By Marguerite Theophil
I have a poster over my desk that says "Nothing without Joy." It surprised me when a friend noticing it, frowned and said, "But i have no room for joy!" Her remark sent my imagination into overdrive. I visualised an extra room in my home that was designed to welcome Joy, to make room for it. The exercise was so refreshing that since then, i've encouraged several of my personal growth clients to try the same.
It's no surprise to learn that each of us has a completely different idea of how large or small this 'room' is, how different the colours, the décor, the light.
Then one day, a woman declared that her room now felt 'too crowded' with things she thought she loved and kept adding, and this was a moment of insightful learning for me. Making a room and making room were two separate things.
To make room, we need to move things out, to clear space. It's as hard to experience joy if our lives are crowded or cluttered, as it is to find space in a closet for new clothes when we hold on to all our old ones. What needs to go?
1. Relax. One of the more obvious things is the manic busy-ness that propels us to fill every minute of the day with doing or accomplishing. Even on a break, we feel some strange internal pressure to go somewhere, do something, as if staying home and resting isn't a legitimate way to spend one's downtime.
2. Looking after everyone's needs but one's own is sadly elevated in most cultures to a virtue, especially in the case of women. There's a wise lesson in the announcement the cabin attendant makes on a flight: "In case of cabin pressure, pull the oxygen mask towards you and pull it over your face. Make sure you do this before helping with a child or another passenger." You'd be of no use to the child or to anyone if you were unable to breathe yourself.
3. Resentments. Even tiny ones occupy a huge space. And they swell in volume with the passage of time. Left unresolved, resentment has the power to become all consuming, and is very effective at fuelling bitterness and anger.
4. Worrying about what is clearly beyond our control. Let's repeat the popular prayer: "God grant me serenity to accept the things i cannot change; courage to change the things i can; and wisdom to know the difference."
5. Blame. Blaming others edges out our capacity for joy. Blaming ourselves does much the same. The thing with blame is that it comes bundled with blinkers that are hard to remove, and that ensure we don't get to see kindnesses, good deeds and other positives around us.
6. Grumbling is a biggie! In addition to taking up space, it creates toxic fumes! And this can kill an appreciation for blessings that come our way, not to mention sending people we love and need running off in the opposite direction.
7. Awfulising. Psychologist Albert Ellis coined the term to refer to a distortion of thinking, where an event or situation is thought of in overly negative terms – a kind of exaggeration where a minor setback is seen as a major catastrophe. The mere expectation that things will get worse will cause them to get worse.
There are probably a lot more, but when joy takes up residence, these unhelpful tendencies can be edged out and made to loosen their hold on our lives. Make room for Joy.
First Published in www.speakingtree.in