Have you ever been sad? I mean, real, deep, and persistent sadness – the kind you can almost touch?
I’ve had to endure sadness for the major part of my life. A greater measure of it was due to the discomfort associated with my 17-year ordeal with asthma. I hate to be sad because sadness is so demoralizing and energy sapping. My response to it up until now has always been to fight it until it gets out.
Recently, however, it visited again as usual. But this time, instead of trying to push it out, I decided to accommodate it, so as to study and understand it. So it stayed and festered for days and weeks, and I endured it, studied it and wrote about it. I choose to observe it at a very close range with the intention of learning:
- The true meaning of sadness
- The causes of sadness
- The cure for sadness
I didn’t learn enough, of course, to make me an expert on sadness!
But I sure did learn enough to feel confident that any other time it happens to show up, I’ll be more than capable to deal with it constructively, creatively, and effectively.
The True Meaning of Sadness
Sadness is an emotional experience.
The emotion is a reactive component of the soul. It’s responsive. In other words, it’s always a resultant effect of some stimuli – external or internal.
Since sadness is an emotional experience, it’s a reaction of the soul to some form of internal or external stimulus. Sadness, hence is also a soulish experience.
In her article, Beyond Sadness, Nancy Schimelpfening writes, “Sadness is a part of being human, a natural reaction to painful circumstances. All of us will experience sadness at some point in our lives.”
There’s nothing strange about sadness. It’s a normal human emotional experience.
But it’s a deep experience, in the sense that it’s an experience of the soul.
Remember that sadness is the reaction of your soul to some form of internal or external stimuli.
Here are some of those stimuli:
- A focus of the mind on negatives. This focus can be conscious. In this sense, you are thinking of negative things that have happened to you – loss of a loved one, loss of love, rejection, pain, and so on. But this focus can also be subconscious, and this in no way diminishes its impact. This second dimension of the mental focus is why sometimes someone says, “I don’t know why I’m so sad.” It is possible for your subconscious soul to focus on a negative incident that is stored away somewhere in the deep recesses of your memory.
Sadness is the resultant effect of the negative focus of the subconscious mind. Whenever your heart is oriented towards the negatives in your life, a heavy and dark cloud descends on your heart and begins to press against it. You feel this in the form of sadness.
You are not always aware of the shift in orientation because it happens subtly. This is why the bible encourages us to guard our hearts with all diligence because from it are the issues of life.
This gradual re-orientation often happens without any effort on your part!
- A disconnection from the soul’s designer . Whenever you act in a way that is contrary to the fundamental principles underlying your soul’s basic design, your soul reacts with sadness. In an excerpt from ‘A Biography of Fear’, Jonathan Bitz writes that “Melancholy is awareness, of our distance from God, meaning, and purpose?” In more practical terms, any time you break a moral code of the universe, deep inner feelings of sadness occur.
- Loss of time control. Any individual soul is extremely happy whenever dominion, mastery, or control is gained with respect to time management. The soul reacts with sadness whenever it senses or perceives a loss of control with respect to time management.
- Lack of mental companionship. This is a form of inner loneliness that also creates the feeling of sadness. This is normally experienced in the area of one’s responsibilities. Each time you feel the load of work and there’s no one to help share this burden constructively, the sense of being ‘alone’ might trigger off the feeling of sadness.
- Frustrated expectations. Sadness also occurs when your inner speed is higher than your external speed. In other words, when your expectations do not match your realities.
- Change. According to Mental Health, “Sadness can result from a change that you didn’t expect, or it can signal the need for a change in your life.Change is usually stressful, but it is necessary for growth.”
- Tiredness. Physical exhaustion from overwork can also trigger off the feeling of sadness.
- Fatigue. Mental exhaustion from excessive mental strain can also cause sadness.
- Poor nutrition. Inadequate nourishment for your body can stimulate the emotional experience of sadness.
- Lack of a definite life’s purpose. The happiest people on earth are those who have something to look forward to. They have goals and missions that are clearly defined and which give them a sense of relevance. This is something that keeps them constantly excited and motivated. The absence of such goals and missions creates the experience of sadness in the human soul.
- Sad people! Yes, sadness is contagious! The more you associate with sad and depressed souls, the more your own soul is infected and contaminated with their sadness. I’ve often felt this as a pastor. Lots of times, after counselling with people who have deep emotional needs, I experience sadness for hours immediately after the counselling session.
This definitely is not an exhaustive list. Please, feel free to add your comments on this subject; let us know, from your own experiences, other causes of sadness. And, if you are experiencing sadness, what do you think is responsible for yours? Are any of the causes among those in my brief list above?
Sadness is dangerous
Sadness is a normal human emotional experience. But it is also a dangerous human emotional experience!
At the least, it predisposes the human soul to addictions. Many people plunge headlong into dangerous addictions as a result of their misguided efforts to eliminate sadness.
In an excerpt on Sadness, therapist and author Thayer White who has over 23 years experience as both therapist and client in the areas of therapy and self-growth writes that, “unless you are able to feel sadness (and its relatives: sobbing, grief and tears), you will forever be avoiding sadness. Avoidance makes you prone to addictive behavior, psychosomatic symptoms, high levels of anxiety and acting-out skewed behavior.”
During my recent prolonged studious engagement with sadness, I narrowly escaped addiction to alcoholism!
Addictions are not the only consequences of sadness. Sadness can negatively impact almost every aspect of our lives if not adequately handled.
It could lead to withdrawal, thereby impacting negatively on your relationships and crippling your productivity.
It could diminish your energy level and slow down your rate of accomplishments.
It could evolve into depression, if not managed properly.
Can sadness be cured?
I doubt it could.
I personally believe that sadness is an emotional experience akin to pain. Pain is a sign of life. A normal human being should feel pain in response to pain-causing stimuli, else there is cause for concern. Similarly, sadness, which is a normal emotional response, is a sign of healthy life. Hence I do not think it can be ‘cured’.
I also relate sadness to sweating. Sweating occurs under certain environmental conditions. It is normal. It is to be expected once those conditions exist. Such is the experience of sadness. Under certain conditions, like the stimuli we listed above, sadness should be expected to occur.
So I do not think that sadness can be ‘cured.’ But I do think that it can be resolved. By that I mean that it can be creatively managed any and everytime it shows up.
If you or a dear one is experiencing sadness, I believe the following constructive steps will help.
Know that sadness is normal. You do have every right to feel sad under sadness stimuli.
Try to find out why you are sad.
Take out time to rest.
Take adequate nourishment for your body.
Meditate on positive and inspiring material.
Interact and fellowship with positive and inspiring people.
Take time to discover your life’s purpose.
Recreate your mind through vacations, sight seeing and so on.
Do you have any other ideas on how sadness can be creatively managed?
Do you have personal experiences related to sadness?
Please comment below.