Cherophobia is the fear of being happy. It is the idea that if you do something fun or have satisfied thoughts, you are going to have something terrible happen to you. For me, it manifests like this, I wake up and go through my gratitude exercises, and after I finish, the next thought is, you are going to get in a car wreck and die.
You also will die unfulfilled because you didn’t live an extraordinary life. I suffer from it, and according to this article, a lot of people do as well. Exposure Therapy is a way of facing your fears. In my case, my concern was this. The fear that if I think happy thoughts, then something terrible will happen. I needed to bathe myself in happy thoughts, which unearths the negative ideas, and then as Seth Godin says, stare the boogieman in the face.
For example, I tell myself I will die in a car wreck. I will be upset that I perished unfulfilled. Of course, this is lunacy. I told the boogieman the following, one I am a person of faith, so I believe in an afterlife of no tears and regret. If I weren’t a man of faith, I would assume that nothing exits, so the idea of having regrets from beyond the grave isn’t logical, possibly. I wouldn’t wake up dead saying, wow really wish I would’ve chosen X college over Y college. Either I would walk down the golden streets rejoicing, or my spirit would cease to exist. That shut the boogieman up.
Over the Christmas break, I decided to face the boogieman. Hopefully, my tactics for battling him can help others. Usually, before I fly, I think the plane will crash, I will die, my home will be a mess, and is my life insurance policy updated. My brothers will be left to sort through the mess, and who will tell my job?
These types of thoughts don’t support me. Number one- Know the difference between your feelings and your stories; they aren’t the same thing. Sadness is a feeling, dying in a plane crash, is a story. I can tell a different story. Emotions seem to show up.
My goal over the holiday break was to use Exposure Therapy to conquer my Cherophobia. On the plane ride to Chicago, I read books and wrote in my journal. At my mother-in-law’s house, I read books, watched sports, and wrote in my journal. When we had turbulence, I just took deep breaths.
One of my rituals for the New Year is to go to a bookstore and purchase a new journal that I will write in during the year. This year I found a cool bookstore near the University of Chicago. The journal was called a novel journal. The cool thing about this journal is that the solid lines that you would typically find on a sheet of paper are actually lines from a classic novel.
I purchased a journal that is based on Dracula by Bram Stoker. I enjoy bookstores and coffee shops. My other passion is journaling. My wife gave me the five-minute journal for Christmas, and I got a journal from my secret Santa at work. I used that journal to plan out my creative goals for the year.
I flooded myself with positive thoughts and affirmations. Then when the boogieman showed up, I went down another road.
Here are two tips I have for conquering the boogieman. One acknowledge your feeling, then alter the story. The key is realizing that the story isn’t an emotion. Here is how I change the story. I look around the room, and I begin to name the objects and color of them, for example- I will go red lamp, grey desk, brown chair. Or I will start to spell words out loud. This stops the stories from taking off.
For me, it isn’t the feelings that hurt me; it is ruminating over negative stories, over, and over. According to this book- Why Zebras don’t get ulcers, toxic thoughts can make your body believe it is in a stressful situation.
Then your body begins to produce stress hormones to get you to fight or flee. This is good if a person is literally in front of you with a gun to your face. If it is all in your head not good. Your body constantly producing stress hormones is harmful this can lead to chronic stress, sickness, etc. Don’t ruminate over something that hasn’t happened yet. At times the stories can get so powerful that you believe they are correct. Get out. Change the story.
If you like me experience Cherophobia, change your story. Below is a collage of my favorite parts of vacation, drinking coffee and journaling. I have coffee from My mother- in laws pot, Southwest Airlines Coffee, Stans Donuts, and an Almond Milk Latte from B-Sides Coffee. In addition the 57th Street Book store and my journals. Finally the Keurig my wife got me for Christmas that is currently in my office at work!