This has been on my mind for a little while. It probably started during a #BCSM (Breast Cancer & Social Media) chat about dealing with bumps and ruts in the journey toward health. Moderator Alicia Staley (@stales) asked me if was “okay to stay in a rut sometimes.” My reflexive answer to that was, “Yes, of course.”
That might be a surprising answer to those of you who don’t know me. After all, aren’t psychologists part of the mechanism that we use to “fix” our painful feelings? Certainly the commercials about mental health issues (nearly always to sell a medication) suggest that we shouldn’t have do deal with feeling sad, or worried, or angry, or tired. Those feelings need to be fixed.
I believe that all of our feelings have value, and communicate important things to us about our needs and experiences in the world.
My job is to help my clients increase their understanding of their feelings, what triggers them, and how to best cope with feelings in a way that is healthy and respectful to themselves.
And sometimes, the healthy and appropriate way to feel is sad. Carolyn Thomas, of the excellent Heart Sisters blog, has a fantastic post about the pressure that heart patients feel to “put on a smiley face“– and the damage that this relentless false positivity can cause.
If you have been diagnosed with a life-changing or life-threatening illness, feeling sad sometimes means that you are aware of just how much your life has altered–not that you have a bad attitude. If you have faced a loss, or are caring for a loved one in pain, feeling sad means that you are aware of the value that person has in your life, and how their absence has or will affect you.
Sadness isn’t our enemy. We don’t need to banish it. We don’t need to push it back. Sometimes, good self-care is allowing yourself to acknowledge that you are sad. Sometimes, good self-care includes a cleansing cry. Sometimes it includes having solitude to process your sadness, and sometimes it includes finding others who can respect and share the sadness.
This is often a tough issue for friends and loved ones. I’ve talked before about the difficulty that people who care about you may have with your pain. It can be tough for them to understand that expressing your sadness is an important part of health–that crying about something painful doesn’t mean giving up.
Sadness is often a reminder of the things that are most important to us. You deserve the opportunity to feel your sadness, to let it flow out of you. That’s part of what makes room for joy.
Need help with that? Drop me a line. Have a favorite way to express sadness? Please share in the comments.
Image: “Sad Girl in Silhouette” used via Creative Commons License