Harmful happiness

10.05.2020

It is a message that penetrates deep into society, especially since Martin Seligman popularized the term "positive psychology" a few decades ago. Many people took that optimistic speech and promoted it (with the best intentions in the world, I do not deny it).

Now, some professionals, authors and companies have abused this optimistic discourse, in some cases even counterproductive.

Toxic positivity: Being overly optimistic is also harmful

Motivational speeches and phrases like "you can do it all," "sometimes you win, sometimes you learn," or "anything is possible if you believe in yourself" are easily assimilated by the masses (regardless of whether the results improve. or not), they are messages very well received by anyone.

However, sometimes the path to mental health goes through validating all our emotions (they are more or less unpleasant), and not denying human pain by forcing a false joy that sometimes is not genuine.

And this has been known by the big brands for a long time: people are more inclined to buy anything if it makes them smile, even though it is not necessary.

The commodification of happiness

Extreme optimism encourages impulsive shopping and consumerism.

And that is the basis of the market for self-help books, many pseudosciences and merchandising of mugs and t-shirts with well-intentioned phrases such as: smile, it is the solution to all your problems (but it is not always). It is a cheap and accessible anesthetic, and sometimes it is just another product.

In addition to appearing harmless, it is very accessible: in many cases it ensures a small immediate mood boost (a behavioral boost), despite the fact that it rarely improves our life in the long term, beyond the mere placebo effect.

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Social pressure to hide problems

Some people may get to "take it" on motivational phrases, quotes from famous people, authentic dogmas such as "forbidden to surrender", who not only try to apply themselves (regardless of their specific situation or individual context), but pressure other people around them to get on the bandwagon of their new mind.

And it is that the external pressure can be very strong and sometimes sin with little tact, promoting unsympathetic reactions before the suffering of others: "you are not trying hard enough", "you have to believe in yourself", "encouragement, strong people are they always get up ".

And it is that with that tactless speech, you can put other people is a very difficult choice: either you follow me, or you are a weak person. "Being happy is very easy, and if you are not getting it right away, it is because you are doing it wrong"

Implicit in the doctrine of "all your happiness depends on you" is also the message "all your suffering depends on you". The logical conclusion is that if I suffer it is my fault.

With this philosophy of life, many people forget that context matters, and not all people can achieve the same goals using the same methods.

Denying suffering or obstacles

The discourse of extreme positivity forces people to wear rose-colored glasses with which they only see part of reality: the sweetest part, that of victories, learning, gains, joy. At the same time, it denies the "ugly" part of reality: not so pleasant emotions, such as sadness, anger or fear.

In a very unscientific way, they are labeled as "negative emotions", and the message that they are "bad emotions" is implicit, and that we should avoid feeling them, because they are always bad for us.

This approach (almost sectarian in some cases) creates an alternative reality in people's minds, where there are no problems or obstacles, and where willpower and desire are the only thing one needs to succeed in life and achieve everything. what is proposed.

In this false omnipotence, one forgets that suffering is one more part of life, and that less pleasant emotions also have an evolutionary function, and that recognizing and expressing them is essential for our survival and our mental health.

Because, no matter how much one wears "glasses of happiness", the problems and obstacles will continue to exist, and if we deny and exclude emotions such as fear, we will not be able to make sensible decisions to protect ourselves or take precautions against risks and dangers. real life.

The infantilization of life

In this biased view of life taken to extremes, a person can become very infantilized.

It denies itself the opportunity to deal with problems in a mature, adult-like way: accept difficulties and frustration, sustain pain with dignity, and mobilize our resources toward the best.