I invite you to join me in some joy work this week. Let me know how your assignment goes.
I did not want to see my therapist this week (I’ll refer to him as “Bo”). I initially thought Bo would be someone that I could unload on every week or two and then keep it moving. I didn’t realize how much work therapy would be, that is, if I truly wanted to sustain my joy in life. In Chapter 1 of my book, Joy Works: 8 Lessons for Educators, I talk about how we have to do the heavy lifting when it comes to our joy. I have a difficult time with this in therapy. I used to try to take up some of the session time with small talk. I’ve tried smiling a lot, cracking jokes, and even charming Bo into telling me his problems. It didn’t work. None of those fantasies about therapy are real. I had to engage in the work…the heavy lifting. It’s not easy. I am committed to the process, so I did show up last Thursday.
I realized during this last session, that I didn’t want to admit to a feeling that I was having. I felt ashamed of the feeling. Like, How do I have the audacity to feel________? I ‘m not going to share that_______ with you…yet. I did share it with Bo, and that was important for me. See, regardless of what that _______ is, we all have feelings that we struggle to own. Sometimes, I believe I don’t have the right to feel a certain way or that it might be small and insignificant based on what other people might be dealing with in their lives. Other times I think of the negative way others might perceive me if they knew I felt__________. Part of doing joy work is identifying those feelings that do and do not serve us well. That doesn’t mean that we should characterize a feeling as bad. It does mean that we have to find a way to process and navigate it so that we don’t spiral down a negative path with it.
Take some time to grapple with owning an uncomfortable feeling. Here are three steps to help you with the process.
Identify and name the feeling. Sounds simple right…I feel_______________. However, it’s hard to own an emotion that makes us feel ashamed or condemned. But we have to own it so that we can move through the uncomfortableness of the feeling. We tend to fill in the_________ with safe words and phrases like good, alright, fine, hanging in there, busy, or tired. Actually, pinpointing the feeling and owning it takes courage and vulnerability. You might literally feel weird saying the word out of your mouth, but just do it. Identify the feeling that you have been struggling to own. Name it. Don’t nickname it. This is not for anyone else but yourself.
Admit to what is causing the BIG emotion. This can be tricky, because it can seem to come from multiple directions. And well…sometimes we like to pretend that we don’t know what is causing a feeling. I have found that if I can admit to what or who (most likely) is causing the feeling in me, I can more easily change my perspective about it. This is the area where I tend to pull in some of my thought partners. Now, just because you’re doing the heavy lifting in your joy work, doesn’t mean you’re doing it alone. It’s helpful to have someone who cares about your growth to talk things through. Sometimes, they can lead you to a better and healthier perspective, and other times they just listen, as you lead yourself.
Remember your desired state. A few weeks ago, I asked, What is the state that your heart desires to be in each day? What we truly want is alignment between our mind and heart, the state we desire to be in, and for me that’s joy. Remembering this leads me to reflect on such things as, Why am I blaming this or that for my feeling? How can I shift my perspective about this or that? How can I use this feeling as a motivation to be even more intentional about my joy. When I experience an uncomfortable feeling, I learn things about myself that lead to growth and even better decision making that is in alignment with what I want in my life…joy.
In the end identifying and dealing with uncomfortable feelings can help us better cope with challenges as we become more self-aware. Your turn.
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