Sadness matters. How to embrace your tears.

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Sadness. The “blue creature” that’s inside your head and makes you notice gloomy things. Something that makes you emotional, nostalgic and down. Shoulder-length hair, round glasses, a sweater… here we go. That’s Sadness character in the Pixar’s movie “Inside Out”, speaking (and crying) with the voice of Phyllis Smith. I love how fairy tales can simplify and depict complex concepts in a way that is amusing, fun to watch and has a grain (or two) of truth.

Sometimes we think sadness is not welcome. It takes our power away and makes us feel miserable… It can take away our pleasures and cause us to be lonely… It can make us cry instead of enjoying our day. But should we really distrust sadness, hide it and treat it as a guest who comes uninvited and stays for too long? Do we really (as numerous self-help books suggest) need to strive for joy and think positively most of the time? I am not so sure.

Sadness can mess up many things, right? We are bombarded with pictures of happy people everywhere. Celebrities with perfect smiles (and lives, seemingly); success stories to hold onto (when we’ve just seen end results of someone’s achievements); pictures on Facebook that show only the best moments of someone’s life; self-help sections in book stores that lead you to believe that you must feel upbeat all the time to achieve fulfilment of personal and professional goals; job offers that accentuate traits such as being outgoing and bubbly… because you need to emanate happiness in order to attract customers to a brand, right? Well, that sounds a bit unreal to me.

We all experience all kinds of emotions. Sometimes at the same time. It may be easy to think that to keep up with all our obligations, commitments and activities, we need loads of positive energy all the time. However, life is not as sweet as a movie. Why struggle to be happy all the time?

Sadness has many benefits. Our tears are cleansing both our emotions and our eyes.

Forcing yourself to stay constantly “upbeat and positive” in your job can lead to frustration or even a breakdown, because it is an unattainable ideal. Everyone has bad days at some point, so why not feel them instead of trying to hide them? People actually connect with you when you are having a bad day. Sometimes even more than when you are emanating with happiness… Practiced. People like to show compassion to other human beings.

Feeling down always tells us something. Like pain. Physical pain is an indication that something is not going right in our organism. If you kill the pain, you kill the symptoms. The causes of it might still be there. Same with sadness. If we try to hide it under a fake smile, under “I’m alright” or under tons of work/entertainment, it will not automatically disappear. Well, it may, for a short time. But it may still be there when you check next time. There is a Zen practice of “looking deeply” that helps recognise the exact emotions we are feeling and what they point at. It is a really useful practice.

Sadness can sometimes bring fear, but running away from it doesn’t help. Fear is an elaborated fantasy of what may go wrong. Only embracing your sadness and trying to understand it can help shine light on what is really going on inside. This can bring marvellous results. Otherwise this unexplored emotional terrain might be scary.

Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels. (Goya)

 

Goya – The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (picture from Wikipedia)

Featured image photo credit: Sadness via photopin (license)

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