How to Stop Fretting and Experience Joy

xvehwsponpc-stefan-kunzeLast night, I joined a group of creatives in town who love and follow Jesus. They gather each month to encourage the creative impulse and validate how difficult it can be to make something out of nothing.

The group’s leader, who happens to be a bestie of mine, gave us a list of questions. One of them was:

What holds you back from your dreams/imaginings…from trusting they could be possible?

Here’s how I answered:

“I didn’t know the choice I made to set out on my own, to create something out of nothing, could be so rich, so satisfying, and that the Lord would be so real in it. The problem is, now I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s like I’m preemptively grieving this goodness, to prepare for the loss of it.”

It sounds ridiculous to say, but half of the room groaned with recognition. So at least it’s not just me.

Turns out it’s not just me at all. It’s a thing that shame researcher, Dr. Brene Brown, calls “foreboding joy.” She writes about it in my favorite of her books, Daring Greatly, and defines it as the paradoxical dread that clamps down on us in moments of joy.

“Softening into the joyful moments of our lives requires vulnerability. If, like me, you’ve ever stood over your children and thought to yourself, I love you so much I can barely breathe, and in that exact moment have been flooded with images of something terrible happening to your child, know that you’re not crazy nor are you alone. About eighty percent of the parents I’ve interviewed acknowledged having that experience.”

Excerpt From: Brené Brown. “Daring Greatly.” iBooks.

I didn’t know I was rehearsing tragedy to avoid being vulnerable. The problem with that is, I’m insulating myself from the experience of joy too.

And joy is one of my core values. Hmmm.7fjyrjhopk0-ethan-robertsonLast night, Steve, one of the deep rivers that runs through that creative group, was already on to some strategy for me. Turns out it’s the same one Dr. Brown recommends.

Praise. Gratitude. Thanksgiving.

He suggested I read Psalm 63, parts of which he called from memory, having used it, he said, many times himself.

Because your loving kindness is better than life. My lips shall praise you. Thus I will bless you while I live. I will lift up my hands in your name. Psalm 63:3-4

Dr. Brown suggests using foreboding joy as a signal to practice gratitude right away:

“Scarcity and fear drive foreboding joy. We’re afraid that the feeling of joy won’t last, or that there won’t be enough, or that the transition to disappointment (or whatever is in store for us next) will be too difficult. We’ve learned that giving in to joy is, at best, setting ourselves up for disappointment and, at worst, inviting disaster. And we struggle with the worthiness issue. Do we deserve our joy, given our inadequacies and imperfections? What about the starving children and the war-ravaged world? Who are we to be joyful?

If the opposite of scarcity is enough, then practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough. ”

Excerpt From: Brené Brown. “Daring Greatly.” iBooks.

It seems I need to get serious about practicing gratitude. Do you? There are five zillion ways to do it. Need ideas?

Here are a few from MindBodyGreen.

Here are a few from

Here are some good scriptures on gratitude.

When Oprah is grateful she journals it.

Many people on Pinterest jot their thanks on paper and put them in a jar.

How about a Reverse Bucket List? That’s a cool idea.

Try it and the next time you feel foreboding joy, see if you can’t arrest it and just feel joy. That’s what I plan to do. I’ll let you know how it goes.



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