Long ago, or maybe this morning, someone laughed at your idea and told you it was unrealistic. Someone told you that enjoying yourself was lazy, or selfish, or disgusting. Someone asked you who do you think you are to do that? Someone criticized your work, your appearance, your efforts. Someone told you that you weren’t talented enough, or rich enough, or young enough, or old enough, or strong enough, or smart enough. Someone said leave that to the experts. Someone hit you, or pushed you, or locked the door between you and what you wanted. And that HURT.
When that happened, a part of you took note. And that brave, protective part decided NEVER to let you get hurt again. Now, that part notices every time you make yourself vulnerable—every time you stick your neck out, venture a new opinion, decide to play larger, start something new—and it shuts you down. Because if YOU demean, belittle, and constrain yourself, no one else will have the chance to do it for you. And you will be safe. Miserable and muzzled, yes, but safe.
What you need to understand is that this part of you, the part that undermines your every effort to soar, is doing it OUT OF LOVE. This is a sweet, fierce part of you that doesn’t want you to hurt. You can’t make it stop by hating yourself, getting frustrated with yourself, questioning yourself, or criticizing yourself, because these are the very actions that kick it into protective gear.
But imagine this. Imagine if, every time you ran into a roadblock or a criticism, you thought it over while soaking in a cocoa-butter-lavender bath? What if, when you didn’t have the answer somebody wanted, you lit candles and treated yourself to a gentle yoga session? What if the next time someone was mean to you, you took yourself off for a weekend in the mountains with friends? What if you STARTED TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF? I’ll tell you what happens, because I’ve experienced it, and it’s amazing.
When you choose pleasure, when you start filling your life with the things that make you feel incredible, when you make your decisions from joy instead of guilt or fear, that part of you that has always tried to keep you from hurting is OUT OF A JOB. Circumstances that used to make you hurt and collapse inward are now propelling you out dancing with friends. Criticisms that used to knock you off course are now just fodder for a long, cathartic writing session. And other people’s petty cruelties bounce off of you, because you are too busy planning your fiddling tour of Ireland to even notice their bitter little jabs.
It takes time, and repetition, and commitment, but eventually even the most anxious , guarded part of you will see that you are serious about joy. And then that part will relax. And the creative energy released by that final, tiny surrender is torrential.
Are you wondering how anything ever gets done in a world of cocoa-butter-baths and trips to Ireland? Are you thinking that there are problems far too serious to confront with yoga sessions and writing exercises? I mean, how are we going to solve global warming and famine and hatred and atomic waste with JOY CIRCLES for chrissake?!
Well, I have noticed this: hatred is pretty rare among joyful people. Most joyful people I know would rather take a walk or make love than watch TV or, I don’t know, launch nuclear warheads. When I’ve just taken a warm cocoa-butter bath I am far less likely to yell at my kids. And I know that the things I use to comfort myself when I am stressed tend to be consumer items that perpetuate the problems we face. When I am relaxed and joyful, I comfort myself with long talks with friends, home cooked meals, time in the garden. The problems we face require a lot of focus, commitment, creativity, and flexibility–all qualities that overflow in me when I am relaxed and happy, but shrink to nothing when I am stressed and anxious.
And most importantly, when my life is full of pleasure and joy, I do not bitterly deride another person’s dreams. I do not become the voice that stunts another person’s growth out of my own personal pain. Pleasure stops the cycle, people. Pleasure is productive.
I’d love to hear what you think of this if you have the time to comment!
- Maslow’s Hierarchy: The Physiological Needs 1 – Air and Water (hanescoaching.com)