How to avoid the positivity trap
Chad Walkaden, Director & Primary Practitioner
14 JANUARY 2018
If you haven’t yet noticed, 2018 is all about your mental health!
This year, mental health awareness is going to be visible in your child’s school, within your workplace, in your community and plastered throughout your social media platforms. One word of caution, please BEWARE OF THE POSITIVITY TRAP.
At the most basic level, we have a range of human emotions that, among other things, includes: love, happiness, kindness, joy and gratitude. These are the warm fuzzy emotions that make us feel great.
Already this year (yes within one week of returning to work), three of my clients expressed a shared sentiment about each of them not feeling adequate about the level of positivity that they have in their lives. To put this into a context, for those who don’t know, the clients I support are seen for Mental Health Coaching or Cancer Coaching. Despite the notable differences between these two areas, there are several overlapping themes that play a pivotal role in determining their future circumstances. These areas involve the support and strategies for things in life that include: fear, anxiety, fluctuating moods, stress and the many associated factors with identity. Needless to say, at times when managing these complex health issues, the wrong message has been delivered if people think that they are expected to always be positive.
To ensure I am not misinterpreted, I will explain a little more about the reasons behind my caution about the positivity trap. At the most basic level, we have a range of human emotions that, among other things, includes: love, happiness, kindness, joy and gratitude. These are the warm fuzzy emotions that make us feel great. While I do not need to comment much about our other emotions that, among other things, include sadness, pain and grief, I do wish to remind you that these emotions are very normal responses to certain life-events. In fact, I have found that it is these very emotions that can be an essential part to developing the type of authentic optimism that has been proven to have improved future outcomes for people facing chronic health illnesses. Moreover, often, it is through the process of working through these “harder emotions” that helps people to achieve a course correction in their health, relationships and career.
One closing point, nothing in this post negates the importance of you having a genuine and authentic optimism. I simply believe that, when moving beyond your mental health concerns, part of the process involves developing new skills and strategies that will replace your difficulties, challenges and vulnerabilities. This is not always achieved by adhering to the supposed assumption that we always need to be positive.
Lastly, I have attached a quote that I have found to been very helpful for supporting many of my clients:
Growth is painful. Change is painful.
But nothing is as painful as staying stuck
somewhere you do not belong.
Click the link below if you want to see the ways that you or someone you know can start receiving professional mental health support