Creating the Future: moments of joy
In last month’s Post Creating the Future: our daily alignment I wrote about developing a conscious will and discipline to stay positive and see clearly in the face of this life-changing year. Beyond Covid-19, life will continue to throw us curve balls…happy, unexpected surprises as well as some shocks… and one of the potential gains coming out of this tumultuous year is learning how to restabilise fast to make the right choices and decisions going forwards.
So why am I focussing now on creating moments of joy? And why is one of Cascãd’s core questions, ‘What makes your heart sing?’ For many, this will feel a self-indulgent and irrelevant question. Surely life is not about joy and heart-singing moments. It’s about hard work and getting the job done. We understand about pacing, self-care and inner resilience to enable the task to be achieved. But joy? Ridiculous!
Joy is about hope, the promise of a better future. It’s astonishing how much a tiny ray of hope gives us renewed strength and energy in a dark wood and how the converse is also true: without hope we plummet and give up. We become grumpy and cynical and from this fear-driven place, we can do enormous harm to others, including our children.
However strong and resilient we are, unexpected events will happen when we are ambushed onto our knees. 2020 has been full of them! We feel vulnerable and powerless to influence any change and, if we are used to being in control, this can bring a sense of shame that we ‘should’ have done things differently. I call this the ‘point of hope’ and, its flip side, the ‘point of despair’, the loss of hope. It’s the point of hope because, if we have the courage and humility …and this is absolutely our choice, our free will… to surrender our ego, thinking we know best and making the same mistakes over and over again, we can begin the first step to letting go of old behaviour that no longer serves us. And then we are finally open to ask that crucial question: ‘How else can I do this?’
This is where real change can begin. It’s when we start to take personal responsibility for our life, moving into an adult, empowered place and making healthy choices. Ultimately this year is the wakeup call to ask ourselves: “What kind of person do I want to be?” It is also the invitation to begin to experience deep respect and love for ourselves because of the courageous and authentic choices we can now make, our ‘Free to Soar’ place.
Look at the cover photo again. That child is experiencing pure joy! We all have this capacity for joy: psychologically we call this our ‘Free Child’* and it is the only place within us where we can experience a visceral, not cerebral, awe and wonder. We are all born with this gift of joy but, as we grow older, we can often internalise negative messages from significant others that form our inner ‘Critical Parent’, that judgmental, harsh voice which insidiously attacks our self-esteem and also our ‘Free Child’. It is our ‘Critical Parent’ that sees heart-singing moments as a ridiculous, irrelevant indulgence. What is very sad is that our ‘Free Child’ doesn’t fight back. It’s our ‘Rebel Child’ that might do so and often in ways that harm ourselves. We have to consciously protect and reconnect with that joyous part of ourselves that is our ‘Free Child’. In response to the question:
“What makes your heart sing?”: I often hear the poignant answer: “I don’t know.” It’s the quest to find the answer that brings healthy transformational change, not just to ourselves, but to those around us.
Autumn is, in many cultures, the season for giving thanks for the bounty of the harvest. In a Perspectives Post 12 months ago, I wrote the following:
“Today we are celebrating our 10th Thanksgiving Dinner. In keeping with the American custom, we shall observe the tradition of family and friends gathered round and sharing what they are thankful for. I love this ritual: a meaningful pause as we approach the end of the year, allowing us a moment to reflect before the sparkling merriment of December.
There have been years when giving thanks has been joyous and easy, when the festival catches us in a happy moment in our lives. And there are years when it has been tough, when some of us are in a place of adversity and sharing has been painful. Either way we have learned not to sit in isolation. That to share the happy and the sad times in our lives is what brings us even closer. And of course, this is true at any time: it’s easy when it’s easy but how do we dig down deep and feel thankful when it isn’t? Life happens and we all have ups and downs, joys and sorrows.” Reasons to be thankful: a psychological gearshift
How surreal that reads 12 months on: ‘friends and family gathered round’. It would be very understandable to succumb to all that is different and focus on the negative and what we can’t do right now. But this is the point of a conscious will and discipline to stay positive and see clearly. It is not a naïve, passive place, blindly refusing to see the fullness of life. It is our ‘Adult’ self, connecting to our ‘Free Child’ choosing to see the good, giving thanks for what we do have right now and emotionally freeing us up to create the future we want.
So, yes, this year’s Thanksgiving will be different, but it will still be joyous and with the hope of future gatherings of friends and family. And, as I’ve done each year for Thanksgiving, I shall do the following:
I create a quiet space and then I write a litany in my journal:
I am thankful for… I am thankful for… I am thankful for…
I start with baby steps: small and obvious things, but as I get into the rhythm of the litany, my list deepens, connecting me to my core authentic truth. And each time an extraordinary thing happens: as I begin to let go of all that is wrong in my life, everything I feel anxious or hurt about, and instead focus on all that is good in my life, I experience an energetic shift. It starts viscerally i.e. my instinctual body knows first. My heart opens and I feel a warmth and peace flowing through me. This is what our inner voice, our core authentic truth is: it is an instinctual ‘knowing’. Our instinctual body knows well before our cognitive brain catches on and this increasing trust in our instinct and intuition can then be trained into a conscious ‘psychological gearshift’.
So, in this season of Thanksgiving how about taking a moment to pause and allow that gorgeous little child within you to open up and embrace all that is good and joyous in your life? Happy Thanksgiving…and Diwali… everyone!
Hannah Elizabeth Greenwood
*From Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy