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An Antidote to "Toxic Positivity"

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

In her new best-selling NY Times book, Bittersweet: How sorrow and longing make us whole, Susan Cain asks, "How does a bittersweet lens help to counter the pressure to always act positive, no matter what?" In her book she notes that Americans smile more than folks who live in any other country, though we are not always happy. We even smile when we are not happy.

Susan Cain says it's all right not to be happy; it can even be better not to be happy. She says, "If we realize all humans know – or will know– sorrow and loss, as well as joy, we can transform personal and collective pain into creativity, spirituality, and love." From personal experience, the author has experienced sorrow and loss. In the past couple years, her brother, a doctor, died of Covid, followed shortly thereafter by her father. She is a caregiver of her mother, who has significant memory loss.

As a generally positive person, who inspires others to be positive, I seek Susan Cain's wisdom. To move through my inner turmoil, I am reading her book. Along with reading her book, in the evening, I listen to music she recommends (or her readers recommend), that have bittersweet overtones and lyrics. Just to give you a taste of what I am listening to, check out Dance Me to the End pf Love (Leonard Cohen), Father and Son (Cat Stevens), and Albioni's Adagio in G Minor (performed by Stjepan Hauser).

On her website, the author also includes Teachings, Discussion Questions and Writing Prompts and a Bittersweet Quiz. I have subscribed to her course for 30 days of exploration, through audio lessons, guided meditations, reflections on art and music, curated and designed to help you unlock the transformative power of bittersweetness.

There's a lot, especially for caregivers and care receivers, to be bittersweet about. Reading her book, subscribing to her teachings, and listening to the hidden power of sad songs and rainy days are, for me, and 40 million viewers, an antidote to "Toxic Positivity." You are welcome to join me in this exploration.

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