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.

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