Foreboding Joy

Have you ever looked at your children and felt so much love and suddenly a wave of fear and a prayer of “Please God let them be safe?”

About four months ago I in a conversation with a friend I shared that I had everything I ever wanted. I have an intimate and fun relationship, two beautiful children, and a home by the sea, I do work that makes my heart sing, and I’m part of several vibrant communities, and more than that, I’m really happy. Then I shared “I have everything I ever hoped for, and I feel nervous”.

I couldn’t explain it and I found it curious. Why is this?

This question was answered on my recent flight to Byron Bay. I was reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, a shame researcher. In it she talks about this very feeling, of being so happy, so joyful, then having a fearful image or thought come up to protect us from the vulnerability of the joy.

The vulnerability of joy and love may sound bizarre. Let me explain. When we feel deeply for someone or something we are vulnerable. What if we loose it and never get over it? What if they reject us? So we practice being devastated so we are not blindsided by grief. For most of us it is not cognitive. It is an inbuilt reaction where horrible images of car accidents and such pop into our minds to protect us from the vulnerability of that much love.

Brene Brown calls this “foreboding joy”. “Oh my goodness…this is exactly what I have sometimes. What do I do about it?” Was my thought.

Gratitude. Brene says that the antidote to Foreboding Joy is gratitude. That in the second that the fear comes up we just have gratitude for the moment. Some people may never experience the love or joy we are experiencing, may have lost their children, or loved ones. It is our job to be deeply grateful for what we DO have and not push that love down.

I practiced this on the flight. Seeing my husband and my two children all with their headphones on staring at the screen. As usual a wave of love came up, then a feeling of “is it okay for me to love them this much?” At this I moved into gratitude and the love grew stronger. It worked!

I am very grateful to Brene Brown for naming what I could not, and empowering me to love more.