It is a new month and time for a new guidepost. We are on the fourth guidepost for Wholehearted Living which focuses on ways to cultivate joy by cultivating gratitude. But first lets talk about the practice we need to let go of.
Do you ever find when you feel vulnerable that you start rehearsing all the bad things that could happen? Or maybe when you feel vulnerable you start rehearsing all the ways you are not enough or how you don’t have enough (like there is never enough time, etc). We feel vulnerable anytime there is a sense of uncertainty, risk or when we are experiencing emotions. So basically we are always vulnerable but our awareness of vulnerability tends to go up and down. When we feel more vulnerable our brain looks for ways to reduce that vulnerability. We don’t like risk, uncertainty or uncomfortable emotions so we start doing things that we think will reduce that vulnerability.
Let me give you an example. Late last year, I traveled alone out of the state for a work conference. I always feel vulnerable when I leave my kids. I am uncertain about how things will go when I am gone and there is some sense of risk that they will need something and I won’t be there. Plus, I miss my kids and that sadness is uncomfortable. So as my sense of vulnerability increased as I waited to board the plane, I started to think about what would happen to my kids if my plane crashed. Then I thought about what I would do if I got a call while I was at the conference that one of my kids was hurt. My brain was trying to reduce the vulnerability I was feeling by planning for every possible scenario that could go wrong. However this strategy really never works.
These thoughts continued until I caught myself and realized that I was practicing “fear of the dark.” When I realized this, I made a choice to practice this guidepost and I started saying what I was grateful for. This helped me to be in the moment and to notice the positives in that moment and to appreciate the opportunity I was getting to travel to learn something new. It helped me to appreciate those that were helping with my kids while I was gone. It helped me to tolerate the vulnerability I was feeling and go toward more wholehearted living in that moment.
Focusing on what could go wrong or how we are not enough increases fear and shame. Focusing on gratitude can help us tolerate vulnerability and cultivate joy in the midst of that vulnerability.
Notice when you are “dress rehearsing tragedy” or anticipating the worse. Notice when you are focused on the “not enoughs.” Just notice your thinking this week when you feel vulnerable. Then next week we will focus on ways to practice gratitude.