, complications and situations beyond their control. They want the fantasy of a pain-free existence and that everything will be OK in the end. Who doesn’t? However, though good things happen all the time to many people, it doesn’t always end that way, for many. And that’s the truth.


The clearing of negative energy is like the lifting of an emotional fog, so you may see yourself and your life with new eyes and see what other choices or actions you need to make. That might include an acceptance of a situation that cannot be resolved (perhaps not at this time or ever) and the understanding that we need to just commit to choose better, next time. Or it might require becoming more educated or skilled at the very thing you didn’t have good results in, the first time around. It doesn’t mean however, that you can just skip the «nasty parts of life» or that you’ll be granted a life where everything «goes your way without much effort from now on».

Gaslighting is when a person is manipulated using psychological methods to make them question their own sanity or powers of reasoning. The term was coined after the 1944, George Cukor psychological thriller «Gaslight», with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman.

Official poster of Gaslight, a 1944 movie by George Cukor starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman

One of the issues I had with my previous association with healing organizations is their insistence on toxic positivity. When I was a newbie, I towed the line, because I felt they must know better. But after years of dealing with people with serious issues, heartache and trauma, I can assure you the ever-present sunshine drives people further into isolation by denying them that «pain is part of life» and that «evil exists».

If you do not allow for people to face the harsh realities of their lives or name and validate the pain they endured, they will never, ever heal. Furthermore, you re-traumatize them by not allowing them to research, comprehend and make sense of their own personal story. Telling them to «just be positive» is actually a serious form of gaslighting which can be dangerous in some cases.

Gaslighting is an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control when a person is manipulated using psychological methods to make them question their own sanity or powers of reasoning. Victims of gaslighting are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves. They may end up doubting their memory, their perception, and even their sanity. The term was coined after the 1944, George Cukor psychological thriller «Gaslight», with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman.


It not difficult to get «sucked-in» into the toxic positivity fog. After all, it’s everywhere now. There are so many coaches, gurus and experts that showcase a magical life of great success, how could you not believe it? But in the end, anything that is not substantial or doesn’t solve the actual problem it needs or claims to solve, it bursts like the bubble that it is.

How do you recognize toxic positivity? Below are some signs to help you recognize it. Toxic positivity has certain underlying characteristics that aim to:

  1. Make you feel discomfort when you express sadness or other true feelings by stopping you from speaking «Don’t be so negative!»
  2. Make you feel shame, even in a covert or gentle way for expressing frustration or anything negative or for not feeling positive with a «Being negative won’t help you»
  3. Minimize or belittle your experience with «feel good» quotes or statements such as «Always look on the bright side!»
  4. Force you to ignore, disguise or hide difficult or painful feelings with a «Crying won’t help».
  5. Give you perspective, instead of validation or support with a «It could be worse».
  6. Brush-off things that are bothering you with a «It will work out eventually».
  7. Push you into action or towards a result by telling you to «Just get on with it» or «Failure is not an option».
  8. Focus on gratitude & bypass your emotions «Others don’t have what you have».
  9. Make comparisons with others, especially idols or strangers «Someone always has it worse than you do».


People face serious loss or trauma especially during and in the post-pandemic years. Unemployment, bankruptcy, domestic violence, love-less marriages, betrayals, separations, divorces, health issues or deaths even. These are all «major-life traumas» and cannot be resolved or dealt with pacifying pleasantries. Toxic positivity can include statements such as:

  1. «Always look on the bright side!»
  2. «Being negative won’t help you»
  3. «Cheer up!» or «Smile!»
  4. «Crying won’t help»
  5. «Delete negativity»
  6. «Don’t be so negative»
  7. «Don’t dwell on it, instead focus on the positive»
  8. «Everything happens for a reason»
  9. «Failure is not an option»
  10. «Go on a holiday and it will be OK!»
  11. «Happiness is a choice»
  12. «If I can do it, so can you»
  13. «It could be worse»
  14. «It will work out eventually»
  15. «You’ll make it in the end»
  16. «Never give-up or never quit»
  17. «Positive vibes only!»
  18. «Someone always has it worse than you do»
  19. «There’s no such thing as failure»
  20. «Think happy thoughts»
  21. «Think positive»
  22. «You’ll be fine»
  23. «You’ll get over it»
  24. «This too shall pass»
  25. «Others don’t have what you have»
  26. «It’s not as bad as you think»
  27. «I always look for the positive»
  28. «There’s always a light in everything/everyone»


When people are facing real issues, as many are right now, it’s important to show that we listen, care and understand. Below are just some examples that answers give validation and hope.

  1. «This is hard»
  2. «This is painful, I know»
  3. «All vibes are welcome here»
  4. «Well, it’s hard but we can make it right. Let’s regroup!»
  5. «Many people are facing similar situations».
  6. «You are not alone»
  7. «It’s normal to feel bad right now»
  8. «Sometimes things can go wrong»
  9. «I hear you and I am here for you»
  10. «What would be most helpful to you right now?»
  11. «I will pray for you» or
  12. «I will send you some healing or light or positive energy»
  13. «Is there something I can do for you?»
  14. «What can I do to make you feel better?»
  15. «I can understand why you’d want to give up».
  16. «What would the ideal situation be for you right now?»
  17. «Well, it’s hard to see any good in this, but we’ll make sense of it, I am sure»
  18. «We are not on a race to reach a goal. Take your time»
  19. «Take a step back, relax and see it with new eyes tomorrow»
  20. «I see you sad (stressed, angry etc.). Is there something I can do for you?»
  21. «Let’s take a walk and re-think it. I will help»
  22. «I’ll help» or «I’ll try to help as much as I can»


As humans we need to share our experience in a genuine way and gain support and validation so we can overcome whatever troubles us. We are humans and humans have emotions. This is a fact of life. When we are faced with toxic positivity, these feelings and our reality are dismissed, ignored, suppressed or outright invalidated.

By denying any negative feelings we may have, we deny our humanity, our authenticity and the very essence of our unique existence. We are meant to have feelings. This is our natural state. Not accepting our reality and our humanity prevents our growth and evolution. Toxic positivity makes us feel guilty or shame because we are human. And that, in my opinion, is why it can be so cruel or downright abusive.

In order to learn, grow and heal, we must first name and understand the problem. Denying or minimizing our negative emotions or trauma hinders healing because it suppresses our truth. Also, it forces us to internalize it and that usually leads to self-blame. Healing begins with the truth. The greater our understanding of what happened to us, as bad as it might be, the sooner we can address the issues involved. We can do this with clarity, compassion and new skills and/or awareness not by gaslighting our emotions .

We learn from the wisdom of others because we gain insight as to how they have dealt with similar issues. If we don’t genuinely engage in real conversations with them, if we don’t tell our truth but lose ourselves in the false narrative of a «Forever Positive Existence» we cannot reach a realistic understanding of our subjective reality. And if we cannot see reality, we cannot steer ourselves in the direction of healing and growth. Let’s choose kindness over platitude, optimism over toxic positivity and reality over falseness. After all, eventually we will have to deal with our issues, let’s do it calmly, serenely and with true intention in each step we take. We do the best we can, with what we know at any given time and so does everyone else. Let’s make each step count. Self-respect is a great start and a true friend. Let’s be friends with that emotion!


1.Seek the right help, from the right person

It’s important to remember that most people who engage in toxic positivity, most likely, mean well. They are only doing what they were taught. It’s a sign of the times. That doesn’t mean they know enough or that they are trained to deal with difficult situations or emotions however, especially people in the energy healing industry. Most healers are largely self-directed, not formally taught and I am embarrassed to say, not everyone practices their craft with true diligence. Therefore, it’s important to give them credit for what they are trying to do, rather than what they’ve accomplished. So, consider the source but if you need «real» help, talk with a «real» professional.

2.Accept your humanity

Humans have feelings, that’s that and there are no exceptions to this rule! If you feel it, it’s real. But that’s is also OK too. Notice it, think about it, put it into words, but most importantly, permit yourself to feel whatever you feel. Your feelings are important so anytime you are starting to have some emotional overage keep repeating silently inside you, «I accept this emotion». Then, choose to do something about it.

3.Manage your feelings, but don’t deny them

Negative emotions are difficult, I get it. Get a clearing but seek to understand why this is happening to you. See what else you can do to handle any excess emotions. Do you need to see things differently, acquire a new skill, practice that new skill, make changes in your lifestyle or in the people in your life, take an anger-management course? There are things you can do.

4.Learn to listen

When people express their negative emotions, don’t tell them to stay positive, let them speak and listen. If what they are saying is beyond your skill or capacity, let them know. «I hear you, but I cannot help you. This is beyond my skill or my capacity to help. I don’t know how to help you. You need some expert advice. Let’s find someone for you».

5.Look for the meaning behind the emotion

If the emotion is excessive then it could be that one of your boundaries has been crossed or disrespected and don’t be surprised if you are the one who did it. That could be one reason. It could be a past-life issue that is triggered by events in this life. It could be that something that used to work, no longer does. Life is all about managing change. High emotions signal that exact thing. Something is not working and needs to change. Let’s see what that could be.

6.Everything does happen for a reason, after you heal

Things can navigate themselves into positive outcomes for many people, but only when people reach a certain level of healing, which might take time and great effort. But for a rape victim, it’s best to help them deal with their feelings of shame rather than telling them that their calamity will end in some good. Toxic Positivity is the insistence that everyone must be happy no matter what the circumstance. Optimism on the other hand is hope and confidence in a good outcome. In the face of real struggle, people need compassion and understanding more than anything else. So knowing when to show perspective is key.

Xenia Ioannidou
Founder & Master Teacher of Dowsing & Alternative Therapies
Real Change Academy®