I thought from my last blog piece I would spend some time considering the different emotions that we experience in life and how we integrate them into the fabric of who we are.
Sadness is one of the most powerful, often denied and universally experienced emotions. Many an artist has poured their sadness onto the canvas, into songs, through poetry and while it is immediately recognised, like all emotions it can be idiosyncratically experienced.
Sadness is one emotion that many of us cannot tolerate. It is so intrinsically related to the idea of what depression is, that many are fearful, if I feel sad I am depressed. Not so. Of course sadness does feature as an element of depression, yet the sadness I speak of here is the emotion that is naturally felt within the course of living. In the film Inside Out, the message underpinning the film was that sadness is necessary as an aspect of the tapestry of living as a compliment to joyful experiences. If there is no counterpoint to joy, how can feel it?
Sadness recognises and marks loss, this can be loss of one dear to us or loss of a part of ourselves, a mourning for what is gone or what could not be. It can hit us physically, demanding our attention and yet often we do not want to allow it, because of how it makes us feel.
Sadness is not permanent, however deeply it is felt. It is a state that is very rich and frightening, can affect everything we have normally recognised as familiar touchstones in our life and can leave us feeling very lost and without a compass. It can feel like a wilderness. It is a necessary process because it’s journey brings us to a new destination, a reconfigured world and we must experience the depth of the loss in order to be in this new world.
There is a realisation that the world is not as we would like it to be but the way it is given to us. In many ways the actually experience of sadness is distressing and very much embodies the tectonic shift within us and our understanding of the world. IF we do not feel our own sadness, how can we be in touch with another’s, how is empathy created if not through the awareness and knowledge of our own experience of sadness?
The following Seamus Heaney poem reflects a sense of loss, of what cannot be held onto and what must be let go:
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among otheres, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and it’s flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Send us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached out boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Out hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeards.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.