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.