I’ve heard some people are afraid of success; but it was a new concept to me that some people might also be afraid of happiness.
That was the startling premise of Dr. Brene’ Brown’s fascinating presentation at a recent Leadership Colloquium at NASA Goddard.
Brene’s TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” is one of the top ten most-downloaded TED videos.
After the first 10 minutes of her NASA presentation, it’s easy to understand why.
She’s disarmingly honest about her journey from being a left-brained researcher who only valued bottom-line facts to discovering the transcendent, whole-hearted, free-flowing love that comes from having children.
What she didn’t anticipate is the fear that comes from being a mom.
She describes how she used to stand in her kids’ rooms at night and watch them sleep … and weep.
She cherished them so much, she was afraid something would happen to them.
She knew this was illogical. They were perfectly healthy, perfectly fine. Yet there she was … miserable.
She started researching why the emotion of happiness seems to be irrevocably tied with fear.
Brene’ told a story that opened our eyes to how common this phenomenon is.
A family is driving to their grandparents’s house for Christmas. The parents are uptight because they’re running late.
The kids, sitting in the back seat, start singing Jingle Bells .
The parents realize how ridiculous they’re being and start singing Jingle Bells along with them.
At this point, Brene’ asked the audience, “And then what happened?”
Guess what the majority said??
“They get in a car accident.”
Is that what you thought?
Do you know what that means?
It means, deep down, you believe happiness is fleeting.
You think happiness is … too good to be true.
If things are going well, it’s only a matter of time before the other shoe drops and something goes wrong.
Say it ain’t so.
It gets worse.
In an effort to protect ourselves against the pain we feel when something goes wrong … we prepare ourselves for the heartbreak. We start imagining it so we won’t be blindsided when it happens.
That “failure forecasting” of course sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy which increases the likelihood of something going wrong because that’s what we’re focused on.
When something does go wrong, it proves us “right.” Our worst fears are realized and reinforced. We have even more reasons to worry which sets up an emotionally unhealthy spiral.
We don’t want to be caught off guard by grief so we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy joy. And our envisioning all the things that could go wrong ensure that more things do.
The good news is, we can change this default belief if we choose.
And we need to change this default belief if we want to find and fulfill our SerenDestiny®.
Because SerenDestiny® is leading a life where the light is on in our eyes because we’re doing what we love most and do best.
If, deep down, we’re afraid of loving life because we don’t want to achieve it only to lose it … we avoid it.
So, how do we change these destructive default beliefs?
Instead of steeling ourselves against what could go wrong … we steep ourselves in what’s going right.
We adopt a mantra of “Receive, receive, receive. Revel, revel, revel.”
We choose to appreciate and enjoy good times instead of anticipating they’ll quickly be followed by bad times.
We stop trying to predict or protect ourselves from a potentially hurtful future.
Next time the light is on in your eyes … instead of thinking, “This can’t last,” look around and tell yourself, “Imprint, imprint, imprint.”
Tell yourself, “I welcome this blessing. I savor it. I immerse myself in it.”
As H. L. Mencken said, “We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine.”
How about you? Somewhere along the line, did you learn to be suspicious of happiness lest it be taken away from you? If so, what consequences has that had on your ability to create a life you love?
What are you going to do to change that “too good to be true – waiting for the other shoe to drop mentality?”
What mantra are you going to adopt to welcome loving your life – instead of worrying it won’t last?
Many SerenDestineers have told me they agree with Meister Ekhart’s insight, “If the only prayer we ever said was, ‘Thank you,’ that would be enough.”
From now on, when you’re experiencing good fortune, don’t look a gift source in the mouth.
Simply look around, receive, revel and just say Thank you … and mean it.
Your thoughts, experiences and insights? Please share.
And be sure to check out Dr. Brene Brown’s website and blog. Her insights on how we can be whole-hearted (rather than going through life half-hearted so we don’t get hurt) are brilliant.