By Emily Suzuki, MA, LAC
Have you sat and really considered your relationship with sadness?
I found myself pondering this question recently. On a run, I wondered why lately I had been feeling stuck and unmotivated to write, an activity that I usually love. On the surface, I was feeling frustrated with what seemed like writer’s block. I was repeatedly avoiding it, putting it off for a later time, and feeling resentful of the task.
As I named the frustration, I felt a softening, and uncovered another emotion. There, waiting and ignored, somewhere in my body, was sadness.
In conversation with clients, a similar process often unfolds in a session. Clients come to therapy and share their stories in which anger shows up in relationships, difficult communication patterns, injustices and racism, stress in work, home, loss, and change. Anger, frustration, and resentment is noticeable, sometimes even palpable.
When examined more closely or from a different angle, we might reveal what we are working so hard to hide or protect. After all, anger is our body’s very wise and primal instinct to defend against threat and survive. Sometimes, though, it can get in the way of identifying deeper emotions.
When there is anger or frustration, sadness is not far away.
Sadness is often confused with depression. Depression or Major Depressive Disorder is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Sadness, however, is a core emotion and a part of being human. So, why do we fear feeling it so much?
At its root, sadness presents when we feel psychological and emotional pain. It is an uncomfortable feeling to sit with. Culturally, we aren’t provided much modeling of or support to learn how to be with sadness. Hence, we resort to doing what feels least painful, often suppressing it with denial or fighting it off with anger.
Circling back to my initial question, how is your relationship with sadness?
How do you experience it? Do you notice all the ways and times it shows up to point out a hurt that wants attention? Do you make space for the sadness to express itself? If so, how? And how much? Or is it too uncomfortable and unfamiliar? Do you avoid it at all costs?
Maybe like me, you fall into frustration or anger, and it takes a little effort and time to peel away the layers to identify the sadness underneath. In my case, I discovered that underneath the frustration was a sadness for not wanting to do something that usually gives me joy.
I came across a quote several years ago that centered me around this very idea. It said, there is more joy found in sorrow than in joy itself. This took me a minute to organize in my mind, and still does sometimes, but when I pause, I see its truth. The shadow side of sadness is joy. Through sadness, we mourn something loved, valued, meaningful, or precious to us.
As I continued on my run, these words came to me, “follow the sadness, let it be your guide.” Perhaps sadness is there on the surface, or maybe there are many layers needing to be unpacked to access it. However it lives in you now, remember that sadness is human, natural, and necessary in order to truly know and appreciate what it is we value and find joy in.
To learn more about Mindful and Multicultural Counseling (located in Ewing, NJ) and receive support, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Nathalie Edmond PsyD, RYT-500
It’s the new year, new season. The world invites you into refocusing your energy and creating resolutions or goals or intentions. Aren’t they all really the same thing; it's just how you approach them? I love the freshness of January or any new season really. It is a time to make a commitment or promise to yourself. You can go down the path of intensity and self criticism if you are less than perfect in achieving your goals or you can see it as information. Perhaps the goal was too big, maybe not right for this time, maybe it doesn’t align with how your nervous system is talking to you. What if you picked an intention instead of a goal? What if you focused on a value you want to deepen or be more congruent with. It could be your guide for a season or the year. If we focus on values and intentions there is nothing to fail. An example could be if you choose to focus on health this year or season. Maybe you meditate on health throughout the year. See opportunities for healthier choices? See where it is difficult to have health and be curious about why that is. A resolution or goal might focus on losing weight or going to the gym. You can see how you can not accomplish the goal of losing weight or going to the gym which might lead to disappointment and giving up on your goal a few weeks into the new year. What if we make small incremental changes in our life or move more towards radical acceptance or a sense of ease or contentment, reconnect to our natural rhythm rather than what we think we should do and be.
I am inviting you into deepening your relationship with meditation. A meditation challenge has a tone of goals and you are either successful or not. An invitation is just opening to curiosity about how this may fit into your life and as you practice meditation noticing what arises. Explore the different ways meditation can show up in your life. There are so many different practices out there to help support you. Perhaps you need a few minutes a day of silence or being in the flow of some activity you love. Maybe you want to step onto your yoga mat and do some stretching, intentional breathing, a restorative pose, or sun salutations. Maybe you love the sound of music or chanting. I was leading a seminar a couple of months ago and I asked the therapists in the room what they mindfulness meditation as and this is some of what they said.
What is mindfulness? What is meditation?
I love how Lorin Roche, a meditation teacher who focuses on the rhythms of meditation in everyday life, invites us to find a practice that we look forward to. He normalizes that having a to do list while meditating is an act of love. When we slow down what most needs tending to rises to the surface. Perhaps we can heal by addressing what rises to the surface.
If we approach meditation as a practice we can't fail. We begin again every time we show up. Every cycle of breath. Perhaps turn your attention to the process, the patterns rather than the outcome. We learn from the past and we move forward more mindfully, maybe with more wisdom and clarity.
Learn more about meditation here.. Check out one of the guided recordings or the 7 day meditation invitation on the youtube channel. Every day we explore a different type of mediation practice. Want to move as part of your practice; join our free gentle yoga class the 2nd Friday of the month at 7 pm EST. Register here. Want to do yoga on your own time? Purchase our library of yoga sessions by contacting us. Sign up for our newsletter to keep up with our offerings. Learn more about the team at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ.
May you be well. May you feel nourished. May you have not only enough to survive but enough to thrive.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.