Have you ever noticed that when glimpsing our happiest, most sublime moments, we are surprisingly adept at covering this up with “protective”, often worse-case-scenario thinking? That those moments scare us so much that we have to put on a suit of armour in case it all goes horribly wrong?
Brené Brown has famously said that “…the most terrifying, difficult emotion that we experience as humans, is joy”. In the moments where we take a bit of stock of our lives and notice that something is going well, worry and fear take over. How can we let ourselves feel happy / grateful / blissful / at peace if it sets us up for a greater fall when it all comes crashing down? We tend to catastrophize as though by human default. Or rather, by adult default.
“We are trying to dress-rehearse tragedy, so we can beat vulnerability to the punch”
– B. Brown
Hell yes, we are.
But the research on this subject tells us that the holding back of positive emotion doesn’t, in fact, protect us from anything. Imagining the negative scenario where this happy moment is stripped away doesn’t actually work to shield us. The falls, if they come at all, are just as great.
So when we move through life in this way – guarded, falsely believing that shielding ourselves from contentment is in some way helpful in the end – we bear a significant net loss.
Vulnerability is what is in order. In the best of times and the worst. It’s a pretty easy rule to follow – vulnerability is always in order. Whatever the emotion; however straightforward or complex, however superficial or profound. We must allow ourselves to feel fully, like children instinctively do.
It turns out we really aren’t automatons. And the only way to achieve the thing we’re all looking for – the (if momentary) bliss – is to practice the skill of vulnerability. We show up to each new experience deciding that we’ll not hold back on what’s right there. That we will feel everything we are feeling and express authentically. We’ll embrace what is truly there, instead of covering it up with bogus opposites.
Have you been holding yourself back from moments of real happiness?
Notice what opportunities for joy come up (either in your gratitude practice or less consciously) and allow them. It’s all within reach.