Foreboding Joy

Katie Watts Renell's picture

Joy. It’s one of those things that we all long for, aspire to find, and work our whole lives to acquire. Yet, when we do get there, and actually experience a modicum of real joy, we almost always sabotage ourselves by not being, “in the moment”. We wait for the other shoe to drop. Your jam has just come on the radio, and you’re dancing like a crazy person, really breaking it down, when your brain suddenly shifts into, “I hope nobody saw me” or, “I look like an idiot”. Decidedly NOT mindful!

Dr. Brene Brown calls this, “Foreboding Joy”. She uses an example of a scene in a movie where a family is driving on a highway to Grandma’s house during the Christmas season. The kids are singing Christmas Carols, and having a great time. The parents turn up the radio and join in, giving themselves over to the moment. What happens next? Don’t lie, you thought the worst… car crashes into a tree, Mack Truck smashes into them, a meteor comes out of the sky and falls directly onto the Mini-Van… We have all seen too many movies, too many news broadcasts, seen too many nightmare Facebook Posts, and have been conditioned to expect the worst.

As we try to live our lives as mindfully as possible, we find ourselves fighting against our own mental and emotional defense mechanisms. “Foreboding Joy” is just that, a defense mechanism. In order to experience joy, in all of its fullness, we have to be fully present in the moment. Not worrying about, “What happens next?” or, “What if something terrible happens”. Dr. Brown calls this the ability to, “soften into joy”. I love that terminology. It really describes the sense of vulnerability that we must have to fully realize “joy”. It brings to mind a visual of melting away the hard, rough protective exterior that we have all built up over time, and softening our hearts and souls in order to let joy in.

It sure sounds nice, but what the heck does that mean?!? You’re thinking, “That’s great, Katie, but how am I supposed to soften myself up?” In these moments, it is most important for us to practice mindfulness, to be completely present. These moments of joy help to replenish our minds, bodies and souls, so it is ultra important to get the most from them. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and receptive, and really lean into those moments of bliss!