Processing Your Sadness
By: Cathy O'Neal
Processing Your Sadness
Most of us do not like to feel sad. As a matter of fact, we have a tendency to do whatever it takes to avoid feeling sad. We work, we shop, we eat…the list is endless. What if, contrary to this natural tendency, the best way for us to deal with feelings of sadness is to actually experience them?
It seems counter-intuitive, I know, and yet when you stop to listen to your emotions, you begin to notice negative thoughts swirling through your head—adding to the pain. You also begin to notice how tense your body has become. You know what I mean—shoulders hunched up around your ears, a tightness in your chest or your stomach, an inability to get a good night’s sleep, the way you begin to lose focus at work or perhaps avoid people, practically hibernating at home. Or maybe you try to stay busy by keeping a schedule so jam-packed there is no room to acknowledge the pain—except that the pain lingers, creeping out during stressful or quiet moments.
While working with clients, I found that when people feel pain and sadness it is because there is something significant going on. If we allow ourselves to feel the sadness (figuratively speaking almost moving towards it rather than away from it) we can often get to the bottom of it. By moving through the discomfort—for a little while—we begin to understand the reasons behind the sadness. This new understanding can lead to making situational and relational changes you know you need to make, but avoid.
If you are feeling sad, you might practice the following steps:
- Acknowledge the sadness and allow yourself to just stay in the feeling and experience it for a little while.
- Notice what you are thinking—about yourself, your relationships, and your situation.
- Notice what is happening in your body.
As you begin to learn what is actually happening within yourself, you can often get to the root of the sadness. It might be you are in a season of grieving, and as you move through this exercise, you can further the healing process. You may be in a job or relationship which is causing you pain and stress. Moving through this exercise may help you begin to recognize changes you need to make.
Or you might come to realize you are stuck and need a little help to move through the pain and sadness, in which case it might be time to reach out to a trusted friend or seek counseling. Either way, you begin to understand that these painful feelings are trying to tell you something, and as you listen to and experience these emotions, you come to a place of better self-understanding. You may also begin to realize you don’t have to avoid sadness because you can handle it. The truth is, we all know that avoiding or numbing pain and sadness will only create more problems for us somewhere down the line. So why not try experiencing the emotion and see what you can learn from it? You just may end up feeling better.