Acknowledging Sadness is Brave

· March 2, 2018

How many times have you tried to bottle up or mask sadness? Ever since we were little, society has told us that we can’t afford to be sad, we have to be brave. We have to be strong at all times, we cannot falter, we don’t learn anything from sadness. Society tells us happiness is the only desirable, healthy emotion. But contained happiness, of course: nothing euphoric.

Of course sadness is an emotion with a negative value, but… what if we turn it into an emotion that does something positive for us? Acknowledging sadness is hard, but what if we did it and learned from it? Instead of bottling it up, what if we gave it some space?

Acknowledging sadness: a basic emotion

The loss of a family member, a breakup, losing a job, illness, when we don’t meet our own expectations… these are some of situations that often leave us sad. It may not be an instantaneous sadness, because at first what comes out is anger against toward whatever forces caused our loss.

There is a very important difference between sadness and depression. The latter is not an emotion. Rather, it is a disease that lasts beyond a specific event or moment. In addition, for a diagnosis there must be a state of sustained and more intense sadness along with other symptoms. Despite this difference, which is very important, sadness is seen as similar to depression, so people try to “get better” from it.

 

A purple woman with her eyes closed.

With depression, you’re not just very sad for a time, but also experience sleep disorders, an inability to get pleasure out of activities you previously enjoyed, a lack of desire in your daily activities, loss of concentration, feelings of guilt. If this is you, it is time to seek professional help.

However, sadness in itself, as an emotion, is a unique opportunity to get to know ourselves. An emotion that some studies relate to greater activation in our body to help us respond after a loss. In addition, it is an emotion that needs support and the help of loved ones, not clinical treatment.

Acknowledging sadness… the meaning of tears

In spite of all the tears us human beings have shed, we still don’t fully understand the mystery they contain. Still, all studies suggest that, as the social beings that we are, their job is that of liberation and communicating our need for comfort.

It’s normal for there to be a complex web of emotions when we cry, not just one. The circumstances in which we cry are also quite varied. We may cry out of happiness, empathy with people around us, out of anger, or when watching a moving film. Each tear tells a story that matters.

Acknowledging sadness: frozen tears.

 

Containing our tears or seeing crying as bad doesn’t make us stronger or better people. We’re simply behaving based on what others may say about us. And at this point we must ask ourselves, has that person never cried? If they haven’t, something isn’t working correctly.

Crying calms us down, lowers our anxiety levels, and makes us breathe better. Shedding tears is an act of being true to our own feelings and it connects us with others. To top it off, it also gets rid of bacteria, thereby protecting our body. So what’s wrong with them?

“Don’t cry, be strong,” when we’re not acknowledging sadness

If you cry easily, how many times in your life has someone chastised you for it? Saying you have to be strong, that crying is for weak people, you’re being ridiculous or, even worse, that you’re childish because of it. Unfortunately many of us hear it so much that we ourselves have come to internalize it. We have become censors of our own tears.

That said, we can understand sometimes why they tell us these things. Maybe they don’t have bad intentions. After all, they’re words we hear and learn all our lives. They’re in our repertoire. We share them automatically, without noticing it.

 

Watercolor crying.

However, as we’ve said, these trite phrases are not harmless. The acceptance and socialization of this message will then feed new generations who come after us. Children are usually quick to adopt this censorship, as if it were a necessary step towards adolescence and adulthood.

We have a responsibility: acknowledging sadness and understanding the role of all our emotions, whatever their value. It’s about accepting them and letting them breathe so that they can play their healing or motivational role.

On the other hand, theoretically it can be very educational to separate our emotional part from our logical part. But at the functional level we cannot forget that these processes tend to intermingle, ending up with a very different whole than just the sum of its parts.

In short, sadness is one of our emotions and, used well and thoughtfully, it’s one of our greatest allies. So don’t make it into an enemy and fight it, because all it will give you is even more discouragement and suffering.