Joy Doesn’t Need Despair

Joy Doesn’t Need Despair

It’s often said that we need the dark to appreciate the light.

That without misery we could not enjoy happiness.

There’s the notion of yin and yang but is this really true when it comes to our emotions?

Check out this Psychology Today article by Timothy Carey …


  • Happiness and sadness are both linked to the goals we pursue; they are not linked to each other.
  • It is possible to experience beaming happiness in the absence of tremendous sadness.
  • Societies and other social groups could be organized so that people can get what they want without stopping others from doing the same thing.

Throughout my career as an academic and clinical psychologist, I’ve often heard that you can’t feel great joy without having been through profound sorrow. Sometimes the statement is worded a little differently, but the overall sentiment remains the same. The general message seems to be that the heights of happiness are somehow offset by the depths of despair. How far up you go depends on how far down you can endure. You only get to be elated because you can also be miserable. Or so the story goes.

For some reason, I’d never really given this idea much thought. Without ever stopping to mull it over, it seemed fair enough. Just the other day, though, I did look at it more closely. I’ve now worked my way to a different point of view. I don’t think the prevailing notion is right. In fact, I think it might be more harmful than helpful.

Happiness and sadness are not at opposite ends of the same scale. I have no doubt that they are both firmly bound to the process that keeps us living, but they are not organized in a trade-off kind of arrangement. The absence of merriment is not despondency. Likewise, avoiding or ignoring being glum won’t bring about torrents of gaiety.

Happiness feels good. Why should we have to know what bad feels like in order to know when we’re feeling good? That doesn’t seem to make sense. We feel good when we’re getting what we want, and we feel bad when we can’t get what we want.

We can even feel good and bad at the same time depending on what we are getting or missing out on. A proud parent and ambitious career person can, simultaneously, be elated at their daughter’s graduation from her aeronautical engineering degree with first-class honours, and also be desperately unhappy at having just discovered they are being made redundant.

Happiness and sadness are not linked to each other. They are linked to the goals, ambitions, dreams, and values by which we forge our lives.

It’s hard to accept that little babies will be able to produce their delightful bouts of giggling and gleeful squeals only if they have had generous doses of grief and woe. Some babies are surely lucky enough to be born into circumstances where they get what they want easily and regularly.

The current notion seems even sillier if we consider it the other way around. If we can only know joy by experiencing sorrow, then surely it must also be the case that we can only know sorrow by experiencing joy. If this was the way things were organized, people who had never known bliss would be protected from ever feeling agony and torment.

But I don’t think that’s how it is…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE