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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS  - July 2015 - Kansas City

Embracing Joy

By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.


 Joy is often an elusive experience, sought by many and found by few. Merriam-Webster tells us that joy is “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or the prospect of possessing what one desires; a state of happiness or felicity.” This makes joy a very subjective experience depending a great deal on our sense of well-being, our perception of success or fortune, dependent on our very personal desires. The good news is that we are very much in charge of this process.


Embracing change with resilience can produce great joy. Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith, began a forty year longitudinal study on children in 1955, looking at their response to life and its challenges. Many of these children faced very adverse conditions including perinatal stress, chronic poverty and family environments with parental alcoholism and mental illness.


Though many of these children developed serious problems by age ten, about one-third of the children in adverse situations did very well in their lives. Werner and Smith called them, the “vulnerable, but invincible.”


What protective factors helped them overcome the ‘risk factors?’

  • Reasoning ability: Being able to problem-solve helped children increase confidence and plan for the future.

  • Emotional support outside of the family: Resilient people have at least one friend and a network of supportive people available when they need help.

  • Inner direction (internal locus of control) If you believe you can be in charge of your life and that events come primarily from your behavior and actions you are more achievement oriented and assertive.

  • Autonomy: Resilient children tend to meet the world on their terms. Do you meet the world with confidence or apprehension?

  • Sociability: Connecting with others helps us to feel more confident and less depressed; have more resources for encouragement and support in times of crisis. Also helps to build high expectations and a positive view of the future.

  • Seizing opportunities: Children did better who took advantage of opportunities such as education, good jobs and stable life partnerships.


For these children finding joy in their lives depended on learning these ‘protective factors.”


Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. in It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change looks at how the quality of resilience shapes outcomes in the direction of joy and a sense of well-being.  She cites the research of Diane Coutu, a writer for the Harvard Business Review, who analyzed date from studies that investigated resilience in various populations, including many people who had experienced seriously adverse situations. She identified three traits of resilient thinking:

  • A resolute acceptance of reality,

  • A deep belief that life is meaningful,

  • An uncanny ability to improvise.


Interesting that the findings about those who succeed in the face of great challenges are very similar. So, you see, joy is subjective. You are the author of this story. You can control the outcome by what you do you in response to trying circumstances. It seems to be a truth reflected in one’s personal experience and the studies and observations of others. This is good news. We can choose joy by what story we embrace, with whom we choose to associate or by the decisions we make on a moment-to-moment basis.


I hope you can take a moment, reflect, take what time you need, call on help and write a joyful story for yourself.

Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to


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