No More Time for Joy?

by Christopher Lovejoy on May 18, 2021

When I first began to investigate and examine the nature and meaning of feelings ~ in particular, what they are and why they matter ~ I found myself in a state of being called wonder: feelings ~ are they the same as emotions? What about states of being, like peace or bliss ~ are they feelings, too?

In posing these questions, I remind myself of the following:

feelings are too fleeting to be emotions ~ or states of being

does this mean I cannot say “I feel angry (an emotion)? No
does this mean I cannot say “I feel blissful (a state of being)? No

feeling confused? feelings are responsive; emotions are reactive
and states of being? these openers enliven the heart of your soul

one more hint: a state of mind (e.g., agitation) is not a state of being (like bliss)

I also wondered: where do feelings come from? And why do I have them?

And most interesting of all, at least to me: how do feelings relate to “being and knowing”? More relevant still, perhaps, is this question: how do feelings relate to what I fondly call “going and growing with the knowing and flowing”? In light of these questions, do feelings even matter?

That is, if I am “going and growing with the knowing and flowing”, do I even have time to feel? And what does it even mean to feel when I make no time to pause, breathe, smile, and . . . feel? If, as, or when I merely take note of a feeling, is this the same as feeling the feeling?

Last, but certainly not least, must I have emotions before I can have feelings?

Feeling Little or Nothing > Feeling Something

In my experience, I have found that it’s not uncommon for me to feel nothing, or next to nothing. Is this pathological? It might be, but more than likely, it’s a reaction to a situation, an interaction, a set of circumstances, or a series of events that has exhausted my capacity to feel or emote.

Consider . . .

I watch a documentary on the state of the world and I feel apathetic afterwards.

Or, I tune into a sci-fi movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime that appears to offer a fascinating take on the subject of A.I., but whose characters are portrayed as increasingly dysfunctional, whose theme turns out to be hopelessly dystopian, and whose ending leaves me cold and indifferent.

Or, I spend an entire day delving into a subject I feel passionate about, only to be left feeling anhedonic.

In view of these examples, I invite you to be mindful of these distinctions . . .

apathy: a state of mind indifferent to sorrow and sympathy
indifference: a state of mind where ___ (fill in the blank) is thought to matter little, if at all
anhedonia: a state of mind indifferent to pleasure and pleasance

note: a state of mind is not a (deeper, fuller, richer) state of being

More often than not, a restful nap or sleep can and will cure states of apathy, indifference, or anhedonia, but what if one of these states persists. Could that qualify as pathological? Not necessarily (although, admittedly, one could argue that anhedonia is profound enough to qualify).

Suppose you care deeply about the world and you watch one documentary after another about the state of the world; or you can’t help but go on Netflix or Amazon Prime to binge on dystopian programming; or your passion becomes your obsession ~ all of which have you feeling rather dumb and numb.

Or, you observe that you’ve become “One” with your digital device, browsing or gaming or scrolling, seemingly without end. With a twinge of concern, you awaken yourself with “how do I feel now?” and you justify your apparent lack of interest with a blank stare before attending once again to your device.

So does a pervasive lack of response point to anything pathological? Maybe. It would depend on how quickly and easily you can disengage from your device and devotion of choice. In view of this state of affairs, you might also be given to wonder: “must I have emotions before I can even have feelings?”

A tendency to “rage, rage against the dying of the light” could indicate, not only a loss of feeling, but a loss of capacity to feel, but it might also indicate a series of abreactions, reflecting an emotional condition where the suppression of anger over time became repression as a matter of course (automatic and unconscious), which, when triggered, explodes into “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

When negative emotions are repressed, so too are positive feelings. The release of repressed emotion might be your ticket to feeling again, but the tendency to suppress emotion would best be replaced with the tendency to welcome, process, and release emotions as you go, without indulging them.

With this in mind, one need not emote if apathy, indifference, and anhedonia are given their due.

Feeling Bad > Feeling Good

Let’s begin this section by lending an ear to someone coming to terms with feeling bad . . .

How I handle my feelings of inadequacy is key, but is my nature as human inherently unworthy and undeserving? In being transparent about my feelings of inadequacy, am I actually facing the ultimate truth about myself? And if so, what, if anything, are the origins of feeling adequate?

I know I cannot earn a sense of personal worth through what I do. True, meaningful acquisitions and accomplishments can bring me a sense of relief in my life, but happiness? I mean, is it not true that personal worth based on achievement is a poor substitute for the genuine article?

If I cannot derive a valid sense of personal worth from looks or talent, fame or fortune, then can I at least rely on acceptance and approval, on friendship, or a capacity to form close, caring relationships? Can they not add meaningful value to building a solid, lasting sense of worth?

Not if I don’t care much about myself; not if I don’t care much for myself.

Bottom line, how I feel about myself conditions so much about how I feel.

A part of me feels deeply inadequate, and at times, I cannot help but allow this feeling to convince me, as a matter of fact, that I’m really not all that worthy and deserving in the ultimate scheme of things. And deep down? I don’t think there’s all that much I can do to change this feeling.

Why? Because that’s just the way I am ~ inherently rotten to the core.

Am I right to insist that I am essentially unworthy and underserving?

The worm at the core of feeling good is feeling unworthy, incompetent, or even worthless.

With a worm’s eye view, many can, and do, indulge feelings of worthlessness, but with appropriate instruction, they can also be guided to take a bird’s eye view to correct any underlying distortions in thinking. For example, “I’m such a loser” becomes “oh well, you can’t win ’em all!”

Children traumatized by parents with critical, controlling attitudes are susceptible to feelings of unworthiness, incompetence, or worthlessness, which translates either into introjection (“yes, I’m unworthy and incompetent”) or projection (“I’m gonna be critical and controlling, too!”). The more intense and prolonged the experience, the more intense and prolonged the admission or assertion.

Many such people, as they grow into adolescence or adulthood, rely on all manner of things to assuage their bad feelings, sometimes translating them over time into addictions, obsessions, compulsions, or regressions, and if these feelings are bypassed, the worm at the core remains.

Thankfully, many caring and compassionate people are exposing the food that feeds the worm ~ the many and various distortions in thinking ~ and many more are removing the worm altogether by giving up perfectionistic tendencies coupled to addictions like all-or-nothing thinking.

In the shadowlands of consciousness, one can hear the voices of distress that insist on “can’t,” entitled to “always” and “never,” under the sway of “must” and “should.” Together, they paint a compelling if not disturbing picture of unresolved feelings of unworthiness and worthlessness.

What does one do if one is bathing in dirty pools of unresolved feeling?

Here are some quick tips: first, admit to yourself that (a) I feel bad, and (b) feeling bad is optional. Second, affirm as follows: (1) I feel the way I think, and (2) I can change the way I feel by changing the way I think. Third, tap ‘n tune into just one inherently positive state of being.

Like peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, ease ~ these states are your birthright.

Last, but not least, pay careful attention to the instructions that follow . . .

Key reference: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by Dr. David Burns (if this one is new to you, I recommend downloading a sample; the amount of free content is substantial and worth the read)

Fair warning: entrenched patterns of automatic negative thinking can be highly deceptive and persuasive; uprooting them can be tricky ~ do not keep yourself down if you can’t do this on your own, at least not at first; also, “as you think, so shall you be” sounds awfully good on paper; watch this moment as you ponder: does mood dictate thought or does thought dictate mood? both? neither?

Feeling Good > Feeling Great

For some, feeling good is a major accomplishment; for others, it’s simply a matter of course, a matter of good fortune, to which one might be tempted to add: “of course you feel good, but do you feel great?”

Is this being presumptuous? Maybe. But knowing what I know about feeling, I don’t think so. If feeling good is the cake, then feeling great is the icing on the cake, so why not eat the cake with the icing? Not that I would recommend eating cake ~ the analogy here is too good to pass up.

If your mood is positive much if not most of the time (without being manic), are you feeling good? Or great? And if your outlook on life is positive much if not most of the time (without being polyannish), are you feeling good? Or great? These questions suggest that feeling good and great are relative to the duration, frequency, and intensity of your positivity ~ but only up to a point . . .

Past which one begins to enter questionable territory.

If you feel you have a good handle on your sense of personal worth, and if you generally feel competent at work, in love, and with life, what more could you need or want that would move the dial from good to great? Is it fair to wonder if you’re being too greedy if you aim for great?

This is a question that only you can answer for yourself, but I would add this: I have found and followed two main routes when aiming for great: (1) serving yourself most of the time at no one else’s expense, and (2) serving others a little more, or a lot more, than you serve yourself.

The ideal, of course, is to be in service to others while you serve yourself.

In my experience, moving from feeling good to feeling great seems to be a threefold proposition: (1) embody the intent to assume only as much responsibility as required, helping others do the same; (2) cultivating curiosity as a rapid route to learning and growing in response to adversity or difficulty; and (3) feeling your feelings (fear, anger, sorrow, but also eros and joy) to completion.

Responsibility, curiosity, and transparency are the golden keys to the kingdom of God within.

Key reference: 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership
Note: I highly recommend reading the book by the same name

As a matter of soul, feeling great! is feeling delight! As a matter of spirit, feeling great! is feeling triumphant! These two faces of joy (delight and triumph) can and do e-merge as e-motion, as energy in motion, serving as a powerful reference by which to live the best version of yourself.

When joy is found in eros, however, feeling great! can be taken to a whole new level.

Feeling Great > Beyond Feeling Great

Wait, beyond feeling great? Is this not an invitation to be unduly captured by hubris? It might be, but not if you innerstand the proper relation between eros and joy, manifesting as a constancy of erotic joy in your life or, if you prefer, a joyous eroticism that inspires both love and lust.

Eros, contrary to what you may have heard, is most fundamentally the energy of creativity and creation.

Eros indicates something new yearning to be born, to come into the world as new and fresh and alive ~ think of a soul pregnant with innovative ideas. Eros is not a raw lust arising from deprivation; it’s a lust for life, and can be quite subtle on occasion ~ a feeling, not an emotion.

In word and deed, eros, when coupled with joy, is the juice of life.

Erotic energy is experienced as flow, as a flow in the life force ~ not just tingles in the erogenous zones. A creative collaboration that evokes or invokes erotic feeling is not to be confused or conflated with wanting more sex; this failure to distinguish can lead to all manner of drama.

By the same token, relations with those who repress or pervert Eros are problematic because they expect innovation, while putting a damper on same, but those who can unself-consciously give eros a voice are welcome additions to any group because they can tap and tune eros to generate and perpetuate new and fresh ideas, and thereby breathe new life into themselves and their collaborators.

Expert lovers of eros can (1) process feelings, most notably fear, anger, and sorrow, as a matter of course; (2) release feelings to completion; and (3) grow from this process of allowing and releasing. The benefits are transformational, not only for them, but for those who accompany them.

This threefold process prevents negative emotion from trapping positive feelings of joy and eros.

As for joy, why be afraid of feeling joy all the way through? Would this be too inefficient? Too boastful? Joy is a cause for celebration, or at least appreciation, and those who cannot experience joy are problematic because they cannot really wholly fully appreciate themselves and others.

I invite you to meditate on the contrast that follows (inspired by the book entitled 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership) as an antidote to bypassing, dismissing, and suppressing emotion:

open, curious, committed to a path of going and growing with the knowing and flowing
closed, defensive, committed to being right, even at the cost of losing my peace of mind

am I above the line or below the line?

Below the line, joy is conditional, circumstantial happiness; above the line, true joy, joy “just because,” flows from the depths; fake joy, false joy, is a smile pasted on a pasty face, a happy attitude made fake rather than real by bypassing, dismissing, or suppressing fear, anger, and sorrow.

Beware of joyless leaders, gatherings, companies, and organizations.

If you’re looking to experience some positive juicy delicious nutritious feelings that ultimately serve everyone, look no further than the emotions (and feelings) of eros and joy. The invitation here is to go deeper, to be more intense, without falling off the edge of somewhere into nowhere.

A World on the Verge of Collapse?

In terms of feeling, a world on the verge of collapse is not too difficult to discern.

In terms of feeling, a world on the verge of collapse is a world whose members (a) have a backlog of feelings to process and release ~ feelings like unworthiness, incompetence, and worthlessness; (b) have, for whatever reason, no more time to feel from the depths of being, enamored as they are by feelings that pop like popcorn from and through various states of mind on the surface of being.

A world on the verge of collapse plays make believe, where believing is seeing, using all manner of fakery and deception to insist on the truth of things in spite of the evidence, in spite of expert testimony, in spite of common sense, where feelings cannot, must not, be given their due.

I will leave it to you to judge whether this world is on the verge of collapse, or whether you think (and feel) that an older order is on the verge of collapse with a newer order waiting in the wings to give birth to a world that is inclusive of many if not most of our genuine needs and wants.

Three strategies present themselves in a world on the verge of collapse, which I offer here: (1) go into denial, and make believe “there’s nothing anyone can do, least of all me”; (2) become soulfish by doing your own thing, while (quietly, unassumingly) making the best of a bad situation; or (3) go below the surface of being to find and follow what feels real, true, good, right, fair, fine, and pure to you.

This latter strategy would have us be mindful of what it means to feel little or nothing at all, of what it means to feel bad (and good), of what it means to feel better (and best), and of what it means to go beyond feeling good and great, into realms of feeling that are delicate and lovely beyond belief.

Being, Knowing, Feeling, Flowing

In closing, I realize that I’ve barely scratched the surface of mood, feeling, emotion, and passion.

My primary intention with this post was to give myself an overview that maps out, if only roughly, the nature and meaning of feeling. What I’ve learned is that “feeling is fleeting,” yet also highly relevant and significant to living and loving a good life, a sweet life, even a whole life.

Fleeting, where feeling is concerned, is relative to the height of overview. Does “fleeting” mean a few seconds, minutes, hours, days? A few weeks, months, years, decades? As I said, it depends on point of view, most notably on how high the overview, feeling and flowing into being and knowing.

Are good feelings conscious experiences that arise in the midst of, or in the wake of, a deeply, highly refined cognition? Or can we make feelings arise as conscious experiences of cultivation, calibration, and celebration that serve to enliven, enrich, and enchant our loves and our lives?

How do my feelings relate to being and knowing? I am, I know, therefore I feel.

Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Descartes.

How do my feelings relate to what I fondly call “going and growing with the knowing and flowing?” My feelings, though fleeting, are meaningful, even as I go and grow and know with the flow. I take note of my feelings as they come and go, dwelling on them as and when they feel meaningful.

I pause, I breathe, I smile, I feel into the heart of being, adjusting as required or desired.

As I relax into a positive vibe, I encounter coherence with an experience I can appreciate. In loving, trusting, caring, I can forgive feelings with compassion, even as I continue to ease into a healthy, happy relationship with time, without the burden of stress and pressure, which is good for coherence, where heart and brain can play well together ~ a state where feeling complements flowing.

Coherence is the ultimate state of being where my very best intelligence can emerge, a state with which and from which I can note other states, one where I can work and play effectively and efficiently, easily and effortlessly, without feeling unduly pressured, stressed or distressed.

The words and the deeds, the ideas and the innovations ~ they all flow with effortless ease.

Are you making ample time, or even adequate time, to feel below the surface of being?

May we all embrace mālamalama* on the way to feeling into being.


* Mālama, v.: to take care of, tend, attend, care for, preserve, protect, e.g., mālama life

* Mālamalama, n. (reduplication of mālama): light of knowledge (and wisdom); clarity of thinking (or explanation); enlightenment (Hawaiian Dictionary, Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert (1986)


for those of us who live at peace with love
from joy to bliss, through grace and ease,
the passage of time is invariably timeless

~ yours


I wish you well: ma-lama ma-lama-lama

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