Trauma and the Culture of Toxic Positivity

Posted By SK Reid  
01/04/2021
20:00 PM

The Truth About Trauma

Something has been niggling away and I wanted to broach it ever-so-carefully here with you.

As many of you know, my two first books deal with challenging subject matter. I remember at my book launch and the amazing Danielle Greene MP said that I write about subjects that are often considered taboo. And while I hadn’t thought about it in that way, in many respects this is true. And my newer books also tackle difficult subject matter.

 

I guess this is in part because my experience of trauma influences my thinking, and the consequence is an aversion to any school of thought or approach to life that is Pollyanna or sees things in rose-coloured glasses. Toxic positivity is just that. It’s toxic. I explored this to some extent in A Year of Medical Thinking but with the limited discussion there, I believe that there is a real danger in it: toxic positivity nullifies a person’s experience of trauma. It plays into a narrative that dismisses the very real impact that trauma can have in a person’s life. 

 

By way of clarification, I’m using trauma in its broadest sense -loss and grief, for example, can be traumatic. A life-threatening diagnosis can be traumatic. A natural disaster can be traumatic. Trauma can come from many sources and is often an individual thing - what is traumatic for one person may not be so for another.

So when the positivity movement dismisses someone’s experience of trauma as inconsequential or insignificant and invokes victim-blaming -“don't be a victim” or "don’t have a victim mentality" - this whitewashes a person's experience. This is toxic. It is also naive and offensive to the person who is traumatised. 

 

Fukushima Anniversary

To take the Fukushima disaster as one example, which happened 10 years ago this year. Fukushima was a disaster that wreaked untold trauma on an unsuspecting and unprepared community. Loss, grief, displacement, the shattered assumptions about what we know to be real and what seems certain all go to the heart of a person’s psyche. Anyone that tells someone to stop being negative is insane in this instance. Anyone that pedals a belief in a silver lining does not understand trauma. 

That is not to say that events such as these can’t be catalysts for post-traumatic growth. They can. But that is different from the kind of positivity that whitewashes.

 

Trauma and the Global Pandemic

Another recent anniversary is the one year anniversary since the declaration of the global pandemic.  Make no mistake. The global pandemic has turned the world upside down. The idea of 'certainty' is something that collectively we all now understand to be tenuous at best.

Everyone has coped with the pandemic differently, and the impact has been varied.

But one thing is certain and that is that the impact on our mental health from the pandemic is not insignificant. Where we have direct experience, or just see what's happening on the nightly news, in some way and at some level, we have all been affected. The effect on us can be subtle or evident. Certainly, there are reports of increased mental health impacts globally from the pandemic.

 

Take Action Now

Acknowledging that there can be an impact at some level is probably the best way to help lessen the effects. The good news is that there are steps that we can take to be proactive in protecting ourselves from the less obvious effects of what has happened globally. Simple things like mindfulness, meditation, or getting out in nature are known to have positive effects.

While these proactive actions may not solve the world’s problems, they can help make a difference in your life.

 

 

©Copyright SK Reid 2021