I am sometimes asked “What is joy?” “How do you know if you have it?” “What does it take to feel joy?”
Nan’s MFT supervisor (and my counselor, mentor and friend) David O. Gatewood identified seven basic human longings that when satisfied produced joy in a person’s life. They are listed as follows:
- Love (worth, uniqueness, specialness)
- Pleasure (thirst, hunger, deep feeling)
- Belonging (intimacy, relationship, covenant)
- Pride (power, mastery, autonomy)
- Security (safety, trust)
- Creativity (reproduction, fantasy, imagination)
- Purity (holiness, peace)
When there is a deficit in one or more areas, we will seek getting those unmet needs fulfilled in some form or fashion. Hopefully we will find a path that takes us to satisfying those longings in a healthy way. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case. For example, if we have a love deficit we may place unrealistic expectations on people who can never fill that need in the way or to the degree that we need it. We may become clingy and moody when they are near and fearful or angry when they are distant. We may either try to control them (aggressive) or reject them (passive-aggressive). The results of our behavior will likely produce exactly the opposite of what we were hoping for.
Wanting to have these longings satisfied is legitimate. Some people feel guilty simply for desiring them, but these longings are universal and need to be respected in ourselves and in others. Therapists would identify all these longings as the components that determine an attachment style. When our primary caregivers (usually parents) have done an adequate job attending to us as a child, it is likely that these basic longings will be met and we will feel joy.
What can we do about it? The first step is to recognize that we have one or more unmet needs. That sounds easy and obvious, but it isn’t. I would suggest that one sure way to identify deficits is by noting our blaming thoughts or words:
- “Why don’t you call me more often?” (lack of love or belonging)
- “You never lock the door!” (lack of security)
- “Why won’t you dream with me?” (lack of creativity)
- “Can’t you let me do anything without you looking over my shoulder?” (lack of pride or security)
- “You people are working me to death!” (lack of pleasure)
Secondly, if we have been hurt, we need to grieve our losses and forgive those who hurt us. Sometimes that person is us, because we have neglected or damaged important parts of our lives. Perhaps we just need to be intentional about making time to focus on ourselves a bit more – or a lot more.
And as always, attaching to God as restorer and provider will help us to make healthy emotional transitions. He will never leave us or forsake us.
Psalm 5:12 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice, let them forever shout for joy! Shelter them; and they will be glad, those who love your name.