The fourth guidepost outlined By Brené Brown in her work is: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
This guidepost is one that may sound simple but can reveal vulnerabilities on both sides of the equation.
Gratitude and joy may seem like concepts that most would eagerly embrace but the complexity behind these must be acknowledged and discussed. From her research, Dr Brown identified three important patterns with both joy and gratitude:
Firstly, those who described their lives as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and believed that this was the reason for their joyfulness. Secondly, people described both joy and gratitude and spiritual practices and finally, the people she researched identified a difference between joy and happiness with happiness being described as an emotional response to a situation and joy as a spiritual way of connecting with the world and linked to the practice of gratitude.
When elaborating on gratitude, Dr Brown is quick to point out the difference between having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and ‘practicing gratitude’. The main difference being in the ‘doing of the work’ rather than simply being attracted to the concept and agreeing with the philosophy. Practicing gratitude isn’t simply about thanking someone for a gift or assistance they have given you – this is being grateful and this is clearly socially polite and important in relationships. Practicing gratitude is a mindset and belief system that enables you to wake up each morning and be grateful for all that your life has offered you. People that practice gratitude engage in journal writing, gratitude art, mediation and prayer among other things. It is a part of who they are as well as what they do.
Joyfulness flows from gratitude, according to Dr. Brown’s work. She summarises joy by explaining that it is more a way of being, a spiritual practice and philosophy rather than happiness which like all emotions, is transitory. Like happiness, joy can come and go but while happiness seems driven from external influences, joy is influenced from within.
Dr. Brown often talks about joy as being one of our most vulnerable states, wide open and completely exposed to the fear of that joy being lost or taken from us by the thoughts of scarcity and fear.
Our scarcity and fear can hijack us in many ways and it is difficult to practice joy and gratitude while focusing on scarcity and fear. To really feel the joy that our lives have to offer, especially in those precious moments when we feel the deepest love for our children or loved ones, we must dismiss the thoughts that invade our minds and attempt to diminish these moments.
There are moments where I am taken aback by the deep love and adoration I feel when watching my son and my mind immediately jumps in and says ‘I couldn’t bear it if I lost him’ or the times when I have been in a joyous moment on holidays or with a friend and my mind steps in and says ‘it won’t’ last’ Dr Brown calls this ‘foreboding joy’ and it is a defense mechanism against vulnerability. Gratitude is the antidote for foreboding joy, being truly grateful in that moment is what dilutes my fear.
I am certain of one thing, I am not the only person who experiences this. Consider practicing gratitude when you experience fear and scarcity and see how things change for you.
Until next time