Welcome to Joy Lab!: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Joy Lab podcast, where we help you uncover and foster your most joyful self. Your hosts, Dr. Henry Emmons and Dr. Aimee Prasek, bring you the ideal mix of soulful and scientifically sound tools to spark your joy, even when it feels dark. When you're ready to experiment with more joy, combine this podcast with the full Joy Lab program over at JoyLab.coach
Henry: Hello, I'm Henry Emmons and welcome to Joy Lab.
Aimee: And I'm Aimee Prasek. Here at Joy Lab, we infuse science with soul to help you uncover joy. We do that by building up the elements of joy. Those are the positive emotions and inner states that become the building blocks for joyful life. The element for this episode is again, equanimity. So we dug into this element in the last two episodes, 48, number 48,
on building up your baseline. and then 49 on how to use equanimity, at the beginning of a storm. [00:01:00] When you feel those physical sensations rise up and those thoughts pop in. We're leaning on these phases laid out by Pema Chodron on how we can, as she notes, "remain still like a log" through a stressful situation.
In this episode, we're still on the high seas, and now we're going to meet that common hurricane called Why me? Also known as getting caught up in our storyline. I'll just therapist Lori Gottlieb to get us started with this. It's from her TED Talk that was super popular a few years back. She said, " If there's anything I've learned as a therapist, it's that we are all unreliable narrators of our own lives."
So in her talk, she notes that we often have this assumption that our circumstances are what craft the stories we tell ourselves. But what is often more true is that the way we narrate our daily lives is what actually writes and cements our [00:02:00] stories.
I think in her talk, and what we're saying here, is that these stories are powerful and we'll talk about how they can sort of spiral us down, in the beginning of this episode, but there's power for transformation for changing our narration and our stories. We do this in the Joy Lab program a lot and right here as well in the podcast, particularly as we're working on these phases of a storm and the strategies with equanimity, that we're getting into, they help us change the narration we have in our lives in more clear and compassionate way.
Sort of loosen grip of our current stories and to start to write some new ones that are more true and that serve us better. So let's start in this phase of our stories arising amidst a storm. Henry, can you say more how these arise, even though they rarely help us, why do these stories pop up?
Henry: Well, I I really like that quote that you shared, that we are "unreliable [00:03:00] narrators of our own lives."
Henry: And it's not just you or me that are unreliable, it's universal. It's all of us. So we might vary on whether we think too little of ourselves or too much, but we all get it wrong. She's saying. So in our last episode, we started talking about the anatomy of an emotional storm. In real time, I know it feels like it happens all at once, but we're trying to parse it out into stages so that we maybe can find some more areas for leverage, you know, ways to, to minimize the damage a bit. So at the very beginning, there is surge of emotion a bad feeling that's basically telling us that something is off inside. If we can notice that and we can observe it, with our wise mind, [00:04:00] we might be able to stop it right there. We'll still feel a little upset, but the whole thing will just blow over.
If we can't do that, then those old intrusive thoughts pop up automatically. You know, the ones we've been practicing for years. If we can still see them for what they are, just thoughts that have no more meaning than we give them, then they don't really have much power over us, and they'll just drift away eventually with the However, if we let them run rampant, they are going to escalate things quickly.
So those first two stages are mild compared to what happens next, what really energizes the storm is entry of our own story. In a general sense, the problem is we begin to make it personal. We make it about [00:05:00] ME. After all, it's me who feels threatened or hurt. And of course, it's not the first time. So this little voice enters and says something like, "well, this always happens to me and this will keep happening to. because there is something fundamentally wrong with me." or some variation of that.
So these are just old stories that we've been rehearsing for years, and it seems like every time something like this new storm happens, we just add more layers to the story. It ramps up the energy behind the bad mood. It becomes really hard at this point to stay grounded and stay mindful because these forces become so, so strong.
Aimee: Noticing that it's hard to be mindful at this point is really helpful. it's a consequence of how much energy, time, and focus these [00:06:00] stories pull from us. We just don't have the bandwidth left to do much of anything else. And we've talked about this in the past, this narrowing of the visual field amidst depression and negative thinking and how it sort of shrinks our mental field and we can't see as much literally, and we can't think as broadly to help us climb out of these stories.
Our stories really pull us down and blindfold us and keep us locked into a type of, self-centeredness that's hard to point out sometimes. I had a hard realization with that, you know, like I'm not self-centered, but I think it's common to sort of conflate self-centeredness with greed or overconfidence. But what's happening here, when we get stuck in our stories, is that self-centeredness is at play, but it's this negative preoccupation with all these aspects of ourselves. It's a self-centeredness, anchored in unworthiness, in self-hatred, insecurities, feeling [00:07:00] like the world is always out to get us, or to quote Jim Carey from Bruce Almighty, "god is a mean kid sitting on an ant hill with a magnifying glass and I'm the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if he wanted to, but he'd rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm."
Aimee: right? I feel like that sometimes, don't we? Personal! The fallacies, we dug into in episode 38, the fallacies of fairness and change, very helpful to go back to right here. And the elements we work on in Joy Lab, particularly the experiments we do in the program for our elements of compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity can be big movers, I think, to get us out of this self-centeredness.
But what we're doing right here, working through these phases of a storm, tuning into the body, grounding, changing the narration, shifting our story, they move us from what I've heard Pema Chodron describe as self-degradation,[00:08:00] self-centeredness, and into self-cherishing. I love that. And self cherishing is a life raft in a storm.
Henry: Yeah. Wow. I really like that too, a life raft in a storm. And your Bruce Almighty quote is a perfect example of how we make it personal. A mean kid with a magnifying glass. Wow. That's, that's personal.
Henry: So, you know, at this point, we can just acknowledge that the storm is here and try to bring our wise mind online to help us get through it more or less intact.
Aimee: Yeah. It's not business, it feels personal in this phase, as you noted Henry. It's personal. But, um, the realization is really powerful. It's like you can see the pen in your hand, like you catch yourself red-handed, writing the story. I think that puts some space [00:09:00] between us and our story, a realization that this story is not the way it is necessarily, it's the way I'm writing it.
Uh, and that real realization can be really empowering, realizing that we've got some say in this story. All the strategies we work on here at the podcast and the program. We train for this. So maybe next time when a storm hits, we just don't write as much. Because we have some space from it now, and maybe after a few more storms we don't even pick up the pen story doesn't come up. And maybe after a few more storms, we write a totally different story.
Henry: Yeah. You know, I think if something is wrong, if we feel bad in anyway at all, the mind just starts looking for reasons. Why is this happening? It, it fills in the details. It's kind of the job, the mind's job, really. And that's why it's so important that we take some ownership of this whole process with our [00:10:00] conscious wise mind.
Because if we don't, that unconscious, fearful, small self is going to do it and it's gonna write a very different story.
So I don't think it's possible to rewrite our stories while we're in the midst of the storm. I sure can't. You know, we need time for that and maybe we need some guidance or help to do that. I think that's a really good way to look at psychotherapy, and I think it's a really good way to look at our Joy Lab program where we're basically working on writing a different story and weaving the 12 elements of joy into it. Because no matter what, we're going to tell stories, it is what we do to make sense of our lives, so we might as well try to get better at it.
Aimee: Yeah, we are all authors. At the same time, I love this idea that we don't have to write about all the things. We don't need to craft a story, [00:11:00] even a positive one, for every scenario or have an opinion on all the things. Our brain will do what it does, but we don't need to latch on.
We can maybe just let it go. I think that's a relief. And so let's end here with a bit of wisdom, a little bit of inspiration, on this and what we've explored today. It's from Marcus Aurelius's, notes to myself. Which was later titled " Meditations." He wrote:
" You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can't control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone."
Thanks for joining us!: Thank you for listening to the Joy Lab podcast. If you enjoy today's show, visit JoyLab.coach to learn more about the full Joy Lab program. Be sure to rate and review us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.[00:12:00]