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Why Do We Sometimes Fear Joy?

I preach a lot about the resistance towards suffering and the mental illness it can create, but I also don’t think we talk enough about our resistance to joy.


Why do we sometimes not allow ourselves to feel joy?


When something good happens do you allow it to be?

Do you savor it?

Does it scare you a little bit so you push it aside?

Do you feel you don’t really deserve it?


It’s almost as if we catch ourselves feeling peace, or joyful, that means trouble is right around the corner so we put up our walls so we can withstand the blows- and what I mean by walls is- right back to that resistance to suffering we use, but now we are using it against joy too!

Why are we so afraid of our emotions? What an awful circle of numbing we have put ourselves into time and time again.


Is it any wonder we can’t really feel anything?- Why it might be harder to experience true compassion could be because we have grown so apathetic in our responses to these valuable emotions. Do we not let joy renew every cell in our body because we feel we don’t really deserve it? Or do we take it as a bad omen?


We aren’t really living our full mortal and spiritual experience when we "cope" in this way. And you know what? Your soul feels that. It knows it isn't working. So here we are, low-key anxious and depressed and we can’t figure out why.

Maybe it’s because we’ve trained our mind and body to exist in neutral.


How do we change?

First- awareness.

When something is difficult, allow it to be… and then work through it. Be patient with yourself. Get curious! Ask yourself what this emotion is trying to tell you. Sometimes we want this uncomfortable feeling to just go away so we numb it, or we try to rush through it, not really gaining the awareness it was meant to teach us.

AND….

When something feels joyful- hold it, savor it! If fear pops up, you can acknowledge it, thank it for coming to protect you, but remind it that right now you are ok, and you want to experience this feeling of joy.


When I was researching this subject I came across a few insights I would like to share. The first is from a fantastic article entitled “The Benefits of Savoring” by Positivepsychlopedia.com. They stated that:

“People who are adept at savoring – who report being able to savor positive outcomes in their life – tend to be happier. Interestingly, feeling like we can savor positive outcomes has a greater effect on our happiness than feeling like we can obtain them. Controlling our attitude may be even more important than controlling our world.”


Because we can’t always control our circumstances (fear knows this one all too well) what we can control is our attitude towards our circumstances. It makes sense that this is what would produce greater overall happiness- savoring the good- rather than chasing down experiences that made us feel joy.


I also had to pull from Brené Brown who has studied all spectrums of emotions and the effects they have on our well-being, and here is what she said about Joy-


“Joy is the most vulnerable of all human emotions—and that’s saying something, given that I also study shame and fear. It’s almost terrifying to allow ourselves to lean into the feeling of joy, because we’re afraid we’ll be sucker punched by pain or disappointment. So what many of us do—myself included—is try to outsmart vulnerability so we don’t get sucker punched by pain.

Of course, no amount of planning can stop pain. We can, however, squander the very joy we need to bring into our lives so that when hard things happen, we don’t have a reservoir of strength to tap into.

Men and women who have the capacity to lean fully into joy share one variable in common: They practice gratitude. Vulnerability is real, and we have a physiological response to it—a quiver. Some of us use that quiver as a warning sign to start dress-rehearsing tragedy, while others use it as a reminder to practice gratitude. Now, in those deeply joyful moments when I feel the quiver, I literally say, “I’m so grateful for…” And sometimes I say it over and over. It’s changed my life.”

-quote taken from an interview by The Goop Podcast




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