Learning from the Terrain of Joy

Updated: Feb 24

Much research has been devoted to how we learn from our suffering. Understandably, for survival purposes, our brain is designed to prioritize attention to our pain more than our pleasure in order to learn how we can overcome adversity and avoid repeating misery.

Interestingly, little attention has been devoted to how we can learn from joy. Mostly, because joy does not present urgency to end a pleasurable experience. Indeed, we do what we can to prolong rather than avoid joy. The total opposite of what we do when confronted with suffering.


But if we learn the terrain that sustains joy as well as what promotes suffering, we can begin to navigate our way into what I call masters of abundance. The terrain of suffering is constituted by fear, helplessness, isolation and self-neglect. Without our awareness, we embrace a consciousness that perpetuates rather than resolve what we so diligently want to avoid.

Then, what is the terrain of joy? Fortunately, just as we can learn from suffering, we can equally cultivate a consciousness of joy.


Initially, the brain needs to assimilate that, while learning from suffering promotes survival, lessons from joy empower existential meaning. I propose that to understand the terrain of joy we defer to Aristotle’s concept of eudaemonia: Finding pleasure in purpose and service.


But before we can actualize Aristotle’s wisdom, we need to cultivate a worthy self that can accept the terrain of joy. And this is where biocognitive science can move us beyond armchair philosophizing. Thus, worthiness has its own terrain, culturally constructed with emotional elegance learned from our heroes and from our moments of nobleness in the face of vulgar eyes.


Moreover, in the process of claiming our worthiness, we need to slay cultural demons that wounded us with abandonment, shame or betrayal when our hearts were young. The hero within can enact commitment, honor and loyalty to reclaim our place in a domain of abundance. Not because we deserve it, but because it is our inherent gift to travel our personal journey with maximum joy. Such is the way of the Drift.