Tolerating solitary pleasures
Day 209/366 days Towards Self-Mastery.
When I think about my search for happiness I realise that it was really a search for more liveliness. I wanted to feel more alive, more engaged with life, my excited and more experiential with life.
An exploration into feeling good was an invitation to discover the ways, activities, pleasures that I could engage with alone that brought me joy. Solitary pleasures.
In my search for happiness I'd taken a path to a more sophisticated life and left the simple pleasures behind, forgotten.
To write a list of just a few, it took me 3 weeks of recall, of searching the recesses of my mind for simple solitary pleasures.
The family from which I came was one that survived, is surviving intergenerational trauma. I learned about survival. About hard work, doing the right thing, keeping my head down, not drawing attention to myself, getting by. I learned how to keep everyone happy, to not expect too much, to juggle the dramas and traumas of daily life. These activities kept me safe.
No, I didn't grow up in a war zone, nor as a refugee or as a person of colour. I grew up in the average second generation immigrant family with a traumatised parent. A parent who was subjected to rejection, disdain, contempt and physical violence from birth. A parent who was also the offspring of a traumatised parent.
Finding golden threads in this environment was a bit of a mission. These days I'm relying on rediscovering the joys that life could have brought and didn't. Exploring solitary pleasures that never had the opportunity to see the light of day in my earlier years.
Training my nervous system to tolerate pleasure, to relax into daydreaming, to indulge in simple joyful activities for long hours at a time is a practice in trauma recovery.
My nervous system had been wired for drama, hypervigilant and ready to meet the next physical, mental or emotional assault. With care and attention to exploring my life and experiences I have made huge progress in relaxing my nervous system and restoring my health, enabling myself to experience the joy I so desperately sought.
If you find that experiencing joy is difficult for you, that you can't relax enough to settle into a hobby or time alone in a pleasurable pursuit, do get support to overcome your concerns. They might show up as trauma symptoms with hypervigilance or even hypoarousal where you can't motivate yourself at all, or they might show up as anxiety. Apart from the stories that are circulating in your mind, this state is a physical state of your nervous system and can be changed with the right support.
Here are a couple of resources to assist you where you can find some self-help programmes.
Anxiety Recovery Blue Knot Foundation
366 days Towards Self-Mastery
When I considered my New Year's intentions for 2020 I had just one: To allow my heart to love what it loved...and let it lead me. (If not now, then when?)
I've spent months working on integrating my life. To live life more fully with my home life, my interests, my work, my responsibilities, all coming together, all connected. I want to give each the attention that they desire and need, and still have time and energy for the others. That means living and working from the heart.
As I was clearing out my bookshelf over the Christmas break I discovered Simple Abundance. I set it aside to explore it on New Year's Day as I lazed through another delicious day of nothingness. Sarah, the author, says this book is about living in grace. Living in grace I realised, is about Self-Mastery.
My thirst for understanding the human condition has driven me all my life, and hand-in-hand with self-mastery it has been a life-long goal. And seeing as I love to write, that living in grace is about self-mastery, and I love a bit of a challenge, then if I am truly going to let my heart lead, I really don't have any other choice. So scary as it feels, I'm starting out on a daily mission of leaning into the suggestions of this daybook and making a daily post to keep me accountable. If not now, then when?
I'm Josie. You can find out a little more about me here.
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy: by Sarah Ban Breathnach.
This book is written for the Australian and NZ market because it refers to seasonal changes. It's available on Amazon here if you'd like to follow along.