Laura was drowning in self-pity. After Dan called off their relationship, she began driving by his home in the hope of catching a glimpse of him. She also phoned when she knew he was out, just to hear his voice on the answering machine. She told herself she wanted to feel close to him, but all she was really doing was torturing herself.

There’s a world of difference between grieving a dearly loved individual, who has passed from our life for one reason or another, and tearing ourselves apart with self-pity. Grieving is a genuine missing of the other. This is very different from missing our real self.

Self-pity is about missing our true being, whereas grieving is about missing the other.

Laura didn't begin life this pitiful way. “She’s such a happy baby,” her mom often remarked when she first came into the world. Rarely cranky, she smiled and bubbled to the delight of her parents and grandparents.

But when Laura was three, her mother was killed in an automobile accident. Laura and her father moved away from her grandparents because he needed a better income to support her.

Since Laura’s father worked so much, he hardly ever had time for her. She was carted from baby sitter to baby sitter, day care to day care. Gradually she lost touch with the happiness she had known as an infant and grew up thinking of herself as a sad little girl without a mother.

When the good feeling of ourselves that we begin life with fails to flourish in childhood, we seek a substitute source of happiness. We borrow happiness—from a person in a relationship of dependency, from a drug, or from a cause espoused by some group that seems to possess the certainty we inwardly lack. We only feel good when the crutch we are depending on is available.

Whenever Laura doesn’t have a partner to camouflage her sense of emptiness, she feels as if there’s a giant void in her life. She thinks of herself as one of the “have nots” where love is concerned. Her friends appear to enjoy the single life, but for her life feels meaningless when she’s alone. “I just don’t feel like it,” she often tells them when they suggest going out, “it’s no fun without someone in your life.”

Without someone or something to depend on to make us feel good, many of us would feel empty instead of joyous.

The word "joy" figures prominently in the teachings of Jesus. His wish was for us to “experience the same joy that I do, a fullness of joy.”

The outstanding thing about Jesus was that he basked in this joy even when the circumstances of his life were extremely taxing. Not even an excruciating death by crucifixion could rob him of it.

If pain and sadness couldn’t take away his joy, it was because it didn’t depend on people, events, or things.

Jesus wasn’t primarily happy about something. He had a deep sense of joy even when he was disappointed with or unhappy about things.

When we know Jesus’ secret to experiencing a continuous joy, we aren’t distraught when unpleasant things happen to us. Our house burns down and we’re sorry to lose everything, but we aren’t devastated. A job we love comes to an end and we regret having to leave, but it’s not the end of the world. A relationship breaks up and we certainly miss the person and grieve their going, but we’re not crushed.

Joy has more to do with how we feel about ourselves than about other people or things. It’s an inborn good feeling of ourselves.

Feeling good about ourselves is our heritage, but in the course of growing up this good feeling can become layered over with self-doubt, anger, resentment, and a host of other negative thoughts and emotions—as happened with Laura.

Patterns of thinking and habits of reacting established in childhood block the excitement and joy we once naturally felt. Instead of feeling good, we feel empty, lonely, anxious.

Recovering our joy doesn’t depend on someone filling up a void in our lives. There is no void, except in the way we’ve learned to feel about ourselves and what we tell ourselves.

Joy isn’t what someone else brings us. It’s a full feeling within that seeks to expand outwards. It flows from within to the external world, not vice versa. “Out of your innermost being will flow rivers of living water,” Jesus said.

Joy is the experience of our own wonderful self being itself. It's the divine Presence in our essence dancing within us.

Jesus shows us how we can tap into the joy that’s buried deep within us by learning to master the negative things we tell ourselves and the emotional reactions that destroy our happiness.

This is exactly what he himself did when, hours before his arrest, he wrestled with a flood of fears in the Garden of Gethsemane. Because of the extremity of the suffering he was about to undergo, it took him three hours to contain his emotional state. But he emerged triumphant, fully in control of himself, able to face an agonizing death with a level head and utter confidence that he was doing the right thing.

Jesus' example reveals that it isn't by trying to get rid of our thoughts and emotions that we restore our connection to our inherent joy. It's by facing honestly and sincerely the thoughts and emotions we are having, and simply being with these thoughts and emotions.

Notice how few words Jesus spoke in those three hours in the garden that night. He simply allowed himself to come face to face with the emotions he was having. Then he sat with them, witnessing them.

Witnessing our emotions and thoughts is very different from wallowing in them. Wallowing involves attachment to our emotions and thoughts. Witnessing is simply allowing them to be, without attachment to them—without imagining they are part of our identity.

Allowing, without resistance, is the key. There is no denial of what we are telling ourselves and the emotions we are having, just an honest experiencing of them and observing them from the realization that they do not define us and aren't bedrock to our being.

When we do this repeatedly, as Jesus did this repeatedly that night, their power over us diminishes. As all reactivity and thought dies down, our calm centeredness and joy comes back into view.

Author's Bio: 

David Robert Ord is author of Your Forgotten Self Mirrored in Jesus the Christ and the audio book Lessons in Loving--A Journey into the Heart, both from Namaste Publishing, publishers of Eckhart Tolle and other transformational authors. He writes The Compassionate Eye daily, together with his daily author blog The Sunday Blog, at