The Joy Switch by Chris Coursey

Chris Coursey

Chris Coursey picks up on the work of Dr. Jim Wilder and others, doing a service by providing a great metaphor - the "Joy Switch" - to boil down recent findings on the brain science of staying in relational joy vs enemy mode.

Summary by:
Dr. Marcel Lanahan

Learn how to flip the Joy Switch

Key insight: Stay in Relational Joy, not Enemy Mode

Here are some notes on the book's content:

The Joy Switch teaches us about our Relational Circuit - a right brain emotional and attachment circuit that oversees our ability to experience joy and stay engaged with others.

This circuit can go off - we shut down and go non-relational or into enemy mode. We go into a different brain state where people feel like annoyances, objects, or even enemies.

We can practice recognizing the status of our relational circuit, and if we are offline, we can fire it up again by “activating the Joy Switch.”

We are fueled by “glad-to-be-together” relational joy.

Use simple joy practices to stay relational longer.

Staying in Relational Joy

Emotional Capacity - our ability to manage what we feel

Our relational circuit gives us relational superpowers - skills that allow us to be resilient and to contribute to the lives of others with patience and kindness. We light up to see others and they light up to see us. There are smiles on faces and sparkles in eyes. Face-to-face joy.

When in OFF mode - we have a “joy shortage”. Joy substitutes become enticing….our cravings increase - for pseudo-joys, artificial joys and creature comforts. Addictions come into play in the form of BEEPS (Ed Khouri) - Behaviors, Experiences, Events, People, Substances.

Our face, voice, body language, words, and priorities give us away.

Feel - angry, alone, unregulated, out of control.

Some trigger can make us snap - “off mode” like airplane mode on phone

Relational signals not received.

Learn more about the brain science behind relational joy vs. enemy mode here.

To repair the disruption to our relational circuit (and the rupture in our relationships) - use the acronym CARS.

Connection - connect with people, positive thoughts, memories - that stabilize us.

Appreciation - stir up appreciation for these things

Rest - to pause and take a mental break

Shalom My Body - calm your mind and body with exercises like breathing, grounding ourselves in our surroundings and the present moment

How do I know I’m in relational joy mode?

Curiosity - I can feel curiosity about what other people are feeling.

Appreciation - I can feel appreciation and gratitude for people, things, and moments in my life.

Kindness - Can feel/be kind and stay tender toward others - right now.

Eye contact - I look others in the eye


I don’t care what others are thinking or feeling.

I feel resentment - and don’t care to feel gratitude or appreciation.

I’m focused on what bothers me, annoys me, hurts, tempts, or frustrates me.

I want to win and get what I want in this moment. I don’t care how I come across to others, and I don’t care to be kind.

I avoid eye contact.