There is nothing wrong with attempting to be more positive and not let our negative thoughts run our lives. However, this can become exaggerated as we use a positive mindset to overrule our natural feelings of fear, anger and annoyance. When we do this we start to force ourselves to be something we are not instead of being authentic.
What is Excessive Positivity Exactly?
For many men, one of the things that allows them to feel more in control is to see the bright side. This helps men believe they are in control of their lives by focusing on the upside of life rather than considering the pain of their shadow. There is a lot of psycho-babble out there that encourages this sort of mindless optimism.
For some men they have been told much of their lives that nobody wants to listen to complainers or whiners. The belief that starts to form is that it’s not okay to feel bad. For some men being positive becomes a way that they habitually override their darker emotions and act like things are fine when they are stewing inside.
Anger, Fear, Sadness
Giving up on the darker emotions has consequences. Anger is an important emotion for maintaining boundaries and protecting ourselves from others who are not being appropriate. A man who is mistreated continuously by his boss needs to feel the anger that comes with this. The anger is a natural nervous system response to something that is not okay. It is important to allow the anger to protect and set boundaries. However, if someone is conditioned to being upbeat about things no matter what, they will not be able to protect themselves. This anger will come up later in passive aggressive and anxious behaviors.
This is true of other darker emotions like fear and sadness. Fear is a necessary response to danger and the nervous system is telling someone to flee. Sadness is the recognition of loss in our lives and the need to let that grief be expressed.
Missing Out On The Change
When we suppress our darker emotions in order to maintain this mask of positivity, we also miss out on how powerful anger, fear and sadness can work to improve our lives. Most people have all felt the relief of allowing sadness to be fully expressed. Certainly the tears and sobbing are not pleasant but the after affects of feeling as if a burden has been lifted is satisfying.
In her book, Healing through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair, Miriam Greenspan explains the potential of feeling our pain:
“By learning how to attend to, befriend, and surrender to the energies of grief, despair, and fear, we create the conditions for something new to arise in ourselves and in the world. We discover an unexpected gateway to healing and transformation. We release ourselves from the strangled grip of pain into an amazing alchemy by which grief, despair, and fear are transmuted to gratitude, faith, and joy (Greenspan, 2004).”
I think Miriam speaks well to how these darker emotions can be a catalyst for our healing. Suppressing our emotions limits our personal growth and transformation.
How This Shows Up In My Life
It has been hard in my own life to fully face the pain of some of these emotions. I am a reformed ‘overly positive’ guy. My goal is not to indulge my emotions and get caught up in their drama. My goal is to be real with what I’m feeling and mindfully discern what to do about it. It’s easy to deny the upset when I’m faced with the discomfort of someone I care about pushing a boundary. I can push past it and act like it isn’t happening. It follows that in the short run, I often feel relief when I suppress these feelings. Though consequently in the long run, I have a greater anxiety and feelings of resentment.
I have learned, as anyone can, to face my emotions and let the chips fall where they may. This leads to a more satisfying life that doesn’t require me to put on the mask of positivity.
If you need help letting go of your masks, schedule a free 30 minute consult.
About the Author
My name is Bryce Giron Mathern and I’m the owner of Brass Balls Tender Heart. As a licensed therapist in the Denver/Boulder Metro area, I am passionate and committed to helping my clients have amazing relationships with their partners, children and other family members. A big chunk of my life was spent learning the skills necessary to create healthy relationships.
If you are struggling in a relationship I encourage you to reach out for help. I believe that through a process of healing old wounds and learning new skills people can build relationships that are nourishing and supportive.
Masters, Robert. (2018) Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark: Breaking Free from the Hidden Forces That Drive You. Boulder, CO. Sounds True.
Greenspan, Miriam.(2004) Healing through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair. NewYork, NY. Penguin Random House.
Cover Photo by Tom Barrett – Unsplash