Accepting The State Of Sadness
“One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.”
– Erich Fromm
Sadness Hurts But It Is A Healthy Hurt
No one likes being sad and this is probably why so many of us try to run from the state, which compounds the problem. Existentially speaking, sadness is difficult to bear because it admits to being vulnerable. You are sad because you first took the risk of opening yourself up to something. Sadness probably means that you will have to grieve, because the emotion is usually a response to something that has happened that can’t be changed.
We have to accept the state as unavoidable if we want to live fully human lives, because as Fromm points out sadness is a frequent symptom of the caring attitude. Therefore when you feel sad, you can paradoxically feel happy about it, in the sense that it is proof that you are deeply responsive to the world.
Zen Buddhist Solution
The way to handle sadness when it comes around is to mindfully embrace it instead of avoiding it through all of the diversions and tricks we use to try to spare ourselves the pain. Thich Nhat Hanh would tell you to say “Hello sadness. I am here for you. I will care for you. Come sit with me and tell me what you have to say.” This sort of gentle attitude is especially suited for how to approach your sadness since you are dealing with fragile feelings.
We want to spend all our time in a state of happiness, but this is really just a childish wish because not only are emotions themselves transitory in nature, but also our external situations are always changing. These changes are as likely to produce results we don’t want as results we do want.
The Freedom To Turn Towards Life As We See Fit
None of us can avoid times of sadness if we are turned towards life, but we can choose how we are going to be during those times. By being mindful and letting yourself fully experience your sadness for what it is instead of trying to run away from it, you are making a Self-affirming choice for well-being.