Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Happy Joy Joy

We just got home from Gymboree class. Harper had an absolute blast and made so many cute, sweet friends. The moms and nannies I met were wonderfully nice.

The absolutely raw and unbridled joy experienced by 10 toddlers is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

Is there anything (besides watching your child experience it) that brings as much joy to an adult?

Dr. Brene Brown is a researcher at the University of Houston.  For the past 10 years, she's been studying vulerability, joy, shame, courage and authenticity.

Yesterday, I watched one of her talks on vulnerability and how everyone is fighting so hard to lose it because  it's not accepted in our society.. and how it's mistaken for weakness.

Rarely do things stop me in my tracks, but I find this beyond interesting and I've been thinking about her theories since I watched it.

Dr. Brown says:

"We live in a culture that tells us that there is never enough. That we are not enough, that we are not good enough, that we are never safe enough, that we can never be certain enough, that we are not perfect enough and maybe the one we don't talk about that I think, perhaps, is the most dangerous, is that we are not extraordinary enough. In this world, somehow, an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life and so often, we are missing what is truly important because we are on the quest for what is extraordinary."

She believes that our culture of scarcity causes us to lose our vulnerability. You brace yourself for the worst - automatically, subconsciously - so that you won't be disappointed when things don't go your way.

What's most interesting - to me - about her theory is that when you brace yourself for the bad and don't allow yourself to feel "dark emotions" like disappointment, rejection or sadness, you numb the joy because you can't selectively numb emotion.

She goes on to say that research has been done and concluded that for people battling addictions, an intensely joyous event can trigger a relapse in addictive behavior just as quickly as an intensely negative event.

Luckily, for me, this probably means that when something awesome happens, I want a huge piece of cake. . . but imagine what her theories might mean for others.

"If vulnerability is a sharp edge, maybe nothing is sharper than joy."


Since I've become a parent - which is an exercise in vulnerability from your first OB appointment..HELLO - I've definitely been guilty of mentally preparing for the worst. . . and I think I'm done with it, at least consciously, because..

Life is short, and for my whole short life, I want to do everything I can to feel the joy that Harper feels when she chases bubbles or gets hugged by a new friend or jumps into a ball pit.

If you've made it this far, I totally didn't do her justice. Unhand your red Swingline staplers and TPS reports, because it's totally worth a few minutes of work time:

The Price of Vulnerability


  1. Very true Courtney! Very true!

  2. It just seems so spot on, to me! Have you had a chance to watch the video of her lecture? It makes so much sense!

  3. I will watch the video when I get a chance.
    And can I say please stop it with the tear jerkers! I'm sure this wasn't a tear jerker to most, but I am much more emotional in the first few weeks after giving birth than during pregnancy. That next to last paragraph almost got me! Because, it IS so amazing to see your child experience such pure happiness.