In our world today, many people live their lives in the pursuit of this one aspect of emotion above all others. The one constant that keeps popping up in all of the aspects of emotion is the concept of balance leading to their healthiest expressions. Joy, often referred to as happiness, is a bit of a catch 22 for this reason. When we pursue joy above all other aspects of emotion, we live out of balance. When we are living out of balance we find that the opposite expression of joy has a chance to make an appearance.
Remorse is the opposite expression of this aspect of emotion. Remorse is a selfish emotion because there is the expectation that happiness is unattainable for you alone. Joy is often associated with happiness. The pursuit of happiness is interestingly enough a selfish pursuit. When we assume that joy can only be attained through happiness we assume that we must always be happy and so we selfishly attempt to only participate in the things we enjoy doing. Joy does not only include happiness though. Joy has many other expressions. Pride is a form of joy; when we feel a sense of accomplishment at completing a difficult task. There is little happiness in this process. But there is definitely joy at its end. Anticipation is also a form of joy. We have not received our happiness yet, but the excitement of receiving it soon is certainly a joyful thing. And what of affection? Is there not joy in the giving and receiving of affection? Joy comes in many forms.
Remorse enters the situation when we assume that joy requires a perpetual sense of happiness. Not only is this false information, but it is very destructive. Now when we are not happy we become remorseful. Being the selfish form, remorse centers around self-pity. When we are remorseful we feel like the world is very unfair. We see everyone else having fun all the time. Why do we have to work and do chores and all the things we hate doing? We should be allowed to have fun all the time. That is what freedom is, isn’t it?
This position is one of gross ignorance. Joy has nothing to do with having fun all the time. It is impossible to have fun all the time. Things are fun because they are new, or rare. The more we do something the less fun it becomes. If we do something over and over again it either becomes boring or a passion. But something we are passionate about is not really something fun. It is more than that. It brings us true joy, but it is often difficult to master our passions. It requires patience and skill and rarely is all that much fun. All in all, doing things repetitively never leads to much fun. So the only way to continuously have fun is to continuously do new and different things. How realistic is it to expect that we will be able to constantly try new and fun things in our lives? The pursuit of happiness necessitates failure. You will never be happy all the time, because happiness implies stimulation of the new and exciting kind.
You can, however, be joyful all the time. When you are joyful you live in balance. You understand that happiness is a form of joy. An important one, but still only a part of a greater whole. When we live in joy we have the expectation that life is happiness. This is a position of gratitude. From this perspective, we cherish every joyful moment for what it is. When we live in remorse, we compare each joyful moment to the last in an attempt to find out if we have gotten any closer to happiness. The funny thing about this approach is that each happy moment is in fact equal. But memory has a tendency to play tricks on us. Because we long for happiness above all else, we put it up on a pedestal. So when we try to compare our current happiness to our imagined previous happiness, it never quite measures up. Not because we are truly less happy. But because we are living in remorse and so we are tainting our current experience. Instead of truly living in the moment and fully experiencing our joy, like we profess to be doing, we are constantly checking in to make sure we are in fact having fun. Remorse leads only to more remorse. By selfishly hoping to increase our happiness at the expense of all else, we focus only on being happy. The act of focusing on being happy makes us either force our happiness or worse still, wait for it arrive.
Joy is none of these things. Joy comes from gratitude because it is the assumption that when we live in love happiness will seek us out. We cannot help but be grateful when we receive happiness in our lives. We are wise enough to know that happiness cannot exist all the time. You have to have a reference point for happiness to exist. If it always existed it would cease to exist because there would be nothing to compare it to.
Joy is understanding that happiness will come to you as long as you live in balance. Sometimes you will not be happy, but that only makes the times when you are all the more special. Joy, like all aspects of emotion, is cyclical. Once we begin to realize that joy is not something you seek out, but something that arrives through balanced loving, we are able recognize joy more often. By living in joy we are able to see the joy in everything. We are no longer comparing our happiness to the last experience. Now we are investigating our happiness in its every detail. Soon we find that everything in our lives makes us joyful. Not because they make us happy, but because we are able to appreciate every aspect of every moment. Joy is appreciation, not happiness. When we live in joy we feel a sense of satisfaction in knowing that everything in life is connected. It is the connections between events that bring us joy, not the events themselves. Once we begin to open ourselves to the idea that joy is all around us, we begin to see that the path to joy is more important than the joy itself. Once we are able to see this, we are able to always feel joyful. Because we are always on the path to joy. We may not always be experiencing joy. But we are always on the path towards it, as long as we do not live in remorse.
Remorse is a wounded emotion. It is selfish because we feel that we deserve to be happy all the time. So when we are not happy we feel that the world is treating us unfairly. This causes us to avoid things that are hard at first or that are not particularly pleasant. The longer we put them off, the harder they become. Once we finally do get around to doing the things that make us unhappy they truly are no fun. This only reinforces in us that we should try to stick to happiness. But happiness will not arrive all the time. It cannot. So we perpetuate our remorse with each new miserable task. And since happiness requires an aspect of newness, as we age we find happiness less and less while living in remorse. This only causes more remorse. “Oh to be young. To have it all. If only I knew then what I know now.” Remorse creates more remorse.
Joy is a healthy emotion. It comes from gratitude because we feel that happiness comes naturally. We cannot help but be grateful for the happiness we receive when it does finally arrive. Because we were expecting it to arrive, yet at the same time we are able to understand that happiness does not occur at all times, when it does arrive we cherish every moment of it. Joy perpetuates joy. Soon we learn that the path towards joy is just as joyful as joy itself. Once we have reached this stage we will truly always live in joy. Because now we have learned to appreciate every detail of our lives, good and bad. We live in balance, so we understand that love includes more than just happiness. Joy springs forth from an understanding and connection to love. When we are able to accept that love exists in many forms we begin to see joy in every moment of our lives. Joy creates more joy.