What’s Joy Got To Do With It?

Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

My 29-year-old, almost-too-pretty, super smart acupuncturist told me I need to find joy.

Joy shmoy,” I said. Not to her. She’s so young.

But, really. Joy? When California is burning? Polar ice caps are melting?  Birds are disappearing?

Maybe especially because of these events.

I was telling my almost-too-pretty super smart acupuncturist, let’s call her Kat, that I am interested in finding a male companion, a partner, a mate. I have been single for about 5 years now and am enjoying my sweet life. I have no complaints. In fact, I am mastering the art of gratitude. Being older, it is easy to be grateful for what is NOT happening. No slipped discs. No auto-immune illnesses. No artificial hips. No hearing loss. Well, maybe a little hearing loss. So, I feel a little guilty that I am asking for more. (But not too guilty. Guilty shmilty.)

And, being a psychotherapist, I am quite clear that partnering is not some ideal, smooth, romantic ride into the sunset. Quite clear.

And yet.

I was telling Kat that I missed the deep intimacy that partnership can provide. The tracking that your person does of your whereabouts. The thrilling adventure of loving another human in particularly dynamic, vulnerable, and fascinating ways. The comfort of having your mate with you during tumultuous times.

And yet.

I know that I have been a role model for some of you. Those of you who are looking for a single, childfree, older, somewhat-accomplished female. And if that is who I continue to be into my elderhood, well, that will be fine. Excellent, really. After all, there is love in my life. Great love. Friends. Family. Clients. Blog followers. (You know who you are.) Fans of my books. Spiritual energies. Acupuncturists.

But wait. What does all of this have to do with my rainforest mind? you ask. Has this blog become something else while I wasn’t looking? Is Paula using her blog for her very own Match.com? 

Well, hey. It is my blog, doncha know.

So, maybe. A little.

But here’s the thing.

I think Kat was saying that if I go deeply enough into my own soulfulness. Below the loneliness, the anxiety, the distress about the planet. Deep into the center of my center. I will find the Love and the Unity. Of the Universe and Everything. And joy. Joy will be lurking there, too. Waiting for me to find it. And to spread it around. I think Kat believes that the joy-spreading may be the energetic call that my man needs to show up. And who am I to argue with a 29-year-old almost-too-pretty super smart acupuncturist? I mean really. Anything is possible.

Carolyn North, writer and visionary describes her take on joy:

“…It is about knowing in our whole beings the deep joy of the Mystery that underlies all phenomena of our physical world, the Mystery that is love itself. It is an energy, a vibration, a consciousness, a gratitude, a feeling that we all have intuitive access to…Once we recognize the high frequency ‘feel’ of this joy, we can find our way back to it easily when those who are threatened by it try to regain control by shaming us…All we need is fifty-one percent of the people accessing the higher vibrations of authentic joy to save us all from going over the brink…Just fifty-one percent of us who know how to love can save the world.”

So, let us all find joy. It lurks in the center of your center, too. Trust me on this one.

And if you run into my soul’s companion while you are spreading joy, well, you know where to find me.


To my bloggEEs: Are there ways you tap into joy? Nature? Laughing children? Music? Researching obscure topics for wikipedia entries? Martial arts? Meditating? Blogging? Playing matchmaker? Let us know in the comments. Your contributions make this blog so much better. Thank you, as always, for being here.

(Note: If you are having a lot of trouble finding joy because of the climate crisis, I just started reading Terry Patten’s book A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries. It looks good.)

(Another note: If you are having trouble finding joy because you are grappling with trauma from your past, read this post and check out the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram.)










Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

29 responses to “What’s Joy Got To Do With It?”

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  3. Ian Avatar

    As someone with similar experiences of being long-term single and often struggling with a lack of deep human connection, I think these issues surrounding partnering are largely culturally bound. I’ve read a lot about the ancient Greeks, particularly Aristotle and Plato, and their view that Philia (brotherly love) and “friendships of the good” gave the highest levels of human connection. They were written at a time when people mostly coupled up for practical reasons rather than for love, and tended to rely on other sources for deep connection, and this meant that we could have several soulmates instead of just one.

    But today, it would appear that Aristotle’s concept of “friendships of the good” is reserved for romantic partners only. I think this comes from norms that evolved starting in the late 19th century, where coupledom became viewed as a source of these deep connections, in the meantime friendships that involve similarly deep connections have come to be viewed as sexually suspect.

    My views are underlined by the observation that I have found “friendships of the good” of the kind that Aristotle and Plato wrote about, and they have generally been my highest sources of joy, but that they have not generally been accepted by society – it is often culturally mandatory for us to mask our levels of emotional connection to “prove” to audiences that we are “just friends”. This makes sustaining them difficult, and usually they fall back to a more casual level of friendship after a short while. In contrast, when “friends of the good” are coupled up with each other, this society tends to actively encourage them to get very emotionally intimate.

    This is the kind of area where my inner state often resembles Kazimierz Dabrowski’s theories, idealistically envisaging “what ought to be” (which, in this case, is a world where romantic love is added to the range of deep connections that people used to get, rather than replacing them) and becoming maladjusted to “what is”, leading to deep existential thoughts and internal states of disintegration.

    I do get joy from other things, but it tends to be relatively fleeting. Examples include observing the power of nature, e.g. watching a thunderstorm or a spectacular sunset, or being creative and getting deeply immersed in the creative pursuit.

    1. Jessie Avatar

      What an excellent comment, Ian. If Paula doesn’t mind my reaching out through here: might you be interested in sharing this in Third Factor Magazine (of which I am the lead editor)? We would love to publish a take on trying to adjust to the “what ought to be,” in terms of friendships of the good, tied as it is to Dabrowski’s work (which is one of our foundational themes). We’re at http://www.thirdfactor.org if you’re interested and I’m at jessie at thirdfactor dot org if you’d like to chat about possible details.

      (I suspect many others at Paula’s site have stories we’d love to share, so anyone else who happens to read this and have an idea…I’d love to hear from you, too. 🙂

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Yes, Jessie, it’s fine to tell people about your online magazine!

      2. Ian Avatar

        I’ve dropped you an email with some thoughts – I wasn’t sure if it was best to email you or use the form at your Third Factor site but opted for the direct email. Thanks for the links also – I hadn’t previously been aware of Third Factor or your blog!

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for this, Ian. I’m sure many will appreciate what you’re saying and will relate to the need for depth in friendships.

  4. Sarah Avatar

    On this topic, I recently picked up a book by an acquaintance of mine. She is a bright, bubbly, friendly, totally unique kind of person. I don’t know her well. But I picked up a book on a whim. I found a light, sweet chick-lit type story…on one level. On another level her characters were dealing with soul-shattering personal problems – one is paralyzed, one is slowly going blind, one is recovering from a brutal attack when she was a teen, and etc. – and coming through them with joy. Not sappy, silly, everything’s going to be ok and we’ll run off into the sunset joy, but actual forgiveness (of self), true acceptance of circumstances. A willingness to work within new limitations and thrive. Really good stuff. I ended up buying two more of her books on Kindle.

    So good that it made me reflect on my own somewhat dark and anxiety prone life lens. And I found a lot of joy-worthy things lurking just beyond my field of vision. And maybe a few things that I should forgive myself for. And maybe a few things that aren’t really worthy of worry.

    I hope you find what you are looking for. It’s also possible to feel lonely in the middle of a bustling family. Things are so busy sometimes that we don’t really look at the people we share a roof with. We check in that homework is being done, and we’re making it to games and practice…and we might help our SO with that potluck lunch item he needs, but we forget to really look at them. Into them. Joy is everywhere, and most importantly, it’s in us.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      THIS: “And I found a lot of joy-worthy things lurking just beyond my field of vision. And maybe a few things that I should forgive myself for. And maybe a few things that aren’t really worthy of worry…” Thank you, Sarah.

  5. River Aaland Avatar
    River Aaland

    Wonderful and timely as usual Paula. I am more and more drawn to the idea that getting in touch with my innermost light and joy through outward experiences (art museums, events, workshops, etc around the things that make me light up) is what will attract the right person to me and vice versa. But it is still a leap of faith! So much vulnerability in being enthusiastic and passionate. Deep connection brings me joy. New experiences and learning. Art, music, dance (doing other watching). The woods. A really great cocktail at 11pm while talking and laughing.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank for sharing, River. I’m guessing that many will relate to the “vulnerability in being enthusiastic and passionate.”

  6. Toren Avatar

    For the past 10 years or so one of the most unusual ways I found joy was tracking tropical troublemakers, aka hurricanes. When Dorian came my way in early September, I do not know why but I actually enjoyed every bit of it: tracking, preparing, the storm itself, and the clearing of fallen trees.
    Maybe the reason why weather is so fascinating to me at least is that it’s always changing and keeps you on your toes. At least where I live.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Toren. I hope more people share their more unusual ways of finding joy!

  7. Sarah Bailey Avatar
    Sarah Bailey

    I wonder how you would characterise the differences between pleasure, joy, happiness, satisfaction and inner peace.

    Are they all shifting states? Is anything permanent?

    What is the surest way to be (or have) those things? It seems like a weird balance between trying and not trying to me. If balance were easy, we would have tightropes instead of sidewalks. Instead we have self-help books, advice columns, mindfulness meditation and no lack of self doubt.

    I work at a high school and don’t have kids. It’s a little rare for me to see a baby, but I saw one today. Seeing him and how hard his mother was trying to tend to his needs so that he would be a happy, healthy baby made me realise that we need to fill that role ourselves for ourselves. We need to make sure we’re meeting our own needs. Going out of our way to make ourselves smile, wanting the best in ourselves and believing in ourselves.

    I think it’s possible to achieve joy, but maybe it can be as difficult as parenting can be.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Great questions, Sarah. Appreciate hearing your thoughts.

  8. Jessie Avatar

    Paula, thank you for sharing a little bit of your own story here. That’s a really great topic that’s relevant to many rainforest minds, I’ll bet: on one hand, we really are good at being alone (in part genuinely, and in part because we got a lot of practice whether we wanted it or not). On the other hand, we still like other people, and it’s nice to share a life with another person, if we can find the right one. And we get used to one…and then come to a fork in the road. If you’re looking for a fork, I hope you come to one soon. <3

    Joy is out there! We aren't promised to find it, but keeping an eye out for it can't hurt. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Jessie! And shall I share your article about me here? https://www.thirdfactor.org/prober-rainforest-giftedness/ My readers would love seeing your online magazine!

      1. Jessie Avatar

        It’s so kind of you to share it, Paula! I got a lot of traffic coming from people talking about the interview yesterday, and I realized I hadn’t been engaging at your site in a long time…and I missed it. There is always a great group of people here. <3

  9. veroniqz Avatar

    I can fully understand. This is my big fortune: to have a true love. Our souls have connected however through great joy in, and love for certain things in life… which led to love for each other. The rest of the distress remains, but in fact I should just be happy that my greatest need is fulfilled! I wish you a lot of shared joy…!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, veroniqz.

  10. Enn Avatar

    I love this post 🙂
    I mostly find joy in action, which is to say that when I engage in behaviors that express what matters to me, that’s when I find access to joy, or when later on joy shows itself in various ways.

    I too lament the climate leviathan we have wrought and can also get weighed down by social issues.

    I have a Utopian leftist perspective to share. Folx on the radical left put into practice the poet Toi Derricotte’s phrase “Joy is an act of resistance.” Bookchin’s theory of Social Ecology emphasizes adopting a natural ethics, including spontaneity and playfulness (along with others seen in nature, like inter-subjectivity, creativity, mutuality, symbiosis, unity-in-diversity, etc.) Chaia Heller’s work is fantastic.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Fascinating, Enn. Thank you.

  11. mhaarl Avatar

    A couple of recommendations, if i may:

    “What is True Love?” by Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj, found on Youtube, related to Joy.

    “Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm” by Isabella Tree, found at all good book stores, related to the climate crisis.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you mhaarl. Recommendations are always welcome!

  12. Nicole Avatar

    Hi Paula,
    It can certainly feel unsettling when others (seemingly non-RFMs) tell us to smile more, to network/socialize more often, or to be joyful, when they have no idea what complexities of thought and emotion brew underneath our gentle, calming surfaces.
    Personally, I tap in to joy in fleeting moments during my day…it’s never a constant though…
    I admire your wisdom and strength to be single yet self-reliant, successful and continuously inspiring to so many of us. You bring joy through these blog posts, I look so forward to receiving them!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think the nature of joy is that it is fleeting. Thank you for your sweet words of support, Nicole.

    2. Someti Avatar

      I can only agree with Nicole.
      Plus, maybe we seem not joyful. But our moments of joy are really intense.

  13. Lisa Swaboda Avatar
    Lisa Swaboda

    Paula, pick up a copy of The Grace in Aging by Singh. I think you’d enjoy it. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Lisa. I’ll look for it!