Psychology of Joy

I recently stumbled across some psychology terms that made a lot of sense for Keys to Joy.   These are concepts that I have learned through my own trial, error and personal experimentation. I love that the realizations that I pieced together on my own, from my own life, have been scientifically studied and “proven”.  It is nice to have that objective confirmation.  It also motivates me to keep on chugging!

These concepts are in relation to a field of psychology called positive psychology in which Dr. Martin Seligman is a pioneer.  He studied the concepts of Permanence, Pervasiveness, and Personalization in terms of Learned Optimism (which is also the title of his book).  Pessimists and optimists differ in the way they handle these 3 P’s.

If you are interested, check out his work in depth.  But in a nutshell and in my words, I’ve summarized the 3 P’s as such.  When faced with a challenge or unwanted circumstance, to be optimistic -or joyful- we must tell ourselves the following:

Permanence:  This is not permanent.  In other words, this too shall pass.

Pervasiveness:  This need not affect all areas of our lives.  Just because this one thing is not going as we want it, we are still happy in other areas of our lives.

Personalization:  This is not because we are unworthy or bad.

Awareness of these 3 P’s have saved me many times from falling into a terrible funk.  In retrospect, and possibly more importantly, I now clearly see that the times I did fall into funks were usually a result of believing it was an everlasting situation; letting it infringe upon the other areas of my life that had no relevance to that particular situation; and believing that my unworthiness, being not good enough, somehow was responsible for its occurrence. The 3 P’s definitely led me to the Pits!

An example of Permanence was, well, pretty much every time I got down I never could see the end of the tunnel.  My ego always had me thinking the bad stuff was forever.

An example of Pervasiveness was a time when I had a series of crappy work situations.  I completely lost perspective and I actually remember thinking these exact words:  ‘I can’t enjoy fall this year.’  My work life was so bad (or so I imagined), that I thought I did not have the right to find joy at all.  Even in nature and the weather!

Looking back, I can see how this doesn’t even make sense.  However, when I add the Personalization part, I can understand how this idea came to be.  When I believed the bad work situation was a result of my lack of worth or incompetence, then of course, how could I allow myself to find any joy when I believed I lacked value as a person.

The 3 P’s really work together and feed off of each other.  So, how do we keep the feeding frenzy in check?

First, realize this is the ego at work.  Permanence: The ego is not aware that everything changes and nothing is permanent.  The ego does not know about the soul and how Life goes on.  Pervasiveness: The little ego cannot get perspective to see that one thing does not affect everything. It can only see from its limited view.  Personalization:  The ego thinks everything is about ourselves and how great, or not great, we did.

The next step is pretty simple.  When faced with a negative or challenging situation, remind ourselves the crap isn’t forever.  Even if the situation does not change, the bad feeling will.  We can still enjoy other things in life amidst the unwanted circumstance.  And most importantly, remind ourselves that we are worthy and have value no matter what situation or circumstance confronts us (increasing self-worth posts).

Have the 3 P’s worked against you?  Realizing how can help you to not do it when the next challenge or negative circumstance arises.

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