What do you do when you feel happy? Do you smile? Laugh? Do you feel a desire to share your happiness with the world around you, looking to spread the joy which permeates your entire being to as many people as possible?
What about when you’re angry? It may depend on just what has been so irksome, but do you find yourself reddening as you silently seethe? Or do you find yourself shouting and swearing? Lashing out at people or objects around you?
How about when you feel upset, what do you do then? Additionally, how did you feel reading that last question?
For some, a resistance to feeling upset may have made itself known, one way or another. Some may deny they are ever upset, preferring to use a different emotion label instead, perhaps one which they feel more comfortable using.
While stigma rarely exists when we talk about happiness, the issue of sadness can be the extreme opposite. Happy feelings are seen as positive; sadness is negative. Similarly, anger can constitute passion, self-belief or integrity; sadness can be viewed as petulance, wallowing, showing weakness.
But where does this impression of sadness come from?
It is, in essence, an emotion just like any other; something within us tells us to feel a certain way based on our perception of a situation we may find ourselves in.
Perhaps a critical voice tells us not to show that we’re sad. Maybe we would feel unsupported and alone in doing so. Could it be that the world around us is implicitly telling us that it is not okay to be upset?
But with this comes conflict within us – we feel sad, but tell ourselves not to. To get on with it. To cheer up. To think of tomorrow, when it’ll all be better. But we then deny our feelings, pretend they don’t exist, convince ourselves that they don’t. Consequently, we then don’t allow ourselves to ‘feel’ the feelings and recognise what it is that helps to cultivate a feeling of sorrow.
Barriers to showing emotions, like sadness, can be explored in the safe and secure environment of counselling; reflection and rumination could help to identify where these psychological blocks were created, and crucially, why they were established and sustained over time.
While it certainly is not an expectation to focus solely on sadness, within a caring and nurturing therapeutic relationship built up over time through counselling, it hopefully will be accepted for what it is: nothing more than genuine human emotion. And that’s okay.
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