Pollyanna (the title character in a book by Eleanor H Porter) is a young girl exhibiting infectious optimism and joy. All is good and right in the world, according to Pollyanna. She sees the positive in everyone and every thing. She chooses to gloss over the rough spots in favor of the sparkling parts.
Foreboding Joy is a term coined by Brené Brown describing the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s the sense of impending doom after a good experience. For example, receiving a promotion at work only to have the happiness followed by the dread of what can go wrong. How can you screw this promotion up? Is it deserved? Underlying it all is the idea of not being worthy of such happiness. PsychCentral has a great article about Brené Brown‘s work in vulnerability.
Husband #2 and I were locked in this battle of Pollyanna vs Foreboding Joy.
Before his decision to leave, we went on a vacation together. It was a great vacation! We ate out at stellar restaurants, we enjoyed relaxing moments, we sat on the beach, read, walked through the marketplaces, shared quiet sunsets. Throughout the entire vacation he would blurt out statements like, “This may be our last vacation together, but we’re having a great time.” At this point he was still invested in working on our relationship and attending therapy.
After one of these revelations, my optimism would instantly diminish. I was on vacation to escape the pressures of home life and bringing up the end of our marriage at each turn was not what I had hoped for during our break. Had I known that he would insist on being the voice of doom, I would have taken someone else…one of my kids, a girlfriend, my sister, anyone. I wanted to have a good time and take a breather, not get the passive kick in the gut every time things were on a high note.
I realize that Husband #2 might have been protecting himself from being vulnerable by practicing his foreboding joy behavior. If things got too good, like the night we were eating at one of the best steakhouses we’ve ever experienced, he could put a damper on his feelings by reminding himself (and me) that there were no guarantees things would work out between us. Or he might have made the subconscious decision to leave while still telling me that he was fully committed to our marriage. I just don’t know.
What I do know is that every happy moment was ambushed with doubtful talk.