One of the things I learned from reading Janice Walton-Hadlock's material was that the use of adrenaline for a given activity precludes the use of dopamine for that same activity. That is to say, if you are running away from a lion in fear, you will not release dopamine for that job (of running). So, you cannot experience Joy and Fear simultaneously in the same activity.
I look at it like this: We all know the image of the two faces looking at one another. You know the one. If you look at it one way, it's the two faces. If you look at it another way, it's a vase. What's interesting about that picture is that you can't see both images simultaneously. Try it sometime. (Google Images: faces and vase) You can flutter back and forth with your perception – even quite quickly – but you are either seeing a vase or two faces at one given moment. Never both at the same time.
Another way to look at this is the "garbage in, garbage out/treasure in, treasure out" idea. If you fill your mind with garbage such as negative, disturbing, or fearful images or stories, hatreful thoughts, arguments and the like, those things will grow and prosper in your mind. Then they will reflect themselves in your demeanor and behavior. Likewise, if you fill your mind with loving, joyful, funny or optimistic ideas, they too will reflect themselves in how you come across.
In today's society – at least in America – horrific images and ideas in the form of "entertainment" have become the vogue. I'm not sure what's behind it, but I do not think that it is a coincidence that depression is at an all-time high as well. During the depths of my depression, I became fascinated with these negative ideas. I read Stephen King books almost exclusively, watched television shows like CSI and "Autopsy". Even my music reflected this darkness I felt in the depths of myself.
This first assignment is very powerful. Some people who have tried it (myself included) have seen results very quickly. I'm looking forward to hearing from you to find what your experience is with it.
The first thing you need to do is rid your immediate environment of anything that has the potential to trigger fear, sadness, hate, anger – or any other fear-based thought or emotion. I think that we have been surrounded with these things for so long, that some of us may have some trouble identifying all of them. For this reason, I want you to enlist some help if you can. A spouse, a parent, an grown child, a friend whom you trust – all would be ideal. If you function better under your own counsel, however, please feel free to do this on your own.
Items to put away include (but are not limited to) negative photographs, video games, artwork, books, newspapers, DVDs and tapes, news magazines – anything that does not encompass love, beauty, joy, laughter, fun, God or health.
If, at any time, you feel uncomfortable or resistant to putting something away, I ask you to work through it and do it anyway. There should be no arguments between you and your helper. If one of the two of you doesn't think it promotes joy, it goes. Remind yourself that this is JUST STUFF. You also might find it helpful to remember that I'm not asking you to throw these things away (though it is your stuff, so you may choose to do that). Just put them in a box for a time. If you want them back when the project is over, they'll be there, safe and sound.
Throughout this assignment, I want you to do your best to keep it fun. Do not dwell on the items you are putting away. No loving browse of the news magazine with the "award-winning" photographs of the victims of tragedy. No watching that Hannibal Lector DVD one last time. PUT THEM IN A BOX AND MOVE ON TO THE NEXT ITEM. There will be time for browsing during the second half of the assignment.
Do not be tempted to leave these things in your house with a promise not to watch or interact with them. Their very presence will be counter-productive to your goals. Think: Out of sight, out of mind.
Besides, you need to make room.
The second half is more fun. You can't just leave holes in your bookshelf or DVD case. Go to a bookstore and treat yourself to at least one item in each category that you disposed of. For instance, if you got rid of ten horror books, a piece of artwork that was disturbing your spouse, six CDs with depressing music on them and a stack of news magazines, go to the store and purchase a funny book, a poster of something that makes you feel good, a CD that makes you want to dance or smile and a magazine about your favorite hobby. There's no need to spend a fortune here (unless you have a fortune to spend, in which case, go for it! You're worth it!); most towns have second-hand bookstores with very reasonable prices. You may even be able to trade your old merchandise for the new. And there's always the library! Spend as much money as you can comfortably afford, and as much time as you want on this. Remind yourself that you are worth it and that by enriching your own life, it will be much easier for you to contribute positively to the world around you.
During your participation in the Joy Immersion Project you will also need to discontinue any activities that have the potential to induce fear-based thinking. This is very important because, as we've established, the adrenaline system turns off the dopamine system. You need to shut that baby down for a while. Completely down. No sad, scary, violent or depressing television. No news – especially the national and international sort. (The world will still be here when you're done, and if it's not it won't matter.) No political shows, writings or discussions. No violent, horrific or crime-based books or video games. Make it so that if you are going to think negatively, you'll have to get creative because there is no outside source for it in your everyday surroundings.
This is only the beginning, but I hope that you will make it fun for yourself. There's much more to come, but let's take it in small steps.
Now let's go pack some boxes!
For some suggestions concerning this assignment, click here.