Most of the focus of my work is increasing happiness and joy in life with many clients. And while often increasing happiness and redirecting attention to joy, inspiration and creativity is very important we cannot experience life fully if we don't also attune to our less comfortable emotions.
Glossing over negative emotions hurts us in two key ways. First, it doesn't allow us to know our full self- only the parts we like best or feel most comfortable with- or believe other people will like best. But most often when we let ourselves and others (who have earned our trust) see the complexity of our full emotions we can deepen relationships and trust.
Second, when we try to shut down, swallow, or hide negative emotions they still get stored somewhere. They return to us in the form of nightmares, worries, or even more powerful emotions later on. Often they take the form of pain in our bodies (aching back, tense shoulders, tight jaw, headaches, upset stomach... etc). Wherever we store them- they still exist.
I've written about paying attention to shadow emotions before. But after watching Inside Out this evening paying attention to sadness is on my mind. Sadness is critical to wellbeing. Knowing our own sadness allows us empathy to share other people's sadness. It gives space for healing and hope, resilience and triumph.
There are lots of ways to spend time with sadness. One of the tools I ask clients to use is to create a sadness playlist. When we want to access sadness we can play certain songs or videos and allow sadness space in our lives. We don't want any emotion to take up full residency- so we won't let sadness become us, but we feel in touch with sadness, notice it in our bodies and know it will pass.
Over the years, I have gotten a lot of great input from clients about their favorite sadness songs and videos. I put together a list that might help you start your own.
Click here for my sadness playlist suggestions
If you find you are getting stuck in sadness, and can't seem to find your way toward happiness working with a therapist may help. Call me for a consultation, or check out goodtherapy.org for a provider in your area!