The scariness of feeling joy
Joy is a lovely feeling, right? The more joy we can feel the better so why am I recording a podcast episode about the scariness of feeling joy? Because sometimes our joy feels so good we’re gripped by the fear of losing what the people, the life, that give us such joy.
In this episode I share:
- Where our fear of joy comes from
- How we think we’re protecting ourselves
- What to do when your joy becomes foreboding
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Pressing Pause Episode 115 The scariness of feeling joy
Welcome to Pressing Pause, I’m your host, Gabrielle Treanor, a coach, writer, introvert and sensitive soul with an inclination to ponder over the stuff of life. Join me as I explore how we can create, find and feel more calm, ease and joy in our daily lives.
If you’re new to this podcast, welcome, I am thrilled that you have chosen to listen. And if you’re a regular listener thank you to you too! There are so many podcasts out there in the world to listen to I do not take it lightly that you’re giving some of your valuable time to listen to this one.
If you like what you hear please do feel free to share this podcast on social media or with anyone you think might enjoy it. And if you leave a rating or review on iTunes it helps other people to find the podcast too which would be wonderful!
And if you’d like to hear more from me take a look at gabrielletreanor.com where you’ll find lots more to help you to overcome your overwhelm and feel more calm and joy, including free guides, blog posts, online courses and information on coaching with me.
Right then, on with the episode!
Welcome to episode 115. Joy is a lovely feeling, right? The more joy we can feel the better so why am I recording a podcast episode about the scariness of feeling joy? Because sometimes our joy feels so good, feels so wonderful we catch ourselves in that joy and suddenly we’re gripped by the fear of what if I lose this, how can I feel this good, there’s got to be a catch.
Imagine you’re with someone you love, it could be a friend, your partner, or a family member, you’re having an amazing time and you feel utterly happy. And then all of a sudden, your chest tightens and your stomach drops because the utter joy you were feeling suddenly feels risky and dangerous.
A few seconds ago you were carefree, totally in the moment and feeling full of joy. And now you’re gripped by the thought that this is too good, everything is going too well, you love this person so much and the thought of this moment, the people you treasure, this feeling being taken from you is terrifying. You let down your guard, you let yourself be happy and that feels incredibly scary.
As humans we’re built to be on alert, looking for danger and ready to react, which was useful when we had to protect ourselves from tigers and lions that wanted to eat us. But as we no longer have these kinds of threats our fear responds to our imagined concerns. So when we become aware of just how perfect this moment is, how well life is going we’re gripped by the fear that something is bound to go wrong. We can’t feel this much joy, life cannot be this great, this good feeling will be snatched away from us at any moment.
Allowing yourself to feel such joy means you’re opening yourself up, you’re being vulnerable, your guard is down. And as the brilliant Brené Brown says, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding”. Being so happy, feeling such contentment and peace is too scary, life can’t be this good so up goes the wall as the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of something going wrong, wraps itself around the joy you felt. You no longer feel pure joy, now it’s cloaked in foreboding.
This is all about us trying to protect ourselves, not from lions and tigers but from imagined future pain. We think that if we don’t allow ourselves to get completely carried away with how great life is, if we don’t permit ourselves to really revel in the joy we’re feeling, and instead keep it reined in, we’re protecting ourselves from feeling pain and suffering in the future.
We believe that if we allow ourselves to feel true joy then if we lose what is giving us so much joy we’ll be more devastated than if we’d kept a lid on our happiness and not allowed ourselves to feel it quite so much. We think that if we don’t allow ourselves to feel total love and happiness for the people we care about it won’t hurt as much if something bad happens. We think we’re doing ourselves a favour, we’re protecting our future selves.
But we’re not.
If a loved one suffers in some way the anguish we feel isn’t lessened because we kept a lid on the joy we felt with them in the past. The pain and trauma we feel is as real as it would ever be, but, and here’s the twist, it may be accompanied by the regret of not making the most of the joyful moments together when we had them.
Imagining upsetting events that could happen in the future in the hope that it will prepare you for the hurt and make it easier to bear is understandable, it makes sense because humans don’t like uncertainty and we want to protect ourselves.
But it does not work. What it does do is steal the joy, the fun, the peace and the contentment you could be experiencing in the present.
So how can we protect ourselves from future pain so we feel free to enjoy the good moments in life now? Well, the hard truth is we can’t insulate ourselves from future suffering.
So what can we do? What can you do when you feel joy become foreboding?
First of all we need to calm your nervous system so you ground yourself in the reality of this present moment. Feel your feet on the floor or your weight pressing into the chair. Slowly, out loud or in your head, name five things you can see, they could be objects in a room or buildings or plants if you’re outdoors. Then name the sounds you can hear, perhaps you can hear talking, a door closing or car brakes squeaking. You’re not judging or having an opinion, you’re just observing and naming. Next see if you can identify any smells, perhaps perfume, engine fumes or cooking smells. See if you can deepen and slow your breathing a little.
Now that you are grounded in the reality of the present moment and know that right now you are safe, you can bring your attention back to the person you’re with, the situation you’re in and whatever sparked that warm, content, joyful feeling within you. Tap back into the joy, locate it in your body and focus on the reality of it in this moment, not imagined possibilities in the future.
Soak up the warm, joyful feeling, savour it, relish it, let it seep into your bones. Take a mental snapshot of this beautiful moment and be thankful for it. When life is more challenging you won’t wish that you’d reined in your joy, you’ll thank your past self for fully embracing these joyful moments so that you have happy memories and experiences to look back on.
Any time you feel a sense of foreboding overtake your joy practice this and over time you’ll train your brain and body to realise that it’s okay to feel the joy you’re feeling. And that you can allow yourself to feel the peace, ease and contentment that come with it.
Thank you for listening to Pressing Pause, you can find details of what I shared in this episode in the show notes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast.
If you’re interested in hearing more about dealing with what gets in the way of your joy and how you can feel more calm and joy every day I have lots more to share with you on my website gabrielletreanor.com. Including a range of free guides such as how to start your day calm without needing to find a single extra minute in your morning, and how to overcome overwhelm as an introvert.
You can find the free guides at gabrielletreanor.com/free. And if you’d like to share your thoughts on this podcast or anything else feel free to drop me a line at [email protected].
Thanks again for listening, until next time.