Othering Joy

Rhea D'Souza
5 min readNov 7, 2022


He : “What happened ?”

Me : ” Nothing..I am feeling Sad”

He: “Oh.. I am sorry!!! What can I do”

Me: “No don’t be sorry…what is there to be sorry about?”

He: “I am sorry..you are so unhappy”

Me: “I am not unhappy”

He (confused) — “But you said you are sad?”

Me: “yes..(more confused) ..I am sad. But I am Not unhappy”

Silence (confusion continues)

Not the first time, not the first person. I have been on both sides often.

How we understand, talk about, refer to, or don’t make such a difference to one’s experience of self and others

In doing grief work. I have come to accept sad as an emotion that is valid and has a rightful place in our midst.

Sad, is when we experience a loss of someone, (including parts of ourselves), or something.

And since nothing remains, loss is imminent and therefore so is sadness. — Yet we deny it. And want to control it by either drugging or dreaming it out.

Let’s just pause and look at it for a minute

So (un) happy — is when I am Not feeling that feeling of happiness. Have you heard any other “emotion” being referred to as its opposite?. Have we heard of un-angry, un-helpess, unconfused, unhurt? so why happy and un-happy? . I looked up emotions and feeling words. and many of the “un” words are attached to “positive” feeling words only. Un-comfortable un-affectionate, uninterested, Un-inspire. and so on. hummm…. why ?I wonder.

Happiness is a state. When I am reading, walking by the shore, being with loved ones, I am happy.

And that can be so many other things and situations, (that is I an be Unhappy in so many other emotional states also).

But, as I am seeing it, we have somehow equated” Feeling sad” to “Being unhappy”.

When I am angry — I am not happy

When I am afraid — I am not happy

When I am distraught — I am not happy ..and so on and so forth

So why do we single out sad for meaning, one is not happy. I don’t come across people saying to someone who is angry, “I am so sorry you are unhappy, can I do something”.

No wonder, we have to then feel as if something is wrong with this being sad, and we MUST be happy again. And that is perhaps how we illlegitimise sadness, and grief. By forcible, and wrongly comparing it with happiness.

I mean, come on, have we not felt really happy after a good cry? And if “Happiness” was the only thing everyone was looking at, more than 50% percent of the film industry would be shut. Not to mention, the food business.

But it is not. And therein we have the proof.

It is difficult as it is to feel. And when one does, one gets labeled and judged and gets involuntarily signed up for “we must make you happy campaign”

Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Joy is a feeling, happiness is a state an expression perhaps.

Sometime, we feel happy just screaming with joy

Sometime, we feel happy at really letting our anger go and maybe do some kick boxing (I have tried wood chopping with same effect, but kick boxing is more accessible)

Sometime, it feels good to just see a sob movie and cry (knowing we will, that is the whole point)

Heck, sometimes we feel happy, feeling anxiety and fear also (that’s how we have joy rides and suspense thrillers)

So, coming back, feeling sad and happiness are not interdependent.

I am feeling sad and I am happy with it. I don’t see or experience a paradox. The happiness comes from the fact that I am able to feel, I am not numbed out or dead, that I know this thing, this person mattered. That therefore there is a connection…

And so feeling sad, helps me connect and maybe even grateful. And I am happy about that.

Perhaps we have bought in to the “promote” happiness slogan too quickly and too mindlessly.

Perhaps that is how we have more Apathy in the world, because we have equated happiness as opposite of sadness and, of course we MUST be happy, that is what all the ads tell us, so it must be true. So sadness must NOT be felt.

Apathy by the way, comes from Greek apatheia, from apathēs ‘without feeling’, from a- ‘without’ + pathos ‘suffering’.

So just like that over a period of time, and some brain washing later, we have collectively come to accept definitions without thinking.

Why is this important?. Because we are living the Chinese curse, we are living in “curious times” .And there is loss and suffering and we are not able to feel.

For those who do feel, get labelled and often ostracised. Mental health has become a critical issue, life expectancy has lowered. People in the 30’s are getting heart attacks and other heath related issues which just one generation ago happened in 60’s

Something is not right, obviously in the way we are seeing things or our expression of it. And something needs to be changed.

Because I believe no matter how much we condition ourselves to Apathy, our deep humanity will rebel. And the rebelling with lead to annihilation, of our species if needed, (we certainly seem to to running quite fast in that direction), but we cannot ignore that fact that we feel what we feel, because we are made of this world. All of it. Perhaps the wiser thing to do , it to learn how to suffer, how to grieve, how to be joyous (not just happy), how to be angry. And also how to let other express these emotions without feeling shame or guilt. Maybe we don’t ask for explanations and understanding of “what is wrong?”.

Maybe we don’t run ambulance service to “rescue” ourselves and our own feeling of helplessness and inadequacy by recusing (forcibly) others. Under the guise of “Happiness” . Perhaps the better response is coming together as a community and hold this sacred emotions together.

Maybe, in doing so we stand a chance of the world not getting submerged yet again in our own arrogance.

“Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act. We belong to this world.” — Joanna Macy

Rhea Dsouza


One Design ..Exploring what does it mean to be ONE and how can conditions be created for it.