Leaning into the sadness

This past 2 years have been difficult. My personal loss combined with the pandemic has brought on unprecedented challenges to my emotional presence. I have had increasing number of clients who are suffering under the strain of prolonged isolation and fear of uncertainty.

Like my clients, I also have ups and downs in my emotion. It is the rhythm of every human being. Whenever I feel lonely or lost, I find that allowing myself to just feel the sadness is reassuring.   It seems rather counter-intuitive a negative emotion like that can be therapeutic.  It is bringing me back into contact with my body.  Instead of being lost of the judgment of the situation in my head, which can quickly translate the feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness into panic and an urge to do what it takes to feel safe again, sadness allows me to sit still with myself.   Feeling that emotion is different from acting on that emotion.   By getting in touch with my limbic brain, I let my body know that I recognize the state my body and soul are in.  It is not nice, but it is also not catastrophic.   Instead of letting the problem-solving prefrontal cortex lead the body into remediating motion, like changing something–anything in order to shake up the predicament, I let my lizard and monkey brains see that I am still safe physically.  Sadness doesn’t threaten my survival unless I let it rule me.

The sadness, of course, still hurts, but it is manageable.  It also connects back to my younger self, who often felt lonely and sadness in my pursuit of perfection in order to earn love.  Back then, despite a stressful environment, I was probably less dissociated from myself. My cognitive functioning has not been educated enough to take too much control and neglect my body. So connecting back to that younger self and my prevalent feeling back then is as empowering as it is saddening.  Usually, after my body started to feel safer, I can re-activate my prefrontal cortex to focus on the task at hand instead of reacting globally due to panic.

From there, my triune-brains(limbic, lizard, and human) can work together, transition to joy.  It can only happen once we let sadness pass.  Sadness in itself is an energy that needs to have release either through breathing or crying.   Life is filled with suffering and sadness, it is a fact of life.  Our life is full of survival, emotional, and cognitive challenges.  That is not a pessimistic statement, rather an honest statement, brave one if you will.  It is with the recognition of these human conditions, that I choose to live it to the fullest, to see the beauty and joy, to love without regret, and to march bravely toward death. 

Our emotions are our friends in this difficult time, particularly the negative ones. I believe they help us discharge pain. I believe they empowering. I hope you will join me in letting our emotions liberate us from suffering.

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