S2:E6 The Joy Paradox: Why We Run from What We Seek

Welcome to Shaman talk. My name is Rhonda and I'm your host. And this week we're going to discuss the fact that we're really not healing to cope with our trauma. Most of us can do that already. We're healing to accept and immerse in joyful moments. I'm going to chat about maladaptive coping strategies. That's stuff that we're just used to in our life that we might not even realise are coping strategies. Then I'm going to talk about the avoidance of joy and how you can tell if that's something you do. I used to avoid joy because it was an unfamiliar place. Humans do not like unfamiliar. We like to stick to what we know and for many, that just doesn't involve joy. I was having this New Year party one year at my house and all my closest friends were there. There was laughing and singing and music and chatting.

It was all very joyful and connective and people were making memories. When the weekend ended and everybody left, I realized I had barely spoken to anybody. I was really disappointed and quite heartbroken. I'd spent the weekend rushing around, filling the dishwasher, cleaning surfaces, cooking food, picking up rubbish, emptying bins, making sure people had what they needed. And I missed the memories, I missed the connection and I missed the joy. I told myself that it was my job to ensure that the place was spotless and tidy and that everybody had what they needed. I was avoiding joy at all costs. I realized I was like, jeez, I'd rather do the dishes than make good memories with my friends. It was mind blowing to me. So that's a maladaptive coping strategy. So I'm going to talk more about that now. And what that means is you struggle to cope adequately or appropriately to the environment or situation that you're in.

As you can see by that example, I definitely didn't cope with it very well at all. So these unhealthy behaviors can arise from a disruption to your typical coping development in childhood. The way that you learned how to cope things in your life that caused this could be things like overwhelming stress, conflict in the family, financial hardship, death of a loved one you might have experienced poor treatment growing up in a violent environment, not being given love or parental support and emotional invalidation is a big one. Being told or shown your emotions are not reasonable, rational or valid. There's a lot of research now that shows that children living in such conditions are way less likely to develop coping skills involved in managing emotions and solving problems. Now, the coping technique I described as one way that we do this, the one way that we avoid difficult or is one way that we avoid difficult or good emotions.

So here's a list of some other ones that you can think about. Alcohol, legal and illegal drugs is probably the most obvious, which is a form of emotional numbing we use alcohol and drugs to shut down feelings, to provide relief from maybe stress or anxiety. And we'll often escape these feelings by changing behavior to avoid the situation. So I changed my behavior. I never clean anything, by the way. I'm very messy. But I will do anything, I will change my normal behavior to avoid those feelings. One that's quite interesting is daydreaming or fantasizing about the future. That really is in its extreme maladaptive form a way that you can lose hours at a time and avoid difficult thoughts and emotions. Procrastination can lead to conscious or unconscious avoidance of difficult issues or tasks that require your completion. You may have an unconscious connection to that makes you think no, I can't do it.

Under challenging situations you might just disengage or remove yourself or not go at all. Avoiding social situations is another one. You might overly rehearse a future event or worry excessively, or have the different forms of hyper vigilance. So long term use of maladaptive coping styles and there are others, it's just a small list really is unhealthy for us. And the way to support ourselves to a happier life is to learn how to connect with joy. But what is joy? Some of us don't even know. So let's talk about that. The definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. But to me true joy is so limitless. It's life defining, it's transformative, it's a reservoir waiting to be tapped into. It's just there to connect with. That requires an amount of surrender. But like love and it is a choice, you can connect with joy if you choose to.

And in the three cauldrons pathway, the middle cauldron is where you would do this work. It's where you feel all your emotions from joy to sorrow. When you're doing this three cauldrons work, you might want to identify ways that you avoid joy unconsciously. So let's get into that. I've mentioned already being super busy at gatherings, cooking, dishes, cleaning up, et cetera. Maybe you become annoyed on days out when things don't go exactly right or exactly as you planned in your mind. You might find yourself distracted or finding ways to avoid playing with your kids. Maybe you don't know how to play. Go and try and play right now. Try it well, maybe after the podcast. But see how alien and confronting it feels to just put the phone down, put all the to do lists down and just go and have fun. Maybe you find your mind looking for negative thoughts in most situations and maybe you find it difficult to make or remember good memories.

This is a short list. It's just a few ideas that you can get. The idea that there's so many of us who struggle to connect with joy, it's a bit of an alien concept for many of us. Brinney brown talks about joy. She calls it foreboding joy. She is a research professor and author known for her work on vulnerability, courage and empathy and the Concept of foreboding. Joy refers to the feeling of dread or fear that often accompanies moments of happiness or joy, right? Essentially, it's the sensation that when something good happens, it's almost immediately followed by the thought that it won't last or that something bad is on the way. What can we do then? If joy feels like this, if it's foreboding or unattainable or even dangerous? In shamanism, nature is teachers. By allowing nature to gently show you joy, you can begin to turn the tide and teach your body how to feel safe in small moments of joy.

I'm going to share a small exercise with you now that you can try. I invite you to deeply appreciate your favorite aspects of the natural world. You can do this outside or inside. Go for a walk in your favorite park. Any way that works for you is fine. And every time you experience something beautiful a flower, an insect, a bird, animal, a sparkle of light on the water, your house, plant, your pet at home, whatever it is, stop and give that thing your full attention and say a few words of appreciation. For example, look at your beautiful feathers or oh my God, love your coat when I pet you, dog or cat friend. And at the same time imagine the thing you are beholding is likewise beholding you and appreciating your beauty. What do you think it would say? So allow yourself to feel deep communion with the plant, animal or natural phenomenon with whom you are engaging and feel that joy flowing into your cauldron or and your heart.

Even when you reflect on the beauty of nature back upon itself, it's just the most joyful thing. And these moments don't need to last long. Just short, fleeting glimmers, you could call them. Glimmers is a term that you might find useful here. I'm going to explain something to you and then give you a list of potential glimmers that you might be able to recognize in your life to help you connect with them more often. Glimmer is like a cue, internal or external, that brings you back right to a sense of joy. And it can be anything from hearing your child laughing to cuddling your pet, to seeing the sunset things we mentioned in the exercise. Research shows that these glimmers can support you to regulate your overwhelmed nervous system. And the concept of glimmers is part of polyvagal theory. It's coined by a behavioral neuroscientist called Stephen porjas and was introduced in 1995.

And theory of glimmers describes how our autonomic nervous system, which controls all your involuntary actions, is searching for and reading cues to determine if they're dangerous. It's called neuroception, and the vagus nerve which regulates this, is responsible for it. Glimmers are also similar to Peter Levine's concept of pendulation and trauma healing, whereby gradual exploration of distressing sensations is done in small, manageable doses allows your nervous system to process without becoming overwhelmed. And these glimmers can act as anchors, helping you to regulate your nervous system and guide you towards connecting with joy for healing and transformation. It's really great. I've really enjoyed this process. I want to give you some examples of both shamanic glimmers and everyday glimmers so that you can start to see and feel these moments in your life. Shamanic glimmers might be having a spirit animal encounter. Like if you work with the spirit of animal and then you come across the animal in nature, in real life, that can be a real glimmer.

A real moment of just sacredness noticing sacred geometry in nature as well. Spirals circles, fractals ancestral whispers during a meditation or a journeying session. Receiving a message or a vision that brings you comfort if you feel the warmth of a fire, or the gentle breeze kind of touching your face when you're outside. Just connecting with the elements briefly can give you glimmers of joy. Big one for me is when I experience meaningful coincidences and synchronicities during shamanic practice with all you guys. I just love those. I get so much joy when you share your synchronicities or I experience them. It's great. So affirming. And then everyday glimmers. Child's laughter always for me. And pets for me as well. The comfort of my pet curling up beside me and feeling that unconditional love. That's a real glimmery. Sparkly time songs are a good one for me.

If I'm feeling down, I know I can listen to a song that will really lift my spirits, even just for a few minutes. Kindness is another one for me. A random act of kindness from a stranger or a smile that just restores my faith in humanity now and again. And a strange one like doing a jigsaw puzzle or a coloring book actually helps me quite a lot to connect with gentle feelings of joy from feeling overwhelmed. That can be really good. Both shamanic and everyday glimmers serve as small but powerful reminders that joy, safety and connection are just really within your reach. They're never far away, and they can help you navigate the complexities of your emotional landscape and offer you moments of respite and opportunities for deeper connection with yourself and your guides. Which is always good, right? Thank you for listening to this week's episode.

I hope you get a lot of joy from it. See what I did there? And I wish you many glimmers in the days and weeks ahead. If you did find joy in this episode, can I ask you to subscribe wherever you are listening to this episode? It's really super helpful for us if you do that. Until next time, may the wisdom of the ancients guide you. The warmth of your hearth comfort you, and the sacred cauldrons within you find harmony and balance.

This is where you master the spiritual secrets of the ancient Celts and create a deeply connected and magical life.

Step into the Centre’s very special Shamanic sanctuary. Inside the Cauldrons Way, you’ll find live gatherings, ceremonies, retreats and guided teachings designed to help you activate your inner cauldrons and amplify your spiritual connection. Plus, you get near-daily support from Rhonda and her team of six trusted practitioners. 

Oh, it gets better! Get full and immediate access to ALL THE PERKS when you start a risk-free* membership today

*30-day ‘no questions asked’ money back guarantee.

This is where you master the spiritual secrets of the ancient Celts and create a deeply connected and magical life.

Step into the Centre’s very special Shamanic sanctuary. Inside the Cauldrons Way, you’ll find live gatherings, ceremonies, retreats and guided teachings designed to help you activate your inner cauldrons and amplify your spiritual connection. Plus, you get near-daily support from Rhonda and her team of six trusted practitioners. 

Oh, it gets better! Get full and immediate access to ALL THE PERKS when you start a risk-free* membership today

*30-day ‘no questions asked’ money back guarantee.

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