The psychiatrist Victor Frankl defines tragic optimism as saying “yes” to life, despite the loss, pain, and guilt that we must face. While toxic positivity insists that we should only have a positive mindset, tragic optimism encourages us to feel difficult emotions that come from the tragedy and to find the meaning of them.
We think that being positive is very important, but it is not always the only answer to a crisis. These are the reasons why.
We’re Ignoring The Real Harm It Could Do To Us
Being positive in an emergency can, in some cases, be detrimental to us. For example, people who are in an abusive relationship can minimize the severity of the abuse and choose to stay in the relationship.
They will be overly optimistic, expecting their abusers to change, forgiving them for it.
We’re Denying Our Real Feelings
When we force ourselves to look on the bright side, we are suppressing negative emotions, which can make them even more powerful. These feelings may one day explode, especially when faced with tragedy.
We may even feel ashamed or guilty about having these difficult feelings. By staying positive, we are less likely to ask for help because we think we are perfectly fine and don’t need help.
We Aren’t Able To Grow Through The Crisis
Making our mantra “only positive vibes” can kill our ability to meet challenges head-on. By avoiding negative emotions, we can lose valuable information.
Let’s say a woman has just lost someone important to her. If she simply dismisses her grief, she can still deny that the person will never come back and may not be able to handle the funeral arrangements or even life after the person is gone.
Optimism Alone Isn’t Enough
That said, being optimistic is still important, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we recognize when faced with a crisis. We should still be in pain, but we can reverse the script, turning our suffering into something.
Guilt is a normal human emotion that we should not shy away from, but through it, we can seize the opportunity to change for the better.
When faced with loss, we should still feel sad, but we can learn from that feeling and live life to the fullest.
Meaning Gives Hope To Handling Tragedy
Despite what life throws at us, if we can find meaning behind it, we can move on and one day finds true happiness in life.
Hope allows us to balance the terrible things that are happening now with the possibility that we can experience the meaning of tragedy. This is at the heart of “tragic optimism”, which is perhaps the antidote to “toxic positivity.”
How do you deal with a problem? Do you focus only on what is good or bad, or do you take everything into account?