Existential Psychology

Joy And Struggle

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I once asked an accomplished yogi how she would describe her practice in just one word and her instantaneous response was ‘joy’. Yoga is not easy, just the opposite actually. It requires dedication, effort, determination, courage, skill, resilience, struggle.

The problem in our culture is that people expect their joy to be handed to them on a silver platter, they want something for nothing. They bounce from one activity to the next and wonder why that feeling of emptiness, that joylessness, remains despite the fact that they fill up their days with diversions of all kinds.

But joy is the result of confronting and overcoming challenges, of the release of tension. This means that tension needs to be there in the first place. People tend to run away from challenges though, they want their lives to be easy, and so they miss out on authentic joy because they’re not prepared to struggle for it, they don’t even realize that confronting and overcoming challenges through the creative use of their human powers is exactly where joy lies. Diversions that simply make people passive recipients might be pleasurable but they can never be joyful.

Our point is that while joy and struggle seem to be polar opposites they are actually inextricably intertwined. Those who experience joy in their lives are those who purposefully put themselves in situations that are challenging, situations that demand creative activity and creative solutions. Running away from challenges and the struggle inherent in them is destroying the conditions for joy, embracing challenges and the struggle inherent in them is creating the conditions for joy.