Understanding the Importance of Sadness

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Sadness, often the emotion most shirked and wriggled away from, has amazing powers. As a child experiences the concentration of this emotion, along with anger, happiness and fear, moment to moment, they gain insight in to the poetry of the universe, and an experience of the Whole.

Yet as we grow older we learn – because the purity of sadness is so intense – to avoid it. In resisting sadness, we resist life. And as the wisdom of Yin and Yang teaches us, without the fullness of one, the fullness of the other is lessened too.

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer
2008-7-11_223136_image003Children probably see adults like cocoons of nothingness; supposedly in control of their emotions while the child may express them in the socially-unacceptable form of tantrums.

They may become red-faced and jolly when chasing away the dissatisfaction their resistance causes them with socially acceptable drugs, or in one of those rare moments where their stress-levels dip below chronic for five minutes. But inevitably this resistance of sadness can ultimately lead to their death.

“When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults.” ~ Brian Aldiss

Trapped emotions and unconscious habits lead to disease, and disease without true healing; through addressing these trapped emotions, can lead to death. A death that is not the end, but a reminder that next time, they really need to remember to honour their emotions!

“Only those willing to walk through the dark night will be able to see the beauty of the night and the brilliance of the stars.” ~ Archbishop Socrates Villegas

So in a way, sadness and our relationship with this prized emotion could lead to the evolution of the soul. Sadness in goodbyes, sadness in loss, sadness in grief, but also sadness as you let each day of your life slip away. Sadness can be a celebration of it.

In becoming less present and less immersed in reality we cheat ourselves; for we may not lose anything, but then we also fall out of step with the universe. Without expressing gratitude for what is passing away we also don’t get to enjoy it.

eye_painting_by_gimmegammi-d7su5g8

This fear of letting time escape from us is ironically the root of most human sadness. When we are truly immersed in reality then time disappears. We become the past, present and future equally, and we are living as part of the Whole. As nature intended.

But the moment we resist, or grasp as Buddhism would have it, we create self-made sorrow. Sadness is a mirror that reflects our human lesson. It is the dark night of the soul encapsulated in one word. So to run away from it is to exacerbate the itch. To let the rash spread and engulf us so much so that we can’t even locate where the itch began.

So instead of experiencing pure sadness; sadness in its original form; as a sorrow for the loss of a moment, we live in the shadow of half sadness. As Don Miguel Ruiz outlines in the fourth agreement, ‘Don’t make assumptions’: “What others say and do is a projection of their own reality; their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and the actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” (From The Four Agreements.) Projecting onto others is the echo of that internal sadness; the sadness unaddressed; the ‘problem’ in our lives that survives in our subconscious.

art-beautiful-colors-crying-favim_com-1857854So are suffering and sadness the same thing? You could say that original sadness is when something ‘hurts’; the child cut their knee falling over on the sidewalk.

They are innocent to the world of physical pain and that pain then translates itself as anticipation; an emotional pain that recognizes the existence of our mortality.

Suffering is the resistance of that truth, whereas sadness is an honest recognition of it. It is important not to confuse the two. This is also where anger comes in.

Anger could be seen as the layer burying the sadness; it is a violent expression of suffering, whereas the half shadow sadness, the depressive sadness we are more familiar with and terrified of is the opposite of violence.

It is concave, inert. In the same way we must be present in our sadness, anger is usually a way to get there. If we pierce the layer of anger and literally swim in it; observe the intensity of our anger and become aware of it, then we usually pierce through to our unadulterated sadness. To do this can invite a flow of relief. It’s OK, there’s nothing to escape any more. You are safe. Let go.

“If you are patient in one moment of anger you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” ~ Chinese proverb

So how do we reach back through those many years of resistance and denial and recover our original sadness? Going in to our anger as described above is one way. Another is to have a conversation with ourselves.

We can observe our thoughts and recognize that we don’t have to agree with and comply with everything they say. Questioning them leads us downwards, into our inner most caves; caves full of treasures long-since forgotten. It is in those treasure chests that we may find the source of our pain, and if we allow ourselves, we can let the source float to the surface and return back to the Whole, where it doesn’t need to harm us anymore.

Doing what scares you is the final one. Facing our fears; face our dragon as the ancient art of storytelling invites us to do, to face ones-self and slay it. Only to find the object of our journey that lies waiting behind it, is innocence and pure joy.

Image Sources

Minjae Lee
Sad Child
Eye painting

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