Sad young man sitting in a subway tunnel


Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep.

~ Clive Barker

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.

~Oscar Wilde


People have an amazing capacity to process what is happening to them. The context of our lives is played out in our experiences, but also in the way we think, the things that grab our attention, and the things to which we turn to help us relate to and understand our experiences. All of this adds a richness to our lives that helps us to fully experience what we are going through.

I like to think of it in terms of a movie. There are characters and the story, but without the soundtrack and cinematography, the film has much less impact.

For example, when we feel sad, we tend to be more likely to listen to a very sad song. We can better relate to sad songs when we are sad, but listening to sad music also helps us to process–to understand and come to terms with our sadness. I have a few songs on my phone that only get a listen when I’m very sad.

If you’re having a great day, listen to Morrissey’s “Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning.” It will soon cure that!

We don’t all respond the same way to sadness. Some of us wallow in the emotion, and although some might call it self-indulgent or overly dramatic, a certain amount of wallowing is not only helpful, but actually necessary for us to get over our sadness.

Some of us deny our sadness: “Oh, just get over it!”

Maybe these people have coping mechanisms that aren’t apparent, but the fact is, emotion exists and unless we accept it and process it, it doesn’t go away. Ultimately, it will get processed with or without our consent, and in much more harmful ways.

We don’t always have to sit in a dark room with Jim Beam and Morrissey, but we do have to acknowledge what we are feeling, and find some way to let that feeling out for a run around the yard.

There are times when we need help with this. For those dealing with depression, it is all the more important to take sadness seriously. We wouldn’t just try to “get over” a massive chest pain, and depression can be just as serious. All of us feel sad in our lives, but if it is extreme, or doesn’t seem to go away, it’s very important that we get help.

Getting to a point at which we truly understand ourselves means understanding our emotional landscape. Some emotions are certainly less pleasant than others, but if they arise, we should never pretend they aren’t there. This can certainly seem counterintuitive or akin to rubbing salt in a wound, but as long as you are not making it worse, and you feel stable, it can be an experience through which you can really come to know yourself better.

We can embrace our sadness and fully explore the emotion.

Where are our thoughts turning?

What are the manifestations of our sadness?

What are the things that can help us cope?

Knowing our sadness can help us get over it more quickly, provide some perspective, and help us deal with it in the future.

Sadness is also part of having a balanced life. Without our sadness, our happiness would have less meaning.


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