Did you know that all emotions are important, and all of them have a purpose. Human emotions have four general categories. They are sadness, happiness, fear and anger. All too frequently in our society the messaging that people get is that it’s not normal or healthy to be experiencing unpleasant emotions. We live in a society that is very happy-driven. So we tend to discount the importance of sadness and feel uncomfortable with it.
Often times, sadness is seen as a feeling that should be avoided at any cost. Sadness is not always acceptable in our culture and many people are uncomfortable seeing the sadness in others. Sometimes we feel helpless in the midst of seeing someone else feeling sad.
When we’re feeling blue or see it in others, we tend to reach for something to take the sadness away. This can look like a tissue, a smart phone, a game, food, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, etc.
If we try to fight our sadness away it can ultimately lead to us feeling depressed, hopeless, angry, anxious or in despair.
We need the full range of our emotions to be in working order in order to be able to respond appropriately to our own needs and those of others.
Sadness: Part of the Human Condition
Trying to eliminate sadness really doesn’t work because sadness is not a sign of weakness or vulnerability, but simply part of being human. Emotions are closely connected, and feelings of sadness can clear the path for feelings of happiness. Without experiencing sadness, how can we learn to appreciate feelings of joy and pleasure?
The Benefits of Sadness
Author and meditation teacher Susan Piver says that sadness gives rise to our natural desire to help other people. She says, “It’s good when we are able see the sadness in the world. It provides critical insight and helps us see more clearly. As a result, we are able to be less judgmental and more compassionate and generous towards other people.”
How do I know if it’s Sadness or Depression?
It’s important to know the difference between sadness and depression. Sadness is a normal, human emotion that we all experience from time to time. Unlike long-term sadness and grief, feelings of sadness pass, usually relatively quickly. This can look like when someone we care about is unkind to us. Or when we see or experience loss or hurt. It can be like a temporary shadow that has passed across our feelings.
On the other hand, depression is a serious, life-altering illness that affects our behavior, thinking, and overall well being. Depression is chronic and debilitating, draining our energy and sapping our motivation.
Getting in Touch with Sadness
While it’s good to create happiness and being positive, remember that sadness is there for a reason and shouldn’t be pushed away or avoided.
Occasionally when I feel angry with someone, if I check the underlying emotion it will be sadness or fear. You can check your true feelings by asking yourself what made you feel angry. Your answers will reveal your true feelings. “I felt angry because he was rude about my family.” Then ask yourself “What does it mean to me when people are rude about my family?” Maybe it means you feel attacked, or that you have parented badly – this could cause feelings of sadness that you are inadequate or sadness that you haven’t done a good job.
I don’t know what you will come up with but if you’re curious about your true feelings, in order to respond best to them, you’ll need to uncover what you feel by continuing to ask the same question of yourself, “What does it mean for me when (fill in whatever they said or did)?
Once you have identified the sadness then respond appropriately to this emotion in yourself and others. First, allow yourself to be sad. You don’t have to be “up” or “positive” all the time. If you feel sad explore the feelings and find out what you need. You may need to talk to a friend, have time to yourself or to work through your feelings and accept them. When you respond to others who are feeling sad you may just need to be with them, not rejecting them when they feel sad. It is okay to ask them “What do you need right now?”
Whatever your own experience of sadness, remember it is part of being human. Sadness allows us to recognize and value the contrast between feeling happy and sad. We need these contrasts in order to recognize our own vulnerabilities and those of others and to be able to appreciate our gains and losses.
The ability to recognize and respond to your emotions means you are more likely to understand others and they are more likely to understand you. Try to embrace all the emotions you have at your disposal, even the ones that may seem “weak” or “shameful”. These are just other people’s labels. After all, these feelings are what allow you to experience life at its fullest and ultimately they are part of what makes you human.
If you are ready to get help for your uncomfortable feelings, contact me now for a free 15 minute consultation.