Joy. It's a big concept bottled up in a little word. It's a big thing available to each of us.
One of the major surprises I had when I was studying the stoic philosophers, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, years ago, in preparation for my book The Stoic Art of Living, was that they were so different from what 'stoic' and 'stoicism' has come to mean in the popular mind. Most people think that being stoic is all about not feeling anything - that it's almost like philosophical anesthesia. But it's not.
The stoics wanted to help us to keep from being disturbed by fleeting emotions so that our natural joy could rise to the surface and be experienced and lived. Negative emotions like resentment, and bitterness, and anger can obviously prevent an experience of joy. But the additional insight of the stoics was that unreasonably strong positive emotions could, too, like that "irrational exuberance" that can come from hearing what we think is great good news. When we get too worried, or too excited, we can become unhinged from reality and our own inner poise and healthiness. The stoics seemed to think that if we could avoid such unsettling emotions, negative or positive, we could become peaceful enough in our surface consciousness as to allow a deep joy that is our birthright to bubble up into our souls and truly bless us.
Joy is not the same thing as happiness. It's not giddiness. It's not mere pleasantness. It's deeper and higher and more abiding. Most of us have felt it, at some time, if only in a momentarily taste or touch of it. But some seem to live it enduringly. Do you have it in your life right now? If not, why not? What's getting in the way? What obstacle to your joy could be removed or eliminated?
At its best, therapy removes obstacles to joy. At its best, self examination prepares the soil for joy.
What gives you joy? Can you integrate more of that into your life this week? Or even today?
It's meant to be yours. And it can enhance everything else you feel, and do.