Sunday, 24 April 2011

Joy as the 'missing ingredient'

Downs' apparently simple definitions seem to make a lot of sense:  Passion as the repeated experience of joy in an activity.  Love as the repeated experience of joy in another.* 

Passion and love are both meta emotions, or emotions that are only felt after the observation of other emotions over time.  In this sense both require a degree of skill in the act of mindful noticing, for unless acknowledged, the joy which leads to either has a tendency to be fleeting and forgotten.

What drives joy is quite different to what drives validation and existences based on the pursuit of validation will quite display an absence of joy, and therefore lack passion two determinants of depression.  Joy is generated and experienced internally; validation by definition seeks external approval and is therefore a public affair.  Joy in contrast, is inherently private:  people find passion for activities which they undertake and experience joy, rather than because they are doing what they think they should, ought or must do.

I am often asked what helps individuals overcome shame.  Joy and shame seem incompatible as joy is an endpoint of the authenticity which is itself the antithesis of shame.  In order to reduce shame it is necessary to receive authentic validation - validation of our true selves, rather than the facades we present in an attempt to minimise our shame.  Perhaps through the pursuit of the things which bring us joy, we are more likely to invite into our lives people who will validate our behaviour.  It is essential that joy that is the primary objective, and validation merely a coincidental by-product:  this deceptively simple sounding shift might reveal the sequence and code of passion, love, integrity and therein contain the recipe for true contentment. 

"Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting… And though unwanted,unbidden… it will stir… open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us… guides us… Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have?

...Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear.

...If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank… Without passion, we’d be truly dead."
Josh Whedon (American screenwriter, producer and creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Toy Story, b.1964)


* Downs, A. (2006), The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing up Gay in a Straight Man's World, New York: De Capo Press Inc.

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