What Happened to Joy?

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What Happened to Joy?

The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.
-Marcel Proust

Since beginning this work in 1982, I have noticed a cultural pattern that disturbs me greatly, and one that I think is having a profoundly negative impact at the conscious and unconscious level. I have noticed that it’s much more acceptable to have a problem or many problems, or to be depressed than it is to be excited, joyful, delighted, and glowing with beauty and health.

There are so many signs, subtle and blatant, that signify this preference. People who are needy, see themselves as taken advantage of by someone more powerful than they, or victimized get lots of attention, sympathy, and supportive conversation. People who are enthusiastic and self-reliant, who can take care of themselves, get very little. As a matter of fact, very often someone who is excited and filled with joy is blatantly judged as being phony or trying “to pull the wool over our eyes.” Suspicion, doubt, and the fear of “being taken for a ride” often follow someone who feels good and looks happy!

What happened to joy? Why this apprehension or taking down a notch of happy people? I could give you a couple hundred historical reasons, but so what. All that would create is an understanding of why we are messed up in our priorities. And we are! We live in the midst of a world that is both good and bad, perfect and imperfect, and everything in between. We live in a country that is one of the richest in the world with freedom of choice, and yet we seem to be in a constant grieving process for what we don’t have!

In my travels to Nepal, Bhutan, and Thailand over the years, I have seen some of the deepest economic poverty imaginable. In 1989, when I first traveled from the airport in Kathmandu to our hotel, I was in tears seeing children with distended stomachs, flies circling their eyes, and filth in the street. My heart was breaking. It took me two days to see that those same children were smiling and laughing, holding each other’s hands, and taking care of each other. They were strong and healthy in body, and with so little they were rich in spirit and love.

Joy is the feeling of great pleasure and delight, elation! Enthusiasm means to be filled with God, inspired. Both are signs of the light and life energy within each one of us. You may have noticed, the more you focus on what you don’t want, the more you create it and all the feelings that go with it—anger, resentment, frustration…poverty. Our world will always be filled with paradox and things we do not understand or agree with, even things we hate. Does that mean that we cannot be joyful? No.

Our most important question is not, “Why do I deny my joy?” It is, “How do I deny my joy?” How do I miss the things in my life that are filled with joy? By not looking for them! Dr. Martin Seligman said, “Careful research shows that people with pessimistic habits of thinking can transform mere setbacks into disasters.” We spend so much time looking for what’s missing, what’s wrong, that we forget to be grateful for what is present! We are surrounded by beauty in every moment, nature, the human spirit, and many times all we see is the stain on the carpet at our feet.

We have good reason to choose joy. It’s healthy, it feels good, and it’s contagious! Laugh and your immune system is strengthened. Dance and your body is washed with endorphins. Play and you feel like a child, resourceful, creative, and spunky. There is research data that now suggests that happy people, in general, live longer, more meaningful lives.

The first step to joy is appreciation, seeing value in the smallest things and even the most difficult things. The second step is gratitude, being thankful for the experiences life offers us. The third step is the decision to use everything in life as a tool for learning and expanding consciousness. Each step is a powerful shift in perspective from scarcity to abundance.

When we open to the positive, more and more keeps rolling in! What happened to joy? Nothing. Maybe it’s time to remember it, to look with new eyes at all there is to be grateful for and to allow joy to fill your being.


1. What happens for you when you listen to someone tell their story of being mis- treated or taken advantage of at work, at home, and in relationships?

2. Have you ever thought you were being judged for expressing your joy and playfulness? What did you do in response?

3. How do you deny yourself joy? What thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?

4. How are you going to use steps 1–3 to bring more joy into your life?

With love and gratitude,
Kris King

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2 Responses to “What Happened to Joy?”

  1. Ole says:

    Good job again! That one really hit home. Namaste’

  2. Deborah Bruce says:

    Thank you Kris, that was a really good reminder that joy is all around me. Xo Deb