I sometimes get a little wacky in the course of a counseling session. Occasionally when someone is going over the many stresses of life, I reach up under the lamp on the end table next to the couch and unscrew the lightbulb. Then I start counseling the lightbulb. After it tells me how dark it’s been feeling and how it has no energy, I suggest that it might want to spend some time each day screwed into something called a light socket that will allow it to flow with an energy called electricity. “You’ve got a filament in you that is made to flow with this electricity stuff, and your purpose is to light up with it,” I say. But this lightbulb is looking for a quick fix. It wants me to give it some techniques to make the darkness and lack of energy go away. “I don’t believe in all that electricity and light socket baloney,” it says. Turns out it only takes one counselor to change a lightbulb, but the lightbulb has to want to change!
This kind of silliness gives me surprising insight into how to manage my own experience of stress. My daily life often feels like a battle between a smaller version of me that is prone to stressing about almost anything and a larger version that knows I am made to light up with with joy, peace, compassion, and purpose. “Life is difficult,” Scott Peck wrote in the opening line of The Road Less Traveled. Our predominant paradigm for this reality, stress management, tells us that our best approach is to cut down our stressors or limit how stressed we are by them. This paradigm is important, but if it is our only approach to “life is difficult,” it’s a bit like the unscrewed lightbulb hoping for techniques to solve its darkness and energy problems.
In addition to stress management, I’ve decided I need daily joy management. I want to plug myself each day into a source of higher energies: joy, peace, compassion, and purpose. I need practice at letting go of my adult mind’s doubts that any such source of higher energies exists. I want to spend time daily experiencing the flow of these energies in me and increase the possibility that they become my home page. When I show up to that kind of practice regularly, the higher energies can feel so abundant that I now have a new problem: how to manage what feel like infinite energies in this one finite life.
I’m working on a book called Joy Management: A Daily Practice for Living with Joy, Peace, Compassion, and Purpose. The book isn’t out yet, but I’ll be talking about joy management on April 7, 2016 at Lourdes College (see the flyer below for more details). If you join me that day for the talk, that would be great. If not, I hope you consider joining me in taking time daily to practice joy management.