“She’s one of those toxically positive people.”

I read that descriptor the other day on one of the women’s physician groups I follow on Facebook.  One of the members was describing a family member, I believe, and the description made me pause.

Toxically Positive

I’ve heard people described as toxically negative, but toxically positive? Is that a thing? It got me thinking about one of the main reasons people give me when they tell me they’re not interested in working with a life coach.

“If it’s true that your thoughts cause your feelings, then aren’t you just suggesting with this work that I change my thoughts so I feel happy all the time?”  In other words, aren’t you just suggesting I manipulate my mind to become one of those toxically positive people?

No.  I’m not at all.

In fact, allow me to level with you.  Thought work has changed my life.  It has helped me lose weight and fall back in love with my time at the bedside taking care of patients, but, right now, I don’t want to get out of bed most days if I know I’m working. 

Work is hard right now.  As I write this, we are about a week away from the peak of the Omicron variant of Covid in our community and my shifts are exhausting.  I got to work tonight to find there are no available beds in our community.  I’m taking care of one woman who was seen by my colleague earlier today.  She needs to be admitted.  No one will talk to us about making that happen until there’s an available bed.  There are no available beds. The staff in my department and I are all she has right now.  We’re doing our best.

Repeat that night after night after night.  I’m tired. 

I have a lot of thoughts about the state of our medical system right now and not many of them are positive.  I honestly believe that I’m likely to work through the collapse of the US healthcare system as we know it and, while I think that needs to happen to motivate us to build something better, I’m not looking forward to it.  Thoughts like that lead me to a range of emotions from disgust to worry and fear to helplessness.  They’re not my favorite feelings.  They’re far from happiness, but they also feel appropriate.

The difference is that, with coaching, I know how to identify those feelings.  I have the skills to recognize them when they show up.  I know how to process them and I know how to identify where they’re coming from.  I also know that it’s not my shifts or the number of available beds in the state that are creating them.  It’s my thinking.  I don’t have to change my thinking, but I also don’t always have to believe my thinking.

That simple shift creates an incredible amount of power in one’s life.

A perfect example of this is that I used to describe my shifts as drinking from a fire hose for 8 hours.  I’d head off to work, smile, and say “I’m off to get my ass handed to me.”  What I’ve learned from coaching is that believing thoughts like that didn’t set me up for success. They just made things worse.  Those are thoughts I’ve worked to change, or just to stop thinking all together.  Thought work helped me identify them, realize that they weren’t working for me, and open my mind to alternatives.

I didn’t have to do that.  I could have kept thinking the same thing.  I don’t know about you, but, once I find something that’s not working in my life, I typically want to find something that will work better.  By giving up that line of thinking I didn’t create euphoria on my shifts, but I did stop setting myself up for terrible shifts before they even started.

I’d actually describe myself today as less happy than I was before I learned to manage my mind. That is because, before I learned the skills I teach my clients, I was a master at pretending and avoiding.  I knew how to use the dopamine system in my brain to make myself feel better. I’d eat sugar, drink alcohol, spend hours scrolling online, and buy things I didn’t need. All I knew was that every day I’d promise myself that I wouldn’t do those things and then every day I’d find myself breaking that promise.  I was so desperate to feel better that I’d let myself down over and over again for a momentary reprieve from my emotions.

That was toxic positivity. 

I can’t tell you that I never do those things anymore.  What I can tell you is that now I know why I do them and I know how to change my behaviors if I want to.

I would love to teach you these skills.  I promise that I don’t expect you to become happy all the time.  In fact, I will teach you why that’s not even a very desirable goal.  If you’d like to learn more, sign up for my free training How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift.  Then if you’re ready to learn more, email me at hello@unicorndoctor.com to discuss options for coaching.