Updated: Jun 18, 2019
Recently I was looking for something fun to watch on Netflix and found the Brene` Brown special entitled The Call to Courage. During the special she mentioned a term she coined that has always fascinated me. The term is foreboding joy.
Foreboding as an adjective means implying that something bad is going to happen. A person is foreboding joy when they imagine a negative scenario or unfortunate circumstances occur before the person ever reaches the joy. How much joy is lost when we are afraid that something will diminish the joy of obtaining the brass ring, the joy we are looking for? As discussed in her book Daring Greatly, Brene` Brown says rather than feeling our joy when foreboding joy, we rehearse tragedy in our mind.
How many of us can’t have something good happen without that feeling that you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop? Do you wait for that shoe to drop when your life is just too good? That feeling of dread that the other shoe will drop tempers the joy you can feel and inserts fear into your life. For example, you are the honoree at a business dinner. Do you get to enjoy it, or are you afraid up to and through at least a portion of the dinner that somehow you will embarrass yourself? Are you even momentarily in your mind visualizing knocking over the water glass at the dinner inserting that thought in your mind throughout your honoring?
In her special, Brene` talks about going to meet Oprah for the first time. She describes feeling excitement about the meeting, but rather than fully feeling the anticipation and joy there is initially this feeling of stress and dread that somehow the plane is going down, the car will be in a wreck, or some other catastrophe will prevent her from the joy of meeting Oprah.
Imagine, you’ve been appointed to a position that is your absolute dream job. What do you think about between the time you are named to the new position and the time you report for work? Do you worry? Are you fearful? Do you imagine all sorts of scenarios where you are a failure at your dream job? Even after you are working in the new dream position, how much of the first month or the first year are you fearful you might fail? Do you have nightmares about failing at the job? Have you imagined the firing scene after you’re told you are a failure?
All these examples are foreboding joy. What are your instances of foreboding joy? Foreboding joy is normal, but just because it’s normal doesn’t mean we have to accept it. There are ways to limit our wakeful foreboding. Today we’re going to look at 2 different ways that can work together to help decrease the time we are foreboding joy.
In the first method you learn to hear and observe your thoughts, and you realize you don’t have to believe them. Just because you think a thought does not mean you have to believe it. For example, this day you have a speech scheduled before a group and you think or visualize freezing, mouth open, on the stage, and not being able to speak. Do you need to believe that? No, you do not.
It’s a very freeing moment to know that you do not have to believe every thought you think or image you visualize. As Byron Katie says she realized one day when she believed her thoughts she suffered, but when she questioned her thoughts she did not suffer.
Once you accept the premise that you are not a victim of your thoughts, you realize that you can believe or not believe your thoughts without judging yourself for having them. There is a freedom you feel when you know you do not have to let your thoughts control you.
For some people observing and questioning their thoughts is enough. Other people need to replace the questioned thought with a positive thought. If you need to do that, then replace it with a positive affirmation, statement, or vision. For example, let’s say you said you have the speech today, but instead of feeling you will fail, replace that thought with the image of you successfully completing the speech. Imagining the successful completion of the speech helps decrease the foreboding we have before the speech.
The second way to decrease the amount of time you forebode joy is to replace the foreboding thought with gratitude. When foreboding joy think of things to be thankful for, it decreases the amount of time your fears dampen your joy.
Let’s use a hypothetical situation to demonstrate how to limit the time you forebode joy. In this hypothetical I’ve been named to head a team studying a subject near and dear to my heart. It’s a very big honor. There are about 18 other people on the team. From the moment I hear I’ve been named team lead I start to worry and project my fears of failure. I can’t experience the joy of working with the team members for the worry and fear I’m feeling. The fact is I am a less effective team leader while I am foreboding joy.
To make me a more effective team leader, I am going to question the fears that I will fail in this role. There are several ways to question your thoughts. Byron Katie’s method of four questions and a turnaround is a widely known way to question thoughts. Use her method or any other method of that effectively allows you to question your thoughts. Once you see your thoughts as fears all humans have that do not necessarily have to be believed, then they will not control what you do and how you live.
Brene` in her Super Soul Sunday with Oprah talks about decreasing foreboding joy by softening into joy. Using my earlier hypothetical if I am thankful for being named the team leader, rather than spending time rehearsing tragedy, I can thank the Universe for giving me the opportunity to be team lead, listen and hear the ideas of my team members, and experience the joy of working with the team. As Brene` suggests, soften into joy by practicing gratitude and being thankful for what you’re given.
If you use these methods to decrease the time you’re foreboding joy, then it’s likely that your joyful experiences will be enhanced and will increase in frequency. I believe strongly that joy and gratitude come as a pair. If you practice gratitude daily, joy will come your way. The next joyful event or time in your life, soften into the joy - express your gratitude, shed your foreboding, and experience your joy to the fullest. I wish you a day full of joy without foreboding.
 Become aware of what we are thinking. Most of us have a voice in our head or a movie theater in our mind that go
es almost non-stop. Sometimes it’s almost like background noise in the mind. We must learn to be aware of, to hear our inner dialogue. Listen to and observe your voice, your thoughts, your dialogue to recognize foreboding joy.
 Bryon Katie has a website called The Work. https://thework.com/ This page has copies of the forms and questions that are used to question your thoughts. This same system can also be used to question beliefs.