Experiencing Your Multiple Domains of Joy

5 min read

The latest proposed theory of joy is known as the elation of right relation. This theory describes joy as: “an intense feeling of heightened emotion as a consequence of just the right fit between our identity and the moment we are experiencing.”

Arnett (2022) investigated the different domains of joy, including those that are positive and some that are not. The discovery of what brings you joy may enlighten you and even surprise you. Knowledge of what brings you joy could facilitate your ability to discover those things that bring you joy and happiness more often.

Domains of Joy

“It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it.”

— Amelia Barr.

Emotional joy is probably the most obvious domain of joy. We experience emotional joy when we feel pleasure. This feeling of pleasure has multiple triggers. It might happen after cooking a good meal that everyone enjoys, or it could happen when you are just feeling good relaxing on your holiday. Emotional joy allows you the freedom and the strength to connect your identity to the moment of your emotional high.

Social joy is derived from social contact with others. Social media and smartphones have created an outlet for social joy that previous generations never experienced, or at least never experienced so easily. This availability of social connection has increased our opportunities for social joy on the one hand but may also have contributed to some of our social issues on the other. Our social joy will still be enhanced when the right fit between our identity and our social experience is happening.

Cognitive joy occurs when we reflect on reaching some standard. This is usually about reaching or achieving some predetermined goal or objective. You graduated from high school or university, and in that moment there may be emotional relief but more notably also some cognitive joy. Cognitive joy can be a prideful moment of reflection that connects your identity to stretching your standards through the realization that you have reached your goal.

Physical joy can come from any of our five senses. We may find joy in listening to music, eating a fine meal, getting a massage, the aroma of a great perfume, or watching a movie. The physical feeling of air moving through your hair as you fly around the rink ice skating or down the steepest part of the roller coaster can bring us physical joy as well. Our sensations are lifted and magnified through our joyful experiences.

Paradoxical Joy

Schadenfreude is the experience of pleasure or joy that is derived from another person’s misfortune or pain. The most simplistic example is when someone laughs at another person who slips on the ice and falls. Usually, or more normally, schadenfreude is a feeling we get when we think someone deserves a bad ending, like a villain in a movie who gets what they deserve in the end.

However, less normal types of schadenfreude are about seeing others suffer and enjoying that suffering. The husband who laughs whenever his wife gets sad and teary — that’s the experience of schadenfreude. What does schadenfreude tell us about our identity? Could it be that the joy of others may be intimidating for some people?

Self-denial can also be a joy of paradox. “You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy,” said John Calvin. The modern mindset sees restraint of the self as very negative. However, John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the early Christian theologians who believed that self-denial was essential to the life of every Christian. Along with Martin Luther, they set the stage for Christianity to see the joy in self-denial as mandatory. How does self-denial support our identity? Could it be that self-denial represents a feeling of being a better person?

Another paradoxical joy is that of the “killjoy,” who attempts to thwart the joy of others. The killjoy is the devil’s advocate. They get joy out of being in opposition to almost everything. When people are having dinner at a fine restaurant and getting pleasure out of the food and the social gathering, they might complain about the “bad” service. Their joy of the experience is derived from being unlike or different from everyone else. The killjoy is more than a rebel because they are getting joy from finding dissatisfaction to displace satisfaction. What does the killjoy gain through this process? Could it be a feeling of independence and power over the majority?

Happiness Essential Reads

Discovering Your Joy

What would discovering more joy in your life do for you? Would it make a difference in the way you wake up in the morning? Would it affect your relationships with others? Would you be a better person? Are these better outcomes than you imagined?

Regardless of the outcome of discovering more joy in your life, the journey of your life might be more pleasant. Since research claims that we normally have seven negative thoughts for every positive thought, we need some strategies to counterbalance all that negativity from ourselves and the people in our lives. The killjoys, self-deniers, and schadenfreude supporters could actually outnumber the rest of us.

“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things,” said William Wordsworth. Being joyful has an effect on our demeanor and our mood. We are less prone to feel and experience the negative emotions of anxiety and depression. Our friends may even notice a difference in our appearance due to the less stressful life we are leading.

Thankfully, joy does not have to be sought. Joy is all around us. Joy from our feelings, our social environments, our reflections, and our senses are always present and available if we allow it to flourish. Let your joyful journey construct your better outcomes. Your self-identity and your mental health will be better for it.

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