foreboding joy and Daring Greatly

The second concept from Daring Greatly that I can’t get off my mind? Foreboding joy. Brené Brown says joy is the most vulnerable emotion we can feel. I really didn’t believe this at first, but think about it…

foreboding joy : Daring Greatly

You know when you’re feeling so much joy about something, yet you can’t shake the feeling that it won’t work out… or it won’t be as good as you imagine…  or that someone or something will be taken away from you. That’s when we start “dress rehearsing tragedy.” 

Sadly, I recognize now how frequently I do this. I’m feeling really good and healthy since having brain surgery in March. I have a whole new appreciation for my health and the medical system. Yet I have that follow-up MRI scheduled for the day before Christmas Eve, and I’ve truly considered what it would be like to be told the brain tumor is back.

Or, I’m feeling really excited about the possibility of children finally being in our home via adoption. I’ll finally get to be a mom — this title I’ve looked forward to for so long! Yet I tell myself over and over again I’m going to be miserable from not getting enough sleep and not having as much time to myself. 

Most recently: I was really happy for Dan to have several days off work. This past week might be the longest we’ve had without him working while still being in town and at home. But then all of a sudden I got panicky about not spending the time wisely and just sitting around and not connecting with each other. 

My middle name might as well be Foreboding Joy.

What Brené Brown has found in her research is that people who most deeply experience joy use the vulnerability it brings to practice gratitude instead of rehearse tragedy. She suggest we say to ourselves, “I’m feeling vulnerable, and I’m so grateful for _____.”

I’ve practiced this multiple times already. (After texting Dan in all caps: I FEEL VULNERABLE.) In the past day, we’ve had to make some big decisions related to adoption. It’s made me feel really vulnerable as I consider the possible outcomes and the effects of those outcomes. So, while I may be feeling vulnerable, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to adopt at all

I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.


Have you heard this concept before? Do you see its application in your life?

Read about determining and increasing trust in your marriage from Daring Greatly, too.

Disclosure: Affiliate links used. 

  • Love this!

  • While I can’t imagine this feeling in the medical world… I have seen it in my brother in law and sister as he goes back to get checkups from his colon cancer last year. But I DO totally get it in the adoption world! It’s easier the second time around, because you kind of know what to expect and how to handle it… but that first time… Man. Hard. You want to be all there, but you also want to protect yourself and your emotions if it doesn’t work out. Totally get ya there!

  • Jennifer

    Wow.. I have a tendency to do the same thing. I love that statement “I’m feeling vulnerable, but I’m so grateful for”… definitely need to remember that (and I’m putting Daring Greatly on my to-read list!!). Thanks for sharing!

    • thinking I need to make a huge poster with that statement… it’s a great reminder.

  • Sybil Brun

    Love this post {I have a social services background too} and love your blog – so glad I found you via Peony Project!