Toxic Positivity: Keeping It Real in a World Obsessed with Positive Thinking

Whitney Goodman. TarcherPerigee, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-5934-1827-7
Goodman, the “radically honest therapist” behind the Instagram account “sitwithwhit” makes her debut with a sharp takedown of “toxic positivity,” which she considers dismissive regardless of its often better intentions. Goodman doesn’t mince words as she runs through the basics—what toxic positivity is, why it’s harmful, how to combat it—opining that “talk is cheap and platitudes are even cheaper.” She goes on to argue that relentless encouragement to look on “the bright side” can be a form of gaslighting, and even that toxic positivity perpetuates oppressive systems and prejudice (“discrimination with a smile”). She backs it all up with copious amounts of research, examples from clients she’s worked with (unfortunately, though, too few of them), and her own life experiences. Goodman promises fulfillment via balancing happiness and pain, complaints and gratitude, and empathy and boundaries. Tools including exercises and bulleted lists make attaining such an even-keeled attitude feel doable. In a genre dominated by the upbeat, Goodman’s realism both stands out and takes the edge off; as she says, “It’s OK if you don’t always say the right thing; you’re not a Hallmark card.” Goodman matter-of-factly challenges genre status quo, while maintaining respect for its readers. Agent: Laura Lee Mattingly, Present Perfect Literary. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 10/08/2021
Release date: 01/25/2022
Genre: Nonfiction
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