A Psychology 4 Joy: Defining the Truth and Shadow of Happiness

The Psychology of the Shadow and the Light
Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. (Joseph Campbell)
Finding Joy, A Psychology of Happiness

Defining the Paradoxical Nature of Joy

Do you have joy in your life? This simple question can sum up the oxymoronic nature of the human mind in one swoop. I often love starting the beauty of an overly complex subject, such as finding happiness with its antithesis. No, this is not going to be an article of complaints. Instead, we will explore the psychology of joy so that we may create a little more of it in our life. 

Happiness Defined

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” Traditionally, joy or happiness have competing definitions based upon one’s objective or subjective predisposition. Some individuals have an external locus of control, while others have an internal locus. While neither is right, they lead to competing realities about what constitutes happiness and where one will look to find its presence. 

The Shadow

Finding happiness is a lifelong pursuit. But if you pursue it, as the verb suggests, it becomes work, which can create an antithetical underpinning that denotes something that has to be done versus enjoyed. This process is the crux of habit formation in the guise of rote rituals that may have served their purpose early on but may have no intent or even an unhealthy aim to your current life.

The shadow is natural. Every joy houses the possibility of rote rituals of addiction, especially if the thoughts, behaviors, and actions that lead to the acquisition of the coveted action incur a substantial amount of time during one’s day leading up to the joyous event. While this may sound absurd, take (fill in the blank) addictions. 

Alcohol, drugs, food, sex, and many others can be, at first, a harmless experiment. However, if the coveted event becomes the sole focus, it drains time from creating possibilities for new growth. In turn, the habit becomes cyclical, feeding itself, and what used to produce some element of joy can become, through the ritual of rote action, a source of misery feeding itself. 

While the nature of the psyche mirrors the yin and yang, joy and the shadow are part of the same coin. Happiness and its shadow exist simultaneously, each housing the possibility of the opposite side within its spectrum. It is up to us to grab ahold of that coin, the bad, the ugly, the good, and the beautiful, and make it ours. 

What to Do?

While there can be as many exercises as there are people to create the inner sense of peace and well-being associated with joy, it is imperative to define the parameters by which you will secure your sense of peace and well-being. It is also essential to understand that the paradoxical nature of a concept such as joy oscillates between the light and shadow elements of the same feelings one wishes to create in their life. 

By defining the coin’s boundaries, we can partake in all its riches. We cannot have light without dark. Gold does not exist without the tumultuous work one undertakes to unearth its contents. If one did not exist, it simply would exist outside of the nature of consciousness because that is all that exists. 

In other words, know your shadows. They are the habits that occupy your time, are adverse, but also hold within them the ability to create inroads to that inner gold, the potential that is ultimately yours for the taking if you only have the faith to take the first step. 


In the following articles on happiness, we will give some nuts and bolts examples of what we can do to create a little more of it in our life. While the tenets of analytical and positive psychology form the theoretical foundations for these exercises, they are by no means exhaustive. 

I hope you enjoyed this content, as I believe we all yearn to create a little happiness in our life. Until next time my friends. Namaste, may blessings find you on your journey to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams. 

A Sacred Journey Podcast

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Seeking inner peace and happiness? Dive into this captivating podcast to explore the power of cognitive reframing and unlock your well-being potential. #InnerPeace #Happiness #Wellbeing — Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/thomas-maples8/message
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