Why Toxic Positivity is Holding You Back

toxic positivityStarting way back when Pluto was in Sagittarius, a cultural phenomenon was born. Popularized by The Secret, the idea was that there is a clear, direct, and causal line connecting your thoughts and your material circumstances. And while science certainly validated the fact that our thoughts do impact our lives, the link was by no means as linear as the positive-thinking folks would have you believe.

This bubble largely burst when Pluto entered Capricorn, and suddenly pie-in-the-sky ideas were derided rather than praised. But slowly, over time, the idea shifted and morphed into a culture of toxic positivity that still holds enormous influence today.

Now it takes on a more Saturnian flair. You’re supposed to wake up and eat excellence for breakfast. Rise and grind! Ignore the haters and speak your money into existence. Manifest the job you want! Cut out anyone who has the audacity to express doubt. Make your life so small that only fans and cheerleaders remain, and if you still don’t achieve your dreams, it’s because you didn’t hustle hard enough.

Ugh. That is no way to live.

“Now, Midara,” I can hear you asking, “Aren’t you the shiny Leo? Aren’t you always talking about being kind to ourselves and seeing the brighter side of tough transits? Aren’t you the one promoting a Sunburst Reading, for goodness’ sake?”

Yes! I am all of those things. But what I don’t believe in is toxic positivity. Real positivity has to make room for real humanity. Sometimes life sucks. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and we experience very real wounds and trauma. No amount of positivity is going to make those things untrue. And if the positivity that someone is selling doesn’t hold space for grief, pain, and sadness, then it’s not real.

Not only can it not help, but it can actively hurt. Those kinds of attitudes can make people feel worse. It can make them feel as if they’re responsible for their trauma. Imagine telling someone with crippling clinical depression or someone trying to exit an abusive relationship that they just need to think happy thoughts and manifest someone better for themselves. It’s irresponsible at best.

That’s not what I do. I believe that real positivity has to come from real life. It has to be rooted in the life you actually live. I’ve done a lot of Sunburst Readings in the last week, and they seem to be following a template. People have an intractable issue and they’re so tired. They come seeking to shine a light on their problem and to feel a little light themselves.

So we discuss the issue and corresponding transits. We talk about timelines and when certain things may ease. We accept the pain while acknowledging that there is a brighter future ahead. And then we talk about all the amazing, wonderful, brilliant parts of their chart that not only make them great, but make them beautifully suited to handle exactly the problems they’re facing.

Every single chart is gorgeous. Every single person holds the keys to their own liberation. But if we start from a place of denying hardship entirely, we can never come to that brighter place.

What do you think about toxic positivity? How do you find the sunshine when things are dark?



About Midara

Midara has been a consulting astrologer for over a decade. Whether you’re struggling with relationships, personal growth, tough transits, or whatever else, she’s here to help.


Why Toxic Positivity is Holding You Back — 16 Comments

  1. I found a lot of “dark (Scorpio) humor (Pr Sun)” when I was going through my divorce. The legal process was intensely spiritual and liberating.

  2. Toxic positivity is one of those things that when I was semi trapped in it and breaking out I wanted to scream. I was experiencing quite nasty stuff that was worse than I realised at the time and I have Pluto in square to my Sun. That Pluto wants to be channeled and express itself through music. Even though I don’t pursue music professionally it is what needed to come out at the time. When bad things have happened I have made songs about it before.

    I remember reading ‘Smile or Die’ by Barbara Ehrenreich when I was still fighting the remnants of the thought processes in my mind about five years later.

    I also feel like I don’t have the freedom of naivety. A person who is very maladaptive to life was trying to get me to think more positively around certain areas that if I did, I would be manipulated by; I remember saying to a mutual connection over this that I could not afford that naivety. It was enough to cause a severe rift in our connection that promptly ended any possibility we would have any further communication.

    Toxic positivity is the siren call of an enabler, and further, the abuser themselves. It is the response of the manipulator against healthy boundaries set by anger.

    What really works for me is faith, signs, dreams and all sorts of psychological teachings on “narcissism” and other similarly descriptive terms.

  3. I agree that Toxic positivity does not help at all. Rather it hinders the grieving and healing process. After losing my mother (over 3 years ago) I felt sad and was was grieving for a while. I needed time and space to heal. Rather than talking I found that art can help you heal. So saying just smile & be happy is naive at best…we need to feel every emotion and to process it before we can get move forward and have a more optimistic outlook.

  4. I loved this post! I remember reading the Secret and feeling puzzled. I consider myself a spiritual person and can be, sometimes overly optimistic, (Sun and Moon opposite Jupiter) yet this book just seemed…hmm, too simple. I’m a Scorpio, so I while do believe I can get what I want but know it’s just as likely I won’t always like “it” once I’ve got it.

  5. The term Toxic Positivity can be misapplied. One of my friends uses it on me when he’s mopey and I don’t agree that his life is over and he’s such a loser.
    But he’s a Capricorn with Libra moon and it’s difficult to help him with his brand of depression.

    • LOL,that sounds exactly like a Capricorn I know. No offense to any Caps out there. You guys are one of my favorites. I think toxic positivity is when you don’t think you have to put in the effort or work to achieve the outcome you seek. While some great opportunities seem to just fall in your lap, it’s not like we can manifest our every desire like we have the mythical Jeanie in a bottle.

  6. BEST post ever! Refreshing to read.

    The other common mantra (or meme) that is bandied around, is to ‘surround yourself with positive people’. Whilst to an extent, yes cut out those who are extremely toxic, narcissistic, abusive, but that’s still rarer circumstances.

    The statement is rather a wide umbrella; it seems to extend to anyone who is just not feeling okay.

    What if those ‘negative people’ around you are going through tough life events, like the ones you listed in the article, crippling depression or abusive relationships. Or …. who are stuck in a global catastrophic pandemic, which is just about … everyone! You would be hard pressed to find ANYONE who has a shiny positive outlook, to surround yourself with, after a lockdown lasting over a year, and the threat of more to come!

    I just think dropping those just because they are tainting your happy bubble is not preserving your positivity, it’s just being callous and unkind.

    As for this: “Not only can it not help, but it can actively hurt. Those kinds of attitudes can make people feel worse. It can make them feel as if they’re responsible for their trauma”

    In a nutshell!

    I remember going through a pretty tough phase, and people used to tell me that ‘happiness comes from within’. Which used to make me want to tear my hair out, as there were no resources left inside within me for an ounce of happiness. And yes, I thought I was faulty and blamed myself.

    What worked was meditation in the end, NOT because it induced positivity, but because it cleared my mind enough in a practical way, to make my emotions feel more manageable and get through the day (heavy Water & fire sign placements in my chart)

    Thank you for this excellent post!

  7. A very I tetra article – I looked up ‘Toxic Positivity’ and found this, which echoes what you say:

    A recent critical response to the field of positive psychology is that around toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the concept or phenomenon in which individuals do not fully acknowledge, process, or manage the full spectrum of emotions, including anger or sadness.[110] This genre of criticism against positive psychology argues that the field of positive psychology places too much importance on “upbeat thinking, while shunting challenging and difficult experiences to the side.”[111] Individuals who engage in a constant chase for positive experiences or states of high subjective well-being may be inadvertently stigmatizing negative emotional conditions, such as depression, or may be suppressing natural emotional responses, such as sadness, regret, or stress. Furthermore, by not allowing negative emotional states to be experienced, or by suppressing and hiding negative emotional responses, individuals may experience harmful physical, cardiovascular, and respiratory consequences.[112][113] Supporters of combating toxic positivity advocate for allowing oneself to accept and fully experience negative emotional states. Positive psychologist Tim Lomas has studied how experiencing sadness,[114] boredom,[115] and anger[116] enable individuals to gain perspective, understanding, and complexity on life and happiness, which in turns enhances their subjective well-being in the long term.

  8. I’m not a fan of toxic positivity either.

    I very much like the idea of finding liberation in a chart. Too often we (I) focus on the harsh aspects, how I sabotage myself and so on. It’s easy to do that and forget the positive parts of ourselves (myself). Always wanting to improve, perhaps, is the culprit. Why not focus on what is good as well? 🙂

  9. Thank you Midara. So refreshing to hear someone tell it like it is. Although our thoughts do effect and reflect our circumstances, that’s not all there is to it. We have Karma, soul contracts, choice. I agree that toxic positivity can make one feel responsible for one’s own trauma, and conversely other peoples’ bad behaviour.
    Would love to hear more on this.

  10. Oh my Midara, what a lovely person you are! I didn’t order a chart reading from you, but your email the other day did get me to finally notice how many beautiful aspects I have in my chart. I saw things I never noticed before, such as my Vesta and Kronos each grand trine with my Jupiter and Venus while sextile my AC. My Ceres and my Kronos are also grand trining my Saturn. Also, that same exact Vesta/Kronos/Ceres are also each t-squaring my Pisces conjunct Moon/Chiron and my Virgo conjunct Uranus/Pluto. AND that same Ceres is squaring my NN. On top of that I also have a Scorpio 3-planet stellium with each of those planets trining ALLOVERTHEPLACE. So there’s this intense squaring going on, with a massive amount of positive energy right on top of it that I completely never noticed before. Thank you. 🙂

  11. this is one of the most beautiful pieces i’ve read 🙂

    grief is a process, and suffering should be witnessed. i think toxic positivity is avoidance of the work of empathy.

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