This week I am reading a book by Brene Brown called Daring Greatly. If you haven’t seen or heard about Brene (Ted Talk, You Tube, Oprah, etc.), I suggest you look at her work. Hey, not now! Finish Vitality Weekly first! Okay, I’ll make it brief. Brene spent the past 15 years researching shame and vulnerability and she shares research and stories that help us understand and accept ourselves. The more we love ourselves, the greater our capacity to truly love and connect with others.
The theme she writes about that I’d like to share with you today is what she calls “foreboding joy”. In her research, she found that the hardest emotion to feel is joy! Not what you would expect, right? Hang in there with me because I think you will get this. Here’s what happens: We have an experience that brings us joy, perhaps watching a child sleep, planning a dream vacation, or simply feeling good to be alive when all is well… and just as we are sinking into the pleasure of that moment, a fearful thought interrupts our joy and we flip into fear. What if I lose this precious child? What if the plane crashes or the ship wrecks? All is well, how can that be? Something bad is surely about to happen! And just like that, the joy evaporates replaced by fear.
Why do we do this? To protect ourselves from loving so much that it hurts. To keep from being hurt when the next challenge appears. To keep from feeling the tension of waiting for the next hard thing we will deal with. We think that by preparing for eventual loss, we can protect ourselves from pain when the next hard thing happens. Of course that’s not true! We will feel pain when the next hard thing happens. Plus, now we’ve missed the full pleasure of the joyful experience!
What do people who lean into joy do when foreboding joy happens? They practice gratitude for what they have right now! Give thanks for that sleeping child, vacation dream, and all the good things that contribute to all is well. People with the greatest resilience regularly look for the good and give thanks for it. Over and over and over. Over time, the more gratitude you practice the more joy you hold!
Several years ago, I created a mandala in brilliant hues of yellow, orange, and red that read, “Lean Boldly Into Joy”. Will you join me now in the practice of meeting foreboding joy with gratitude so that you, too, can lean boldly into joy?