Losing control is inconvenient.
If all you’ve known for the longest time is darkness, random joy is so unexpected it can knock you off balance. You might even push back against it the moment you realize you’ve loosened your grip on the coping strategies that have thus far kept you alive. As long as things are bleak, you know exactly where you stand. When joy throws you off course, it catapults you into uncharted territory.
You glimpse possibilities you thought forever lost, and the contrast with your usual misery is unbearable.
Instead of surrendering to joy, you identify it as a danger, a disruption to a very precarious equilibrium you’ve learned to maintain. Thinking your reality is under threat, your reflex is to protect it. Rather than celebrate joy and use it as building material, you neutralize and destroy the intruder.
No matter how ill-fitting, there is comfort in the known.
Self-discipline forbids you should project yourself into a future that doesn’t exist, not for people like you.
Your survival is contingent on vigilance.
When anything is a potential trigger than could precipitate a crisis, a burnout, or a breakdown, it is safer to override emotions. While awe happens — look up at the night sky on a clear day and the stars will probably take your breath away — it’s acceptable because there’s no human input required.
Not so with joy, often the by-product of coming into contact with a fellow human. When someone else causes you to experience it, chances are you’ve begun to relate to the source of this joy. When surviving means self-reliance, any connection that goes beyond basic communication could put you at risk.
For anyone to see you as you are, you need to let them into your head, lowering your guard and embracing your vulnerability in the process. But when your life is a field of unexploded landmines that could go off at any time, this isn’t as much a calculated risk as a crapshoot.
Get curious at your own peril.
Your heart gives you a nudge; you decide to give curiosity a chance.
Before you know it, war has broken out.
Logic demands you put the kibosh on all the feels right away lest you should hemorrhage more needs and wants and dreams as landmines start exploding all around you. Even if your heart chooses to fight for its life, it’s so out of practice it doesn’t stand a chance. You didn’t get to where you are by listening to it but by switching it off. You’d rip it out of your chest if you could so it doesn’t get in the way.
You’re so focused on survival you don’t see the casualties strewn around the battlefield of your mind. As your potential expires, your humanity takes its last breath next to a slain future that lies discarded by the wayside.
Carnage is what you get for listening to your heart.
In the distance, you spot something crawling on the ground.
In every war, there are casualties.
Getting out of it alive may come at a price. Self-preservation is instinctive: We’re all wired to save ourselves first but others come second, when they register at all.
In the mad scramble to hold on to your reality you forgot about joy and the human who came bearing it as a gift. Maimed by rejection, they’re that familiar shape inching forward on hands and knees, heart between their teeth, howling in pain.
You avert your eyes, put your fingers in your ears, and walk away.
You did what you had to do to regain control.
You’re the conqueror, the destroyer, your mind is a weapon.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.