When people used to ask me how I was doing, I’d either tell them what was wrong or, if I happened to be on the happy side, I’d search for the ways I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to let them know that I was feeling good or content or just right. What if they were suffering? What if their beloved dog had just died? What if they’d gotten three hours of sleep for the last few nights?
I believed that I needed to be a member of The Suffering Club to have friends, be loved, feel safe.
This also extended to food and weight (because every way you live, everything you believe is also reflected in your relationship with food).
Where did this need to stay in The Suffering Club begin?
Pretty much where everything begins: in beliefs I took on as a child, in associations I made with happiness, in what I interpreted I needed to do to be loved. That’s how it goes. That’s how we form what the brain scientists call neural pathways in our brains. Happiness equals being unloved. Unhappiness equals being part of the tribe and therefore, safety.
It’s good to question these beliefs (in fact, it’s always good to question beliefs because most of the time you’re acting them out without knowing they stem from a long-held belief). Which is what we did at a recent retreat: We spent an afternoon on joy and what keeps us from it and the results were staggering (and not surprising at all, given our herstories).
Here is what some people said:
"If I allow myself to experience joy, people will think I’m not deep and that I don’t feel the incredible challenges we are all living through now."
"If I allow myself to feel joy, I’ll be all alone."
"Feeling joy will get me in trouble. Better to be unhappy and not stand out."
"If I allow myself to experience joy, the other members of my family won’t like it. Especially my depressed mother."
"I need to cut the amount of joy I feel in two so that I don’t threaten anyone. (Most people are pretty miserable)."
Beliefs are like walls. Every time I come up against a belief, even when I’m not aware of it, I get an uh-oh feeling. My stomach feels a little queasy. I think I need to turn around and go the other way immediately, despite not being fully cognizant of what that means. So, as we enter this insane lit-up family-filled crazy food-everywhere season, take a minute or ten to ask yourself what your beliefs are about joy and what you think will happen if you let yourself feel a simple ordinary extraordinary joy in what’s here already. Not joy because you did something, achieved something, but joy because the sun came up. The sky is powder blue. You’re alive (and the 350,000 people who passed on yesterday are not). Sing it out loud. And if that sounds like too much because you’re cranky, okay then. Take joy in the fact that you can feel enough to be cranky.
To revisit the entire Cancer Chronicle retrospective, CLICK HERE.