On Sadness

When I am sad I have a tendency to want to start fixing things, or rescuing things, or trying to save people. Sometimes instead of feeling sad, I get angry instead. Sometimes it’s my way of skipping ahead to avoid that painful, fragile feeling, of simply acknowledging that something is fucked up, and simply sitting in that feeling, feeling those flames and not pulling away from it.

Sadness can feel so groundless, like the carpet has been pulled from under you, like you’re 5 and lost at the mall and everything is strange and frightening. As humans who all want to avoid suffering, we all have our knee-jerk responses to uncomfortable feelings.

But feeling sad when you see, feel or experience terrible things is a sane response. Taking that sadness and channelling it into action is a sane response. Sadness, as an emotion, passes like all emotions do. it’s okay to dwell in that space for a while, to lick your wounds, to take stock, to assess the damage, as a form of respect to yourself and your humanity.

And then eventually, because human beings are amazing, allowing emotions to flow also allows in healing. And then we are fortified again to move on.

However, showing sadness as an emotion openly often reminds others of the very compassion they do not allow themselves. This ability to feel, this sadness, is seen as a weakness by some.

So many choose anger instead. Anger is safer – a more socially acceptable response in this world we live in. Many choose power, control, domination. Many choose violence and annihilation – of self and others. Sadness is dangerous because it reminds them of their own weakness, their vulnerability, their very humanity, and it is profoundly disturbing. Because of various life experiences that have taught them that it is unsafe to feel – especially men in patriarchal cultures – to express sadness.

There are people swoop in for the kill when they witness sadness. Yes, that is part of the darkness of our world. But I believe it is is always possible to choose a different response.

So, in 2017, I hope we all have more courage to feel those difficult things, to give ourselves time, and gentleness, and space, if this is a theme for you in your life.

By all means, please create a safe space for yourself to feel. In your bedroom or in the room of your heart or under a tree, underwater, in the shower. I dream of a world where we no longer seek to destroy in the face of uncomfortable feelings but instead, to allow them to be the fertile ground for growth, for regeneration, for new possibilities instead… which is really what feelings are meant for, anyway.

Happy new year 

“People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That’s not the idea at all. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further.” 
― Pema Chödrön

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