The following is from Michele Rosenthal, author of “Before The World Intruded: Conquering The Past And Creating The Future”
There was a time in my life I didn’t believe I’d ever feel joy again. A horrible illness had befallen me and while I survived it, the rosy glow of joy seemed to have been snuffed out. Perhaps you, too, have known a moment of despair that seemed so heavy even Hercules couldn’t lift it. Years went by while I felt like that. Then, I decided to do something about it; I decided to actively conquer the past and create the future. The first step: I needed to feel something really, really good! More than that, I decided I needed to feel joy.
Technically, we define ‘joy’ as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. I think that’s an understatement. Joy, I believe, is a feeling so exquisite you can barely contain yourself, so deep within you it seems to have an unending source, and so connected to the present moment the rest of the world (and time) falls away.
Let yourself dream ~ Bringing joy into your life begins with the hope that you will feel it. Spend some time imagining what joy would feel like, how you would experience it, and how it would rock your world. Your brain looks for proof of what you tell it. Begin telling it about joy and it will begin looking for it.
Give yourself permission ~ It’s very easy to put off the experience of joy. Your world is busy, your mind may be cluttered; there are a ton of things to do. That’s all true. It’s also true that the longer you deny yourself joy the longer it will be before you feel it. Practice giving yourself permission to have it now and see how much more effectively and efficiently you operate in all areas of your life.
Do something creative ~ Expressing your vision and who you are feels good. Whether you like to write, paint, sing, sculpt, crochet or any other activity that conjures something out of thin air, developing a skill that applies your imagination can access a well of pleasure in who you are and make you feel incredible delight.
Do something you used to love as a child ~ Your core personality develops by the time you’re seven. The things that brought you delight back then can still bring you pleasure today. As an adult you may have lost touch with them. Think back to what used to bring you happiness at the age of five, or eight or ten. Then, go experience that all over again.
Stimulate yourself mentally ~ It’s going to be hard to feel anything with your mind as a blank screen. Your mental participation is part of what creates your experience of joy. Read, talk, research, do puzzles — there are a slew of ways to wake up your mind. Engage in as many as possible so that your brain remains active and nimble enough to sense and enlarge joy when it appears.
Do something incredibly helpful for someone else ~ One of the most joyful actions you can take is to make someone else feel joy. Bringing pleasure to another and witnessing their joy can have a wonderful boomerang effect on you.
Free yourself from negative beliefs ~ If you’re the kind of person who sees every glass as half empty and the world as a dark, disastrous place, here’s a heads up for you: Your beliefs create your world. It’s time to identify your negative beliefs, exchange them for more positive beliefs, and start creating the world in which you wish to live. At the end of the day, you and you alone are responsible for bringing joy into your life. It begins with your attitude and perspective.
Look around your wondrous world. Notice the colors of the flowers, the sky and the trees. Listen to the sounds of traffic, crickets, and people laughing. Accessing joy is as easy as a simple meditation on the things you love. Choose one thing, focus on it, allow it to become the only thing that exists in this moment. Notice how that feeling of joy creeps up on and then envelops you.
By Michele Rosenthal is a trauma survivor who struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for over 25 years. Today, Michele joyfully lives 100% free of PTSD symptoms. Michele is a mental health advocate, public speaker, award-winning blogger, writer, workshop/seminar leader and Post-Trauma Identity Coach.
Let Joy In
The movie ‘Inside Out’ illustrates important issues regarding the relationship between childhood memories and programming, and ongoing mental health and wellbeing.
This movie will help you understand where chronic depression stems from (basically your dominant childhood emotion)..
It had me in tears and caught me off guard but not in a bad way, in an enlightened way.
A must watch ..
Inside Out focuses on an 11-year-old girl named Riley.
Well, more specifically, it focuses on the little voices inside of Riley’s head. Those voices are her emotions — Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.
Like many kids, Riley’s dominant emotion is Joy.
She’s generally happy and, when she’s not, everything inside of her works to restore equilibrium and get back to that happy place.
When Riley’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, her world is turned upside down and everything that makes her, well, her (her “Personality Islands” — being a goofball, being honest, loving hockey, caring about her friends and family) is challenged.
Let ‘joy’ in..I feel heartbroken. When I feel like this, I seem to fall into a pattern. I feel cold and I want to take a bath, I want to eat comforting foods in large proportions, I want a blanket to snuggle up in, maybe I’ll watch a movie that cheers me up, or maybe crawl into bed and attempt to sleep away my sadness.
A large part of my life (the majority) I have felt sad. After watching the movie ‘Inside Out’ I guess it would be true to say my dominant emotion developed in childhood is sadness or depression .. and not much gets done on sad days..
But what if I change my pattern. When I’m heartbroken or sad, what if I do things differently.. what if I get up and clean my house, walk my dog, put beautiful calming or re-energizing music on my ipod, what if I choose to react differently and to change my life long pattern (my programme..)
Being hurt is part of life. People will hurt me.. intentionally or not, I cannot avoid that, but I can change my reaction. I can be sad but I don’t have to drown.. or let it sink me.
I believe we are programmed from childhood (see movie ‘inside Out’) and those of us with too many sad, traumatic or painful early childhood memories lose the ability to manage our emotions well, restore our equilibrium and find the positivity in life and the joy in things.. We lose our balance and we are triggered again and again towards those old feelings of sadness.
Low level sadness becomes our normal..
In adult hood we have to ‘change our programming’ and actively let positivity and joy into our life.
So I’m going to fight the overwhelming urge to eat and sleep. It’s not working for me and as much as I know it’s not my fault that I behave this way, it’s not making my life better or easier.
I know I want more and I know I deserve a better life. I’m going to get up and seek something healthier and joyful. A friend, a park, a beach, a walk, a drive, clean the windows, wash the linen, get in the garden.. something active instead of passive..
I’ve got a little metal sculpture of a woman with her arms outstretched standing at the top of a pinnacle. I’m going to put it next to my bed as a reminder to change my programme and to choose something healthier…
Something has to change..
And it’s my visual reminder to change my programme.
Love & baby steps,
I am actively taking the risk of being more open, authentic and vulnerable. I started first on this blog and now in my day to day life.
I’m not going to lie… being open and vulnerable has been painful, very painful. I’ve learnt and I am still learning some really hard lessons. And many times I have just wanted to isolate again purely because it’s safer (less terrifying) and easier :o(
We know it’s a risk to be vulnerable. You risk being misunderstood, labelled and rejected and I’ve experienced all of that, but I also experienced being embraced, accepted and loved for what I once denied and hid about myself.. and that feels good, really good.. and that is my motivator to keep putting myself out there :o)
I have experienced people that ‘get me’ and have encouraged me, as a result I am learning more about myself and I am accepting of sides of me that I didn’t like or want, but if it don’t embrace those parts of me I realize I am rejecting myself.. I am not loving all of me..
To be vulnerable you have to love and accept yourself … all of yourself.
Enjoy this great post on vulnerability by WENDY MIYAKE
Love and baby steps,
“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.” ~Brene Brown
Vulnerability has never been my strong suit. It’s no wonder. In order to be vulnerable, you have to be okay with all of you. That’s the thing about vulnerability that no one tells you about.
Being vulnerable is not just about showing the parts of you that are shiny and pretty and fun. It’s about revealing what you deny or keep hidden from other people. We all do this to some extent. I bet you’ve never said to a friend, “Oh my god, I just love that I’m insecure.”
But that’s the point, isn’t it? You’ve got to love everything, if you want to be vulnerable by choice.
Most of us have probably experienced vulnerability through default. More often than not, we are either forced into that state through conflict, or we are surprised by it after our circumstances feel more comfortable.
Few of us consciously choose vulnerability. Why? The stakes are too high.
If we reveal our authentic selves, there is the great possibility that we will be misunderstood, labeled, or worst of all, rejected. The fear of rejection can be so powerful that some wear it like armor.
My first real experience with vulnerability came when I was twenty-five.
I had just accepted a position as a literature teacher of juniors and seniors at a local high school. This was quite possibly the most intimidating situation I had ever gotten myself into thus far. We’re talking teenagers here, the most extraterrestrial of all age groups!
To make matters worse, I asked my parents for advice. Being longtime elementary school teachers, my parents had a plethora of horror stories to share about unruly students, unreasonable parents, and teachers who could not control their classrooms.
Each story ended with, “And that’s why she quit and ended up going into retail.”
I didn’t want to be a quitter, so I listened well when they told me that I needed to be strong from the get-go, that I needed to show my students who was boss.
In the words of my father, “You can be a bitch and work your way down to nice, but you can’t be nice and work your way up to being strong.”
I took my parents’ advice to heart. In the first week, I flunked seventy-five percent of my students on the summer reading exam. I yelled a lot to control the classroom environment.
And when my students would complain about an assignment, I would say to them, “Remember, this class is not a democracy, it’s a monarchy and guess who’s queen?”
When I read those words now, I can’t help but cringe.
But at the time, I believed vulnerability was a liability. I was okay with being the dragon lady. It was safe.
And under that façade, no one knew how terrified I actually was. So I wore that armor as if my life depended on it.
If I had my way, I would have kept my guard up for the rest of that year. But my students were much smarter than me. They must have known on some level that, in the presence of true vulnerability, no one could remain closed off.
Perhaps no event demonstrated this better than when the senior honors project was in jeopardy.
It was not traditional curriculum, and thus it came under scrutiny. My seniors were visibly upset because they had worked so hard on their group papers, and they were looking forward to their presentations in which faculty from the school as well as from the university would be present.
When they expressed their feelings so honestly and openly, I could not turn away. Now, I wanted to fight not only for the project but for the students themselves.
When I thought we would have no choice but to abandon the whole thing, I remember telling my students that I wanted to quit. For the first time, I was very honest with them about how I was feeling and what I wanted for them.
I was, perhaps, the most vulnerable I had been all year. And that moment of vulnerability paid off big time.
When I left the school at the end of the year, I received many letters from my students. In them, I discovered that they were touched by the fact that I had fought so hard for them, that I was honest with them, and that I believed in them so passionately.
At the time, I probably said to the universe something like, “Ah! You tricked me! This was supposed to be just a temporary job until my real life began. I wasn’t supposed to invest in anyone or be committed to anything or care about anyone.”
But I was very connected to these students long before I even knew I was. Needless to say, they got their senior project. But I received something so much greater. I learned what vulnerability looked like and felt like. And I was the recipient of all its rewards.
Over the years, I have continued to experience that place of vulnerability. I cannot say that all my experiences have come through choice, but I do try to enter that state as much as I can.
While I am far from being an expert on this subject, I have come to some conclusions that I hope will be meaningful to those who want to choose vulnerability:
1. VULNERABILITY IS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN YOU LOVE YOURSELF.
Think about it. When you don’t love all of you and are afraid to show people the less than stellar parts, the space between you and vulnerability is like the Grand Canyon. You will need all the courage you can get to make the leap across.
But when you love yourself, and I mean all of you, you don’t worry so much if someone else doesn’t. And when you’re less afraid of rejection, you step right into that place of openness.
2. VULNERABILITY TAKES PRACTICE.
You don’t just learn it once and then—ta-dah!—you’re easily open to everything and everyone. My experience at the high school was very profound, but even now, many years later, I still have moments where I’m more guarded and less willing to share the real me.
Thank goodness life continues to give me opportunities to consciously choose openness. And most times, I do.
3. THE REWARDS OF VULNERABILITY ARE IMMEASURABLE.
When I have chosen to be open, to show my authentic self, my students have met me there. And when they’ve met me there and formed that connection, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish.
With vulnerability, you experience true connection—true love for yourself—and you begin to attract people to you who are inspired by your openness.
While it’s not easy to be vulnerable, you’d be surprised how loving all of you and then sharing it with another can help you to connect with anyone. In my own life, I’m continuing to open up to my students.
I’ve been showing them a little more of the complexity that is me. They now know the ugly truth that I don’t do math. They know that whenever I need to half a recipe, my twelve-year-old nephew does the fractions for me.
Shameful? Perhaps. But you know what? I like that girl and in the end, so do my students.