Is There a Benefit to Sadness?


“The word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – Carl Jung

Yesterday I was cranky.  Today while I was on the row machine at the gym, I realized that I feel sad.  In fact I found it hard to get through my workout, something I usually love.  My body felt heavy and tired.  My sleep has been deeper than usual, and yesterday I took a nap, which I almost never do during the week.  What is going on with me?  

When I find myself in unfamiliar territory (if you read my blogs, you know happiness is my schtick), I do some research.  I came across this great article that helped to put my sadness in perspective.  Then I found the quote above, and I began to feel comforted.  Read on and then I will tell you what I discovered about my sadness.

5 Ways to Honor Sadness Instead of Distracting From It | Psychology Today

…Here are 5 ways to give time, space, and the microphone to emotions, especially the uncomfortable ones.

Notice Where They Are in the Body

Feelings often present themselves in the body. You might notice a heart that actually aches, a tightness in your lungs, a heaviness on your shoulders, tears just behind your eyes, nausea in your stomach, or a draining fatigue. You may notice where feelings are showing up by closing your eyes and being still.

Go Back to Their Roots

Think about when you started feeling this way. Was it last Friday when your boss made a mean comment at work? Was it two weeks ago when your child was in the hospital? Now think even further back. Is there anything familiar about this feeling? What early life experiences felt similar? If your current feelings are a stick poking out of the water, what’s in the rest of the tree trunk under the water’s surface?

Invite Them In

If you actually used a sick day to be sick, you would nap all day, watch movies in your pajamas, drink tea, and eat chicken soup. (You wouldn’t be half-working from home, cleaning out closets, or doing your taxes). Similarly, if you let yourself be sad for a second or an hour, what would you be doing? What would you be saying? If you let yourself feel scared, what are the thoughts that would go through your head? What would you worry about? What would your body be doing?

Be Artistic About Them

Art unlocks emotions that our intellect tries to keep muffled. It’s a great tool to explore the hidden aspects of our feelings. Whether we draw, write, paint, sculpt, or do something else, our feelings tend to flow into what we’re making (without being filtered by “shoulds”).

Bring Compassion to Them

Often it’s not negative feelings that are the issue – it’s our reaction to them. “I shouldn’t be so anxious. There’s nothing to worry about.” “I should just snap out of this. I need to stop wallowing and moping around.” “I shouldn’t really be mad about this.” We all possess a huge well of compassion. Just like we bring compassion for someone who is hurt or sick, we can bring it to ourselves. Instead of scolding or talking ourselves out of feelings, we can summon kindness and understanding.

Part of our glorious humanity is experiencing negative emotions as well as positive ones. While no one wants to be sad, angry, or scared forever, making space for these feelings, (instead of distracting away from them), can be a powerful tool for healing.

Source:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/joyful-parenting/201601/5-ways-honor-sadness-instead-distracting-it

As I reflect on this article, here is what I discovered:

  1. When did this start? I noted how tired I have been, and how heavy my body has felt.   This started on Monday and has persisted through the week.
  2. What have I been doing?  Besides my normal 9-5 job, I have been doing homework for an online class, working on starting my own business, and maintaining the home space, i.e. planning and making dinner, cleaning, doing dishes.  I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get everything done.  I look back and say why?  I have plenty of time to finish my homework and work on my business.  So what if the dishes don’t get done, or alternatively I could ask my husband for help on household chores.
  3. What is being triggered?  My feelings of “not enough”.  In this case, not enough time.  I have a tendency to plow into projects and not stop until I get them done, distractions be damned.  My life coach calls it “the Julie train”.  It picks up speed and doesn’t stop for anything.  I had boarded the train and was riding at a pace I could not sustain.  Time to bring it into the station.
  4. I am so grateful that I get to discuss this through my blog.  It is immensely helpful for me to share  my experience as part of my own healing.  And it taps into the creativity the article mentioned.  Being creative is a way that I recognize as a way to get back to thriving.
  5. It is OK to experience emotions that are “non-happy”.  I can sit with them, reflect on them, and learn from them.  It aligns nicely with the quote by Carl Jung.

Well, I am feeling better already!  I have a new course of action.  I am taking the weekend off of doing any homework.  I will do things that propel my business startup forward, including making a timeline of deadlines, and accomplish a few easier things that I can check off my to do list.  And I am not cooking tonight!  No dishes!

The next time you are feeling bad about feeling bad-don’t.  Take the time to reflect, use some points from the article and read my experience as an example.  Get the wisdom and continue on this journey called LIFE.

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