By: Angela Kuhns, LPC
Laughter, joy, excitement, and the like are often not the first things that come to mind when we think about therapy. It is true, most of us seek out therapy when the pain in our lives has become unbearable. What’s good and how we take the good in are not at the forefront. However, the practice of taking in the good is vital to our wellbeing. It is sustaining, adds to our sense of wellbeing, and puts us in a more resourced place as we confront the many challenges of being alive.
It is very common for us to lose sight of the good or what brings joy into our lives. This might simply be getting lost in the busyness of life, an oversight remedied by being more mindful and intentional. It is also very common to actually be defending against allowing the good in. Harmful conditioning, fear of vulnerability, and incidents that interrupt our sense of self and safety often cause the good to be perceived as a liability. We become locked into avoiding pain. So much so that we are all avoidance with no sense of what to approach. Our world becomes smaller; we experience the emergence of depression and anxiety. Our protective strategies that helped us survive, while they deserve our respect and gratitude, are not conducive for fostering our greater sense of wellbeing. It is impossible to fully embrace goodness if it is being perceived as a threat.
When we notice we are unable to take in the good, it is time to act. If depressive symptoms and/or anxiety are so debilitating that we can’t seem to engage, it is important to enlist the help of a therapist and establish care with a psychiatrist. Sometimes support is necessary to connect us to our resources and unpack the experiences and beliefs that are keeping us overwhelmed.
When we are able to engage, we can start by investigating what we are defending against. The specifics are different for everyone, and common themes include guarding against: failure, loss, disappointment, judgement, being manipulated or taken advantage of, being perceived as less than, vulnerability, a sense of unworthiness, guilt, and shame. When we know what we are afraid of we can start working towards establishing safety. Again, this looks different for everyone, and common themes include: acceptance of the full range of human emotions, establishing realistic and compassionate self-talk, connecting to our worth, tolerance of inherit vulnerability, boundaries, and building healthy relationships.
Once we are in a place where we are willing to allow the good in, we must identify what bring us joy. It is almost certain if we have been defending against allowing the good in, out of fear or a need to protect, our initial reaction will be “I don’t know what brings me joy.” Not knowing is okay; our fate is not sealed. Not knowing is our invitation to get curious. We may review what we do know. Where have I experienced joy, interest, or playfulness in the past? We may research. What would people I trust say about when I am most joyful? What do experts say about human joy? We may experiment. What are some of my best guesses and how can I try them out? From here we can make a list of the good we would like to take in. We can work to foster it in our lives through setting our intention, direction action, and mindful awareness.
To anchor those positive experiences and practice taking in the good
If you’d like to dive deeper, check out the practice of Taking in the Good with Dr. Rick Hanson.
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!