What's the Gift in Sadness?

Are you reading the title of this article and thinking: “How can there possibly by a gift in sadness? It’s unpleasant, and I want to avoid it as much as possible.”

In today’s world, we’re barraged with messages to be positive and only think positive thoughts. We’re told that if we do this consistently, we’ll feel good.

I don’t agree with this.

All our emotions have a purpose.  All are useful and have value. 

Emotions are designed to flow through us.  Scientists have shown that most emotions, in normal situations, have about a 90-second cycle.  The chemicals of emotion are created in your body in response to a perception or thought, you feel them in your body, and then they flush out. This is the process of healthy emotional response.

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When you watch a young child playing, you can see this flow of emotions.  One moment she’s playing contentedly, a few minutes later she appears frustrated, a few minutes later she’s excited and joyful, a few minutes later she’s upset or angry, a few minutes later she’s smiling and seems happy. Young children rarely hang onto their feelings – they’re more in touch with the free flow of emotions because they haven’t yet learned to dampen them or shut them down.

Adults get into trouble when they become stuck in emotions or suppress them.  Stuck emotions do not flow through the body; they continue to be felt over and over, long after a difficult or unpleasant  situation has passed. Suppressed emotions are those that are pushed away because they feel unpleasant, or perhaps because they learned at an early age from their family that it wasn’t okay to express or feel certain feelings.  Anger, grief, and sadness are often “unacceptable” emotions in families and society. Some people become so adept at suppressing certain feelings that they no longer feel them at all.

Pushing away feelings has a huge downside. If you dampen certain emotions, you dampen your ability to feel all the others. So if you push down your anger or sadness, you’ll have less capacity to feel the fullness of happiness and joy. And, the physiology of pushing away feelings can have a negative impact on your health.

My Personal Visit to the Realm of Sadness

On the day that I returned home from a two-week vacation in January 2012, my mom died. Boom!  I was immediately thrust into grief and sadness.

The day before my mom’s funeral, I noticed that my entire body felt tight.  It felt like a vise was gripping my arms, my legs and my torso.  Such a strong sensation! I wasn’t in a location that I could do much about it and I wasn’t sure what I needed to do.  When I finally arrived at a place where it felt safe to let down, I spontaneously sobbed for as long as body needed to – and immediately my body let go of all the tension.  Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much grief and sadness I’d been holding in.

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This is the gift in sadness –
the gift of letting go.

The purpose of sadness is to help you let go and relax.  You feel this physically. Sadness helps you to slow down, feel your losses, and release what needs to be released. When the release happens, you return into the flow of life.

Grief is a more intense emotion that arises when death occurs. The death can be the loss of a person, a relationship, a significant goal, health, or livelihood.  Grief marks a profound transition, a profound letting go. It’s “deep immersion.” Grief takes you to a deep place when you almost have no choice but to let go.  Grief helps you to survive profound losses by taking you deeply into your body and your feelings.

What about EFT?

You probably know that I’m an avid EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) tapper. But I tapped very little about my mom’s death.  I’ve chosen to allow myself to feel my grief and sadness run through me, as they are designed to do.  If the grief or sadness felt like it was stuck and not moving through me, then I would tap for sure.

So far, I’m not getting stuck.  Stuck sadness feels like despair. Stuck grief feels like ongoing regret and is an unwillingness to accept or honor loss.  I’m not despairing, and I’m willingly accepting this profound loss.

EFT is not about getting rid of emotions.  EFT is about bringing our emotions back into balance, back into a state of flow.

  • EFT is useful to release stuck emotions – those emotions that we’re still holding onto about things that happened in the past.  (In the case of a death, we need to allow some time to let the grief follow its course – and the time frame is different for each person.) 
     
  • EFT is useful to release emotions related to a reaction that is out of proportion to a situation.
     
  • EFT is useful to release suppressed and repressed emotions – these get in the way of experiencing the fullness of life.

I invite you to be willing to feel your sadness and your grief when they arise, allowing these to flow through you like a river.  Your body will let you know what it needs. If you become stuck in despair or unacceptance, EFT can help restore the natural flow.

When you do this, acknowledge the gift of letting go, and find a way to gently express your gratitude to the wisdom of your body.

© Monica Milas, February 2012, November 2014