Comfort In Joy

Comfort In Joy - BeMo Journal

The holidays can be complicated for various reasons. One of the realizations that hit me this year is the complex relationship with Joy.

As I speak with so many about their BeMo experiences and what they are working through, a mistrust of joyful moments, a sense of having to earn joy, or an underlying theme of not deserving joy is evident in so many struggles, especially this time of year.

Regardless of your religious beliefs or chosen celebrations, the end of the year can feel like a slow-motion firework popping off with all the anticipation of whether it will be worth it. Ya, exactly… worth it.

In this post, I discussed regression during this time of year and how you can ride the wave of childlike wonders with purpose. Regression isn’t always a bad thing. The holidays trigger almost everyone – sending us back to “remember when” instantly. Your memories may be warm and fond; they may seem dark with longing to forget. Either way, the struggle often feels like the good is gone, and the bad is always lurking. This is a regressive journey.

At the core of these emotions is a fear of having the same experiences of the past. Our regressive reactions mean we start to simultaneously build high hopes for joyful expectations around the wonders of the season and build walls against feeling present with the positive.

The new year brings many of us into always/never speak and black-and-white thinking. We start talking to ourselves with words like, “I never get my resolutions done.” “I always miss something.” “I never read enough books.” “I always fail to get it all done.” “I never did X, Y, and Z. Now it is all over!” The detriment is painful even if, on the surface, we believe we’re joking about it.

Even with a life that has been a blessing of security and great memories, the passing years bring up a sense of fleeting, ending time. This is simply the human condition. We start to speak in terms of, “Another year gone…” and before we know it, “The [holidays/years] are gone, and I feel like I completely missed them.” Hanukkah has barely started. Christmas is still on the way. Kwanza has yet to arrive. The year certainly isn’t over. Yet, so many of us start speaking with finality.

The year-long FOMO in reverse is the same as what many of us experience each week when we sit there on Thursday morning, saying to ourselves, “The week is already over…” Emotionally? Seems like it. Literally? No. It isn’t.

Thinking like this creates burnout - leaving us feeling like a shell of our former selves. If you expect to be “done” while also gaslighting yourself that “it’s the end,” you’re stressing yourself out to the nth degree! You have put so much time into your life. Now it is time to put life into how you view passing time! 

This is where the relationship with Joy comes in.

Why We Lose Joy

Similar to our discussion of turning threats into pets, we struggle to feel comfortable in joy due to our human sense of survival.

From the beginning, humans have developed a solid attachment to bad memories.  We initially did this as a survival tactic - if I eat this poisonous berry, I'll get sick like last time. Our caveman ancestors would remember “that bush has thorns” and “that tiger has teeth” to file away each one of these worries to stay alive. The problem is that we still store bad memories to survive.  We sort and filter the lions and tigers as the wrong things.

Our sense of survival is still an intrinsic "need to" live a long life, so we aren’t dumping survival tendencies any time soon. (At this moment, ask yourself what the core Need is - what is your "Need for" at the core of shaming yourself into the "need to" live a long life?). The only way we can overcome this anxiety is to learn to get along with our thoughts - to be aware of the moment rather than in a constant fret; to take note of how often we have survived helps us to calm ourselves in an effort to thrive. 

At the end of the year, our caveman’s brains start to flip through every year in an effort to begin planning to survive the year ahead. As a society, we’ve created detrimental worry. We market resolutions alongside hustle culture. We measure each other’s coolness at the end-of-year Spotify Wraps and Top Nine photos. There are so many survival cues. Lion! Lion! Lion!

Under the surface of all these dings, lists, reminders, and plans (or the lack thereof) that complicate this time of year, our subconscious is in sugar-plum-induced overdrive to figure out where you’ve been, how this is similar to previous years, and what you can do to survive. 

You may not even consciously remember the worst Christmas of your life, but your body does. Your “downstairs brain” does. They’re peeking out like the Ghosts of Christmas Past, getting in a throwdown with the Ghost of Christmas Present. By the time they’re done with each other, it is no wonder the Ghost of Christmas Future rocks up just in time for a grim outlook on what your New Year will look like if you continue digging your grave.

What happens when we feel Joyful at the end of the year

At first, it is fantastic! But the greater our sense of trauma and neglect associated with holidays and passing years, the more reactive we become. There is a reason why Christmas movies on Lifetime, Hallmark, Netflix, and more all have an underlying story of losing someone close to you or going through a major change. Even if we do not have a loss directly associated with this time of year, we seek out the memory of what is gone and behind us – in the case of Lifetime movies, that could be the death of a parent or a cheating ex-boyfriend. Both situations matter.

If Thursday = “the week is over” and December 20 means the year is behind us, it is no wonder life feels like a constant threat of time. You’re counting down to what exactly? Ends. Loss. Do-overs. Restarts. Stress! These messages are confusing to your mental, emotional, and physical state. You’re counting down for a chance to… begin again? Or to a self-fulfilling prophecy of being able to say, “See, I didn’t do anything this year!” Yet, at the same time, we’re spending hours creating highlight reels for social media to prove to anyone looking that it was the best of times. 

How connected to those bests do you really feel? Do you feel the joy of those moments as you post them, or are you rewriting history to cope with the loss of what was by reminding yourself why that fond moment wasn’t actually that great? (Oh, this once-in-a-lifetime trip? Ya. So many bugs.)  

Approaching memories with the need to separate ourselves from where we’ve been or hold on to what once can cause us to not trust the present. Joy is one of the most present, all-encompassing feelings. Therefore, you’re breaking up with Joy by allowing yourself to go down the icy paths of memory lane. The minute we are laughing, sledding, enjoying a cup of hot cocoa, mesmerized by the twinkle of the lights, as soon as the tiniest interruption enters this zen, reflective and vulnerable moment, we POP! There goes that slow-motion firework. Poof! Fizzle…

How to have Comfort IN Joy

Dare to feel joyful. Allow yourself to experience the moment. Go through your five senses of what joyful moments feel like to you. 

Keep a list of joyful moments that happen throughout the season. Reserve the dotted pages at the front of your BeMo Basic Journal to create this list, or set aside a couple of lined pages at the back of your journal to return to.

Amplify the positive and allow yourself to remember it, feel it, taste it, know it, and see how it comes and goes… and comes again!

Whether we realize it or not, many of us are uncomfortable with any feeling of extremes. Like our feelings of dire sadness, a sense of elated joy scares us. At the moment, we are present. It is great. We’re on a high. Everything is perfect. You’re caroling loudly in the car. Then someone clips your side mirror in a holiday rush. Because this time of year is so vulnerable to regression and the words spoken behind the scenes of our conscious brains are so raw and comparative, the knee-jerk reaction is to immediately think, “It’s all over! This ruins everything! I was having a good time, and now it’s OVER!” Someone with an Anxious attachment style will be very conscious and even vocal about this.

Someone with an Avoidant attachment style will make an almost incomprehensible choice to turn inward and move away from the discomfort, shutting out their senses to be less vulnerable. Someone who is Disorganized will cycle through both reactions to find a sense of safety.

Comfort IN Joy is a Choice

Above all else, practicing choosing joy. 

Choose Joy. Choose kindness. Choose compassion for yourself and compassion for others.

One of the perks of this time of year is that people openly give others the benefit of the doubt and an extra chance. That empathetic understanding is the feeling we strive to keep with us all year long. We can all relate to each other so well this time of year because of that lifetime reflection. Our history allows us to connect to far more people and have compassion for more situations this time of year than we remember to have in, say, the middle of May. 

The way to have Comfort In Joy is to practice a little exposure therapy – like dipping into an ice water tank first a toe and eventually all the way in – expose yourself to feeling and TRUSTING a joyful moment. Rather than beating yourself up for exiting the moment and reacting to the world around you, I want you to focus on where you were, what you were doing, and your presence when you feel joy. I love joy because joy is entirely present. 

Joy is laughing so hard you aren’t thinking about how loud or disruptive it is or that you might pee your pants. Joy is being so overwhelmed with the moment, seeing your family light up with activity and togetherness, that everything seems to move in slow motion as you observe each smile.

What is Joy to you?  Start there.

By developing a trusting relationship with joy, the reactions to its loss will leave you. Even when life comes crashing into your side with blaring threats and horns, you’ll be able to smile ever so softly and know without a doubt that you are capable of joy, joy is a part of you, and joy will be back in your life.

BeMo About It

We’ve talked about practicing purposeful positives to celebrate yourself and your growth. Take this same style of practice – write it down for yourself, print out pictures, make some drawings and add to the end of your December BeMo Journal a heartwarming list of all that is good, all that you’ve learned, and the experiences that you have learned from.

When you feel radiant and beaming with positivity, groove with that FUNCK. Celebrate it. Here is a post about going through the BeMo FUNCK practice when it’s “the best day ever!” 

For prompts on how to end your year with a sense of completion and joy in continuation, jump into our New Year’s post here.

If you’re feeling a tough battle with feeling joy throughout this season, try to write about it.

Ask yourself:

      • What gives you the expectation that things are bad? 
      • What are the “all” or “nothing” thoughts stirring in the back of your mind? Why? 
      • Try to unearth the BS (belief system) that goes along with these thoughts? To do this, begin with where this belief or storyline began for you? Who does it remind you of? What is your earlier memory of these feelings and experiences happening? Why? 

    Be willing to discuss the fleeting sense of time, how you feel about the time you have or spend, and more.

    As always, reach out if you need help. Show up for yourself. Allow others to be there for you.  Joy is one of the most complicated and uncomfortable feelings for us as humans because of the fear of endings.  Sit with that. BeMo about it.

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