Sympathetic Joy

December 27, 2004 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment

“In seeking happiness for others, you find it for yourself.”

Anonymous

Sympathetic Joy can most simply be defined as taking delight in your own successes and the wish for greater success, as well as pleasure in the happiness of others as if it were yours. It is the understanding that someone else’s joy doesn’t threaten our happiness; it actually enhances our own happiness.

In the midst of the demands of our life, we can fall into two common traps that are symptomatic of our comparing mind. One trap is when we play our own success down: “It was nothing,” or “I didn’t try that hard.” In this way, we are not acknowledging or honoring our own success, respecting who and how we are. At some level we are sure that we are not good enough. The second trap that we can fall into is comparing ourselves to others in ways that produce envy and jealousy. You might notice a contraction that appears in your heart when someone talks about their successes. This is the opposite of sympathetic joy. We are separating ourselves when we assess ourselves in relation to someone else’s experience.

Cultivating the capacity for sympathetic joy enables us to connect to ourselves and others more deeply. In rejoicing in the good fortune of others we overcome resentment, envy, and jealousy and even find inspiration in the accomplishments of others. Ultimately, sympathetic joy keeps us intimately connected to others without being overwhelmed by the sight of the world’s suffering, including our own.

To practice sympathetic joy, you can repeat these simple statements to yourself:

May I enjoy my successes; may they grow and increase.

May others enjoy their successes; may they grow and increase.

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Julie Forbes, Ph.D.

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