Hello Sadness My Old Friend
When It Rains In Portland
It started raining in Portland today. I know you probably think it rains all the time here, but it doesn’t. We have three to four lovely months in the summer where Portland is a haven of warm weather and sun. This, at least partially makes up for the 6-9 months of grey rainy skies and apathy.
The first time it rains after a long summer I am struck by the fact that I’m both comforted and upset at this first signs of summer ending. And I realized today that this is the same reaction I have to sadness.
Sadness can suck, but there is also something strangely comforting in it’s familiarity. It’s like an old friend, who may not always be the best person to be around. But at least they have known us our whole lives.
Instead of running in fear from this old friend, I try to do my best to recognize sadness, welcome it’s arrival, and meet it fully. When I do this, I find that I can get the most out of our visits. And often this will keep him from sticking around too long.
3 Ways to Meet Sadness
1. Give Yourself a Hug –
When I was a kid growing up and my mom noticed I was sad, she would give me a hug.
There was so much in that hug. There was an acknowledgement of my feelings. There was a sense that she too had experienced sadness. And there was the message that she was there with me. That she was willing to be present as I felt this ache.
But whether or not you had parents like mine, or you are in a meaningful relationship, you don’t have to wait for someone else’s hug to soothe yourself. I’ve found that wrapping my arms around myself, giving myself a squeeze, and patting my shoulder works almost as well.
The hardest thing for most people is overcoming the embarrassment. But then again I don’t recommend doing this in the middle of the grocery store. Just go into your room or you bathroom and give yourself a hug. Tell yourself, “There, there I will be ok.”
This works, because it helps us accept that there is something very innocent and pure about sadness. It helps us let go of how we are supposed to act when we feel sad. And it replaces it with a small gesture of kindness to ourselves.
Crying is so satisfying because it brings us right into the present moment. Our emotions boil over and we have no choice but to be fully present with them.
That’s why people usually stop crying if you ask them a random question. The question activates their minds and it’s hard to cry and think critically at the same time.
Also crying is one of the rare cases when we put our whole body into our experience. We aren’t dividing ourselves. Like when we talk on the phone and drive. Or watch TV and eat.
Crying demands full body commitment and the more fully we embody sadness the more satisfying it feels.
Again, the biggest problem people have with crying is embarrassment or the stigma that surrounds crying. The best way to counter this is to find a space where you can be alone and let it pour.
Some people have a hard time crying. Men in particular are told that we shouldn’t cry. There is also some evidence to indicate that testosterone makes it harder to cry.
If you have a hard time crying, I would suggest two things:
1. Put on sad music – sad music can connect you with your feelings even if it doesn’t make you cry.
2. Put on a Sad Scene in a Movie – Something about crying for other people may seem easier. So let the movie start the tears, and then use the prompt to connect with your own sadness.
3. Accept that You Are Sad –
This is the simplest and hardest technique you can use. All you have to do is say to yourself I am sad. Then let go of all the reasons, justifications, and explanations for that sadness.
Feel how it feels to be sad in your body. Feel the weight of sadness, the movement of sadness, and even the color of sadness.
By accepting and investigating sadness we tell ourselves, it’s ok to be sad. We let ourselves know that this will not last. We are able to be present with sadness instead of adding resistance, fear, and anxiety on top of it.
No Matter What
No matter how you work with sadness, know this. Everyone feels sad. It doesn’t matter if you are rich and famous, or live on the streets. Sadness is part of the human experience and it’s a part I’m glad we have.
Sadness tells us that we care. It is the ache of a loving heart. So, instead of trying to feel happy without stop, let yourself be sad from time to time. It’s one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
Question:How do you work with sadness?
DISCLAIMER: Though there is nothing wrong with sadness, prolonged depression is a serious condition for which you should seek help. If you have prolonged sadness that lasts for days, week, and months please seek help with a qualified counselor or therapist. Especially if you have any thoughts of self harm. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Asking for help offers an amazing opportunity to those of us who care and want to give.
Click here for crisis and Suicide Prevention Resources
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