Perhaps Joy to the world is a poignant desire for many of us, especially at this time of year when it can be heard or sung through a traditional carol or even a pop song from the 1970s. You may not be partial to either song or sentiment, but how joy is experienced is unique to each of us, making the universal wish of ‘joy to the world’ more complex than one might imagine.
Do we need an external experience to feel joy or can it merely develop from within? Much has been written regarding the relentless search for joy in the outer world when the ‘true’ answer lies within. However, experiencing inner joy and contentment when our outer world is in turmoil can be a dissonant and perhaps alienating experience, akin to avoidance. Nevertheless, maintaining some inner equilibrium ‘when all around are losing theirs’, can evoke a calming presence for others as well as ourselves. Perhaps the inner and the outer worlds that make up our ‘own’ world are not so easily separated, similar to the dance of nature, one affects the other.
Have you experienced both joy and contentment before? Perhaps you have, but it was fleeting, even tantalising, now it is a distant memory…or maybe it was not that long ago and yet seems unattainable now. Perhaps you struggle to recall a time when you have felt a conscious experience of these feelings at all?
Or just maybe you might be in the ‘flow’ of life at the moment and both your inner and outer world are perfectly aligned? If so would you expect this to be a permanent state or perhaps you agree with Buddhists who speak of impermanence as a way to travel through life unencumbered? Some of us less spiritually enlightened struggle to lead lives whereby earthly matters are inconsequential. So how do we reach for this state, striving to be joyful and contented when external events; personal or worldwide, challenge these feelings?
In the world of psychotherapy where the spotlight is focused mainly on your inner world, trying to gain a permanent state of joy and inner contentment can be interpreted as a defensive way to go about life. Denying death can appear to help live a carefree life or perhaps it’s more of a ‘care less’ life raging against death?
A more tranquil approach might be to appreciate and accept that joy and contentment weave in and out through an hour, a day or maybe even stages of our lives too? If we go back to a time when we were born or even before when we were in our parent’s womb and life was beginning, did we experience joy and inner contentment then? If we were fortunate enough, being in the womb without parental disturbance may have been our earliest experience. If only we could remember. Or perhaps when born, being held secure in the arms of our loving carer with our belly full and their contented gaze upon us might be another time too? Again if only we could remember.
Feeling secure in these possible ways is where connection seemed simple, and was before we learned to respond to life by defending our very being with beliefs about ourselves and others. For example, if I smile, will it make a difference? Am I pleasing the other enough? If I try hard and hide what I need from myself and from others, then maybe I can return to that state of inner contentment? To the original bliss, to someone who can love me and accept me (un)conditionally otherwise it may be lost forever; the price you pay though, is inauthenticity, a False Self.
Connecting with others is simpler when we meet ourselves and therefore others ‘fully’. This is where we acknowledge feelings we may find uneasy to feel and provides us with a robustness in which joy and inner contentment can expand.
Embracing all that one feels, experiences, and faces, where despair, discontent, sorrow, and fear are given space to be felt and digested, alongside joy and contentment, allows us to experience the breadth and depth of what it means to be truly alive and live authentically.
Being receptive to our full range of emotions is like accessing the full range of musical notes from which we can finally play our own song. If we restrict them to only the sweetest repertoire in joy and contentment then we play a limiting tune.
To experience joy and inner contentment is to allow for all of who you are and to be all of who you are - your True Self. It is in this place that we can experience the joy of true connection and expansion.
Deepen your understanding of self, using developmental life stages and broaden your inner world and create change in your outer world. Come and learn more by attending one of our workshops next year - look out for further details on our website coming soon.
 Joy to the world – Isaac Watts
 Joy to the world – Three dog night
 If - Rudyard Kipling
 Flow - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi