Cortisol floods my system as I briefly deliberate, whether they will be safe for the duration of the day. Or if I will ever see them again.
Similar to the times when I would creep into their bedrooms at night to check on their breathing, or the occasions when my husband is running late and I find myself visualising a car crash.
I used to think that it was the sign of an anxious mind, keen to catastrophise. But with closer observation, I noticed that there was a pattern.
It always occurrs when life is at its peak.
My relationship is going well. My kids are healthy and beaming, and I’m left wondering how I managed to get so damn lucky!
Snap. I’m scared that soon it will all be taken away.
It’s not surprising then, that I found myself nodding in recognition at a recent talk by Brene Brown, where she asserted that the most difficult emotion we experience as humans, is Joy. Fear of Joy.
The Fear of Joy
Calling joy “terrifying” may seem strange, but Dr. Brown explains that the fear stems from having our joy taken away.
“How many of you have ever sat up and thought, ‘Wow, work’s going good, good relationship with my partner, parents seem to be doing okay. Holy crap. Something bad’s going to happen’?”
To illustrate this point, Dr. Brown shares with Oprah a poignant story about a man she interviewed who admitted to her that he never allowed himself to be too joyful about anything in life. Then his wife of 40 years was killed in a car accident. Dr. Brown remembers him saying, “The second I realized that was gone, the first thing I thought was, ‘I should have leaned harder into those moments of joy. Because that did not protect me from what I feel right now.’”
When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability. Joy becomes foreboding: ‘I’m scared it’s going to be taken away. The other shoe’s going to drop…’
What we do in moments of joyfulness is, we try to beat vulnerability to the punch.
By imagining the worst, that it will all be taken away at any moment, we spare ourselves from the vulnerable and at times fragile nature of life, while at the same time disconnecting from the joy and beauty of our experience.
Practice softening into Joy and Practice gratitude.
Be grateful for all the large and small positives in your life. Notice them. Feel them and go through your day looking for more.
Try not to dress rehearse tragedy, or if you do – acknowledge why you might be doing it.
That’s what I’m going to do. Care to join me?