A more problematic reason why we dismiss other people’s concerns is that many of us are uncomfortable with difficult feelings. “Most responses that we would label as toxic positivity are actually based on the responder’s anxiety about certain emotions,” Michelle says. “They’re a defense mechanism.” In other words, we attempt to say the “right” thing so that we can all move onto easier topics. But if you really want to empathize with someone, you need to meet them where they are, she adds. “If we focus on increasing our own tolerance for these more unpleasant emotions, we can connect with people who are experiencing them and help them feel less isolated.”
Goodman argues that emotions shouldn’t even be classified as positive or negative. Instead, she writes, “There are only emotions that are harder to experience or that cause more distress for certain people, and the more you suppress those emotions, the harder they are to manage.” These feelings include sadness, anger, and fear — which are not inherently bad. They are part of a biological mechanism that helps you identify things that are threatening, upsetting, or need attention, like a blinking “check engine” light. And when someone else disregards those feelings, it’s harmful (or toxic) to your relationship as well as your mental and physical health, says Goodman.
“We're each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark?”
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wind's Twelve Quarters, Volume 1