fbpx Cultivating Joy, Honoring Struggle | CCNM-ICC

“Joy isn’t something I know how to feel anymore, it’s just not possible for me” or maybe, “Every time I get close, the thoughts come rushing back and I feel…”

It can be really hard to feel joy if we’re trying to push hard feelings away in an attempt to be positive. More often than not, those hard thoughts and feelings push back with an inescapable ferocity. 

For most of us, when we experience something that overwhelms us or exceeds our capacity to cope, we struggle to process and get stuck. There are lots of ways for us to get “unstuck” and it can be really tough to do this on our own. I’m a big believer that we heal together and finding the right supports is critical, but are there things we can do ourselves? 


What I’m about to suggest is a shift in our mindset. 

If we cannot change what’s happening, is it possible to change our relationship with it?

I know, it’s a big ask and it’s a tough one…but, what if we could?

In order to do so, we might need to ask ourselves some questions: 

  1. Do I hold a belief that I need to be “positive” and let go of “negative” thoughts and feelings in order to cultivate joy?
  2. Have I forgotten who I am and begun to identify as my struggle rather than a person with struggle” (“I feel lost”, “I don’t know who I am anymore”)?
  3. Do I feel safe and believe that I am deserving of joy?  (Sometimes older wounds begin to communicate pain and vulnerability that’s been held deep inside for a very long time)
  4. Do I remember what joy feels like in my body? Have I ever experienced it? (A fleeting moment or experience is enough)
  5. What might happen if I recognized and appreciated the wisdom of my inner voice (even when it’s loud and relentless).
  6. How might I feel if I knew that I had the ability to create moments of joy without having to deny the presence of difficult thoughts, emotions and sensations. 

Each one of the above questions requires that we be curious, connect with our Self and contemplate the possibility that we can create space and experiences that are meaningful, purposeful and joyful.

Making room for all of our thoughts and feelings means that every part of us can have a seat at the table and we don’t have to fight so hard. What if it doesn’t have to be one OR the other; what if we could make room for every part of us to have a voice, even when and especially when, they are in opposition. 

Allowing for the truth of our experience honors the significance of our struggles and, in allowing our truth, we change our relationship with what’s happening. 

When we invite and listen to the parts of us that hold our stories, our nervous systems have an opportunity to rest, to move out of a persistent state of “fight or flight” and, the flood of stress hormones can ease. 

Where to begin…

  1. Identify your values and begin defining what they mean to you. 
  2. Look for things that matter to you and begin contemplating what living a life of meaning and purpose might look like.
  3. Connect with others. We talk a lot about self-care (and it matters), but the truth is we also need care in community, with others. We heal best when we are in connection and have a sense of belonging. 
  4. Authenticity and dialectics – be honest about your experience (we can have opposing thoughts and feelings. “I am grateful for…and I also feel angry/sad etc. about…).
  5. Work through the questions above and contemplate a shift in the relationship you have with your experience. The shifts we make might be subtle, but those shifts add up and they matter. 
  6. Consider working with a therapist or other practitioner that supports the desire to cultivate joy in the presence of life as it is for us, in each moment, even when those moments are hard.

Author: Dianne Wright, Registered Psychotherapist, RP