Friday, July 19, 2024

Toxic Positivity: The External Voice that Doesn't Help



We’ve mentioned that shame is the internal voice that tells us we are horrible and a burden and should keep our problems to ourselves. Well, there is an equally insidious “outside voice” version of this, too. We call this toxic positivity. Rather than coming from within, this is the feedback we get from others, or what we tell ourselves, that reinforces our shame and prevents us from seeking help. 

Toxic Positivity is a form of invalidation and falls into the category of gaslighting and emotional abuse. Yeah, it can be that serious.

       Instead of facing difficult emotions, Toxic Positivity rejects or ignores the negative, glossing over emotional pain with a cheerful, often falsely positive, facade. This can come in the form of burying one’s own feelings and avoiding anything negative, or it can come as a response to expressing those negative feelings with another person.  

Common examples: 

Feigning Gratitude or Praise. 

Focusing on gratitude to bypass emotions. Gratitude is not a bad thing. Neither is praise. But they can be when used to invalidate or ignore your pain.

Look on the bright side.

Count your blessings.

I just can’t believe how strong you are. I’d never survive what you’re going through. Keep up the good work.

     Comparing 

Just because someone else is seemingly handling a tough time “better” than you, that's no reason to start comparing. Everyone handles things in their own way.

You think you have it rough?

It could be worse.

If I can do it, so can you. 

Dismissing Difficult Emotions 

When difficult emotions arise, you completely push them down, insisting you must stay positive. It’s a form of gaslighting.

Everything happens for a reason.

You signed up for this. Now suck it up and do your job.

Failure is not an option.

         A toxic positivity response creates a disconnect in a person’s ability to rely on their social support structure. And the worst part is these responses can come from others, or it can come from your own mind. 

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD 

Friday, July 12, 2024

Shame: a Catalyst for Damage and Destruction to our Mental Health.

 


Burying feelings of trauma and shame only further entrenches them. 

A personal favorite of mine, Dr. BrenĂ© Brown, who has spent decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, describes shame as, 

“The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” 

Brown explains that all shame needs to grow is the destructive trio of silence, secrecy and judgement. Unfortunately, when many of us experience pain or suffering, we allow shame to force us into the silence. Yet, according to Dr. Brown, the more we try to avoid speaking about shame, the more control it has over us and the more it negatively impacts our lives. 

Often, when experiencing pain or shame, we mistakenly believe that our pain must be proportional to an event or a loss that has been suffered, and when we feel our experience is insignificant compared to the experiences of others, we further bury our shame and isolate ourselves from the very thing that helps us to heal, connection with others. 

Many people are afraid to share their true experiences because they feel it is too “trivial” or they feel their pain is “unworthy” of burdening others. Some simply hide their pain for fear of the stigma associated with mental health issues in a culture where they are expected to “suck it up.” 

The problem with failing to express and address pain, no matter how seemingly insignificant, it will find a way to seep into and negatively impact other areas of life. In effect, shame becomes a catalyst for more damage and destruction. 

Take time today to speak your experience out loud.

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD


Friday, July 5, 2024

The Pain of Moral Injury


 

In simple terms, Moral Injury means acting in a way (witnessing, participating, or failing to prevent something) that goes against a person’s moral beliefs. These “transgressive acts” violate an individual’s acceptable boundaries of behavior.

As professionals in bureaucratic systems, first responders must follow strict codes of conduct, adhere to standards of practice, and follow the law when making decisions. The unpredictable and potentially traumatic nature of first responders’ work often requires them to make split-second decisions in high-stress situations where their safety and that of others are on the line. And those decisions may go against their personal morals. 

Scenarios that could lead to moral injury:

  • A firefighter being unable to save a victim or having to choose between victims to save.
  • A law enforcement officer having to use physical or lethal force to resolve a criminal incident.
  • Being forced to make difficult decisions about how to allocate resources during a crisis

Even if a first responder's actions don’t violate their morals at the time, an unfavorable outcome such as the death of a victim or serious injury to a team member can reveal the injury in later feelings of deep remorse, guilt, and shame.

Morally injurious events are significantly associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and suicidality. The pain of Moral Injury is a sign of a working conscience and the loss of deeply held beliefs and/or trust. It challenges our fundamental core values and eats away at us, undermining the trust we had in ourselves, in others, and the world we live in.

Signs of Moral Injury:

  • Feeling demoralized
  • Feeling guilt/ shame or Persistent self-blame or blaming others
  • Feeling “haunted” by decisions, actions or inactions that have been made
  • Anger in particular following betrayal
  • Sense of loss of identify and role
  • Questioning our sense of self and a loss of trust in oneself and in others
  • Self-isolation, avoidance and withdrawal from others
  • Increase in substance use
  • Loss of spirituality or religious beliefs (if previously held).
  • Suicidal ideation 

With Moral Injury, the trauma and its meaning need to be processed. If you feel you are suffering from some of the symptoms above, please seek social support and professional help. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, it's a necessary step towards healing.


*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD