Crisis as Catalyst to Finding Joy

This is the second article where I’ll share with you a few valuable lessons that I have learned in my life about increasing our ability to tune into joy independent of life’s curveballs. My intention is to support you on your journey exploring with curiosity and an open heart.

When one of my incredible teachers in life, Duane O’Kane, mentioned in a workshop years ago that happiness is a by-product of connection, it made sense in my head but somehow, I wasn’t sure if this was the truth for me.

However, a few months ago when I picked up Bronnie Ware’s bestselling novel again, “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying”, after reading it about 7 years ago, my whole body remembered the words spoken by Duane years before, knowing the message to be true.

Wired for Connection

What does this even mean?

In case you are not familiar with her book, Bronnie Ware, while she worked in palliative care, documented the most common regrets revealed to her by people she cared for.

Here is a list of the top 5 regrets she identified in her book:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  3. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
  4. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  5. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

What immediately struck me is that the common theme in all these regrets is connection

  • Connection with our inner compass, our core desires, our core values, and purpose; and
  • Connection with other human beings

A powerful message from those in the last chapter of their lives for all of us human beings, not knowing in which chapter of our lives we are … 

Connection is essential for us human beings to be ALIVE. Even from an evolutionary point of view and looking at it from an attachment point of view, we are wired for connection as it is essential for our survival.

Shift from controlling to surrendering

The global pandemic has made us all acutely aware of the uncertainty and fragility of life, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there already. We have all had our own flavour of crises in life. 

One of the biggest lessons I have come to realize is that I cannot control anything but who I choose to be in every single micro-moment of my life, my own actions, and reactions, show up as wholeheartedly as I am able to in all my human-mess and take accountability when I mess up. 

And I do mess up regularly, believe me 😉 

So much energy is used to control our lives and the outcome of things, however, it’s only when we surrender that illusion of control that we have an opportunity to exercise our trust muscle and get in touch with our deepest Truth.

Crisis is life bringing us to our knees where we often have no other choice but to relinquish control and surrender to what is.

Crisis invites awakening to who we are

Thinking about crisis, I always come back to the famous words by the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

In our reactive go-go-go society, space has become a rare commodity. 

Many of us work relentlessly, passion and work ethics are often intertwined with a lot of fear. Many people struggle with establishing healthy boundaries and revert to coping mechanisms that give us an instant dopamine hit. Others feel exhausted with no more energy to do what they used to love. Many struggle with health symptoms creeping up.

Here is where crisis comes in.

If you then look at the origins of the word “crisis”, it comes from Greek “to separate, to sift” which means to pass judgement, to keep only what is worthwhile. To shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important.

If you could shake up your sieve of life today, what would you desire to hold onto?

What would you want to change and shake out?

In my humble opinion, it is disconnection from ourselves, others, and the world around us that creates havoc, within ourselves and in our relationship with others and our world.

Crisis offers an opportunity for us to give ourselves permission to pause and hold space to take a deeply honest look at ourselves if we choose to.

In the choice and following intentional movement towards connection, with self and others, is where we discover JOY from the inside out …

Just like molasses is a by-product of refining sugar … bitter-sweet. Both go together. 

Crisis invites us to look at all of who we are, including our pain and shadow. It is part of our human experience, but most often we humans are conditioned to avoid pain and revert to coping mechanisms. This is where we cut off from our whole aliveness. Pain is uncomfortable … bitter perhaps, but pain felt in connection and met with compassion, can be profoundly liberating, transformative and healing. We human beings suffer in isolation, disconnected from ourselves and others. Facing our shadows and walking through our pain is the only way out. As Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going” … 

Connection is medicine

Even one of the longest studies of adult life, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, identified the quality of our connections and relationships to be the most influential predictor of a long and happy life. The headline of the Harvard Gazette of April 11, 2017 reads:

“Good genes are nice, but joy is better”

The director of this study, Robert Waldinger says in his TED talk: “Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” Some of the other key factors identified include physical activity, self-care, mechanisms to cope with life’s ups and downs … all related to one’s connection with self.

The quality of our relationships depends on your connection with your very own core. You can feel lonely even with friends, e.g when you are holding back parts of you in fear of judgment, being taken advantage of, fear of rejection etc … ask yourself:

Are you feeling the freedom to be you, everywhere where you go?

I would love to hear from you and your life experiences! Is there any part in my article that you particularly resonate with?

With love, from my heart to yours,