If you take a look at the titles of my blog posts en masse, you might conclude that I am Pollyanna and only see the positive (for instance see Accentuate The Positive). It is true that I often focus on gratitude and positive thoughts. This is in large part because many people get stuck in the muck and let their negative inner voice prevent them from taking action and moving forward. And I am all about making progress, future thinking and growing forward. However, you can remain just as stuck in your life when you ignore negative thoughts and feelings like sadness. Perhaps even representing sadness as negative isn’t quite right. Sadness is part of the human condition and isn’t negative per say though it can feel quite painful.
Lest you think that I ignore the truth that human existence includes pain, I want to explore how experiencing sadness is not to be avoided and is even helpful. Navigating through your mind and thoughts and feelings of suffering, unhappiness, grief—whatever that sorrowful force is for you—is as important to your life as is being happy and positive. When you grapple with the painful aspects of your life, you can gain a lot of self-awareness and knowledge. When faced with an unfortunate circumstance, it is helpful to look at it closely, understand it, think it through and take responsibility for it as needed. The goal is not to change the situation but to see it differently by exploring what it means to you and learn what you can from it. Ask yourself, “What does this pain tell me?”
As Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through.” In other words, to get to the other side of an unpleasant or painful feeling, you must work your way through it. Try to step around it and you won’t have actually gotten by it. If you keep your painful feelings pushed down and inside of you, they will hit you hard when you least expect it at some later point in your life. Whatever negative impact those feelings are having on you will not lessen until you face them.
The reality is that there are times when feeling deep sad emotion is unavoidable and completely understandable. But even more, that pain is necessary to process and experience in order to move forward. Yes, it isn’t easy, but it will pass and you will gain perspective and gather new information through the situation. Moreover, by avoiding feeling negative emotions, you aren’t allowing for the full tapestry of human experience that gives life meaning. Your life will feel flat if you only exist at one level, be it only happiness or only sadness.
We are sensitive human beings, thankfully, so we will feel pain and suffering as well as great joy. Although it may be unpleasant and our humanness may feel like human-mess at times, it is a real part of our existence. Exploring and fully feeling sadness is as valuable for life learning as is fully feeling happiness. I wish you a complete and rich life filled with highs and lows of living full out.