This is the emotion for which people seek therapy. Its presence is so unsettling we pre-emptively take precautions to ensure that we never feel it—or at least feel very minimal amounts. We run from it, cower before it, fight it and sometimes succumb to it.
It is the emotion that triggers the same regions in the brain as when we experience physical pain. The anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex are primary regions associated with pain—and no, it does not distinguish between physical and emotional. It is as if the world in which physical injuries and emotional injuries share the same sphere—as if our own being understands—even if we do not consciously, the importance of our inner worlds. When our heart breaks, when we grieve loved ones, when despair seems the most illogical.
But it isn’t illogical, is it? There is something to be said for the emotion that alerts the world to our presence and serve as a beacon for humanity. Why humanity? Because it communicates succinctly a state we all understand; tragedy oftentimes bring whole communities together because sadness makes us relatable, connectable—human.
Sadness humbles us to our own selves and to the pain of others. Yet we are told that the goal of life is happiness and the antithesis of it is sadness—therefore, we snuff out any sign of this uncomfortable feeling, without first addressing its source. If sadness is a sign, a lesson to be learned, then we have done ourselves a disservice when we mute the signal. And for that reason I am not particularly fond of blind optimism because blind optimism disrupts the integrity of reality; it challenges humanity’s right to mourn our suffering. It robs you of an opportunity to grow spiritually, emotionally and mentally.
It is not as if we must be a martyr in search of constant pain, just as we need not be in search of constant happiness—or fear—or anger. They exist, as you exist and as I exist. Each with our purpose. Though, when sadness becomes unmanageable and dominates our ability to live fulfilling lives, we must step back and thank it for what it has taught us, but it is time to move forward without the shackles of pain.