Do you know the story of this person who was chronically ill until the day he or she fell in love? And that of new grandparents who found meaning in life when their youngest reaches out to them for the first time? Perhaps you have felt a special sense of well-being the day you bought an animal?
All these examples illustrate the underused power of social joy. The joy of a shared attention or presence (Leboeuf, 2017). Human beings have a thirst to exist in the eyes of others, to be seen or to share a direction. It’s as important as food needs. This need has been well studied in the Attachment Theory. Social joy is the emotion that emerges when this basic need is satisfied. It indicates a space of growth or expansion of oneself in the relationship. It not only allows the emergence of a feeling of well-being and relaxation, but also a better regulation of our negative emotions. You have surely noticed that spontaneously a child who is afraid, snuggles in the arms of a parent. Feeling the presence of others calms us down and we can, as we evolve into adulthood, use this strategy to better deal with stressful or scary situations.
But our culture disconnects us more and more from those around us. We are encouraged toward autonomy and interdependence is seen as a weakness; while there is a form of joy and perhaps even happiness to grow within harmonious relationships.
A simple strategy to strengthen the social joy in our lives is to pay attention to others by returning to the present moment. Take time for a break with colleagues or at home. Close the « to do » lists and look at the people around us.
When we are present to the beings around us, a silent process occurs, synchronization. Our brain will not only regulate our heart, respiratory and cerebral rhythms but also the rhythms of those around us. A bit like an invisible dance. Our body will vibrate to the pace of our loved ones and this especially if we show empathy.
To explore this process, as part of my doctorate I developed a simple exercise: « the smile exercise ». Visualizing a caring person who smiles at us increases our positive emotions but also reduces our negative emotions. The image in introduction of the paper is what participants felt when they did this exercise.
The joy of being together, around a table or a firework, walking together or laughing; allows us to recreate a “secure”, non-judgmental space from which we can explore while feeling supported.
It is this space that opens the door to play, to appeased learning, or exploration. But it is also a space that will be beneficial to therapy and will allow to welcome, validate, and integrate the suffering (a space of compassion).
It’s a treasure from which we so often seem to have lost the key. TO find it, we travel very far, cross mountains and torrents and finally discover, at the foot of a tree that it never left us.
And you? What are your sources of social joy?
When modern-day crooner Trey Songz sings, “Cause girl, my heart beats for you,” in his romantic ballad, “Flatline,” his lyrics could be telling a tale that’s as much physiological as it is emotional, according to a new study that found lovers’ hearts indeed beat for each other, or at least at the same rate.
When an empathetic partner holds a lover’s hand, their heart rates and breathing rates sync and her pain subsides, new research shows. Authors say such ‘interpersonal synchronization’ could play a role in the analgesic impacts of touch.
Making eye contact with an infant makes adults’ and babies’ brainwaves ‘get in sync’ with each other — which is likely to support communication and learning.
Isabelle Leboeuf, Psychologist, Psychotherapist
In my therapy practice I integrate Hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Compassion-Focused Therapy. As I continue to work toward my PhD in Psychology, I’m studying the links between Compassion and Positive Social Emotions from the point of view of experimental psychopathology and clinical applications.
I’m the happy mother of two kids and the aunt of three. I live in the northern part of France. Compassion and Love are the Values that guide me.