This past week there was a great article in Newsweek about the value of sadness. Funny thing is that of course, depression and "sadness" are not the same thing. We have become so phobic of depression that we obsessively label anyone with normal sadness, stress or grief as being depressed. We even say that about ourselves don't we?
When we get down we say to our friends "I'm a little depressed today." Depression is such a catch all word. What does it really mean? In the DSM for clinicians it means more than a bit of sadness or even prolonged grief.
Depression is when we lose the capacity to function at normal levels for prolonged periods... not weeks, but months or more. When we can't sleep, can't eat, lose interest in our favorite activities and lose awareness of our appearance and it goes on for months; that's depression.Showing Sadness
When we allow our sadness to be seen by others, we risk being labeled as "unhealthy" or "depressed" when what we are feeling is NORMAL. Isn't it normal to be upset if our cat dies or we lose our jobs? Isn't it normal to grieve for a loved one over a period of years? What happens if we don't allow ourselves these feelings?
I read something recently about a new trend in Japan among business managers. Japanese workers are REQUIRED to keep a smile on their faces at all times. The result is that the incidence of depression, anxiety disorders, suicidality and alcoholism have radically increased.Toxins
Our bodies are designed to release the the pain we feel through our tears. Tears actually release toxins created from the pain. Tears from watery eyes are not the same, chemically, as tears from pain or sadness. When we stuff these feelings and or pretend they are not there, the result is like a toxic waste dump in our bodies creating stress and illness in that show up as a variety of illnesses.
Being sad or suffering from grief is what makes us human!
My clients often feel they are "wrong" for feeling sad about sad things. Yet isn't this what separates us from the psychopaths of the world? Because we can feel sadness when something horrid happens, we know we have heart. How would you feel about someone talking about the shootings in Northern Illinois with no sadness about them? Someone who could hear of horrors like these and not feel something is missing a piece of their humanity.Isn't this what we do to ourselves?
We limit our own ability to process or grief and sadness when we tell ourselves we "shouldn't" feel something we feel. This week a friend of mine said, "I was driving home from work today and just started crying. I don't know what is wrong with me." Yet this very friend was going through a painful divorce, moving into a new home and having to deal with her children blaming her for the divorce, and her mother died last spring. I said, "Your are kidding me! You have every reason in the world to feel sad. I want to cry just thinking about what you are going through."
When we minimize or deny our very real sadness we set ourselves up for depression. Depression, as it turns out, is less about being sad than it is not being able to BE sad. When we keep ourselves from having our sadness we are much more at risk of depression. Let yourself cry!
Allow yourself to have your feelings, and better still, let yourself cry on someone's shoulder. A man I know recently realized the career choices he had made have limited him so much he now feels trapped. He turned to me and said "I just want to drive up to my sister's have have her hold me while I cry." "Do it!" I told him. This would be the healthiest thing he could do for himself. Oh, wow, this changes everything
, when we let ourselvs feel our pain.Therapy
Therapy is largely about helping clients connect with and release the feelings they have stored up in their bodies perhaps for a lifetime. Therapy works as well as antidepressants for depression, and it's effects last longer.
But you may not need therapy, you may just need the shoulder of someone who loves you.Do you let yourself cry?
Let me know what you think. Is it too hard for you to let loose with your tears? If so, what do you think this has cost you? Maybe you think these emotions are best avoided. Let me know, comment below.