Super Joy goes far beyond happiness or contentment. It is the regular and enduring celebration of the delight of daily living, the savoring of the moments of our lives that are all too often missed. This super joy is a joy that feeds rather than takes from the human spirit.”
—Do you think you must get the most of everything you do?
—Do you thrive on stress?
—Do you think you must solve all your problems in order to be happy?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you must read Super Joy.
Super Joy dies not belittle your problems or wish your stresses away. One again, Paul Pearsall, Ph.D., best selling author of Super Marital Sex and Super Immunity, considers how we really live—which is not always the best way—and has developed a revolutionary new psychology, based on being super healthy, super strong, and super joyful.
Pearsall studies people who don’t get sick—despite the stresses of modern lifestyles—and applies their characteristics to daily living. While so many other books have described the psychochemical relationships between stress, depression, and disease, this is the first book to focus on the “up side” of that cycle—joy, a too often forgotten natural human response. Pearsall explains a step-by-step program that can make joy a permanent part of your life—regardless of the outside pressures you endure. Through revealing questionnaires, intriguing case studies, and sensitive examples, he teaches you how to turn on your own joy juices. He discusses joy in working, loving, and includes special messages for those times when you have lost someone, or when you’re sick or hurt, or can’t find someone to love.
Integrating Eastern and Western religions and modern psychological principles, Super Joy is a call to a new way of life—a joyful new perspective on the art of living.
About the author
Dr. Pearsall was one of the most requested speakers in the world, having given over 6000 keynote addresses to groups including IBM, AT&T, Sprint, Volvo Corporation, Prudential Financial, the American Academy of Surgeons, The Academy of Cardiologists, Cleveland Clinic’s Heart/Mind Institute, The 9th District Judges of the United States, the American Psychological Association, the Million Dollar Round Table, the 50 Governors of the United States, the United States Army War College, and at sunrise from the steps of the Acropolis for the Young Presidents Organization. Including Hawaiian, he spoke four languages and was often joined by his Hawaiian family to present edu-concerts illustrating the wisdom of ancient Hawaiian psychology and medicine as they relate to modern medical research in healthy balance between working and healthy family life.
Dr. Pearsall wrote 18 best-selling books, all of which have been translated to several languages and many of which were number one on the New York Times list. His most recent book came out in October, 2007, and is titled Awe: The Delights and Dangers of our 11th Emotion.
Dr. Pearsall received numerous awards for his research on the relationship between the brain, heart, and immune system and his ground-breaking research on heart transplant recipients receiving the memories of their donor led to the formation of the Cleveland Clinic’s new Heart/Mind program. His research on 500 of the most successful men and women in the world titled “Toxic Success: How to Stop Striving and Start Thriving” earned him the prestigious Trail Blazer in Medicine Award from the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. He was selected by the Oxford Biographical Society as one of the 1000 most influential scientists of the 20th Century, and is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Medicine and Health Care. He was presented with the Book of the Year Award in medicine in London, England for his book Super Immunity: Master Your Emotions, Improve Your Health. He served on the editorial board for American Psychology On Line and regularly consults to CNN, Dateline, 20/20 and to Fortune Five Hundred Companies. He had appeared several times on the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, and Good Morning America.
Dr. Pearsall was licensed clinical neuropsychologist, clinical professor at the University of Hawaii, and on the Board of Directors of the Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Health Care. He was a member of the heart transplant study team at the University of Arizona School of Medicine and Senior Research Advisor for the Human Energy Systems Laboratory at the University of Arizona. He was a member of the Clinical Advisory Board of the Hawaiian Healing Program at the Waimanalo Health Center and on the Board of Directors of the Aw International Center for Health and Healing Education. He was president and CEO of Ho`ala Hou, a non-profit institute based in Hawaii dedicated to the study and application of ancient Hawaiian principles to healthy balance in living, loving and working.
Dr. Pearsall graduated from Wayne State University where he received the Phi Kappa Phi Award for academic excellence and from the University of Michigan where he received the Distinguished Scholar Award. He did his post-graduate studies at the Harvard and Albert Einstein Schools of Medicine. His former positions include professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Director of Behavioral Medicine at Beaumont Hospital, Director of Professional Education at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and founder and Chief of the first positive psychology clinic in the world at Sinai Hospital where he received the American Psychiatric Association’s Rush Gold Medal for scientific and clinical excellence.
Beyond the Walls of Normalcy
Certainly it seems more and more clear that what we call “normal” in psychology is really a psychopathology of the average, so undramatic and so widely spread that we don’t even notice it.
From Death Marks to Birth Marks
I will never forget her. As she laughed, her hand went to her forehead to brush her hair from her eyes. Purple numbers were tattooed on her wrist. She called them her death marks but said that they had strangely protected and renewed her life during her suffering. She had been tortured, seen her own parents and almost all of her relatives killed, and had lived in the agony, squalor, and starvation of a prison camp for most of the young years of her life. She had every reason to be weak, bitter, sick, and depressed. Instead, she was one of the most joyful, hardiest women I have ever met.
Why did this woman radiate such a spiritual strength? Why did she not only survive but also flourish when so many others had their strength robbed from them? Why was this woman so extraordinary, so “super normal’? Why did she show such super joy? Why were people with less stress and suffering in their lives less happy and healthy than this woman? How could this woman’s joy have survived, or did she survive because of some inner joy? What made her such an extraordinary person? The search for the answers to these questions about the nature and strength of human joy, about the psychological hardiness that seems to guide some people through life, led to my writing this book.
In my seventeen years of clinical work, the existence of a super joy of the human spirit emerged as the central answer to my questions about the thriving and celebration of certain people no matter what life had done to them. This super joy goes far beyond happiness or contentment. It is the regular and enduring celebration of the delight of daily living, the savoring of the moments of life that are all too often missed, eclipsed by our patterned numbness to the thrill of being alive and being human. This super joy is a joy that feeds rather than takes from the human spirit.
I came to call this human characteristic “super joy” because of its persistent, unalterable strength and its capacity to transcend any of life’s challenges. It seemed to be an abnormal joy possessed by abnormally hardy people and the people who had it were far more than just normal or mentally healthy.
Addicted to Joy
What we call “normal” living is actually an addicted style of interacting with people and events within the self-imposed confines of an artificially limited range of emotional experience. We can, however, expand our emotional domain and know a daily joy that at first glance would seem impossible or unrealistic, but first we must learn to cure our addiction to the “normal” and take the risk of being “super normal.” We are all addicted to what seems “normal” for us. We are pulled through life like puppets passively responding to chemical Beyond the Walls of Normalcy 3 configurations established for us from inside our own brains. We are hooked on our own patterns of highs and lows, stress and depression in reaction to daily living, forgetting that we can write our own prescription for a joy that is much more than busyness and a peacefulness far beyond despair.
Super joy is the natural human capacity for intense, volitional human elation brought about by an intentional addiction to health-protecting and enhancing psycho-chemicals, a new pattern of living and thinking that takes glee to the fullest from our moment-to-moment experience of being alive. Super joy is a joy beyond the rare emotional response that may result from good luck, hard work that finally pays off, or the mere absence of depression or anxiety.
Super joy is the ultimate human experience, the transcendence of normalcy to a high-level well-being, an intense awareness of the human experience typically reported only by junkies getting high on unnatural, deadly chemicals.
This book is intended to help you learn this super joy and replace your addiction to the stress and depression neurochemicals with the psychochemicals of delight. Modern psychology has been the unwitting support system for a stress-depression cycle of addiction in which we are drawn to the intensity of the urgency of living and then crash with the depression neurochemicals that provide a sometimes prolonged escape from our overheated life style.
This book is a guide for new ways to channel the human propensity for addiction. All animals have the capacity for addiction, and humans become physiologically and behaviorally addicted to eating, sex, working, and even doing nothing at all. Addictive behavior is easy because it is automatic and simple, a process whereby we seem to just allow things to “‘happen to us.” Addiction is simply the surrendering of our “selves” to our brains, allowing chemical concoctions to be brewed for us by our brains’ automatic interaction with people, events, or substances.
The payoff in brain-chemical highs when we are hooked on stress or depression is much stronger than any artificial drug or opiate, so it is difficult to take control of our brains and cook up a healthy addiction of our own choosing, an addiction to joy. We can use our addiction propensity for our health instead of against it by learning not to accept “normal” as healthy.
The Abnormality and Sickness of Being Normal
What we see around us, the daily behavior of people we interact with every day is “normal” but not necessarily extraordinarily healthy. Our society considers hard work, intense recreation, vigorous exercise, rushing through the day, excessive eating, frequent anger, occasional deep depression, and sex without love as “normal,” and we have become addicted to the brain chemicals that accompany these so-called normal behaviors.
As you read through this book you will learn to recognize your sometimes subtle and covert addiction to the stress and depression psychochemicals, an addiction that our society views as normal.
You will learn to use your addictive nature to become addicted to joy, celebration, and rejoicing every day of your life, not just on vacations or when you allow yourself “just a little time for joy.” You will learn the secrets of the super joy of the woman with the tattoo on her wrist, a vicious marking that she converted to a stimulus for survival.
Until you read further into this book, it may seem impossible to be joyful most of the time. Many people consider anyone who is too joyful to be “abnormal.” This book will help you develop the courage to go beyond the norm of daily living, to celebrate the emperor’s gleaming nakedness, to learn a new way of thinking and feeling about daily living.
Super joy is a human reflex, a prewired response system that is in danger of becoming extinct through our own neglect. Like a dormant volcano, super joy can erupt without warning. Just as the profoundly intense processes that result in volcanic eruption are bubbling just under the surface continually, so are natural joy chemicals circulating throughout our system. Sometimes, seemingly without warning, our joy overflows and comes to our rescue, and for a few brief moments we remember and re-experience what joy is really like. All too soon, however, we return to our stress or depression addictions, never really learning how to make joy a more regular part of our life. This book is about super joy in daily living, a super joy that transcends the pseudo-intensity of the stress and depression responses to daily living that have come to substitute for a higher experience of life.
The Brain’s Own “Uppers” and “Downers”
My patients are sometimes surprised to learn that they are addicts to their own brain chemicals. They believe that what they do and how they feel are how they must feel and behave. Like the alcoholic who denies the impact of drinking, the stress/depression addict cannot see his or her own addictive pattern.
Even though anxiety and the stress response can kill you, it actually makes you feel temporarily good, aroused, and “high.” Hurrying, worrying, fighting, and impatience result in brain-chemical changes that we get used to and come to feel comfortable with. We keep on rushing, even joking that we are “hurrying to an early grave,” like the alcoholic who downs yet another drink while bragging that he or she can “handle” liquor. Ultimately, this denial of the real damage being done exacts a terrible price.
Crying, complaining, passivity, and chronic depression all damage our health, but they also “feel good” in the sense that we can get used to depression, suffering in a degree of comfort with the predictability of an emotional state that allows us to escape into a brain-induced “downer.” We avoid making the changes that could result in feeling better, accepting the down brain chemicals that offer their unique brand of emotional anesthesia, the other side of our stress addiction. Where there is stress addiction, there is always depression waiting, and when there is depression, stress addiction has been there and threatens the person who considers leaving his or her depressed state. Feeling any other way than sad, and behaving and thinking in any other way than depressed, becomes more and more foreign, perhaps because we know inside us that we may rise from our depression only to fall back into our stress addiction.
Like stress addiction, depression addiction veils continuing damage to the body and weakens the immune system. In effect, we can become as accustomed to being down as we get used to being up.
We end up terribly out of balance and eventually out of time unless we rediscover the joy response to daily living, the only effective antidote to the up or down addiction cycle.
Sick Science, Unhappy Normal People, and the New Science of Joyology
Modern psychology and psychiatry are sciences of sickness. I had trouble understanding how the courageous woman in the example above could not only survive but also thrive, because I was trained to look for pathology or the absence of it, for correlations between disease-causing factors and diseased people. I was not trained to look for what made people unusually strong. I had to look beyond normalcy and mental health, beyond the accepted assumptions of daily living, to understand super normalcy.
Psychology and psychiatry offer help to the emotionally ill but offer little in the way of direction for high-level emotional wellness, for how to be super healthy and super happy every day of our life. These two fields have models of sickness but no model for remarkable wellness. In the attempt to help people cope, survive, and function, psychology has failed to provide guidelines for celebration, thriving, and rejoicing, the real reasons for making the effort to cope at all. Psychology and psychiatry have no model of super mental health, only concepts for avoiding the abnormal and staying normal.
Throughout this book you will see examples of principles of a new science I call “joyology.” Each tenet has been largely ignored by modern psychiatry and psychology, yet each rule is the basis for effective behavior change that results in learning the joy response.
I will review each tenet several times throughout this book, using different examples to illustrate the central points about the super joy experience and joyology thinking.
I propose a new field of psychology, a field of joyology, the study of the extremely healthy, happy, delighted people of the world. I propose another way of looking at the human experience which focuses on the attempt to identify those human characteristics that relate to rapture rather than remorse and attempts to understand why and how some people become extraordinarily happy almost every day of their lives, even if and perhaps because they have experienced severe emotional and physical trauma in their lives.
The case examples in this book are cases from my own practice of joyology. I noticed early in my clinical work that some people who came to me, like the woman I mention here, were extremely mentally and physically healthy. They came for specific help with a transitional life problem, but even though traditional psychology and medicine would predict that these people should be sick, they were flourishing. They were strong enough to know when to seek help and joyful enough to benefit immediately from therapeutic intervention. These are the patients every therapist loves to work with, probably because they give more to us than we give to them.
These are our “easy” patients, more than able to help us help them quickly and directly.
All of my patients’ stories reported in this book are stories of joy. I have changed some circumstances to protect the confidentiality of these magnificent people. Even though they came to me for help with some problem in adjusting to everyday living, they were unique in that they were almost always joyful, even at times of challenge in their lives. Were there characteristics of these people that we could all learn? How did these people become so super joyful? Why were they so strongly addicted to “super joy”? Why did they seem immune to the stress/depression addiction cycle? What can we learn from these people about the promise of super joy for all of us?
A Joyology Case Example
Psychology and psychiatry typically describe the impact of stress on mental and physical health. A stressor is measured, a person damaged by that stressor is identified, the connection between stress and illness is documented, and principles of coping are gleaned from this examination of the sick for application to the well. The woman from the prison camp who showed the super joy capacity illustrates what happens when we use a different approach to understanding human behavior, when we look for what people do right rather than what they do wrong, when we attempt to account for super wellness instead of sickness.
The woman was over sixty years old, but her birth records were destroyed along with everything that was hers when she was placed in a concentration camp in Poland during World War II.
She still shed tears as she described the incomprehensible torture of her experiences in that terrible place. She had lost all but two of her family members at that prison camp, and she herself was tortured. She was within days of being killed when the camp was liberated.
She came to me for help in communicating with her son and daughter-in-law, whom she saw as “moping, dreadfully distracted people too busy to visit a crazy old lady.” She wondered what she might do to bring her family closer together and was frightened that her family was beginning to think she had what she called “old-timer’s disease.” Her family wondered why this woman continued to laugh, sing, cause mischief, tease and play with the children, and otherwise create excitement everywhere she went. She was certainly not acting her age.
Family therapy helped solve her communication problems with her children and their spouses but, more importantly, her family came to see what I saw: a strong, happy, celebrating woman who had every right to hate the world but instead loved everything about living. Her family discovered that they had much to learn from this unusual woman, and that they should be busy learning from her instead of trying to cope with her.
I asked this woman what made her so happy. She answered, “I think the question is wrong, Doctor. I keep wondering why everyone is too busy to be happy and yet seems to have plenty of time to be sad. It’s just in me. I love life, and I learned to love it even more when I saw life treated with such disrespect, such disregard, when I was a prisoner. Maybe people just get used to life and living. Well, you don’t get used to living when you can be killed any moment. I will never take life for granted.
I will never miss a minute of it. My philosophy is ‘So what’s so important you can’t laugh and love?’ That’s why my family thinks I’m nuts. I want to dance, to love, to smile, to fight and yell.
They just don’t have time for such silliness. Almost everything to them is a problem, not an opportunity. I just ask myself one question. What’s the most important thing in the world right now? I always get the same answer. Life! Here’s to life, Doctor. To life!” The woman lifted a paper cup of water and toasted her living, all living. There was a spark in her, a magic that every doctor, student, and secretary in my office sensed the moment she entered the waiting room. One day she saw me looking at the tattoo on her wrist, a constant reminder of the cruelty she experienced. “Oh, so you are looking at my sign again? It’s a sign to remind me to live and to love. To me, it could be a heart instead of a number.” We were both suddenly silent, and she reached out and patted my wrist. “We all have a sign. We just have to look for it. Have you found yours yet?” I now ask you this same question.
Joyology is the search for the “sign,” the wonderful magic of joy that is buried too deep for most of us to lead daily lives with the energy and glee of this wonderful woman. My work with her and hundreds of other joyful “super normal” people resulted in the following list of principles for a new science of joy. You will see each of these principles repeated throughout this book, restated in tests designed to help you measure your own super joy, but take the time now to think about the possibility of a new psychology, a joyology. Your joy journey begins now.
Twelve Principles of Joyology
To understand more about super joy and why and how people are super joyful, we need new guidelines for a new psychology of hope, hardiness, and happiness. We need new guidelines for understanding human behavior. The following twelve principles are concepts for a different way of looking at how people live and develop day by day.
In many ways, these joyology principles are the reverse of more traditional psychological ideas, so you will have to practice a new way of thinking about a too often forgotten human capacity for super joy. The super joy patients I saw seemed to know these principles well.
1. The Making Moments Principle
We come to feel as we behave. Emotions follow behaviors, they do not precede them. To feel joyful, we must first learn to think and behave joyfully. In 1907, Dr. Israel Waynbaum suggested, and current research verifies, that our facial expressions take place before we experience an emotion, not after. Smiling and laughing are ways of voluntarily giving your brain an oxygen shower. When we smile, our facial muscles contract to increase the blood flow to our brains. Our tears of laughter at the end of a laughing spell are ways of relieving the build up of blood supply to the brain. We smile to feel happy, we do not smile because we are happy.
If this new concept is difficult to accept, try the following experiment. Smile as hard as you can right now. Just force a long hard smile until you reach the end of this sentence. If you pay attention to how you are feeling now, you will notice a sensation of more warmth to the face and head. You just gave your brain an oxygen shower and in the process you may feel just a little more joyful even though you didn’t do anything more than “act” joyful. In effect, you created your own joyful moment.
The woman in my example‚ — will call her Clare — her smiling as she walked near the barbed wire surrounding the prison camp. She would take some of her sparse food and feed one of the guard dogs. Clare talked of her “smile walk” every evening.
When she was asked by other inmates why she was smiling and why she fed the guard dog, she would answer, “For life, for hope, for staying alive. The dog doesn’t choose to be here either. He’s a prisoner of this cruelty too. When I feed him, it’s as if I send a message that we will all survive and take care of each other.”
To learn super joy, we will have to learn to think and behave like Clare, behave in different, sometimes strange ways. We will have to learn to think in ways similar to those of Clare, who could see the seeds of joy everywhere. This book will provide specific suggestions for an entirely new “simple thinking for joy” process that asserts the importance of acting and thinking as we hope to feel.
2. The Joyful Teachers Principle
We learn more from studying happy, healthy people than we can learn from the exclusive study of the sick and the stressed.
Almost all of our medical science is based on the study of the sick.
If eighty percent of the people who eat the food at a picnic get sick, doctors will study why and how that eighty percent got sick.
Little attention will be paid to the twenty percent who ate the same food as everyone else yet did not get sick. What was it about those people who stayed well in the face of the threat to their health? The new field of joyology depends upon our learning from the healthy, hearty, and the super survivors at least as much as we learn from the study of the process of illness.
Clare described her own learning of coping strategies. She said, “I watched the prisoners who lived, who could stay reasonably healthy. I could tell that they pretended at first that they were strong, then they actually became strong. We were all afraid, but we learned to change our feelings by acting. Those were the people I copied. The strong ones.” Here’s one assignment I used with my patients. Name five people you know who you think do not seem very happy. Now name five people who seem almost unbelievably happy. Most people find it easier to name the unhappy list because we are used to looking at negatives more than positives. You might also notice that the happy list contains “stranger” people than the unhappy list. Joyful people usually break free from traditional limits and lead lives of more choice and freedom. Being free and being free right now is one of the major lessons joyful people have to teach us.
3. The Altered States Principle
There are an infinite number of states of human consciousness. Sigmund Freud suggested that, when it comes to our thoughts and feelings, we are either conscious (aware), unaware (unconscious), or somewhere between aware and unaware (preconscious). While this major breakthrough in our understanding of the human mind allowed us to see our behaviors in a new light, we now know that we are capable of an endless variety of consciousness experiences. We can even experience more than one level of consciousness or awareness simultaneously.
Clare said, “I could be many places inside that fence. They couldn’t wall off my mind. I could drift away, I could fly. Some days, I felt freer than my guards. They were always on duty, but I was many things, many different things. I could look right in their eyes and smile, but what went on inside me could be something else.” Learning to be joyful is learning about the states of consciousness, how they influence our daily lives, and how to slide back and forth with ease between several levels of conscious experience.
Those persons who are blind to the rainbow of consciousness experiences are less likely to discover the joy response.
Another of my patients reported, “It’s like a trombone. I slide here, slide there, going octave to octave, but I always know the main tune. Most of my friends are Johnny One Notes, playing the same old song and never trying a different melody.” Super joy people experience a range of consciousness, living life on several Beyond the Walls of Normalcy levels and in different ways, knowing many realities and many worlds.
4. The Humbled Brain Principle
The brain is not as important as it keeps telling us it is. The human brain is really a three-pound soggy lump consisting of many mini-brains arranged in a somewhat disorganized fashion.
The brain is only a part of the magnificent human system, doing its job only in cooperation with the entire body system.
“Sometimes my brain would be yelling at me, telling me that I was crazy, telling me I should be afraid, that I was going to die.
My brain wanted me to surrender, but my spirit took over,” reported Clare. “If I had listened to my brain, I wouldn’t be here now.” It is a mistake to think of the brain as the “center” of our humanness, just as ancient physicians were wrong in thinking that our emotions were in our hearts. The only significant difference between the thinking done by our kidneys, lungs, and hearts and the thinking done by the brain is the fact that the brain “knows” that it is thinking and therefore is capable of programming itself.
With this self-programming comes a cerebral arrogance, an unnecessary limitation of our human potential through our deference to a brain that seems to want to do all of our experiencing for us. The “I,” the self, is much more than the reverberation of neurons and we are much more than what we “think” we are. We are also what we believe, hope, feel, and sense. We can tell our brain not only what but how to think.
Our society is going through a phase of “cerebral-centrism,” emphasizing the brain as the center of all meaning in living. This approach ignores the fact that our brains are nothing if they are not synchronized with the system, both body and world, in which our brains must live. In fact, true joy results when we become aware of our connectedness to everything. When our brains are humbled, put to work for us instead of working us out, we learn more about super joy.
5. The Pharmaceutical Brain Principle
The brain is a gland, not a computer. Our focus on the human brain has been characterized by computer analogies. We are even trying now to make a computer that can “think” like a human brain, but such a computer is impossible. The brain is not a complex set of electrical circuits. The brain is the largest secreting gland in the human body, and these secretions are the psychochemicals to which we become addicted.
We either become addicted to the stress and depression chemicals or we learn to become addicted to the joy chemicals. If we don’t write the prescriptions for our brain to fill, the brain will write its own prescriptions. The true miracle is not the human brain itself but the fact that we can regulate the chemical combinations and doses from the largest secreting gland in the human body.
“I could get myself excited about the simplest things,” said Clare. “One day I found a badge from one of the guards. It was rusted, so it was probably very old. I could just look at that badge and for me it became a Star of David. I felt chills run through me as though someone gave me a shot of something. When I got down, I would look at my star.” Super joy results when we do as Clare did and take our mental pens in hand and start writing our life scripts the way we want them to read. When we understand that every thought we have results in a spurt of psychochemicals, we begin to realize the power we have not only to destroy ourselves but to “enjoy” ourselves.
6. The Distracted Brain Principle
The brain is first and foremost a health maintenance system.
While we might like to think that our brains are the center of our rational thinking, nothing could be further from the truth. The brain is dedicated to the survival of the body upon which it depends for its life. The brain’s chief concern is keeping the body alive in the short run, even if its survival actions may result in premature death as the brain ignores the long-run consequences of its “survive at all costs” approach. Joyology is the study of techniques for teaching the brain a broader perspective to living than efficiency in survival. Our brains are for health, not for thinking, but we can teach our brains a more inclusive view of the world in which they live. We can teach our brains to be more than mere survivalists.
Clare reported, “Sometimes I would start to think that I should look out for me and my family only. Something kept telling me to forget everyone else, to take care of myself. Something else told me that I couldn’t do that. We all needed each other.
Selfishness would eventually kill us all more quickly.” Learning the joy response to life depends on getting one’s own brain’s attention away from its focus on its own selfish survival. We need our brains to show interest in our enjoyment, in the welfare of others, as much as to attend to our minute-to-minute individual health. The brain is infinitely capable of doing many jobs at once, but if we do not intercede, it will continue in the self-health maintenance business, leaving joy and relationship with others out of our lives as inefficient distractions, leaving stress and depression as the dominant part of our daily lives.
Both stress and depression are the brain’s means of staying alive in the short run. Stress chemicals keep us alert for harm, and the depression chemicals allow us escape from real or delusionary needs for constant vigilance and self-protection.
Super joy has to do with living over the long run, and the brains apparent preference for the stress and depression cycle is really a habituated comfort with living for now at the expense of the overall life experiences. The joy response has to do with enjoying living over a lifetime. A little stress, a little depression, and lots of joy should be our life formula, but the brain throws in an adaptive style of lots of stress and depression with a few pinches of joy for good measure. We need to change this mental recipe if we are ever to have super joy.
7. Our “Brain’s Not Us” Principle
We are not our brain. Even though our brain “thinks” it is “us,” the brain is only a body part. A simple experiment illustrates the presence of a “self” separate from the processes of the human brain. When the famous hypnotism researcher Ernest Hilgard hypnotized a man, he instructed him that he would now be totally deaf. When Dr. Hilgard clapped two pieces of wood together near the man’s ear, the man showed no reaction at all.
When asked if he heard the sound of wood pieces clapping together, the man replied, “No, I didn’t hear it.” Even though the man had voluntarily “turned off” the part of his brain responsible for interpreting sound, a “hidden observer” remained on duty, a “self” always aware of the outside and inside world, even if the listening center of the brain itself was temporarily distracted by that hidden observer.
One of the most important lessons for learning super joy is to be able to keep an eye on our brain to make sure it doesn’t think and act as if it were us. You can try another experiment to see this point more clearly. As you read this sentence, your brain is working hard. Now, as you read this sentence, be aware of who you are. Even as you read these words, say to yourself, “I am reading this, but I know that I am more than whatever is doing the reading.” You can actually watch your own brain reading. There is something much more profound, something much more sacred, about “self” than the brain can ever hope to understand, but you know who you are. The “you” is what is going to be doing the joyful learning in the chapters ahead.
Clare said, “Sometimes I would have long discussions with myself. It was as though T was talking to ‘me,’ a gossip session between myself and I.” Clare knew instinctively that she was much more than her brain told her she was.
8. The Lazy Brain Principle
The brain is too lazy for joy. The brain prefers efficiency and quick, easy solutions. The brain functions more like a microwave oven than a slow, steady stove preparing a tasty meal. Hope, happiness, and celebration are open-ended emotions based on unpredictability, vision, and a toleration for lack of closure and completeness. All three emotions are inefficient and depend on “what isn’t yet” and “what might be,” a deep faith that things will continue to be good or better. The brain prefers despair, surrender, and resignation, for these emotional states allow the brain to get on with what it considers to be its sole task: seeking stimulation and keeping itself (not necessarily “the self”) alive for the moment. The brain does not want to wait to see what happens later; it wants answers now so it can move on.
“Don’t you think for a moment all this came easy to me,” said Clare. “Don’t think I’m some kind of hero. Sometimes everything within me seemed to say, ‘Give up.’ But I guess it wasn’t everything within me, because something was always arguing against surrender, something telling me to hope, to wait and see.” Learning super joy involves mental energizing and a discipline of thought and behavior requiring every bit as much dedication and stick-to-it-tiveness as any exercise program. Just as most of us would prefer to sleep in and avoid early morning aerobics, so most of us prefer to stay stressed or depressed, for the brain is comfortable with these patterns of immediate adjustment to the world.
Joyology principle number 1 stated that behaviors precede emotions. Motivation is also preceded by behavior, and just as you must force yourself to get up, get dressed, and go out for a brisk early morning walk, so must you start thinking and behaving joyfully before you really feel like it. Once you start the process rolling, the joy addiction will take over in a form of the “celebrator’s high” equivalent to the jogger’s high that calls so many runners out on cold, dark mornings.
9. The Joy as Immunity Booster Principle
The best immune system booster is a shot of super joy. Research in the new field of psychoneuroimmunology clearly demonstrates that our emotions are related to the functioning of our immune systems. While all of the facts are not yet in and the complexities of the immune system’s interaction with the brain continue to elude us, it is a fact that how we feel affects when and how we get sick and get well. Super joy is a joy that results in immunoenhancement. Joyful people get sick less often and less seriously than unjoyful people, and when they do get sick, they more readily mobilize their own natural healing powers.
“It seemed as though there were sick people and well people in the camp,” said Clare. “I don’t know if the sick people had given up or if they were sick because they had given up, but I do know that the happier people stayed healthier.” It is important to remember that sickness is as natural as health.
We all get sick, and to blame ourselves for not being joyful enough as the cause of our sickness is to misunderstand the intricacy of the mind and immune system relationship. To ignore the healing properties of joy, however, is to miss out on one of the most important weapons we have at our disposal in the rejection of the invasions of our body systems by disease-causing agents.
Modern medicine has seldom solved any of the major medical challenges confronting our civilization. Joy, hope, and accompanying social and cultural changes have been responsible for most of the reduction in infectious diseases. The best cultural vaccination against disease would be much more widespread joy.
10. The Hungry Brain Principle
All disease is brain disease. While our environment can kill us, this environment is really a creation of our own selfish brains that choose intense and varied stimulation over peace, quiet, and togetherness. The way we think about our world in effect creates our world, and if we think in selfish, isolationist ways, we will create a world that is governed by the survival of the strongest, meanest, quickest, and most efficient. If we all think “me first,” none of us will last, yet our brains are dedicated to the priority of stimulating the individuals in which these brains live.
Brain stimulation may be in the form of the stress response or depression, for both responses suit the brain’s hunger for input.
The brain doesn’t care if its stimulation is happy or sad. The brain only cares that it is stimulated, and once it receives that stimulation, it is unwilling to give it up easily. Addiction change is too inefficient, too inconvenient for a brain that is reluctant to change its “mind.” Perhaps the most contagious disease of our time is the infectious selfishness at the expense of our environment and the welfare of the total system. Such selfishness is the result of the brain’s stimulus addiction. The brain will eat itself to death unless we provide it with a healthier diet of joy stimulation.
“It seemed as if my brain would go looking for trouble. I would try to sleep at night, and my brain would keep telling me that they were going to come and get me. I had to learn to shut that off.” Clare’s statement shows the brain’s insatiable striving for stimulation, even if that stimulation is potentially health threatening.
As a test of this tenth joyology principle, think of any major disease that continues to be “incurable.” Now try to think of any way that disease might eventually be cured without some increase in unity, some sacrifice and caring among all people. Even if some magic drug could be discovered to “cure” the disease you named, it is unlikely that such a drug could even be devised without selflessness and caring on the part of many people.
Only when the immune system is viewed as a world system will disease be reduced. The brain is wrong when it thinks that, if the body in which it lives is alive, then that is all that matters. Super joy means a system joy, and true joy is impossible while people around us are suffering and we do nothing to help.
Clare reported that she drew strength from those times when she was able to help others in the camp, even if such help appeared minor. “I would hold one man’s hand every morning when the guards came,” she said. “He would shake terribly as they stomped by. I would just sit and hold his hand. He said it gave him strength, but it seemed to give me more strength. I seamed to get some type of energy from calming him, from comforting him.” Clare’s gesture of support created a “mini-system,” a small pocket of protection that enhanced the well being of both Clare and her co-prisoner. Like immune cells that join to resist an invading virus, these two people joined together for a strength of unity and security. Super joy is a manifestation of this unity, of a coming together within the overall system regardless, even because of, the challenge.
11. The Safe Addiction Principle
The best drug-testing program is in the human brain. The brain has pretested hundreds of psychochemicals over five hundred million years. It has selected primarily the survival chemicals of stress to help us “win” and depression when we feel we have “lost.” The stress chemicals help us keep going until we drop. The depression chemicals help us drop. We are on a neurohormonal carousel, and only joy can help us slow that carousel for a more enjoyable ride.
The super joy chemicals have also been well tested through the brain’s million-year drug-testing program, but few of us are “taking” many of the joy juices. We are too busy “going” and “dropping,” too busy using the survival addictions to pay attention to our capacity for a thrival addiction.
“I can still feel the way I felt in that camp,” reported Clare.
“There was a certain invigoration, even though it was hell. It’s as though God gave me something to ease the pain.” Clare is describing in this statement her own pretested psychochemicals, which protected her in this threatening situation, lifting her and energizing her even when her environment was the ultimate in stress and pain.
The joy response is prewired into the human system. Like a new home with wiring for phones that have not been installed, the joy response circuitry is going largely unused, or at least is underused.
The healing psychochemicals produced within the brain are there for us, but we must make connection with them.
The joy response is a reflex, a prewired response system available on demand. This joy response, super joy, is hidden away, far back in the brain medicine chest, behind the stress and depression bottles. This book is intended to help you reach far back to take a dose of the joy medication made and tested for you by the human brain.
12. The Health Is Not Enough Principle
Being healthy isn’t enough. We can learn a super health, to move far beyond being normal, okay, just fine, happy, or “fine, thank you, how are you?” We can move beyond the absence of symptoms to the presence of joyful emotional vitality and vigor. In our pursuit of normalcy, we have lost sight of the extraordinary, the “super.” This book is about the “super,” a joy that sends vibrations of wellness through our very spirits and the spirits of those to whom we relate.
Clare described “the leaders.” She said, “In the camp, some of the prisoners became like role models for the rest. People looked up to them. They just had something special.” These were the super joy people, the thrivers.
When I first decided to write about super joy, some people resisted the idea. “I’m happy and so are most people,” said one friend. “I don’t get it. How is joy or super joy different than being happy?” The answer rests within your own experience.
Think now of a time when you were more than happy. Think of a time when you were ecstatic, jubilant, delighted, enraptured, exhilarated, fascinated, captivated, enthralled, and thrilled all at the same time. It may take some time to think of such an experience, but when you do, try to remember how you felt. That’s super joy! It’s real, but it is all too rare. Sometimes just recalling the event is accompanied by the brain’s secretion of a dose of super joy chemicals.
You see the joy reflex in a dog when he greets his master, in a child when his or her mother returns, in the face of a parent at the birth of a child. It’s a super experience because it goes beyond just being happy to being thrilled with being alive.
In the list above, only the dog greeting his master seems to experience super joy several times a week, even several times a day. The dog behaves as if his master has been gone for years, even if he or she has been gone only a few hours. The dog has mastered the “as if” approach to life that makes super joy possible on a more regular basis. Imagine if we all said hello and good-bye as if such times were truly special and unique. Foolish, you may say.
Who could behave like that? We would all look crazy or abnormal. If being delighted much more often is abnormal, then this is a book about the joy of abnormal psychology.
One of the most limiting words in our vocabulary is the word “overjoyed.” The problem in our society is really that we are underjoyed. We need a new psychology that is not afraid to speak of hardiness, happiness, and hope as a regular pan of daily living, as an addiction to the celebration of life.
This new field of joyology with its twelve principles described here is not a Pollyannaish escapist approach to life. Rather, these principles represent a total immersion in living, an acknowledgment that there is much more to living than we are taking from our lives. Even in the terrible environment of that prison camp, Clare was able to create her own world, to mold it and survive it.
She said, “There came a time when you had to decide not to surrender but to accept, to get involved in the experience and change it from inside. When you did that, you went outside the walls.” If you think the idea of total, super joy is silly, you may need this book more than anyone else, for your stress or depression addiction has blinded you to the light of life’s brilliance. Open your eyes, open your heart, and the light of joy will draw you into a new joy of daily living.
A Map for the Joy Journey
I have divided this book into three sections. In Part One, I review the six major characteristics of the super joy experience. I present new ways of thinking about life experiences that are based on the joyology principles that are most likely to lead to super joy. I present a test of your own super joy quotient and review the psychochemical nature of super joy as it compares to other human responses. I end SECTION ONE with a “joy spiral” model for your own learning of the super joy response.
Part Two deals with the mind and super joy, and the issues of work, love, and faith as they relate to super joy. Both SECTIONS ONE and TWO contain self-tests to help you measure your own super joy in relation to several issues of daily living. You will see the same twelve joyology principles presented in this chapter reviewed throughout each chapter. This review and repetition with different examples is essential for the reprogramming process necessary to help you change your brain’s mind to a more joyful view of life.
Part Three presents six joy letters to people with specific concerns or crises in their own lives. If you are such a person, you may want to read the letter or letters that deal with your problem before reading the first two sections. The letters and all of the material in this book contain several reviews of the super joy concept. This allows you either to read the book from beginning to end or to skip around as you find helpful. The joy letters also contain descriptions of the basic super joy principles so each letter stands as a complete joy message in itself. At the end of each letter are suggested additional readings and directions to parts of this book that go into more detail on the issue addressed in the letter.
Finally, I have included a glossary of new terms related to the new field of joyology and a complete set of references and a bibliography. Research in the field of joyology is just beginning and is drawn from diverse sources, so you may want to check some of the references for yourself to see how this exciting new field is beginning to grow and what new findings are supporting the idea that super joy is not just a dream, it is a real human gift.
“But what is it like?” asked one of my patients. “Tell me what makes up this super joy. What goes into it, what are the parts of it?” The next chapter describes one woman’s super joy experience and illustrates the basic six components that make up a super joy experience.
Before you read on, take a few minutes alone, sit quietly, and think about the most joyful moment of your life. Think what life would be like if the characteristics of that wonderful time were much more a pan of your everyday life. I hope and believe that the chapters to follow will help you make such a dream real.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published May 2012
Size: 229 x 152 mm