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  Life   More Features  01 Jun 2018  Foreboding joy

Foreboding joy

THE ASIAN AGE. | SUMA VARUGHESE
Published : Jun 1, 2018, 1:10 am IST
Updated : Jun 1, 2018, 1:10 am IST

The tragedy is that we cannot enjoy our present happiness because we greatly fear future unhappiness.

While dwelling in the past and being worried about the future, we forget to live in the present and in turn fear starts dictating out lives. It is important to break this cycle.
 While dwelling in the past and being worried about the future, we forget to live in the present and in turn fear starts dictating out lives. It is important to break this cycle.

I suffer from periodic and very trying bouts of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Recently, a morning walker friend who runs a small pharmaceutical company gave me some ayurvedic tablets that he said would heal the condition. All these years, I have never come across a single medicine that could heal it, though allopathy, ayurveda and acupressure have been instrumental in managing it. So this tablet felt like a gift from God, and with many prayers I took it last night. I have been feeling better, but all the while I have been tussling with the deep anxiety that perhaps the medicine will stop working.

Familiar, isn’t it? We fall in love with a girl or a boy and do our best to woo and win them. The day they say they love us, a new ordeal  begins — the fear of when the person will stop loving us, or worse still, drop dead looms over our head. Likewise, we finally become the CEO of our company, but we can’t enjoy the achievement because we are consumed with the fear of losing it.

The tragedy is that we cannot enjoy our present happiness because we greatly fear future unhappiness.

Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly and advocate of vulnerable living, has a term for this. Foreboding Joy, she calls it. This refers to the inevitable way fear enters our mind just as we rejoice over having achieved a longed-for goal. She challenges all parents to admit that the very moment they stand over the sleeping figure of their child and wonder if anyone has ever loved a child so much, is the same moment that the awful thought of losing them pops into their heads.

This is human nature. Our minds naturally veer from resistance and regret over the past to fear of the future. And in the process it completely overlooks the bliss of the present moment. There is a song that goes, “When you are happy and you know it, clap your hands.” That’s a great idea actually because most times we don’t know we are happy because we are busy grappling with imaginary fears.

So how can we heal from this tendency? There is no easy answer, because we are dealing with the crux of the human condition, the one thing we have taken lifetimes of births to resolve. But the solution lies in accepting future unhappiness. The moment we decide that we are okay with whatever the future brings, we cut off our fears and are free to enjoy the moment.

Now the question arises, how do we move towards acceptance? That has no easy answer. My own answer would be: right living. If we become increasingly competent at leading our lives and the problems it throws us, if we grow in love and trust of God or life, then our fears will naturally dissolve and disappear. Recognising that all problems are avenues of growth can be the starting point towards a life that is courageous and confident, that grasps at challenges and does not flinch at failure.

Such a life, if you are lucky, can eventually lead to freedom from fear and regret, and lead to immersion in the endless bliss of the present moment.

The writer is former editor-in-chief of Life Positive magazine and founder, facilitator of the Zen of Good Writing Course. Contact her at sumavarughese@gmail.com

Tags: irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety