There is someone that I’ve known now for over a handful of years. He shares with me his deepest struggles, and there have been lots of circumstances where he has shared that he would really like “something”. New job, better pay, more time with family, etc. So we work together to try to achieve those things. I remember many times sitting with him when he shares with me that he got a new job or now is getting more money. Because of the struggle he is constantly in, I literally want to leap for joy in the moments where his life has produced a “win”. I think I have actually thrown my hands up and shouted a “Woo Hoo!” a time or two.
But he looks at me, calm and unexcited, and reminds me that the “win” he just told me doesn’t erase all the other problems in his life and in fact, it actually brings some additional problems with it.
The first couple times this happened, I was thrown for a loop. I didn’t quite get why he wasn’t happy about what happened! This is exactly what we had talked about and what he had hoped for!
Enter…… Brene Brown and her concept of foreboding joy. Now it all makes sense. Now I understand what is going on.
Foreboding joy is when something great happens in your life, and you find yourself not really celebrating it but rather thinking thoughts like: Don’t get too happy,that’s just inviting disaster; When’s the other shoe going to drop; If I let myself get too carried away with happiness, I won’t be prepared for the next problem. Does this sound familiar? Have you ever thought or said these types of things? The lightbulb moment for me was reading and fully realizing what Brene Brown teaches- that joy is the most vulnerable emotion we fell. She says.
When we feel joy, it is a place of incredible vulernability – it’s beauty and fragility and deep gratitude and impermanence all wrapped up in one experience. When we can’t tolerate that level of vulnerability, joy actually becomes foreboding, and we immediately move to self-protection. It’s as if we grab vulnerability by the shoulders and say, “You will not catch me off guard. You will not sucker-punch me with pain. I will be prepared and ready for you.”
So with this gentleman who has experienced so much pain, abuse and disappointment in his life and has developed some very deep coping strategies to protect himself, it makes perfect sense why he won’t celebrate his successes. It just opens him up to more pain and disappointment.
And then I realized I do this too. I don’t let myself get fully excited over situations either. I hold back because I want to be prepared. I have always thought this approach (at least in myself) was the responsible thing to do. Now I am coming to see its not responsible. It is stealing from the joy in my life and I’m potentially squelching the joy in my kids by what they see me doing.
Ouch. I love my kids’ enthusiasm and youthful joy!!! So now I’m on a mission. I must pay attention to my own foreboding joy, and I vow to let myself be increasingly vulnerable in those moments to really experience the full joy of life that Christ has given in this life.
– Dr. Sheri