The Fear of Joy
The emotion we fear the most in life is actually joy. Surprised? I was too. We fear joy because when we are in those happy moments, we often become terrified that it could all be taken away in one single moment. We remember past times when we felt so good and then got a phone call with terrible news, or learned that we did not get the job, or a friend became ill. Our brains remember these experiences and then see joy as a threat. If it could be taken away once, it could be taken away every time. And simply, we really do not want those good feelings to end, but they will, and that is okay. The downside of fearing joy is that we rob ourselves of the present and pure happy moments by concentrating on past events or what might happen in the future.
Life is not meant to be happy all the time. The endless search for this constant glee is actually causing us more harm than good. This unhealthy belief sets us up for unrealistic expectations and a sense of failure when we cannot achieve it. We are meant to feel the full range of emotions. Remember the movie Inside Out? They did such a great job of showcasing why all the emotions in our minds need a turn at the control desk. If you have not seen it and feel like you are endlessly searching for happiness, I highly recommend it for your next movie night.
Joy will always end. So will pain. It is inevitable. Each of our emotions has a time frame and we have to remember that we can get through each and every one of them.
The key is to name your emotion and allow yourself to feel it. Once you name it you gain power over it. When you stuff it away or sweep it under the rug it actually has power over you and your behaviours. Once named, check in with your body and notice where you feel it. Is it tension in your chest, your jaw? Is it a nice warm sensation like the sun shining on you? Then simply allow yourself to feel it and remind yourself that you have the capacity for each and every emotion. To date, there is not a single thing that you have not survived and gotten through. Joy, pain, anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, you can tolerate and learn something from each of these feelings. You can also get through and past each one. It might be difficult or uncomfortable, but your track record should be given far more credit.
So, the next time you are foreboding joy or embracing sadness, remember that you can simply stay in that moment, accept it for what it is, knowing that it will end. In the case of joy, it is okay and normal that it will end. You can then remind yourself that you can handle whatever emotions come your way. There are no good or bad emotions, just feelings. To live a full well-rounded life we need to allow ourselves to sit with and lean into every single one. Even joy, even if it is fleeting. A few moments here and there are so worth it, do not distract yourself worrying about what could happen and focus on what is.
The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.