The Most Vulnerable Emotion

Duck #123

“Jayna, what do you think is the most vulnerable emotion we can have?”
I paused, shrugging my shoulders.
“Would you believe me if I told you that it was joy?”

I paused again, looking at my therapist trying to understand why she would ask me that. I asked her to explain.

“Joy is the most vulnerable emotion because we’re afraid to lose it. Think about it, we’re not worried that fear will go away or that anger will go away, or sadness—but joy…we’re afraid that once we get it, it won’t last.”

Loose wires started to connect and unscrewed bolts began to tighten.

I nodded.

She continued, “Jayna, for some reason, you have this inner narrative that keeps you afraid of joy. It’s like your shame is trying to protect you from the devastation of losing joy. Once it comes, you struggle to enjoy it, not wanting to get attached, because you ‘know’ it’s going to leave.”

My inner child felt both seen and also extremely sad.
I don’t remember if I cried at this point, but it is very likely. Therapy does that too ya. It just hurts so good, ya know?


That was a few weeks ago.

Earlier this week, at my appointment, my therapist said, “Jayna, can you take note of the times that you’re laughing? Can you take a few seconds to realize how that feels, to realize that you’re safe?”

I nodded. “Yes, I can do that. I love laughing!”

“I know you do! Pay attention to your body when you’re laughing, like really laughing.”

What I’ve realized through this counseling process is that the body really does keep the score. Apparently, there’s a fire alarm in my brain that’s been going off for months now. Essentially, my body has felt like it’s under threat and so my brain is sending off signals alerting me of danger and is doing everything it can to keep me safe. This is all happening in my amygdyla. Brains are bananas, y’all.

As I’ve continued to work through past trauma and experiences, the fire alarm doesn’t go off as much, but it’s still fairly sensitive.  Making toast in my mind is precarious work. But I’m not in danger anymore. I know that, I really do…there’s just still a part of me that’s trying to catch up to that fact.

I’m safe.

And whether I realize it or not, I feel the safest when I laugh. If you’ve ever seen me laugh you’ve noticed at least these 2 things—

1)It doesn’t take much to get me going

2)Once I start, my knees “give out” shortly thereafter

It’s quite the sight to behold. People whom I’ve just met are always concerned, but my friends are faithful to immediately say, “She’s fine. She just does this.” If there aren’t any “new” people in the mix, my friends will just say, “Oh! There she goes!”

I can’t help it. I’ve seen video of myself when my laughter “takes me”, as I like to say, and it’s pretty funny. I look ridiculous, but you know what else I look? Safe. Safe and Free.


As I was getting out of my car for work this morning, I dropped an orange I’d brought with me. Immediately, the orange started to roll through the parking lot and like an animal I ran, bent over, after it. Realizing how silly I looked, I started to laugh. In doing so, I remembered another time I was doubled over in laughter outside, near a car. I was with a good friend. He was talking about something, and then all of a sudden he wasn’t. He had slipped and fallen in the wet grass. Where I could once see his head above the car, I saw nothing but black. You truly had to be there (or be me) to find all of this as funny as I did/do.

Anyway, I immediately sent this friend a video of me recalling the story. In the video, I was laughing (who’s surprised, honestly?). I walked into work still giggling to myself and thought about my therapist’s words. I tried to take notice of how my body felt.

Calm. Relaxed. Shoulders down. Jaw unclenched. Mind swimming down a stream instead of its usual race through the rapids. I smiled and thanked Jesus that for my frequent laughing fits.


Even though I laugh frequently, I always worry that maybe one day I won’t be able to. Maybe one day I won’t be completely overtaken by my laughter. Maybe one day this joy will be gone. Of course, the Lord is faithful to let me laugh. He lets me laugh big, hearty, loud, and body encompassing laughter. And it’s beautiful. It’s precious. When I laugh with all of who I am I’m not worried about who I am, how I’m perceived or what might happen. I can just be. I can be full of joy.

What I’m realizing now is that true and genuine laughter only comes out when I feel safe. I give the specifications of true and genuine because we all know what it’s like to nervously laugh. (Think: the awkward laugh that happens when unwanted, sexual attention is given. Laughter and consent aren’t the same, people!) But true and genuine laughter—the kind that steals your breath, the kind that puts your stomach in a tight knot, the kind that can’t possibly sound attractive because it doesn’t have the time—is the kind that tells our bodies, “Hey. You’re safe. It’s okay. Lean into this moment.”


The book of Nehemiah says that it’s the Lord’s joy that is our strength. What good news that is! My joy isn’t my strength. It’s His. Sealed by the Spirit, hidden in Christ, my Father holds both my strength and my joy. He is my safe retreat and the gift of laughter is a reminder of that.

And joy, while a vulnerable emotion, can’t ever be lost. It doesn’t be long to me. At least, not entirely. I’m not responsible for it…my Jesus is. And he’s the best keeper of all things sacred and vulnerable. He’s the best at details and intricacies.

So here is this joy, Lord. It belongs to you. You’ve allowed me to hold it and it feels frail. Help me to remember that my hands aren’t strong enough and that I have to let you hold them. You give and take away, yes, but there is a guarantee that you will never leave. And in your presence is fullness of joy. So, my sweet Jesus, abide with me. Abide with me, and let’s laugh.

Constant(ly Out of) Control

Duck #85
Have you ever been surprised by your emotions? By your own thoughts? Nine times out of ten, I am thankful for my emotions and my thoughts. Ehh…let’s go with 8…er…7 times out of ten. (Still more than half, but not too crazy. :)) I love the fact that I have feelings about almost everything. I told my boss the other day that pathos was my favorite part of rhetoric–it’s in just about everything. We can’t escape our feelings, y’all! I love the fact that my mind is like its own circus. It has performers (thoughts) that flip and twirl and make the crowd (me) clap and stare in awe. There are curtains that cover the bearded woman or the world’s smallest man (not sure what thoughts these are, but they’re weird). Anyway, my circus mind is a show that never quite seems to end and gets bigger and more confusing the longer I keep thinking to myself. But I know this. I know how I feel and I know how I think. I always have. But lately, I’ve been surprised, startled by my thoughts and emotions. It kind of feels like I should be familiar with what’s going on internally, but it’s been a while since I’ve danced under this Big Top.

This summer has gone nothing like I expected. I’d further explain, but the details aren’t too important. Just know that I’ve been pleasantly surprised and unpleasantly heartbroken very quickly and in a back and forth cycle that hasn’t fully seemed to slow down yet.What’s shocked me the most has not been whats happened this summer, but my internal (and sometimes external) response to it all. I’ve told some dear friends recently that I’m learning a lot about myself. This is good. I should be excited, but I’m not…at least not always. Why? Because I am way, way more obsessed with being in control than I thought.

When you meet me, it’s pretty easy to tell that I’m easy going. I have more of a Type B personality, my room is never as clean as I want it to be, and “organized” is not an adjective that would follow my name if you looked up “Jayna Duckenfield” in the dictionary. But here’s a short list of what would follow my name:

  • Likes to be too aware of self (this is often a defensive mechanism so no one can point out a flaw in actions or character that takes Jayna by surprise)

This summer I’ve learned, rather I’ve realized that I have a strange issue with being told that I’m wrong/getting called out for things unexpectedly. This spectrum is fairly broad. I take it too personally and often immediately try to “fight back” or defend myself so that I can fix the issue or come across as a better person. (And if I don’t say anything out loud, I just internally shame and should all over myself. #ImWorkingOnIt #ImBeingSanctified). It’s kind of like thinking that all of who I am is tied up in what I do and say. The frustrating part of this realization is that I thought I already realized this and “worked through it.” Being a slave to the Idol of People was my brand throughout all of undergrad. (My counselor recently told me that people pleasing and idolatry of the like is something that I’ll probably always struggle with, but learn how to be more repentant of and not as consumed by.*
*(The people pleasing English major in me is kicking myself for ending that sentence with preposition. #lol).

But you see, my desire to be seen as the best version of myself doesn’t just stop with people, it extends to my Heavenly Father as well. This is particularly frustrating, because I know that I don’t have to earn Christ’s love or act a certain way for Him to be pleased with me. Really, I know that on my terms. When I’m aware of my short comings and even my successes I am perfectly capable of accepting and understanding how Jesus and others feel about me. But when my actions, thoughts, and feelings take me by surprise it’s an entirely different ballgame. Like I said before, I like to be in control. It’s a subtle, internal type of control that you might not necessarily be able to notice just by observing me. (Well, now you might be able to because I’m telling you about it, but you get the idea).

I don’t like this re-realization because I don’t know what to do. I’m learning more and more that I really don’t know how to let Jesus lead me as much as I thought I did. But here’s the thing, that’s good news! It doesn’t sound like it, but it is. At the end of my rope of control, stands a patiently waiting Savior who “began a good work in [me] and will bring it to completion…” (Philippians 1:6). What the Lord has set in motion in my life, He will continue to keep in motion despite by best efforts and my worst mistakes. The Lord is not surprised by my actions, thoughts, or feelings. He has not been surprised by anything that’s happened this summer. Through all of my selfishness, doubt, and struggle with control, He has been forever faithful and consistently constant. The best part is that there hasn’t been anything I’ve done, nor anything I could do to change that. I get to be a control freak in the arms of Jesus and be met with grace and mercy. I get to have all the feels and all the thoughts and be covered in peace. I can rest in the good news that I’m not really in control and in fact shouldn’t be. And even though my crazy circus show of a mind will go on, so must the work of my beautiful Savior.


[Dear Jesus,
Thank You!]
❤ Amen


It’s Inside, So Let It Out


Post Grad Duck #5
Per usual, there are a lot of emotions swirling around in my head. And in that way, I’m a lot like Riley Anderson. Riley is the main character (sort of) in the new Pixar animated film, Inside Out (If you’ve seen the movie, then you know why Riley is sort of the main character). I don’t want to spoil the storyline because it’s a good one and I encourage everyone to see it, but I do want to spoil this.


Shocking, eh?
It shouldn’t be. I think that more often than we are willing to admit, we’re told that we need to keep our emotions in check. We’re taught that feeling too much isn’t a good thing. If you’re a girl, it makes you dramatic and if you’re a boy it makes you too sensitive. (I don’t want to gender stereotype, but in the game of emotions, sometimes that happens, does it not?)
Feelings are a part of who we are, all of us. For Riley, five main emotions of joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust literally make up the mechanics of her brain and control how she reacts at any given moment. In that way, emotions are what show that’s she’s alive. The same goes for us. Emotions give us vitality, they give us personality, they give us…us–they’re who we are. No, they’re not all of who we are, but they’re still a pretty big part.

In a great article detailing an interview between, Amy Phoeler, the voice of the character Joy, and Pete Docter, the director of the film, Phoeler had this to say, “…Sadness is like a superhero.” And the film proves this to be true. I won’t tell you how Sadness saves the day, because it really is a film that I encourage everyone to go see, but I can tell you about why I agree with Ms. Phoeler.

Sadness is an emotion that demands to be felt. It’s raw and it’s vulnerable and sometimes we can’t escape it. I know this personally because of the season of depression I experienced during my junior year of college. But I also know that we can’t escape sadness simply because like I sad before, it’s a part of who we are. I’ve been sad this week. It’s an emotion that allows us to be who we are. Sadness is a pusher, if we allow it to be. It can push us to the far corners of ourselves that we want to ignore. It can push us to points that make us want to break. It can push us to beyond where we’re comfortable. Is it fun to be sad? No, of course not. But sometimes it’s good. We need to feel so that all of us, all of who we are, can function–the parts we love and the parts we hate. It’s not fair to just let our favorite parts of ourselves to operate, it’s not true.

Yesterday I had a really good conversation with a friend. He said a lot of things that really resonated with me, but the one word that’s stuck with me is vulnerability. Earlier I said that sadness is vulnerable, because it is. Vulnerability is beautiful. It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful. Sometimes, sadness can push us to the necessary point of vulnerability, the point where other emotions can grow in our hearts so we can heal. But if we don’t allow ourselves to be sad, we won’t allow ourselves to properly heal. And in one way or another we need that healing…all of us.

So if you’re sad, that’s okay. Be sad. Be vulnerable. Be brave enough to heal.

[Jesus, thank You for emotions. Thank you for feeling. Help us to own them, but to not be controlled by them. May we listen to them and not ignore them, ultimately bringing glory to You.]

photo credit: