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Get Back Into Life - Overcome the Four Stages of Joy Stealing

by Dr. Marjorie Wolter


Amy’s heart went out to her friend Sally who had become a life coach in reverse. Watching Sally’s actions was a lesson plan in what not to do if you want to live a happy life. “I’m a magnet for idiots. I can never catch a break. You just don’t know how bad things get for me,” she would lament.

It had taken half a decade for Amy to really believe Sally had such a chip on her shoulder. They used to hike every day and chat about their dreams. During the last 5 years, Sally had gained at least fifty pounds, preferring to sit alone and eat instead of giving herself the healthy pleasure of getting outside. Amy felt as if they were in competition to see who had more tough times. On the flip side, Sally was all too ready to demean Amy’s job promotion or impending wedding. “Joy” had been ripped from Sally’s dictionary, and it saddened Amy to realize there was nothing she could do. Far from feeling her friend was a lost cause, Amy just wished Sally could see that everyone had opportunities masked as problems coupled with unique abilities to dance through them. Each person is an absolutely perfect, and necessary, piece of the humanity puzzle. Sally was a constant reminder that allowing your joy to be stolen was a serious crime all too common in a society that defines success in very narrow parameters. You must have the “in” house, car, body and job. By the way, those standards will change as swiftly as a weather forecast.

There are four stages to stealing a person’s joy:

Type one joy thievery is the very idea that arbitrary negative traits exist. Are you too loud, too quiet, too big, too little, too poor, too rich? Pick a trait, and there are media clips devoted to the idea that who you are is just plain not good enough.

Type two joy stealing involves people hiding behaviors labeled unsavory to fit into cockamamie ideals of perfection. Sally chose to sooth her wounds through eating. The eating in and of itself was a coping mechanism. But, her need to hide what society defines as an unsavory habit caused her to become more isolated and depressed.

Type three joy destruction condemns humans to see themselves as flawed at the core, unworthy of happiness. Instead of seeing who we are as a piece of divinity, behaviors that were once transient problem solvers become imbedded as an unchangeable part of our being. Doing better when we know better becomes “I will never change because my behaviors control me and my beliefs about them are fixed”.

Type four joy extraction is the next stop on the world tour of negativity. Dark clouds hang around negative people. When they encounter someone else who is really happy, attempts to sabotage that joy by lying, cheating, stealing, or gossiping about the unsuspecting positive party are carried out, often subconsciously. Most “dark cloud people” don’t realize what they are doing because understanding that a different way to live exists is either lost or buried underneath conscious awareness.

While headlines beg us to conform, what the world really needs is for each of us to have the courage to claim our unique beauty and genius. We are all bigger than any challenge life presents. Being a leader in your own life prevents you from ever second-guessing your worth or allowing your joy to be stolen. Changes happen regardless of our attitude about them, so why not be a beacon of light for others AND keep yourself happy in the process? Certainly, the last few years have left a majority of people wondering how they can cope, much less crack a smile. Here are a few tips that will take a pitchfork to the joy stealers taking up space in your brain:

1) Current events may seem overwhelming, but you have the resources within to make an ally of them. Go back to a time when the world was your oyster and a solution/skill set came out of you that was beyond belief. Focus on that time, and how easily victory over the potential failure was achieved. Your example could be as simple as pulling a chair up to the kitchen counter when you were too short to get at Grandma’s cookies. You still came up with a successful strategy. That same strategic thinking is still available, so tap in and enjoy!

2) Be vigilant of the negativity that floods airwaves. The underlying media message is significantly slanted toward disaster and telling us we are just not good enough. You know better! Remind yourself that you are here for a reason. Your talents and passions will inspire others while freeing you from anxiety.

3) Standards of perfection shift like sand. Instead of being embarrassed about qualities deemed unworthy, owning them fully lets healing of deeper wounds begin. Seeing that potentially unhealthy behaviors are your own way of caretaking lets you lovingly thank and release them for bigger and better solutions to be employed. Self hatred only creates a frustration feeding frenzy. Love yourself the way a best friend would. See beauty in every aspect of your physical, mental, emotional make-up. This also gives others permission to do the same.

4) When you are tempted to disconnect, plug in. Amy wanted to help her friend through rough times and remind Sally of how special she was. Because Sally checked out, both parties lost out. Instead of collaborating, they were stagnating! Give yourself the benefit of receiving the support family and friends desire to deliver. Equal parts of giving and receiving are part of life’s natural balance and a sure fire way to keep joy a mainstay in any situation!

To Amy’s surprise, a phone message from Sally changed everything. “Amy, you have been such a good friend. Watching how you navigated tough times coming away stronger and happier was not something to discount, it was a gift. Thanks to you, I am rethinking what my life should look like. I wanted you to know I just joined a gym. My goal is to look and feel good about myself for your wedding.” Sally met her goal, thoroughly enjoyed the wedding, and met a groomsman who thought she was the most delightful person he had ever met …

Dr. Marjorie Wolter is a speaker, mentor, and founder of Vita Celebrata, a consulting firm specializing in inspired leadership, and creating unique cultures of success. With over twenty years of experience, she is a catalyst for those who will only be satisfied having achieved a life worth celebrating. Marjorie has authored three books: “Magnificent Men are Everywhere,” “Seekers and Evolutionaries,” and “Seeking Celebration.” You are invited to learn more about her speaking and consulting by visiting www.drmarjoriewolter.com or calling 800-959-8096.
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