The Fear of Joy

The Fear of Joy

from Viva Arte Viva by Fred Romero
from Viva Arte Viva by Fred Romero

I talk here about bliss in articles like 100x the Bliss, Life is Bliss, Nested Bliss, and so forth.

Joy is fundamental to our well-being and innate to life itself. When we experience pure life, it is pure bliss. And yet because bliss arises at a more subtle level, joy can be a difficult emotion to access. It requires openness and vulnerability. But opening can trigger fear of being hurt. Brené Brown calls this foreboding joy.

That’s the catch. Even though we crave joy, we can also fear it as it makes us vulnerable. Feeling happiness can seem like tempting fate, causing the mind to prepare for loss. We think about dark possibilities or the worst that could happen. If we prepare for tragedy, we may feel we can avoid pain.

Yet rehearsing “what might be” doesn’t prepare you for the future. It only insulates you from feeling now. “Perpetual disappointment” can feel like a familiar solution but we sacrifice joy in the process. We create a prison of our own making, afraid of what we might lose.

The solution is surprisingly simple. Gratitude. I’ve talked here several times about gratitude. I don’t mean making a mood of it. I mean here and there through the day, thinking of something different to be grateful for. And shifting to gratitude when we notice the mind is going to the dark side.

This can take a bit of practice to get the hang of it. This is changing what can be a long habit of avoidance. As such, we don’t want to resist or manipulate what is arising. We allow it. But when choice arises, we favour the light.

We may also wish to take this a stage further and learn how to be vulnerable in a safe way by culturing worthiness, safe boundaries, and engagement. Love, belonging, and connection require we feel worthy of them. Brené Brown explores this (YouTube link) in books like Daring Greatly.

She also explores the scientific research behind these points. Returning to happiness is possible but does take some new skills. Enduring happiness is not about getting the new house or car. It’s about a willingness to be present to what is here now. That includes a full range of emotions but if we can find our way to OK, they bring richness to life.

As we resolve our history, we can open up to life in its pure, blissful form.

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  1. Jeff

    For me, joy is a consistent, reverberating part of everyday life. There is not a choice to experience it. It is initiated by nature. I enjoy it, but it is always there, whether I am consciously aware of it or not.

  2. Carol

    Thank you so much for posting this timely and essential knowledge. It’s so easy to get lost in chapters of life that feel heavy and dark…and so easy to not look at deep habits of perceiving and interpreting that we have carried energetically for….Lord know how long! How many small moments of light are passed by or rejected out of fear… Much appreciation….

  3. Lynette

    Hi David, when I was reading this blog, it reminded me for a time when I find myself to be joyous that I should stop and put up a serious face or look despondent, because I was afraid that with a joyful face that a bad thing will happen. So what you wrote here was true for me. However I think I had a gradual shift somewhere that I don’t feel or think this way anymore, and you just reinforced being appreciative and always be in gratitude do help at all times. Thank you for writing this blog. I also bought Our Natural Potential.

  4. Jim

    Thanks David – a good one.
    Whenever I experienced unwelcome results in life, even from a young age I recognized it was either something in my perception or in my action was off. Oftentimes I have aimed squarely at that which discomforts me in order to figure it out, no matter how momentarily uncomfortable it may make me.
    Getting at the truth of ourselves especially as we grow and have a tendency to work into familiar patterns is an ongoing dynamic that doesn’t seem to change much regardless of how spiritually active we may become; same old desires for a good life, to spread happiness and joy and have the same return to us.
    Going for joy will always result in a few disappointments, but they only last for a moment and by then we have learned one more thing to not do, or to adjust, or to reflect on in our quest for joy. Given the parameters each of us is given here; huge powers in the context of time and space, it behooves us to take full advantage of all of it, as rapidly as possible.
    Do we really have much of a choice; learn the lessons, or alternatively, come back and then learn the lessons? Endless possibilities for remediation. Life is a patient master, but a master nonetheless.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Jim
      Yep – life has all the time in the world for us to clue in. But it’s a lot easier for us if we get the message and learn a few things. Easy things really, but it can take time to learn some of them. 🙂
      Good advice. Unwelcome results can come from prior consequences too, but yeah – if we can recognize the associated contraction, we can resolve the source of the event. As you mention, that can be briefly uncomfortable but it stops it from coming around again. Thus, quality of life gradually improves.

  5. Deborah

    I read another gem today, by ananta kranti, ….it left me with some deep questions about why i often choose the more limiting way….when experience has shown me bliss and joy is highly accessible. Thanks so much for your writing David.

    ‘ Remember that you are the one who gives meaning to everything… What you hear and what you read is then interpreted by YOU

    You are either open and resting as Awareness in which case you Hear it direct from where it comes from…
    Or else, it gets filtered through your conditioned view… In which case you have the opportunity if you are aware enough… To see how your conditioned view creates your world in all your relationships, how you keep alive the structure of a separate self identity and how you would rather hold on to that than be truly Free as pure Awareness’

    1. Hi Deborah
      Yeah – it’s kinda that slow learner thing I was chatting about with Jim above. As it gets more obvious, we start to see through the stories and drives running that and it fades out more. But it takes experience and time, with the occasional grand insight that cuts through it.
      These patterns have been running through lifetimes or handed down from ancestors. It’s like turning a cruise ship – you turn the wheel but it takes a bit before the momentum changes direction…
      But eventually it does turn… 🙂

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