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Dialing Up The Ability To Sustain Joy

“It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years – we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.”~Sharon Salzberg


How often have you been in a situation where everything is going really well and done something to mess it up? For example, you’ve had a great evening with your partner and, before you know it, an argument erupts and you end up going to bed angry? Or you had a great idea, shared it with a coworker who claimed it as their own and then kept quiet while they got all the credit?. We all have done this… We have all taken an experience that was uplifting and expansive and chosen to, somehow, allow ourselves to become constricted. We’ve self-sabotaged.

In reading Gay Hendrick’s book The Big Leap, I came to realize that we have a set point for our emotions, be they pleasure and joy, or depression. For some, that set point is very high which means that the ability to stay in that emotion can be sustained for long periods of time. For others, that set point is much lower. Some can have a high set point for depression and a low set point for joy. Others the reverse…. Whatever your set point might be, should you exceed that limit, the Squad (you know, those little voices in your head that keep you stuck where you are with self-limiting messages) is bound to sweep in, shake stuff up and ensure that you are feeling what is most “normal” for you. The Squad is responsible for our self-sabotaging acts: when things feel too good, you are enjoying too much, you are pushing past your pleasure set point. The Squad sees this as a threat as her role is to keep you safe – and for matters of survival, she’s right – so she’ll bring you back to the emotional place you are accustomed to being in. If that place is depression, she’ll plop that black cloud over your head. If that place is insecurity, she’ll throw you in a vortex of self-doubt. Any time you veer away from what is “customary” and comfortable, she’ll do what she has to in order to ensure status quo.

If you have resistance around any of the exercises that I offer, it is in that resistance where you will find is your set point – your limit. This is the place where, when we extend past it, our Saboteuse/Saboteur will step in… Consciously choosing to go beyond our comfort level, that is, doing what is seemingly uncomfortable (like crossing you arms the other way) over and over again, will change your pleasure set point. From a brain-research perspective, in playing with that discomfort, you are re-training your brain, pruning back old learning, laying down new (and improved!) neural pathways. The brain LOVES new learning, LOVES a change. Our survival depends upon challenging our nervous system into new ways of doing, thinking and being. Eventually, what seemed edgy will become a part of your functioning. So long as you continue, your brain will respond.

And for the purposes of improving our health and wealth, Pleasure is a matter of survival. Whatever your set point, commit yourself to pleasure every moment of every day. Even when The Squad steps in – and believe me it will – be prepared for a fight. It is a matter of your survival. Are you committed to doing what it takes?

Today, pick up a Journal. Here’s some play work: Journal about the times you have chosen (yes, chosen) to consciously or unconsciously sabotage a situation. At what moment did things turn? What happened? Why? What was your emotional set point around this event? What surprised you when thinking about this? What insight do you get? Be like a scientist, dig deep, have fun (yes, I said fun).

The next time you find yourself starting a fight, not calling someone on your to-do list, pushing yourself past your limits so that you crash and burn (by becoming ill), notice:  Have you pushed the dial up on your emotional thermostat?  Had you been feeling really great prior to this event?

If so, retrace your steps.  Follow the tell tale cookie crumbs back to the point prior to the blow up.  Recognize that on some level, however unconscious, you managed to turn your dial down to what felt comfortable and conditioned AND, most importantly, that if you found a way to dial down, you have the power to dial up.  Recognize that, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “All limitations are self-imposed”.  That playing the blame game is just a BIG LIE, an extraordinary self-deception where we convince ourselves that we are powerless.

Know this (and this may sound harsh at first):  no one is doing this to you.  You are doing it to yourself.  Therefore (and this is the piece I want you to take into your heart now), YOU have the ability to change it.  That’ the coolest part.  So, are you shake things in up the name of pleasure and joy?  Sister, you KNOW the only way to is through….  I’m here to hold you in the journey.

Claim them as  yours.



3 Responses to “Dialing Up The Ability To Sustain Joy”

  1. Kelly says:

    I have read The Big Leap and you’ve explained the concept of set point and upper limits beautifully here! Thanks for the refresher!

  2. I’m choosing to go past my normal set up. I’m forced to either succumb or become better. I am choosing better. Admitting that I am not better yet is the hard part. I’ve always thought of myself as the greatest! Seeing that I have shortcomings is hard to swallow. But as I look at my shortcomings, then and only then am I able to shore them up!

    The Squad is getting me, but I’m getting better! More love, sweet Joelle!

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