The violence of positivity or how to become an optimistic realist
I am an optimist by default. I like to be challenged and think in solutions. But there is a limit to this, and if there is no solution in sight, my optimism also takes a break. Right now, I am overwhelmed by what I feel a pressure to be positive.
Throughout social media, webinars, blogs, vlogs and posts are about being positive, grateful, turning difficult times into opportunities, turning 2020 into an amazing year in which you have gotten fitter, more successful and remain connected to the world, all from home and by staying…you guessed it, positive.
Really? Can we not just agree that this crisis is extremly difficult, to some almost unbearable, that it creates loneliness, misery, poverty, and that if we get through it unharmed, we are already very lucky. The German philosopher Byung-Chul Han talks about the violence of positivity, an atmosphere of enormous pressure, in which even pain and suffering are means to become better, wiser, fitter. What if you cannot turn this crisis into an opportunity, what if you are simply busy coping, surviving? Within this paradigm of positivity, you are a total failure.
Same, you feel sad, depressed maybe, despite the fact that you have a enough to eat, a warm home and social insurance. If somebody tells you that you should be thankful for what you have, and that you should look at the positive things in your life, your depression will not cease but instead you still will feel depressed AND ungrateful.
It is about acknowledging your own emotions, bearing the status quo of feeling depressed, and not trying to defend it. It is what it is, for you! If this state persist over a longer period of time, look for help. Find someone, who listens first, who asks the right questions, and does not give advice. Who allows you to find your own perspective and answer to what is going on in you! And that might allow you to find peace in your sadness, trust in your emotions, and that over time, you will feel better.
These days, more than ever, it is essential to learn to live with unpleasant feelings, with sadness, loneliness, fear. We need to develop resilicence to cope with a crisis and we do not need to make ourselves feel bad because we did not turn this crisis into opportunities, because we do not see the good in this pandemic, it is not necessary to turn this year into your best year ever.
Just getting through this year, without going mad is already a major achievment, surviving in this situation and keep things going, including yourself is good enough. I believe now is a good moment to think about what we want to hold on to, what could change, and what needs to go in the year to come. Which values are important to you, which friends could you turn to in times of crisis? Who would listen to your fears, sorrows, worries without judging you, without expecting you to be positive but where you could let yourself fall for a moment, and then, because of true compassion, rise again and realise that resilience is not just denying negativity, resilience grows by getting through hard times, and trusting yourself that you can get through this!