Being happy will trigger something bad, so what’s the point? 

For many people, joy isn’t pleasurable, it’s anticipatory pain.

It’s a height to fall from.

Because clearly, right around the corner is something that’s going to be the end of everything. There’s no point in getting their hopes up, so they may as well deliberately avoid experiences that invoke positive emotions or happiness.

Here’s the most convincing argument I’ve ever heard in defense of this experience. Rollo’s book on the courage to create summarized the value of this divine experience beautifully:

Joy is the emotion that goes with heightened consciousness, the mood that accompanies the experience of actualizing one’s own potentialities.

To me, that sounds like it’s worth the risk. Thinking back to times when the prospect of joy made my heart quicken with fear, I’m grateful for every opportunity that opened me to the world.

Each moment of joy proved to me that even though the more things we love and the more deeply we love them, the more vulnerable we are to loss and grief and loneliness when they’re gone, there is nothing in this life that doesn’t go away anyway, so we may as well take our joy while we can. Life is disappointing enough on its own.

Are you afraid of joy? If so, perhaps you have a case of cherophobia, which is the clinical term for the aversion to pleasure.

It means you think being happy will trigger something bad. That joy is a waste of time and effort. There’s a premier study on this psychological phenomenon that offers a helpful scale on how people conceive of, and experience, happiness across cultures. Here are several of the questions.

*Do you prefer not to be too joyful, because usually joy is followed by sadness?

*Do you believe the more cheerful and happy you are, the more you should expect bad things to occur in your life?

*Do disasters often follow good fortune?

*Does having lots of joy and fun cause bad things to happen?

*Does excessive joy have some bad consequences?

And there’s no right or wrong answer. Every culture is different in their collective urge to maximize happiness and to minimize sadness, and ever person’s family of origin story will have a profound effect on their ability to provoke and joy.

But to go out of our way to deliberately avoid experiences that invoke positive emotions or happiness, that sounds quite awful to me. Maybe it’s because my playful nature shimmers and sheds joy with the undimmed hope of a guileless child, but I can’t help myself.

And I’m sure that annoys people, particularly living in a city that is widely known as being the capital of western cynicism.

Are you afraid of joy?


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