What Is This Thing Called Joy?

I recently read “The Book of Joy,” by his holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The question is, What is this thing called joy, and how is it possible that it can evoke such a wide range of feelings? Paul Ekman, famed emotions researcher and long-time friend of the Dalai Lama, has written that joy is associated with feelings as varied as:

  • pleasure – of the five senses
  • amusement – from a chuckle to a belly laugh
  • contentment – a calmer kind of satisfaction
  • excitement – in response to a novelty or challenge
  • relief – following upon further emotion, such as fear, anxiety or even pleasure
  • wonder – before something astonishing and admirable
  • ecstasy or bliss – transporting us outside ourselves
  • exultation – at having accomplished a difficult or daring task
  • radiant pride – when our children earn a special honor
  • unhealthy jubilation – relishing in someone else’s suffering
  • elevation  – from having witnessed an act of kindness, generosity, or compassion
  • gratitude – the appreciation of a selfless act of which one is the beneficiary
  • rejoicing – in someone else’s happiness
  • delight or enchantment – a shining kind of contentment
  • spiritual radiance – a serene joy born from deep well-being and benevolence

This helpful mapping of the kingdom of joy conveys its complexity and its subtlety.

For more on this topic, I invite you to explore the book, “The Book of Joy!”

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