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Gawk Less, Giggle More?
Rubbernecking: it is a rare person who can drive by a crash on a multi-lane highway without gawking to see what happened. You observe the extent of damage to the involved vehicles. You might note how many emergency personnel are on site, or look for stretchers. Perhaps you gasp if you see someone injured, in distress, or both. It is both a compelling and disturbing scene. If you or other motorists donít pull your eyes away from the scene, you are also at risk of getting in a subsequent accident. In some cases, merely bearing witness to a tragedy is enough to bring about a post-traumatic stress response. But we remain compelled to see, hear and experience what happened. What is wrong with this scene?
What is missing is a motivation for manageability. Fortunately, we still live in a reality where manageability is possible. Not all do. So, letís hope that doesnít change any time soon and that manageability remains optional.
The threshold for manageability seems to vary widely from person to person. I know people who refuse to go to movies that involve mistreatment of women. I have heard others say they can tolerate it. ďAfter all, itís just a movie,Ē they might add. Others stay away from particular genres, such as horror or films about war. So there is no singular right answer, here. Whatís right is for us to know and honor what our specific limitations are. That is a recipe for manageability. If two people are selecting a movie to attend, the person who is less sensitive to gore or misogyny is not wrong, but they might have to see films with that kind of content by themselves, or with someone else.
So yes, manageability: it may not be sexy, dramatic or lively, but isnít joy more accessible if things in our midst are more manageable? Do we still gawk on the freeway? Sure. Do we still get overexposed to disturbing news? Pretty hard not to when you have access to 24/7 news, tweets and posts. To counter these realities in our everyday lives, I simply suggest (although it is not simple) that we increase our motivation for manageability. If that necessitates less exposure, less upsetting data for all of our senses, this does not mean we are choosing ignorance or indifference. Rather, it is a personal choice that honors the need for balance. Can we fault anyone for pursuit of that? I sure hope not.
Can Chaos Bring Joy?
Have you ever heard anyone in the throes of unmanageability boast about how much joy they were experiencing? I have! Some people really do enjoy an element of chaos in their lives. While I donít fall in that category, I appreciate how chaos makes some people feel more alive, vibrant, or adequately stimulated. My only observation is that this is rarely sustainable for the long term. You may love a roller coaster, but would you love it so much if you couldnít get off? The crash after a bout of overstimulation can be pretty ugly. Some degree of manageability will need to be restored.
If manageability is a priority, it makes sense that we would identify what promotes balance. And of course, this must reflect our unique preferences: the favorite things that Maria sang about in the musical, The Sound of Music, are different from yours or mine. That said, I can offer a simple guideline to help. What do you need to say Yes to (such as fewer hours of disturbing news, or more time in nature), and what do you need to say No to (such as too many holiday gatherings if you happen to be an introvert!)? Perhaps it all boils down to this: gawk less, giggle more.
Prompts for Joy:
Click here for an intangible holiday gift that will melt your heart: trust.
(You rock, Beth Bastasch!)
Click here to bounce into a feel-good holiday moment. Guaranteed.
(You rock, too, Michael Sally!)
All previous Prompts for Joy (PFJs) can be found at my website, unless the video url is no longer functional.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·