You are not the only one who receives good news but grimaces inside because you are waiting “for the other shoe to drop.” Or you start talking yourself down from enjoying something (like a chocolate peanut butter brownie) because you “just know” something terrible is going to happen next. Or you begin to enjoy the joy of the moment but then you talk yourself out of it because you know this joy isn’t real for you.
Today I am telling you that you are not the only one who thinks this way. When you start to feel joy, you wish you could feel the joy but instead you are swallowed by the fear that something bad is going to happen. For example, you feel such tenderness (dare I add joy?) for the person you’re falling in love with but you still fast forward in your mind to the day you believe you will get your heart broken. Or you breathe in the smell of your beautiful newborn but your mind also spins crazily as you think of all the tragedies your new child is going to experience in this broken messy world. You are dress rehearsing tragedy so you can beat vulnerability to the punch. By trying to imagine the worst case scenario, you somehow think you’re protecting yourself from what you fear most.
Am I reading your mind? Stay with me. This is going to be a vulnerable article.
Joy requires vulnerability. Basically the truth of your mind thoughts that I exposed here are, “I’m not worthy of having this joy so I must sabotage it before life sabotages me.” Ouch. How true is that for you?
So we do other things to protect us from the pain that life brings such as numbing behaviors or by blocking the joy that comes from ordinary moments. When we feel such moments of joy, these “too good to be true” thoughts are really rooted in fear, scarcity, and blocking vulnerability.
(By the way, none of us are exempt from pain, not even you.)
Fear – So many people use fear—and justify fear—as a way to control their worlds believing they will beat vulnerability to the punch by being vigilant about fear. Fear, while maybe not named that, is justified because it makes us feel like we are in control.
Scarcity is waking up in the morning and already feeling like you have let down those you love before you even get out of bed. Scarcity is posting your life on social media hoping that others believe you really have a life you love. Scarcity is the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed or to be lovable or to belong. Fear again. Shame is mixed in to that one too.
Blocking Vulnerability – Fear and shame are mixed into this one too. Embracing our vulnerability is one of the bravest things you can do. Vulnerability is required to make those brave and scary decisions to transition the situation you are in to one of hope. So you can see how fear and shame can keep you out of vulnerability. And thus out of experiencing joy.
All three of these are rooted in the lie that we are not worthy. We are not worthy to feel joy. So when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.
You are not alone in this. But now that your coping mechanism has been vulnerably revealed (thank you for staying with this post), what will you do now? Fear is probably a bit too loud in your head at this moment. I hope you are also feeling a bit of hope too.
Let’s start with an oft-quoted verse from the Bible. James 1:2, Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. Here joy is mixed with our pain. The truth is we are hardwired to make it through pain and we also get to feel joy. If you numb yourself from the pain, you will also protect yourself from the joys of life. This follows a truth also from Dr. Brene’ Brown’s research, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” (Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, p. 137) You get to feel both—and both are okay because you are worthy. Because you are enough.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection he appeared to the disciples. John 20:20 tells us, As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Of course, they were filled with joy when they saw Jesus again. They had just been through some trauma, and hiding in that upper room not knowing how to live through to the other side of the trauma. Here the disciples and women got the positive emotions and the painful emotions. They got to see the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side which confirmed their trauma as very real. This also led to their joy. From that point, the disciples and women certainly proceeded to live some brave lives. Do you get it?
Here is a start for you. Do not be afraid to feel the ordinary joys or IJMs (innocent joy moments) that happen in your life. Also do not be afraid to feel the pain that happens in your life. You get both. We all do. You will make it through both. So when you feel that quiver in your gut—the one that is rooted in fear, scarcity and/or blocking vulnerability—use that quiver as a reminder to practice gratitude. Gratitude is not an attitude, it is a practice. Practice, practice, practice.
Do you realize the relationships you have in your life are because you are worthy to have these relationships? They are so lucky to have valuable you in their lives (they are!) so lean into how lucky you are to have these valuable people in your life. Be grateful for them. Be grateful of those IJMs you have with them. Worthy you gets to make these joyful memories.
Do you want more scientific research about this? Click here to read how joy can lead to a healthier life—not just mental health but also physical health. It makes sense and follows how God created us.
Remember brave and vulnerable one, worthiness is your birthright. You were enough the minute you were born. May you feel joy.
(Photo credit: Pixabay.com)