Considering Existential Joy

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Existential joy is the moment of exaltation in which we are at one with the world and conscious of our being in a kind of illumination that carries a deep conviction with it. This is a state of being that many people seek to experience in their lives. If we cannot have it all of the time, we at least want that sensation coursing through us most of the time.

This is a concept that I have heard little of in the existential psychology. It is more prevalent in discussions of existential philosophy.

But what is its place in psychotherapy?

Existential joy is the direct opposite of existential anxiety. The joy of being one with the world counters the feeling of being disconnected and isolated from the world.

Existential joy is what helps one to transcend the kind of anxiety that is all encompassing.

With the wonderful prospect of feeling completely connected to others, it is no wonder that people seek this experience out as often as possible. That seeking usually takes the form of endless workshops, retreats, sweats, and any other path that one can take to transcend out of their own reality into this place of exhalation.

Some even seek to of find this in their work. Finding work that brings happiness is a goal for many. This is taking it one step beyond, where doing one’s life work brings one to this place of feeling totally connected to everyone and everything around them.

Another place that people seek this path to exhalation is through their relationships. We seek the one, the person who will somehow bring such joy to our lives that we feel completely connected to them and to ourselves. In relationship, some may seek that existential joy through their sexual lives, seeking a divine and joyous oblivion in union with others.

There is a catch to all this seeking of this kind of joy. Much like existential anxiety, existential joy is not usually connected with the outcome of a specific event or getting a desire fulfilled.

I can recount a few moments in my life when I experienced this kind of joy. I have felt a sense of serene joy working with others through their pain. There were moments when I was in ritual with others. But again, like existential anxiety, this joy is not connected to obtaining. It is an experience that rises from within. No wonder so many struggle with finding it, since finding that within one has to deal with all of the internal and external obstacles that prevent us from being present. We have to keep ourselves still, quiet and free from the chattering mind that tells us we are worthless or that we do not deserve. This is hard work.

This all may sound a bit too touchy feely for those who are more inclined towards the intellectual connection to living. Honestly, it may not be. Existential joy can support us when we are still in the mires of depression. It may well us to help us to understand that we are not deeply alone, but connected to everyone around us.

It may not be a bad concept to consider. Feeling connected to others can be a soothing experience. Isolation is a part of life for many in the United States. That isolation can be brought on by social, economic, or political reasons. We can be separated from those that we love or those that are most familiar. We can be alone in a crowded room. Isolation is a condition of the human experience for many.

But existential joy is like a peek into what life really is, joyous.

Can one seek it out? Maybe, but in reality, existential joy is part of being human. It is there within us, but we may not see it behind all of the anxiety and sadness, but we simply have to believe that joy is available to us, not as a gift but as a part of who we are.

— Makenna Berry

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