“Joy: It’s Terrifying” Story Critique

As I have been exploring the complexity of grief, I have been asking myself, “How is grief integrated so one can have a “normal” life again?” My increasing curiosity around grief’s transformation into happier feelings such as joy led me to an Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) production of Oprah interviewing Dr. Brene Brown, an expert in the field of emotions. In the interview, Joy: It’s Terrifying, I was surprised to find Dr. Brown say, “Joy is the most terrifying feeling humans face.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKV0BWSPfOw)

I will be critiquing this OWN story based upon three traits from the Lankshear and Knobel’s Appendix: Some popular everyday remix practices.

  1. Having something to say that appeals to others
  2. May include writing contextualizing notes to known and unknown readers about the story
  3. Identifying how to convey a lot of meaning in a limited amount of space and time

Having something to say that appeals to others

I believe OWN’s production of Brown’s message is one that not only interests people, but might open people eyes to their potential patterns. Joy: It’s Terrifying explains that once we experience joy, then fear immediately sets in. It may make a person ask, “When will the joy will be taken away?” The fear of the loss of joy never really lets people enjoy a happy state.

Luckily, Brown offers an antidote to the fear of joy and vulnerability. It is authentic gratitude. Only those who allow themselves to be truly grateful for cherished moments are able to evade fear. These are people she identifies as “whole-hearted” people that live their lives to the fullest no matter what emotion they are feeling.

May include writing contextualizing notes to known and unknown readers about the story

Oprah does a great of job of contextualizing key points of Brown’s books. She begins with succinctly explaining Brown’s ultimate life goal: to be whole-hearted. Oprah explains for all levels of audience members that whole-hearted people have found their way to whole-heartedness through a cultivation of gratitude and joy.

Oprah and Brown thoroughly explained the concept of foreboding joy. It took repetition and several examples to fully drive home this point. Brown says, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.” She further elaborates that joy makes us feel incredibly vulnerable, so we dress rehearse tragedy in order to beat vulnerability to the punch. We would rather imagine a tragedy than feel vulnerable.

Identifying how to convey a lot of meaning in a limited amount of space and time

Joy: It’s Terrifying was able to explain foreboding joy, relate it back to the audience, and offer a solution to the audience in just over five minutes. This is attributed to Oprah’s phenomenal interviewing skills, Brene’s concise delivery of her knowledge, and OWN’s seamless production of the interview. I feel like this interview gave me invaluable tools for a happier life tools, awareness of foreboding joy and to combat fear of joy within a very short time span.


Dr. Brene© Brown on Joy: It’s Terrifying | Super Soul Sunday | Oprah Winfrey Network [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKV0BWSPfOw


  • Very interesting – “Most terrifying, difficult emotion is joy”. This short interview was a rollercoaster of emotional insight. It’s sad to think some people choose not to experience joy out of fear that the joy will be taken away (reminds me of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh). I appreciate Dr. Brown’s response to this with gratitude, and to appreciate these things rather than fear the negative outcomes.
    Thanks for sharing this!!

  • I have to admit, I was skeptical when I began watching the clip. I don’t usually take to self-help topics. However, as Jason mentioned, there were some serious emotional insights discussed in a short amount of time. I was impressed with how well Dr. Brown’s ideas were solidified by Oprah and her. A very thought provoking 5 minutes.

  • You’re right, Oprah is the master of extracting relevant information during interviews. As a digital story, this was a highly successful production because it drew me in, made me interested in the content, and enticed me to want to know more – perhaps read the book. Doing all of that – a major life’s work – in five minutes is astounding. Thanks for sharing!

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