Emily P.G. Erickson: The Paradox of Positivity — Balancing Support & Emotions | Sero Boost #40

In this episode, host Lu Ngo is joined by Emily P.G. Erickson, who is a freelance writer specializing in mental health and parenting

This episode focuses on toxic positivity and its impact on individuals’ emotional well-being and relationships. The guest, Emily P.G. Erickson, provides valuable insights and strategies to identify and navigate toxic positivity.

Meet Emily P.G. Erickson

Emily is a highly accomplished freelance writer specializing in mental health and parenting. Her work has been featured in prominent publications such as Everyday Health, Health, The New York Times, Romper, Verywell Mind, and WIRED. She is recognized as a professional member of respected organizations like the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ).

Before her career as a writer, Emily researched post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Her master’s degree in counseling psychology enables her to bring a unique blend of scientific analysis and therapeutic understanding to her writing.

About the episode

The podcast discusses how toxic positivity involves excessively promoting positive thinking while invalidating negative emotions. Emily mentions the importance of emotional well-being. Healthy emotions involve acknowledging and experiencing a range of emotions, both positive and negative, in a situationally appropriate manner. 

When it comes to parenting, Emily highlights how parents often have the natural inclination to solve their children’s difficulties quickly. However, toxic positivity runs the risk of making kids feel misunderstood. Emily shares a personal example of her son being upset over a dairy allergy. Rather than immediately focusing on future optimism, she validated his sadness and discussed ways to manage the allergy with him.

Emily offers a practical approach called the “Three Ns” to navigate toxic positivity. The acronym stands for Notice, Name, and Normalize. First, it’s important to notice what you’re feeling or experiencing (Notice). Then, clearly identify and label the emotion or situation (Name). Finally, acknowledge that it’s normal to feel a certain way in that situation (Normalize).

Here are some key pieces of advice to navigate toxic positivity from the podcast:

  • Validate others’ emotions: Validate people’s emotions before offering optimism. Acknowledge and connect with what they’re feeling rather than dismissing it.
  • Show empathy: Use phrases like “I understand this is hard” to demonstrate empathy and show that you see and recognize their experience before jumping to solutions.
  • Normalize negative feelings: Normalize negative feelings by acknowledging difficulties. Avoid acting like positivity is the only acceptable perspective and instead, validate the range of human emotions.
  • Avoid denying real human experiences: Toxic positivity denies real human experiences. Instead, face difficulties head-on through acceptance and exposure, as this approach can be more helpful for healing than avoidance.
  • Be mindful: Be aware of your own tendency to dismiss your emotions through toxic positivity thinking. Notice when you’re downplaying your feelings to feel better.
  • Positive does not mean happy: Understand that positivity alone doesn’t guarantee long-term happiness. It’s essential to acknowledge and validate feelings in different situations without pressuring yourself or others always to be upbeat.
  • Notice the issues:  Notice potential issues thoughtfully without constantly policing others or yourself emotionally. Focus on fostering close and genuine relationships.

In conclusion

Toxic positivity is a phenomenon where excessive positive thinking is promoted while negative emotions are invalidated, resulting in detrimental effects on emotional well-being and relationships. This episode guides listeners to navigate toxic positivity and create a more supportive and understanding emotional environment. The insights and strategies shared by Emily provide valuable tools to foster emotional well-being and build stronger connections with others.

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