The Dangers of Joy
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” –Leo Buscaglia
Joy is an emotion that we all say we want more of. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right. But, what happens when we find the happiness and joy that we say we all want? If you are like most people, when things are going well, we say that things are ‘too good.’ We wait for the other shoe to drop. As crazy as it sounds, thanks to the research of Brené Brown, we now know that joy is the most difficult of all emotions for most people to stay with for any length of time. When things are going well, we forebode the joy. I remember standing over my son’s crib when he was a baby and as I looked at him in wonder and amazement, feeling the joy well up in my heart, I had a sudden image of him dying. I was sure that he stopped breathing and began to panic as I didn’t see his chest move. Of course, he was fine, but in that moment of pure joy, the brakes were applied and it was back to reality. Whether it is due to Hollywood sensitizing us, or our own innate nature it is difficult for us to stay with joy. When my son was going to a high school dance, a group met at a friend’s house for pictures. He was then riding with his friends to the dance. I couldn’t help but have a moment on the ride home, when I was alone, to think about whether the photos of him laughing and smiling could be his last. Images of a terrible accident and headlines flashed across my mind. This should have been a moment of joy, but instead I was worried.
Joy is an emotion that we have fear of. In many ways it is scarier when life is going well then it is when things are falling apart. Misery loves company. It seems you can always find something negative to talk about with other people, and they will commiserate with you. People try to offer support and help when it is obvious that there is a need. When things are going well, everyone seems to assume that there is no need for support. One of the points that Brené Brown makes is that people in recovery need to go to more meetings and be with more people when things are going well, because joy can be a trigger for relapse.
While it seems counterintuitive to think of joy as being a dangerous emotion, in many ways it is. Joy is pure vulnerability and whenever we feel vulnerable, fear sets in. Become aware of foreboding joy and remind yourself to enjoy the moment for what it is. Challenge yourself to feel the pure joy of life. Take some time to soak in the joy.
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.” ― Maya Angelou
This week I sat with several clients as they had to make extremely difficult decisions. There wasn’t an obvious answer for any of them and all of them felt like it was a no win situation. Sometimes in life there isn’t an easy choice. None of the options we see currently seem to be the right solution and it is easy to become frozen and just say, I’m not going to decide and I’ll just let it all play out. I was told when I was a child that if I had a decision to make I should write up a pro and con list and go with whichever list is longer. What I found when I actually took that advice was that it didn’t work. I could easily come up with the list, but even though there may have been 10 things on the pro side, the one thing on the con side seemed to have just as much weight. It wasn’t that easy. Our brains are marvelous tools, but they don’t tend to help very much when we have a big decision to make. We get lost in over-analyzing and critically thinking about tiny details of each possibility. It becomes almost impossible to make a decision and so we put it off. What I have found is that more often than not, I knew the decision that had to be made. I just didn’t want to allow myself to know the decision, because I didn’t want to do what I would have to do if I decided. My brain does a great job at trying to convince me that I don’t know what to do, when in my heart I know. I have now began using a different method to make difficult decisions and it doesn’t make them any easier, but I regret far fewer of them. Instead of going into my head for the answer I go into my heart. I get quiet and ask myself how I would feel if I chose option A. Then I focus my attention on my body. The pit of my stomach is usually a good place for me to pay special attention to. I try to tune in to see if I get a light and open feeling or if it is a dark and constricted feeling. I then ask myself how I would feel with option B. Sometimes I know right away. If it is something I have been avoiding, my brain will kick into action and tell me all the reasons why it doesn’t make logical sense to go with that option. Often times it is right- it doesn’t make any logical sense, but that doesn’t mean it is the wrong choice. In life we have to take risks. Sometimes it feels dangerous to take a leap of faith when we don’t know where we are going to land. Those surprises are often times where we grow the most. When I don’t get an answer right away I sit with it for a day or two. If nothing comes to me by then I set a date and time within the week to make my decision. At that time I decide to decide and go with it. There are no wrong decisions in life. Whatever decision we make we are going to learn and gain clarity on what we do want. I find that often we get paralyzed because we feel like once we make a decision we are stuck for the rest of our lives with that decision. That is not the case. There are always other choices that can be made farther down the road. Look at the decision as an experiment and know that at a later time a different decision can be made, but once the decision is made commit fully to it. Allow the universe to know that you are stepping out and spreading your wings so that you will fly when you take that leap.