Simple Steps to Lasting Joy with Expert Lisa McCourt

IAOL 26 | Lasting Joy


We are often expected to stay happy—to be cheery and upbeat no matter what is going on in our lives. As a result of this unreasonable expectation, many people believe that they are failing if they don’t feel happy 24/7. Yet, in real life, lasting happiness—what I term joy—lets go of impossible standards and makes space for all of our emotions and all of who we are. I’ve found that true joy is like a stoic friend who is quietly and patiently present through life’s messy ups and downs. Could a key secret to living a life of joy be found in mindfully and compassionately making space for all of our emotions amidst the imperfect ebb and flow of life? Join Dr. Carla and joy expert Lisa McCourt for an illuminating chat about creating wellness through embracing all of your emotions, including JOY!


Books by Dr. Carla Manly:

Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly

Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend

Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for Her 50s and Beyond

The Joy of Imperfect Love


Connect with Dr. Carla Manly:









Books by Lisa McCourt:

Free Your Joy: The Twelve Keys to Sustainable Happiness

Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change


Connect with Lisa McCourt:



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Simple Steps to Lasting Joy with Expert Lisa McCourt

Tired of Struggling? Foster Sustainable Joy with These EASY Tips!

We are often expected to stay happy, to be cheery and upbeat no matter what is going on in our lives. As a result of this unreasonable expectation, many people believe that they are failing if they don’t feel happy 24/7. Yet in real life, lasting happiness, what I term joy, let’s go of impossible standards and make space for all of our emotions and all of who we are.

I have found that true joy is like a stoic friend who is quietly and patiently present through life’s messy ups and downs. Could a key secret to living a life of joy be found in mindfully and compassionately making space for all of our emotions amidst the imperfect ebb and flow of life? We will focus on this reader’s real-life question.

“My natural setpoint for positivity and happiness is pretty low. I’m not depressed but I seem to have always been a glass-half-empty kind of person. My dad even called me Eeyore because of my constant gray mood. I have a steady job in material things but rarely feel happy or optimistic. Should I accept feeling blah as my lifelong normal or is there something I can do to find some lasting happiness in life?” That question is the focus of this episode.


IAOL 26 | Lasting Joy


In this episode, I’m joined by a very special guest, Lisa McCourt, who will be sharing her expertise on freeing and accessing joy. Lisa is the author of Free Your Joy: The Twelve Keys to Sustainable Happiness. Welcome to the show, Lisa. It’s such a joy to have you on.

It’s such a joy to be with you. I love the name and concept of the show. It’s so perfect.

Thank you so much. Before we dive into the show into the reader’s question, would you please share with our readers a little bit about what makes you you?

What makes me me? I was not a naturally joyful person. I certainly spent plenty of my life looking as joyful as I could while recognizing that wasn’t my underlying state and as many of us in this line of work. Once you have been blessed with some understanding and seen some things that can be so transformative, it becomes all you want to do with your life. There’s nothing that feels remotely meaningful that I could do as a career passion hobby than to be on the team helping to spread information about these kinds of things.

What is your definition? I have my definition of joy and how I differentiate it from happiness but so that we can help our readers know this foundation from your paradigm, would you share your definition of joy, and if you have a different definition for happiness, what that might mean for you?

I have a hunch that our definitions are very much aligned because I was listening to how you opened this show, which is a viewpoint that I share. Happiness is a legitimate human emotion for us to strive for. We all want happiness. We all crave happier circumstances and a happier life. There’s nothing wrong with that but we wouldn’t expect to be happy 24/7. It wouldn’t even serve us to be happy all the time.

We wouldn’t even recognize it as happiness if we didn’t have some times of contrast to give depth and meaning to what it is to be happy. Joy, on the other hand, is possible to have as a baseline underlying emotion 24/7, no matter what other perfectly natural, beautiful human emotion you happen to be experiencing when we learn to stop resisting, suppressing, and denying all of those other perfectly natural human emotions that we have been conditioned to consider unwanted, unbecoming, and un-nice.



You can have tremendous joy in your anger when it’s a rightness feeling, a freedom feeling, and a cementing of your boundaries. There can be joy in anger and grief. Sometimes grief and sadness are where we have our most poignant heart-opening and compassion-building moments. We are so conditioned to push those emotions away or try to distract ourselves from them. What most of us traditionally have done is a lot of denying and storing of those emotions. That’s the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is great. I’m all for it. It’s one of the most beautiful emotions we can feel.

I come from a 5-emotion paradigm where the 5 core emotions are joy, fear, sadness, anger, and disgust. Those emotions get filtered through personal memory and outcome. It’s thousands and thousands of feelings. We are quite aligned here. I liken joy to having a candle inside yourself when you are born. That’s in a lovely little glass votive.

Through life’s experiences, we build up soot in that little glass container. Sometimes we forget that the joy is there. Its light might be flickering or very vibrantly sometimes, especially if we are doing our self-work, seeing a therapist, and doing whatever practices and mindfulness help us keep that natural soot from building up and hiding our joy. I like to look at joy as something that tends to be present. It can be obscured by life’s vicissitudes.

Yet if we pause to say, “Let me slow down and do some work to find that joy.” Also, it’s interesting because I love your perspective that joy can be present in anger. I tend to see them as sometimes occurring together but often we are in 1 of those 5 emotions and not another one but I love the idea. You are right.

Sometimes I think, “I don’t get angry very often,” but when I do, I have learned to embrace my anger with a sense of grace, assertiveness, and emotional regulation. It’s an ongoing practice but there is something joyful when we are standing up with righteous anger for something we believe in. I love that concept. I never thought of there being joy within anger. This is making me smile because I believe in healthy anger and good anger but I never thought of joyful anger. Thank you.

As anyone who’s experienced grief in life, which is most of us, I can’t quite see myself being able to access it in all parts of the grieving process. In certain processes, parts of it, I can see that there can be elements of joy and elements of almost celebrating. Maybe not the loss of the individual or circumstance that we are grieving but maybe a joy in letting go.

Grief is love. It’s a celebration of having loved so deeply. I hear you about anger. That was a hard realization for me. I was not permitted to feel anger in my formative years. I was not allowed. I thought anger was ugly, horrible, and unattractive. It took me a long time to find the place where sometimes anger is so appropriate, what’s called for, and what’s needed. It can be strengthening for those of us who maybe didn’t have a lot of natural strength in our character early on which was my story.

I love that we are pausing here with anger because, in our society and many places around the world, this is my perspective that men seem to be allowed to have two emotions. One is not an emotion but being okay or angry. Women are allowed to feel okay, happy, and sometimes sad. If a woman gets angry, she is seen as aggressive even when she’s not being aggressive. She’s seen as being unladylike, unkind, unspiritual, or strange descriptors.

As we are both bringing forward, all of our emotions when felt and used appropriately are all very important messengers. They all have a place and a message to tell us if we are in a healthy and respected space. When anger comes up, it’s often because we are feeling disrespected or in an unhealthy space. Why wouldn’t we want to make room for these various emotions?

I love your beautiful votive metaphor. That’s very much an alignment with the JOY School as well.

JOY, your school. Let’s talk a little bit about your school for joy.

We meet online four times per week and it’s mostly support groups. It’s a small group, almost like an AA structure that you can come as long as you want. I have got people who have been in JOY School for several years. Some come in for 1 month or 2 to grab some tools and go back to their lives but we have paradigms that we cycle through and we go take them into our lives.

We call it home play. Every week we apply a spiritual principle. They are the ones that are outlined in the new book that you mentioned. We go and put them in our lives, come back, and talk about it. It’s like returning to the well. It’s a very loving compassionate and non-judgmental space for attunement of whatever’s going on with each of the members.

It’s been different things over the years but for the last few years, that’s what the format of JOY School has looked like. It’s having that unconditional being seen in the truth of who we are that a lot of us never received. It’s the lack of attunement in our formative years when we are developing that framework that we are going to go on to create and attract our whole life from that obstructs the joy that we are. It’s the soot on your votive analogy. In JOY School, I used a terminology I borrowed from Eckhart Tolle many years ago that we all have a vertical self and a horizontal self.

Our horizontal self is our name, body, job, family placement, affiliations, and all of these things. Our vertical self is our soul self, our connection to source divinity, nature, or whatever is comfortable for you to imagine. It’s the light. It’s the candle and the votive that you so poetically mentioned. This framework that we develop early on when we are deciding what it means here when we are getting messages from our caregivers and our society about what are love, power, or money and what is this, all of that is the soot. In JOY School, it’s about clearing away the soot and keeping it cleared away so that light can be what we experience as our reality because we all have that reality available to us.

I love that you are pointing out the vertical and the horizontal because, in this world, many people are taught from childhood forward to focus on the vertical self and all of the external that is the horizontal self. When we learn to focus, which is the work of psychotherapy and spirituality at its best, we then work on the internal self, that vertical self to be in touch with the heart, the soul, the spirit, or whatever somebody’s higher power may or may not be. It’s that beautiful internal, in other words, vertical self that is such a lovely way to look at it.

Both are important for being on the planet. Some people ignore the internal self but we do pay a heavy price when we don’t pay attention to the internal or vertical self. Let’s pause for a minute and pivot back to the question of the day. I don’t know the person’s backstory or more than what we presented. Knowing what you know about that question, what would you offer as feedback for this reader?

She mentioned that she’s always been seen as a glass-half-empty person. I believe the word setpoint was even used. That is a terminology that we use a lot in JOY School. We all have what we call our joy setpoint. It’s that baseline amount of happiness and joy that we are going to keep defaulting to even though we are going to have days, weeks, or years when it bumps up or down beneath. We will always go back to whatever level of joy and happiness feels familiar to us because that’s one of those things that gets programmed into that filter, that very early framework that we develop.

We all learned from our caregivers and surroundings that there is a level of happiness that you can expect to have. No matter how much happiness we crave, want, or things that we say that we want out there, energetically, we are never going to be able to bump that up until we are able to see it and bring it up into the light of our conscious awareness and understand that it was from some faulty programming that got wired in there. I do love that question. Science says that 50% of that is genetic and yet genetics are malleable. We can change the genetic coding for our happiness.

Science says that the other 10% is circumstantial. It is what I call the game of whack-a-mole. We all have been conditioned that when we have that job, partner, home, degree, or amount of money, then we can have joy, peace, and happiness in our hearts. It’s a backward equation. We have to learn the skills for peace and happiness and learn how to elevate that setpoint where we are still going to have good days and bad days. We are not going to stop having challenges but when the whole setpoint is elevated, that’s when effortlessly everything out there in our external starts falling into place, only we don’t care as much then because we have got the joy, happiness, and bliss already.

It’s that backward equation that we have learned that keeps those of us who would describe the way your lovely reader did of this glass-half-empty. We are never going to have all these things that we have been conditioned to think that we need to be happy. It’s always going to be an ever-morphing carrot at the end of the stick that we are chasing. The only way I feel to elevate that setpoint is to practice the skills of what we call the inner landscape. We have to remodel our inner landscape and that goes out to change up everything in the external landscape.



You explained it very beautifully because of the research that many people quote about the setpoints. It’s one arm of research and research is often a little bit flawed. I’m not saying this is. It is important research that a lot of people refer to. I also love how you clarify that something can be genetic but we do have power over how our genetics are expressed.

What do we do to express that, manifest it, and bring it? Do we enliven it and accent it or do we work to create alternative pathways? One piece I noticed about the reader’s question that made me smile was the part about being called Eeyore. Parents, even the most well-meaning parents, can come up with pet names or pet phrases for children or phrases that are said without much thought, not realizing the impact on the child’s body, mind, and spirit of that term.

If a child’s called Miss Sunshine, she may end up leaning into being an optimist or sunshiny personality. For someone who’s told, “You are a devil. You are very dark,” or in this case, “You are like Eeyore,” then we reinforce those attributes or maybe those genetic tendencies by repeating that comment. For those who may not know, Eeyore is the little gray donkey from Winnie the Pooh. He was always going around with a cloud over his head.

He’s a very sad creature but sweet though. We can see how having even those visuals that remind you if you are identifying with being Eeyore and thinking, “I’m Eeyore or I’m a misfit,” or whatever it is that you have been dubbed by friends or family, you may embrace and adopt those messages unconsciously. What do you think of that, Lisa?

The attunement that I mentioned is so often not because we have bad parents. We have human parents but parents so often innocently always want their children to be a certain way and are directing them and helping them to be better. What we are missing in all of that is to be seen in the fullness of who we are. To be seen, appreciated, and celebrated.

No matter how motivated, unmotivated, masculine, or feminine or like mom and dad or different from mom and dad we happen to be, few children are seen in their fullness in the way that creates an optimal condition to go and experience the joy that you are. Maybe those parents in a well-meaning way only paid attention if she was sad or had a problem and they lovingly nicknamed her Eeyore. That felt love to her to be considered this problem of this sad little Eeyore.

Maybe she was ignored when she wasn’t complaining or having a problem and that got reinforced. I don’t know. We don’t know much about this person but things like that happen all the time. Things like that come up all the time in JOY School. What seemed like the most innocent innocuous memory or expression of childhood goes on to be formative in the way you see yourself and your place in the world.

Thank you for moving into peace on attunement. This reader, whatever gender they may be, it’s so important for us to realize that this issue of feeling pessimistic, dark, or gray often does go back to an early childhood experience that is then played out often throughout childhood, teenage years, early adulthood, and sometimes throughout life if it’s not addressed. We all have a working vocabulary. Let’s talk for a minute about attunement. My next book, the Joy of Imperfect Love is based on attachment theory. If we trace attunement, the kind we are talking about, back to attachment theory, let me invite you to give your ideas about what attunement means.

I love hearing about your next book to talk about that more. It’s being seen in a way that it’s not that parents are at fault for not being able to do this. I feel that any parent who has the capacity and heightened consciousness would naturally be attuned to a child. It’s paying attention with neutral curiosity to see what is emerging and unfolding from this person with a ready heart of compassion, ready to love, appreciate, and respect whatever is emerging.

I do it with adults all the time in JOY School but usually, by that point, we are undoing some lack of attunement. When it’s done in the formative years, it’s when they don’t ever have that core unworthiness. Most of us walking the planet have some degree of core unworthiness because we weren’t ever seen in our fullness and were never allowed to express our fullness. At first, we are always trying to be what our caregivers want us to be but that morphs into what our peers, society, and our job want us to be. It’s exhausting and it’s what keeps us from recognizing that joy that we are. It’s the obstructions that we try to remove.


IAOL 26 | Lasting Joy


It’s so beautifully put. Parenting and love are imperfect. When we go back to the foundations of attachment research where we saw Winnicott’s work and all of these amazing people back in the ’50s and the ’60s who were doing the research and then carrying out the long-term research, it lets us see the truth of an imperfectly attuned parent. No parent is going to be attuned 100% of the time. It’s impossible.

As parents, we can work to be present for our children in nonjudgmental ways. See them and be there with them. I love your use of the word curiosity. It’s one of my favorite words. Allow them to express themselves and be curious, not judgmental about whatever is arising because that lets the child blossom unfold before our very eyes. We are not always perfect at it because we are human too but that’s where the idea of the good enough parent came from.

In the research, if we are able to be good enough and be present, most of the time, our kids will end up being securely attached and we will have done a good enough job of attuning to them. Yet in the case of our reader who wrote in, it sounds as if for whatever reason, because we don’t have the backstory, maybe the parents saw what they needed to see or what was convenient. This child internalized the message like, “I am an Eeyore. I am a dark and gloomy person. Happiness is unattainable for me or anything but a short burst of happiness.”

While this individual may have a lower genetic setpoint, it sounds like what we are imagining but there was no fostering of the joyful elements that this child was bringing forward. Whatever it would have been, like their love of baking, dressing up, playing with dolls, or driving tractors. That natural ore in those very early days when the child is crying or melancholy, maybe the attunement there would be holding the child, talking to the child, or reflecting to the child even if the child can’t understand. Let’s move it forward to adulthood, as you so brilliantly said. That is the work that you do with adults who are suffering from a lack of attunement. You don’t infantilize them and treat them like infants. You treat them like adults who are thirsting for attunement.

That’s where healing takes place. I don’t think healing can take place outside of that. We want to be able to heal ourselves and be all DIY with our personal growth but healing requires a field. We have to create the field for that type of nourishment. With your beautiful reader too, I can’t help but wonder. Since we are making everything up about this reader, maybe the parents had a hard time with happiness or joy.

We want to be able to heal ourselves and be all DIY with our personal growth, but healing requires a feel. We have to create the feel for that kind of nourishment. Click To Tweet

They were not happy or joyful people. That can be annoying when your child is being happy or joyful. They might be subconsciously sending the child signals to shut that down. For people who aren’t there, that vibrational misalignment is jarring. They might have subconsciously shown so much more love and attention to the child when the child was being raised.

That is such a good point and worthy of leaning into for a minute. It’s not that parents intentionally mean to bring out the melancholy side of a child or any side of a child. I would say all parents are because we are imperfect, if we aren’t doing our internal work, more of our unaddressed issues will naturally filter down to the child.

The more we do our work, the less imperfect we are and the less of our unresolved issues will hit the child. It’s got that unprocessed trash that keeps getting in the way of seeing the child for who they are and who they want to be. I love that you picked that up. That is wonderful and likely may resonate not only with the reader who wrote in but also with other readers who may pause.

It’s not a shame or blame on parents. We don’t engage in the shame-blame game but we do foster the idea that it’s okay to look at your past. There’s wisdom in it. Not to shame or blame people but to say, “This is where I came from. This is what’s impacted me. This is what I want to keep in my life and pass on to other people because this is the good stuff.”

“This other stuff that wasn’t so good and healthy, I’m going to work through it and let it go so that I’m carrying with me more of the good consciously and leaving behind as much detritus as possible.” We are very aligned when it comes to this. I’m going to ask you another question for our readers. Let’s move back to your new book. You talk about these steps that someone can embrace to create more sustainable joy in their lives. Could you talk about some or all of those key pieces?

Probably not all but we can do some foundational. They build on one another so the leader ones get a little bit more complicated without the framework or the building blocks. Initially, I feel that the first thing is becoming the observer of our thoughts. We love our thoughts. We get so identified with that ticker tape that’s always crossing our minds.

Every one of us has that ticker tape of thoughts crossing by and we think that’s who we are. “I think therefore I am.” We have this idea that our thoughts are clues as to our identity and they are not. Our thoughts come through that unreliable filter that we formed when we were very young. There was even a lot of messaging coming through the filter. Even if it’s something that we can’t even pin on the parents, there are misunderstandings.

We were emotionally immature. We were young. We are in the stage of life where everything is about us. Sometimes when we can look back at where some of that messaging happened, we can understand, “That had nothing to do with me at all.” When we are young, that’s what we absorb and develop this belief system that we go on to create and attract our circumstances from.

We’re becoming aware that all of our thoughts are subject to this filter and getting some distance from our thoughts in all ways. We use a lot of ancient spiritual principles and positive psychology. All the ways of pulling back a little bit and watching our thoughts instead of buying into them create a space to start the habit of gently challenging our thoughts. It doesn’t come automatically whereas habitual creatures’ habits aren’t known for being particularly easy or fast to break.

With some repetition and commitment, we can start watching our thoughts. From there, we can start watching our feelings. There’s a big distinction that we talk about in JOY School. Our thoughts aren’t real. Our thoughts are based on very erroneous programming that we got very early in life. Even though all our feelings are coming from our thoughts, our feelings are real.

There were chemical cocktails that were created in our brains that went in and stored in our tissues, body chemistry, and energy systems. Our feelings are very real. We can be compassionate about all of the feelings that we are experiencing without judging ourselves for feeling them or saying, “I shouldn’t feel this. I’m not allowed to feel this. I don’t want to feel this.” We are so compassionate. Every time we have one of these feelings that’s coming from an unreliable thought, there’s a combination that can happen of almost laughing at why I’m having the feeling while still allowing the fullness of it. That’s usually where our problems come from.

The reason we get triggered by silly little things out there and become so reactive is that we store some emotions that never got to be properly processed and moving through us. Emotions are meant to move. We don’t always let them move. As we go down the steps in the book, there’s the Feel to Heal practices where we give ourselves all the compassion and love. If we are in JOY School, we give one another all the compassion and love to see what’s there and feel it. That’s what moves it so that we don’t have that same trigger point anymore.



Let’s bring an example in for our readers. For someone who has thought, “I am bad if I am angry, sad, or not happy all the time,” let’s walk through that. Let’s take that piece and work with that. “I am unworthy,” or any of those that are such common internal thoughts. How would you coach someone? If I get you right, this is what you would do. You would step back and say, “I am observing this thought. This thought is coming through the filter of an unreliable history because I was a child when these thoughts were first formed. It’s unreliable. Let me notice it and have compassion about how that feels or how that is to have this thought.” “I am unworthy and unlovable. Anger is bad,” or whatever the thoughts are.

Through the lens of compassion and bringing in compassion, we can notice the feelings that are coming up and say, “This hurts my heart space. It hurts my neck. It feels awful when I think of that. My stomach is getting queasy.” By noticing how these thoughts bring up these feelings. The feelings and all of these sensations are anchored in our bodies. We forget. We often think we are not as connected to our bodies as we are but research shows that trauma, negativity, good experiences, and life are stored in our tissues. It’s held there. Did I get that well enough? What would you say about that interpretation?

I love that interpretation. We hadn’t even talked about that but one of the processing tools is somatic inquiry. It’s that neutral attention on what’s going on in your body and neutrally giving your body that attunement. Your body craves that attunement like non-judgmental attention to what’s happening there. That is one of the methods.

It’s beneficial in groups because often, it’s so easy for us to not be able to break out of that. Last time when Gala shared something, was she bad? Was she wrong? We can see it in other people’s shares. It’s funny how it’s so obvious. It’s not. Gala is this beautiful human being. The mirror of the group mates helps a lot. There was something else that you were doing that I wanted to point out.

I always have felt that we don’t have to have the memory or know exactly what the memory is that caused it. We can usually look around at our life situation and see where our erroneous thinking patterns are. It’s like, “I’m having this conflict with my boss at work.” “What’s underneath that? What’s the essence of that? If you had to put that argument in a file drawer, what would be the name of the file that you put it in?” “Disrespect of you and your abilities.”

“Let’s look back. Have you ever had that before? Have you had disrespect for yourself and your abilities at your prior job or in that marriage that you were in?” “Yeah.” We don’t have to know where it came from. We just have to recognize, “This is a pattern that I create with the energy that I’m sending out into the world.” We have to be careful with that because it is 100% true that we create every bit of it out there. It’s never a cause for blame, self-incrimination, or self-judgment.

It’s a fine path to tread where it’s like, “The energy that I’m sending out is creating that but the energy is only coming from something unhealed within me that was never my fault. Some misinformation got lodged in there innocently or unwittingly by well-meaning yet fallible humans who were trying to help me be the best human being they could help me to be.”

When we see it logically, that’s a first step. We see it logically but we are still in it in our body and our system. That’s when we have to try the behavior medication of noticing the thoughts and patterns and questioning them repeatedly. That’s how we wear new grooves. We are all very subject to those well-worn grooves. We have to wear a new better groove. It doesn’t take that long.

When we notice the thoughts and the patterns and question them repeatedly, that's how we wear new grooves. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t yet it does take patience, perseverance, and mindfulness because neural pathways, especially the ones from childhood, have been etched in over and over for however many decades you have been on the planet and the issues are unresolved. If you are 30 years old or 3 decades on the planet, those are well-worn grooves. If you are 50, it’s 5 decades.

We want to be patient with ourselves. As we notice the pattern, step back, observe it, be nonjudgmental about it, and lean into it with compassion as well. Notice that if we go to the body, the body tends to not lie to us. I’m thinking of people who tend to get very big anger reactions and might become abusive. They will say things like, “I’m entitled to my anger. It’s my anger.” “Yes, you are entitled to your anger yet you are also wise to regulate your anger, to use it wisely, and use it to express what’s going on inside.”

For our reader who wrote about this, it sounds like a very more or less constant state of being in a place of melancholy or flatness it sounds like at times. We could maybe then ask or invite the reader to start noticing perhaps what those voices and thoughts are. Notice them and where they are in the body. Give them space. Question them, talk to them, and see if they are true, which is something I love about cognitive behavioral therapy and weaving some of that in. Check how your cognitions and thoughts affect your behaviors.

Also, what do you think of this? I imagine you do this in your work but what do you think about also inviting this reader or anyone who’s struggling with this? Notice that tendency to go toward the gray side. What do you think about inviting them to maybe sit out in nature or sit in a patch of sunlight in the kitchen? Notice anything joyful in their environment like a bird, a houseplant, a favorite color, or a sound of music that is loved or soothing. If you focus on that and let it come into you, would that help create an awareness of how accessible joy is if we invite it in?

It’s a beautiful practice. I love the way you described it. I feel like there are some subtleties and nuances there to pull out. The way you described it is beautiful. It’s almost a Buddhist practice of mudita, relational joy, and finding joy through the joy of a creature or the joy of something else. That is one of the practices that we do.

Want more joy? Lean into love to the fullest extent possible! When you love yourself and others, joy naturally grows! Join Dr. Carla and joy expert Lisa McCourt for an upbeat discussion about the power of heartfelt joy! Click To Tweet

When someone is consistently sad, there’s a discernment practice between, “Is this a habitual thought pattern that I can distract myself from in a healthy way,” like the way that you described. Very often, it’s something that needs to be felt more in its fullness and that’s when we have a lot of unhealthy distractions going on. When we have something, we don’t want to open that Pandora’s box because we don’t know how deep it will go. We distract in maybe less healthy ways than the way you described. That’s when we want to look at the Feel to Heal practices and allow the fullness of it.

I don’t know if this is a woman who wrote but often with women, anger is not allowed to be there. Often, I find that habitual sadness has anger underneath it, a healthy anger that needs to be reached through feeling the sadness, getting past all of the sadness, and being held so compassionately right there in the sadness until the healthy anger can come up and also move through. I don’t know if that’s the case with the reader but I feel like an invitation to some anger might be.

For women, a lot of times, it’s unprocessed anger that is underneath, and up here above it is sadness or despondency. For men, not always, it’s almost the opposite. There’s this anger up here but underneath it is great sadness. I love that you pointed out the Feel to Heal. In most realms of psychotherapy and my practice, it is about making space for all five emotions.

We are often expected to be cheery and upbeat no matter what is going on in our lives. As a result of this unreasonable expectation, we often believe we are failing if we aren't happy 24/7. Join Dr. Carla and joy expert Lisa McCourt to discover how to… Click To Tweet

If your joy muscle is underutilized, knowing that it’s okay to exercise that muscle and learn joy, learn awareness of life’s little joys, yet never at the expense of getting down to unresolved trauma and grief. It’s so interesting. Even with the state of what we know, many people and even my clients, when they first start with me will say, “I can’t imagine that something from my childhood is still with me and I’m 30 or 40 years old.” It’s like, “It’s with you.” Our emotions and grief don’t follow a timeline. Our trauma doesn’t say, “That happened at 5 and you will magically be healed by the time you are 25.” No. It will be with you until your last breath if you don’t resolve it.


IAOL 26 | Lasting Joy


I could keep talking. This is such a topic of absolute fascination for me and an endless topic because we are talking about the imperfect nature of being human, and all that goes with that. It gets so deep and we can keep going. Out of consideration for your time, would you please offer us maybe 1 or 2 more words of wisdom, weaving it back to the reader’s question if you like?

This is not the last time we shall talk because I love this. We are going to do this again. You are going to be on my podcast. We will have conversations. To go back to what you were saying, it’s so true that we think it’s ridiculous anything from our childhood. Even an extension of that, I see that all the time and I’m pointing at myself here. “It can’t be that. I handle that. I took care of that. I did all that EMDR and tapping. I did those years of therapy. I took care of that one.” We don’t realize that we are all beautiful and precious onions. There’s always another layer. I still have layers.

We’re all beautiful, precious onions. There's always another layer. Click To Tweet

Whatever that framework was, that’s the vessel that houses our soul. We can’t change up the vessel. Our radar is still going to go dinging when it spots something that matches that original framework. We can notice that it’s the radar going off. We can learn how to turn down the volume on those alarms so we can take such conscious control and like, “There you go again, you sweet little framework of beliefs trying to keep me safe, alert me to something, and remind me what a worthless jerk I am.” I see what you are doing there. We can change our relationship to it but our stuff is always going to be our stuff. It’s part of the human vessel that we are hearing.

It’s so beautifully put and I agree with you 100%. It goes back to the imperfection. When we work on our internal wounds and we all have them, if we do a good enough job cleaning them out, they will likely not fester in ooze and maybe become nice little scars but they are going to be there. We will have reminders of them. I don’t want to get off on another tangent but that’s why I resist the idea when people bring up closure.

To me, there is no closure ever because we keep evolving. If I have lost someone or one of my issues or client’s issues, it may feel tidied up for now but then something will come. It will get triggered and it will be there. Let’s be real about our expectations. It will get softer, gentler, less invasive, and less harmful to self and others but we want to know that that’s part of the imperfect journey of love and life. It’s most wonderful, Lisa. Where can our readers find you?

It’s my name I have a podcast there that’s free. I have one free event every month at my JOY School where I invite guest teachers in to play with me. All the information about the new book is at

There were a couple of things I was thinking of getting into but we won’t have time. I love that you used the word Play. Often, we think of working with the psyche as work. If we learn to embrace it as a natural part of life, we can be playful and compassionate with the entire process. Thank you, Lisa, for joining us. It has been such a joy and privilege. I wanted to note one thing that you had mentioned prior to the episode. It’s such an important nugget and it’s this. “Lean into love to the fullest extent possible in any given movement. Love for yourself and love for others.” It’s such a beautiful statement and I so appreciate it.

I appreciate you. Thank you. This was a beautiful conversation.

Thank you for the conversation and for your time. Readers, thank you as well.


Important Links


About Lisa McCourt

IAOL 26 | Lasting JoyLisa McCourt writes books about joy and love that have together sold over 9 million copies. She’s host of the Do Joy! podcast, and her newest book, Free Your Joy, represents the culmination of the magic she’s shared for two decades through her online Joy School at

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