Welcome to Joy Lab!: 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
Hey, I'm Aimee Prasek and welcome to Joy Lab! Here at Joy Lab, we infuse science with soul to help you uncover joy. To do that, we focus on building the elements of joy. Those are the positive emotions and inner states that become the building blocks for a joyful life.
So in this episode, it's just me. Henry is still having fun at Lake Winnipesaukee. We are going to, just you and I here, we are gonna focus on, uh, sort of the opposite of fun, which is loneliness. And we're gonna do that next episode as well. Henry will be back for that one. So in this one, I just want to briefly highlight a common pathway for how we might fall into loneliness. Or a sense of disconnection or separation.
I think putting a light on this pathway can help us realize what can often go unseen, unconsciously for so long maybe, and this sort of double take that occurs, this reality sets in like, how did I get here? Why do I feel so lonely? Now, of course, this is just one path.
I'm not saying this is the only way to loneliness. But it's pretty common. To make it easy to follow then I, uh, like to call it the Boss Dominoes, which sounds super cool. Of course, it's an acronym, does help though: BOSS. Here it is: blame it, overanalyze it, should it, and separate. So I say dominoes because the process starts with blame and if you don't catch it before it becomes too much, it generates a force that often just knocks the rest of those dominoes down until we find ourselves sort of in this space of separation.
.So here's an example to understand these boss dominoes. You get hurt somehow. Let's say you don't get hired for a job you wanted, so you cast blame that hiring manager is only interested in hiring so-and-so. Or maybe you cast it on yourself.
That phrase usually starts with, "God, I can't believe I screwed it up all again." Now, these thoughts may have some truth. I'm imagining the scene from Stepbrothers when they go into a string of interviews. However, I'm guessing that's not the case for your situation. Often the blame we so easily cast on others or ourselves is just like too simplistic.
We usually don't have the entire story. And that first reaction toward blame isn't necessarily the big problem either. Our brain wants to separate and distinguish to make sense of discomfort, and so then it's really what happens next that starts us, starts to get us into more trouble. So if we catch ourselves here, like in blame, before we knock next domino down, we can take a beat and check our assumptions.
Uh, maybe question an impulsive thought that might not be true or maybe have a conversation to understand if our accusations are fair. But that's not usually what happens, particularly if we haven't brought some awareness, uh, to this really common pattern. Instead, we often let the blame boil and it knocks over that next domino of overanalysis.
So here, um, this goes way beyond good assessment of the situation. Way beyond critical thinking or discernment. Often without enough information, it's just built on our own sort of fantastical storytelling. And also with the heat of blame, that sort of fires up our analysis.
So you didn't get the job right?
You blamed yourself for the hiring manager or your coworker who got the job and who you saw coming to work late last week. Whoever gets the blame needs a story, so our brain fills in the gaps. If you blame yourself, it's a story of probably all those other interviews you bombed, how you just froze up and freaked out.
Uh, you started talking in circles. You'll never get a new job. You'll rot in this flippin office for the rest of your life. You see how the story goes? Usually it gets big and dark pretty fast. Or maybe that coworker who got the job and not you, uh, the story starts to write in your head. They're a lazy piece of crap who can't come into work on time and just got the job because they went to the same high school as the hiring manager, whatever.
I am not speaking on a soapbox here. Speaking from experience, I've blamed and overanalyzed, crafted all these stories. And knocking these dominoes down, has happened to me a bunch of times. Funny enough, in this over analysis, this is where we can really sort of build up a big fat, false foundation for our moral high ground though this is where the soapbox gets created.
Now I just want to highlight some wisdom from elder, author, lawyer, Harold Johnson. Here's a little excerpt from his book, the Power of Story that I just love, uh, and speaks to these phases of overanalysis based on the stories we've created and then how it turns into that next domino, the shoulds. Here's what he wrote.
" Everything in my mind is a chain of inferences going all the way back to the taste of warm milk in my mouth and my mother's voice. If anywhere along that chain, I inferred wrongly. If I interpreted an experience or evidence poorly, then everything that follows is informed by an idea that isn't true. The story I have been building throughout my life is probably a fiction in more ways than one. Knowing that I inferred wrongly at times as I built the chain of inferences that makes up my understanding, leads me to conclude that I cannot say with any certainty that anything is true. Neither can you. This conclusion is liberating. If we cannot with certainty say that anything is absolutely true, then we are not bound to any single version of the story we inhabit. We are free to change our story, modify it, amend it, or completely rewrite it. We are free to adopt any story we choose."
So this blame and overanalysis really hides that from us, that freedom to choose. And before we talk about that, let's finish up with these dominoes to really get a handle on this process. So, as we weave our stories, they inform our shoulds, all the things we think that person should have done so that we didn't get hurt, or that we should have done what should have happened to prevent all of this, what should happen in the future.
And sometimes it's spot on. The should you've interpreted would have prevented it. And often the shoulds we create are rigid and created through the lens of blame and overanalysis. Or false inferences. And all these shoulds do one thing really well. They lock us in and lock others out. And that knocks over that last domino: separation.
And with too much separation, we fall into loneliness. So the more we knock these dominoes down in other situations or contexts, or just in our own beliefs, the more we get caught in this mind game, the more separation we create, those are the BOSS dominoes. Blame it, overanalyze it, should it separate. We all do this a lot and we can do it less.
And as Harold Johnson noted, this realization that we don't have the full answer gives us freedom to choose. And the relief that can come from that. The weight off our shoulders from carrying all those dominoes around, and it instantly fosters a sense of connection when you can let go of them a bit. Let go of that blame, the false overanalyses, the shoulds built on certainty that may not be true.
And I think the common fear here is that if we don't let these dominoes fall, folks will get away with treating us unfairly. Or we'll be a pushover, and it's just not true. These dominoes are rarely built on truth, and they take so much of our energy and they generate a force that usually creates some unhelpful actions in their wake.
So I think our first step here is to just notice the dominoes. To apply some mindful awareness. This is much of the training we do over at the Joy Lab program. Uh, we call it: See what is, accept what is, and choose wisely.
Those are some better dominoes to knock down. It's also what we do at the podcast here. It's what we do at the resilient community as well. We talk about and practice mindful awareness so that we can step out of reflexive blame and overanalysis, and then we can infuse these elements of joy into our life so that those shoulds can lose their power.
And so we don't knock over those BOSS dominoes so often. We're then able to step out of the inferences and stories that might be harming us. And to craft a new story that creates more freedom, more purpose, more joy in our lives. So with that reminder, I wanna close a bit with some wisdom from Sharon Salzberg, some encouragement.
I think her advice to us here is a reminder that no matter how many times you've knocked down these dominoes. No matter how much separation you've created in your life, there's still time to choose a new path. Here's what she wrote:
" It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn't depend on how long it has been running. A shift in perspective doesn't depend on how long you've held on to the old view. When you flip the switch in that attic, it doesn't matter whether it's been dark for 10 minutes, 10 years, or 10 decades. The light still illuminates the room and banishes the murkiness, letting you see the things you couldn't see before. It's never too late to take a moment to look."
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