by Saba Aqel
What is Joy?
Joy is a feeling that is connected to the deepest, most sacred parts of ourselves. Parts on which we spend years protecting, guarding and at times diminishing. Such deep and sacred parts of our core developed with us as children, they are filled with desires of hope, faith and love. For that reason, joy is considered to be the most vulnerable human feeling. It is often mistaken for happiness when joy is a step above happiness.
How is Felt?
Joy is a feeling that fills us with light, warmth, and delight. This feeling brings out the happy and goofy child in us, making us dance around and giggle endlessly. Experiencing joy allows us to drop our defenses and scream in the middle of a crowded room; in that moment, we no longer care what others may think! Brené Brown, a lead researcher on vulnerability and courage, adds: “Happiness is tied to circumstance and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude” (Brown, 2010, p. 79).
Why is Joy Vulnerable?
Mental health disorders often place us in a state of mind where we may feel helpless and thus lead us to believe that we cannot depend on our minds and bodies. Experiencing joy under such circumstances becomes a threat, “why should I allow myself to experience such a wonderful and all-encompassing feeling when it will end shortly after?” We allow fear, guilt, shame, and sadness to block our brain and nervous system from experiencing joy. We may ourselves think that we are not worthy of joy, that we are not good enough or healthy enough to experience joy.
Why is Joy Important?
Joy does not last a lifetime, that is true; however, celebrating our hard work or accomplishments is part of the human experience. When we struggle with stress, anxiety, and mental health disorders, it becomes difficult for us to expose the most vulnerable parts of our being. Allowing joy in and experiencing gratitude rather than fear, guilt, shame or sadness takes courage and vulnerability. Two feelings we cannot afford when are already feeling down.
How Could Therapy Help?
Therapy provides the holding space for us to work through the emotions that inhibit us to eventually experience joy. By doing so, we communicate to our deeper selves that we are worthy. We bravely accept that this feeling is temporary, that we welcome it, and look forward to experiencing it once more. Joy motivates us to continue to learn, nourish and grow as humans and is a necessary piece of our development.
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, MN: Hazelden.