#180 The Fear of Happiness

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Have you ever wondered if you have a fear of being happy? 

Do you feel guilty when taking care of yourself, but you see someone else struggling? 

If so, you’re not alone. 

Fear of happiness, or cherophobia, is identified by specific thoughts and behaviors that might be more common than you think. 

In this episode, hear about those symptoms along with: 

-Real-life examples of the fear of happiness 

-9 questions you can ask yourself to see where you fall on the fear of happiness scale. 

-Actions you can take to manage the fear of happiness in your life and create more space for embracing joy. 


Referred to in this episode: 

Better Than Before Breast Cancer – Life Coaching Membership 

Cherophobia Explained: Fear of Happiness & How to Overcome It 




Read the full transcript below:


Laura Lummer 0:00
This is Laura Lummer, the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm a healthy lifestyle coach, a clinical Ayurveda specialist, a personal trainer, and I'm also a breast cancer survivor. In this podcast, we talk about healthy thinking and mindfulness practices, eating well, moving your body for health and longevity. And we'll also hear from other breast cancer survivors who have reengaged with life, and have incredible stories to share. This podcast is your go to resource for getting back to life after breast cancer.

Laura Lummer 0:37
Hello, hello, welcome to another episode of the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I am your host, Laura Lummer. And this is episode 180. Oh god, I'm getting so close to that 200 mark, getting very excited about that. I want to start off the show. First of all with a big, big, big thank you to two people who left awesome review and rating for the show. And one left your name. Thank you for that Ashley. Oftentimes I just see the username and I don't know who it is. And your username is N Kincaid, and you left XOXO. And right back at you from Ashley, thank you so much for taking the time to do that. And then another one, the username is Barbara Steve. So I'm guessing maybe it was Barbara the other half of Barbara, Steve. And thank you so much for taking the time to do that. It really is important. I've said this so many times on the podcast. But the way that podcasts work is the more people subscribe, follow rate and review, the more other people get to see it. So if you love the breast cancer recovery coach podcast, if you get something valuable for yourself out of it, please take the time to go wherever it is that you listen to it, like it, follow it, leave a rating, leave a review. And then that makes it so much easier for someone else who may need it just as much as you did to find the show and get the support that they need. So thank you for that. And thanks in advance for anyone who's going to take the time to leave that rating and review after hearing this show. Alright, so let's get into today's show the meat, I want to share a story of my own with you just to set the stage for what we're going to talk about. Now, when I was first diagnosed with stage four cancer, it there was a lot of transition, I had to go through not just accepting what was going on and understanding what I was going to do for treatment. But deciding what I wanted my life to look like. Now, it's very easy to stop and say, well, here's my perfect life. Here's my perfect day. Here's what I want everything to look like. And it's interesting because I was being coached one time. And my coach asked me, What would you do if you could do anything? You know, if money didn't matter? What would you do with your life? And I remember giving some kind of, you know, unrealistic view, you know, vide by house on an island and spend my days soaking up the sun swimming in the ocean and reading books. And I remember my coach saying, Would you really though? Would you really do that? And it's an interesting question. Because when we think about our perfect life, and when we think I would do all this, and I would travel everywhere, and I would never work and I would never do whatever. And then we had to think would I really is I really true if I was actually faced with that. And I say that because, you know, as I started this transition of figuring out how do I support my health and healing in the way that I want to and live my life and create what I want to create with my life. A lot of this came up a lot of Okay, here I am sleeping a little later than I would normally sleep, doing journaling, reading a book and my husband is on the other side of the house in his office, where he's been working since 530. This morning. Here I am taking a nap at 1230 in the afternoon. There's my husband still working without a lunch break right? Now I had to work through these thoughts of I should be doing more. I'm not being productive enough. And I had to be able to learn to enjoy what I decided I wanted my life to look like. Because that's what I wanted my life to look like. I had to decide that I no longer had to feel guilty for enjoying myself for taking care of myself for doing the work. I want to do the way I want to do it for scheduling my time, the way I want to schedule my time and learning how to live your life. Enjoy your life. Give yourself permission to be joyful, happy, rested all of these things. without guilt judgment and shame is really quite a process more so than I ever could pected So recently I've shared here on the podcast, I took a trip to the spur of the moment trip to Costa Rica got back the next weekend, I went out well watching with some friends and a couple of my sisters. And we found another excursion that someone told us about what we were well watching. And I came home and I said to my husband, oh, you know, this is what's happening. And we're gonna go. And, of course, I invite him, but he never comes because he's always working. Right? So I had to help myself understand and coach myself through this thought process that I still get to enjoy life. Right? I get to enjoy life without guilt, without shame without feeling bad, because me not enjoying my life doesn't make someone I love, enjoy their life more. Whether or not someone chooses to enjoy their life is a personal decision to do the things that bring them joy, right to step in and be happy and take care of themselves in the way they want to. That's always their choice. And if there's someone in your life who isn't doing that, who isn't living the way that they want to live, you hold him back on your life and on your happiness will never make their life better. It just makes two very unhappy people. Now I bring this up, because I've seen this happen over and over. And it's so fascinating, because it's something that's been so obvious to me recently, in my coaching calls, also a few personal situations I had happened, I'm going to share another story with you in a minute about that, that I started to think, you know, this is fascinating. It's almost like people are actually afraid of being happy. As if if I allow myself to be happy, something bad will inevitably happen. I should always live with some level of this isn't great, this isn't good. This isn't happy, I'm angry. I'm a martyr, I'm a victim some level somewhere. And we seem to be comfortable with that. So we know that our brain has a negative bias, right? Our human brain has a negative bias, it tends to first go to negativity. And I've talked about that here on the show before and that's a protective mechanism from way back when we had to protect ourselves from being eaten alive by saber toothed tigers, we're all always scouting for danger. And we have that negative bias, which is why if we allow our brain to run amok on its own unintentionally thinking, whatever it wants to think we will be a hot mess dealing with anxiety, depression, I don't know self loathing, self judgment, all of the things, right, all of the things that we perceive as negative. That's why we have to deliberately decide how we're going to think we have to choose how we're going to think in life. And in order to do that, we first have to be aware of what we're thinking now. So as I started to think about how I'm seeing more and more of this, what seemed to me to be a fear of happiness, like you make an offer, you put it out on the table, and you say, Hey, I know you've always wanted to do this. Here's the offer. And the first thing someone says, oh, I don't know, Oh, I gotta check this. I gotta check that instead of seeing something Oh, my God, yes, I've always wanted to do that I'm in. Right, we always stop and pull back first and evaluate the potential negative consequences, the potential change, we'll have to go through the energy we'll have to put in rearranging something right. We always take a step back. And I think that's absolutely fascinating. So I was talking to my younger son, he's 22 years old. After he graduated from College this past December 2021. He decided he needed some time off, he loves to snowboard. He got his degree in mechanical engineering. It was tough. It was tough for him. To get this degree was a lot of work for the degree. He worked the whole time he was earning it. He went through lockdown and COVID, which was extremely difficult for him emotionally. And at the end. He said, I just want to go and enjoy myself. I want to snowboard for the whole season. So he found a job at a resort in Aspen, where he literally snowboards every single day. And he's so happy. And the job itself not only worked out well, but he's a super responsible worker. He's very good worker. He's got a great work ethic, and people love him. And so he's already been promoted and received raises and all that just since December. So he calls me up the other day and he says, Mom, I'm waking up having panic attacks, because I'm thinking everything's too easy. Like I had been living in this life where I'm making really good money, and I don't have any debt. And I have money left to live my life with. And I'm snowboarding and one of the most beautiful places in the world every single day. And I just feel like something inevitably is gonna go bad. Something's got to go wrong, right mom that nothing can be this good.

Laura Lummer 10:17
And again, I thought that is so fascinating. Why can't we be in happiness? And just allow it? Why in this in the midst of so much happiness? Would you in your mind create for yourself anxiety with a story of something that isn't real? Fascinating, right? Our human brains are fascinating, I love this. But now I look at it also, in the coaching that I do. And I see so much of the time, the choice to put a lot of energy into the thoughts that create pain and suffering into a void or find it very difficult to stay with the thoughts that create feelings of happiness, and actually create results in your life that you want more than obviously suffering. So a couple of things that I think we think about, right, we get cancer, we get a diagnosis of cancer, it's scary. It's life threatening. It's dangerous, right? It's, it's out of the realm of what we would expect to happen. And there's a process you have to go through to figure it out. But a lot of times, I see people get stuck in the inability, or not realizing they have the capacity to now manage the disease, go through the treatments of managing the disease, and still choose happiness. Right, we can choose to enjoy life and be happy while we're dealing with shitty things. And yet, I see so often, it's almost like this idea. I can I guess the best analogy I can think of is when I was a kid, and I was told to eat my vegetables because there were starving people in China, as if me gigging down a lima bean was going to help someone else have food, right? We see people suffering or think of people suffering. And then we tell ourselves, we can't be happy, because that somehow minimizes the suffering, that it comes to us. And we say I can't be happy. Why? Because I have cancer. And I supposed to be angry? Aren't I supposed to feel like life is unfair, like I'm a victim somehow, right. And if I allow myself to be happy, then people want to understand the suffering I'm going through. It's a fascinating way that our brain works. We don't want to be in pain and suffering. And yet, so often, we'll choose to go with the thoughts and make sure that we continually remind ourselves, we're in pain and suffering, and remind others we're in pain and suffering. Because we feel guilty choosing happiness. Then if God forbid, we find ourselves in a moment where we're happy, will retract right in my coaching calls, we call it turtling. Will turtles so fast, you'll pull the head into that turtle shell and pull the legs and pull the arms and go and hide because oh my god. So if I'm this happy, something has to go wrong. Just like the story I shared with my son. It's not okay, that I should be happy like this. Right? And especially in the state of the world today. I mean, there's a tremendous amount of suffering. There's a tremendous amount of unrest, and the way we think about it, and the way that it impacts our lives and the way we see it impacting other lives. I mean, there's just no question, there's a tremendous amount of suffering. And that is, and always has been a part of life. There's always been good and bad, at the same time, all the time, suffering and not suffering. And we have to remember that even if we see people suffering, we can choose to do what is important to us to support people we perceive as suffering. Well, we still choose to be happy in life. So of course, I did a little research on this subject. I started thinking, Is this a real thing? Could people actually be afraid of being happy? And guess what? I found out it's true. I found out that it actually has a name. It's called Chera phobia, c h e r o p h o BIA cero phobia, and it is the fear of being happy. Now Chera phobia is not currently recognized as a clinical disorder. It's not I listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is what we use in our country or the world in psychology to give someone a diagnosis. But it is a term that is used and recognized. And I actually found an article which I'll share in the show notes on this episode on positive psychology.com, where it talks about the symptoms of chair phobia, and also gives two quizzes to tests that are called the fear of happiness scales. So I want to talk about these because I thought this is absolutely fascinating. And when I read them, I could recognize that I see this in people all the time. And I want to share it here. Because if any of these symptoms resonate with you, or you hear these questions on this quiz, and you think, wow, I have a lot of fear of happiness, I think that is a really important thing to be aware of. Now, we want to be careful, it's not something to judge yourself about. I don't bring this up. So you can say, Oh, my God, what a terrible person, what a hot mess, I have a fear of happiness. No, we have to be aware of what we're thinking of what's going on with us and notice where this might be coming up, so that we can then get the support we need. And there is support available for cheer phobia. And I don't think you're going to be surprised when I tell you in a few minutes what that is. But here are a few symptoms of terror phobia, cognitive symptoms, so the things the way that you think, right, there are three of them. Believing that feeling happy, makes you a bad person. And oftentimes, this is something we also want to be aware of around us. If we have had a cancer diagnosis, we're dealing with cancer, or we're even after treatment, trying to make sense of life. And we're still struggling, struggling and suffering. It's interesting to be aware of and notice those closest to us those relationships that we're very close with, and the people who love us, do they feel bad, being happy, as if they shouldn't be happy, when you are struggling and suffering. Interesting thing to think about. Another cognitive symptom is believing that being happy will lead to something bad happening.

Laura Lummer 17:24
So fascinating. A third one, believing that you should not express happiness, in case it upsets others. So this goes back to that thinking that if I'm happy, that somehow minimizes other people's experience of life, it minimizes somebody else's suffering. You know, and for me, personally, I see this, often someone will hear that I have cancer. And if God forbid, they hear that I have stage four cancer. I mean, they just their whole energy changes. And they look at me like so sorry, right? I'm so sorry to hear that. As if you know, my eulogy has already been written, you know, as if that's the end for me. And that is not at all how I think or feel, which I happily share with other people. It's like, you don't have to be sad for me, you know, I have just as much chance to outlive you as you do to outlive me, in my opinion, right. So sometimes people don't want to express happiness. And we'll see that with new diagnosis often, and I will hear that from people and they'll say, I got a new diagnosis, and this person ghosted me, I got a new diagnosis. And I thought this person would show up for me, and they're gone. And it's oftentimes they don't know how to manage their own emotions. It's never about you. It's never ever, ever about you. It is their own story. When people meet me and hear about my diagnosis, I am so sorry. They don't know me at all. That is 100% their own story of what a stage four diagnosis of cancer means. Because if they know me, they would not apologize, they would see that I don't live my life in a way that you need to apologize. And they would know that there are so many treatments for metastatic breast cancer, and that many, many, many metastatic breast cancer patients, I guess you can call us live for dozens of years after her diagnosis, right? So it isn't my story they're apologizing for. And when we have this cognitive symptom, and if you find yourself having it that you believe you should not express happiness, in case it upsets others. You know, I knew someone who was going through cancer and she was really doing great. She had a wonderful attitude. She was enjoying life. She's like, I'll deal with this, but I've got life to live. And her child was so upset by this. And her child was like you are in denial. You're in complete denial. You shouldn't be happy you have cancer. But that wasn't it at all. And that was the story. It was her daughter's story that she was telling herself, right. So cognitive symptoms, believing the feeling happy makes you to a bad person, believing that happiness will lead to something bad happening, believing that you should not express happiness in case it upsets others. And behavioral symptoms are avoiding joyful social gatherings, or rejecting relationships or life opportunities that may bring happiness and success. And I do see this a lot. A lot, I see women come out of breast cancer treatment. And they're processing the trauma they've been through, they're processing the suffering they're feeling. And they're making a choice in that moment. And I say this without judgment, they're making a choice in that moment to stay in sorrow. They're pushing away, they're pulling away, they're withdrawing from relationships, they're withdrawing from opportunities to go back out and enjoy life. And I will here it is not uncommon for me to hear, I don't want to go out and do that and think everything is okay, and then get diagnosed again. So in effect, this is exactly what they're doing right, this behavioral symptom of chair phobia is happening, I'm afraid to feel happy. Because I might get cancer again, I'm afraid to feel happy, because I might have to go through another treatment. And so in effect, to avoid a possible negative emotion, we're choosing to stay in a negative emotion 100% of the time, I'm going to stay here withdrawing from fun and life and friends and happiness. Because something bad might happen. Interesting thing to think about. So I want to share with you these two tests, these fear of happiness scales, it's just a couple of brief questions that I want you to consider as you hear them here because I think it is so important. The first scale was created by Josh and Lou in 2013. And this article says it was created to investigate the general belief that experiencing happiness, particularly to excess may be perceived to result in adverse consequences. Okay. So there are five questions and they're rated on a scale from one to seven, one being strongly disagree seven being strongly agree, so I want you to just think about them. These are the five questions on the scale. One is I prefer not to be too joyful. Because usually joy is followed by sadness, too, I believe the more cheerful and happy I am, the more I should expect bad things to occur in my life. Three, disaster often follows good fortune for having lots of joy and fun causes bad things to happen. That's a really important word causes bad things to happen. In five, excessive Joy has some bad consequences. So think about those questions for yourself rewriting the vodcast as much as you need to, or go to the show notes to look at them and really, really think, are these some thoughts that you entertain? Do these thoughts exist in your brain? Does your brain offer them to you? Do you believe them when your brain offers them to you? And are they impacting the amount of joy and happiness you have in your life? The second fear of happiness scale was developed by Gilbert and colleagues in 2012. And this scale was developed to explore people's perceptions and anxieties around feeling happy and positive in general. Okay, so these again, this girl was zero to four zero not at all like me for extremely like me. Okay. Here's the questions. One. I'm frightened to let myself become too happy. I know you're listening to this some of you and thinking, oh my god, that is me. Because I hear this a lot. I hear this a lot. I have just shared some insights with you. I'm afraid to be happy because it might be taken away from me. The second one I find it difficult to trust positive feelings. Right? Remember, anything we tell ourselves any story about what is to come or what is in the future? Anything beyond this moment, is all make believe, can yet for some reason, we find comfort in creating a future story of negativity and fear, rather than a future story of positivity. And it may have something to do with question number three. Good feelings never last. Zero not at all like me to think that or for extremely like me to think that good feelings never last. Here's an interesting thing. You're right. Good feelings don't last. Just like bad feelings don't last. That's life. And that's true. It's And I think it's so interesting because when we resist so hard, we want to resist bad feelings, bad things, negative consequences. So we say good things don't last. So we stay in the bad. We're afraid of the bad. So we stay in the bad. It is such this wild thought loop that we get stuck in good feelings never lost. And I say, Yes, that's true. Therefore, be 100% present in those good feelings when they are there. Because everything changes in life, and that is the human experience. All right, number five, feeling good makes me uncomfortable. Think about that? Is that like, you are not like you? And if that thought, if it does, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, remember, that feeling is driven by a thought? What is that thought that's causing you to feel uncomfortable? And I have a feeling that something like good feelings never last right? Yeah. Another question. I feel I don't deserve to be happy.

Laura Lummer 26:03
Number six, I don't let myself get too excited about positive things or achievements. I hear this all the time. positive outcomes, positive test results, positive opportunities, okay, well, I have this but what if, but what if, right, and so allowing ourselves to feel positive and to celebrate you to celebrate our achievements is so beautiful, such a wonderful and amazing part of life, when the good things come, we've got to be in them. 110% If we fear happiness, and we don't allow ourselves to get excited about positive things, think about how much we miss. Number seven, when you are happy, you can never be sure that something will not hit you out of the blue. And you know what? I'm gonna say, again, this is not typically the way that I think I don't think, Oh, I'm happy, something bad is gonna happen. I don't know that I ever think that. But I wanted to say here that goes back to what I was saying a minute ago. Life is 5050. And so what if we just accept you know, it's an interesting thing, because rarely, when we're in the the negative or the sad part, do we think, man, something happy is gonna hit me out of the blue any minute now. Right? But why not? Isn't that the same? Right? It's the same statement, reverse when you're happy, you can never be sure something will not hit you out of the blue. But when you're unhappy, you can't be sure something amazing isn't going to hit you out of the blue, right? So why choose to be stuck in one than the other. And number eight, I worry that if I feel good, something bad could happen. And number nine, if you feel good, you let your guard down? Isn't that interesting? If you feel good, you let your guard down from what? Think about that. If that's you, if you resonate with that, if you feel good, you let your guard down. But here's the interesting thing, can we really let our guard down, if it's our thoughts that create our feelings. And if we're letting our guard down, we think, Oh, if I let my guard down, this person might hurt me or the sad thing might happen. But we have the power over that. Right? We have the power to have those healthy boundaries, we have the power to choose how we think about things. We have the power to go around our life being open and vulnerable and enjoying love and happiness. And then deciding what we're going to tell ourselves about all the other things that happen. In my coaching practice, I use a very, very, very powerful tool I was taught in Life Coach School called the model. And the very first line of the model is the sea line. It's called the Sea line. And it's the circumstances in life. And the circumstances are just that they are facts. They're only facts. So for my circumstances, I could say I have stage four metastatic cancer. That's a circumstance no motion in it. It's just a fact that I could state in a court of law and everyone would be like, Oh, yes, you do. Here's the evidence that you do. Right? We can't change almost all of the seeds in our life. The circumstances are what they are. I have four kids, I'm 58 years old, right? I have breast cancer. These kinds of things are just the circumstances. And what we choose to make those circumstances mean is what starts the process of creating the results in our life, right? I can choose to be afraid of something I can say I have stage four cancer and I can choose to think oh my god, that's it. I need to pack up my shoes and give away my belongings. Or I can choose to think okay, so who's healed from stage four cancer before and how did they do it? How do I heal my body? Right? So our circumstances are what they are. And when I hear this about the fear of happiness, I see that no matter what this circumstances are if we're rating ourselves high or even medium on this fear of happiness. And we have these cognitive and behavioral symptoms of avoiding joy and telling ourselves that there are negative consequences for choosing happiness, then it doesn't matter what your circumstances are in life, the powerful thing to understand and belief here is it is exactly those thoughts of believing things like being a bad person, if you're happy, or creating actually creating something bad in your life, if you're happy that it is those thoughts that keep you stuck in a very dark place? All right, because no matter what the circumstance, you don't have to add more suffering to it, by the way that you think. So I think this is just such an amazing concept, this chair phobia. And I love the questions that are on those tests on those scales, because there's something very, very interesting to ponder and consider in yourself and look at the thoughts behind them. Because as I said, Is There A Treatment For cheer phobia? Yes, there is. There are two treatments that several of the articles I looked at talk about. And one is talk therapy, talking about this, talking about the way that you think, and using the technique like cognitive behavioral therapy, which is very much very similar to the way that I coach, my members. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is looking at the way your brain works, and training it to work in a different way that suits you better. And then another technique is mindfulness based interventions, which basically means learn how to be present in your life. Learn how to be in the moment, and if the moment is beautiful. And if you can choose beauty, love and joy in the moment, choose it without fear, learn to choose it without fear, right, and to just be able to develop that skill of being very present in the current moment in your life. Some additional techniques are journaling, which you know, I'm a huge advocate of journaling, it's so important and physical exercise and relaxation techniques. And again, I've said it a million times, and I'll say it a million more exercises, medicine. If you're struggling with negativity, if you're struggling with the inability to be able to choose happiness and engage in joyfulness in your life, it is so important to be getting physical exercise to be journaling to be talking to someone about it. Because we're only here for a limited amount of time. And I would love to think that no matter what our circumstances, and all the things that we have to process around those circumstances, we get to find joy where we can, and we get to embrace that joy where we can find it. I would love, love, love to help you with that this is I love this topic so much because this is the stuff we work on in my memberships. This is what I see so much transformation come into women's lives when they understand. They don't have to fear happiness, they get to embrace happiness, they get to deserve happiness, and they get to choose the way they feel and the thoughts that create those feelings. It is such a powerful skill to develop. And if you heard anything on this show, or you think holy moly, I might have Chera phobia, come and join me in the better than before breast cancer membership, and get the coaching and support that you need. Because I would love to work with you. And there's just so much in life to be able to be embraced and be able to be beautiful. Once we change the way we think about what is happening in our life. It is an amazing shift. You can join me at the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash life coaching. I would love to see you there. And if you're not already a part of my free Facebook group, the breast cancer recovery group come and join us there on Facebook so many amazing survivors supporting each other asking questions and learning they're not alone and it's okay to embrace joy in this life. All right, my friends, I will talk to you again next week and until then, Please be good to yourself and expect others to be good too as well. Take care.

Speaker 2 34:25
You've put your courage to the test laid all your doubts

Speaker 3 34:33
your mind is clearer than before your heart is full and wanting more your futures even you know has you been waiting on





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