I was at a training recently geared towards people in my field, the DV (domestic violence) field. In my field, we frequently discuss the reality that we endure vicarious trauma through our work and we talk about the importance of self-care to sustain ourselves in this work and also buffer the impacts of this trauma, which plays out in the same ways as trauma experienced firsthand. In other words, it means nightmares, hypervigilance, agitation – it’s a real pain in the bum. I would know…
So this training acknowledged that in our field we experience vicarious trauma. And that in our field, as well as in the general American population, people are real good at sharing misery and vicariously experiencing it. Do you think most people in the US spend their days focusing on the positive and talking to each other about it? No one that I know does that. That’s why things like FML, FTL and STFU, Couples are so popular. Seriously if you google most popular tumblrs, note how many of them are negative. Anyways, back to the training I went to recently… The presenter went on to introduce the concept of vicarious joy. She introduced it as a feeling more profound than being happy for someone else. To me, it sounded like you feel genuinely and generally happy by observing and being around other people who are experiencing joy.
It is no secret that the US is not a place that promotes neither individual nor societal well-being. The US does not rank high on lists of world happiness and health. It’s time we start focusing significantly more on the positive. Yeah that’s big lofty goal – and whoa, that’s a pessimistic way to look at it. So here’s some optimism; we have to start somewhere. I have to start somewhere. And if I chose to focus on the positive more then that wipes out a huge chunk of negativity from my life as well as my friends’ and family’s lives and conversely on their friends’ and family’s lives and so the ripple effect begins.
And this is not to say that I’ll be all Pollyanna now and never write social justice-minded critiques of our society (after all, this post does just that!). There’s a lot of messed up sh*t that goes down in this country and in this world and I can’t sit by idly. But I believe I can be part of a larger social change movement by doing the work I do and keeping this blog. And that’s some optimism if I’ve ever felt some. But I digress. My point is I write this post to make a conscientious effort to experience more vicarious joy and to spark the notion of it in myself and others.
What brings me vicarious joy? Watching my friends and colleagues get excited about an engagement or a new baby. Hearing how happy they are at home and work makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I feel joy when I see how my younger sister has turned into a successful young adult who travels the world, experiencing many cheerful adventures. And I also love to hear my cats purr, it melts my heart to know they’re happy. And my heart swells with happiness when I remember a perfect fall day.
What brings you vicarious joy?