Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
~ Carl Jung
This week in yoga teacher training we are focusing on svadhyaya, or self-study. I will admit that self-study isn’t much of a stretch for me, which you probably already know if you read this blog. I’m prone to a (maybe excessive) level of self-reflection and analysis (and I suppose my characterization of it as maybe excessive is sort of meta-svadhyaya). So, I wasn’t shocked to find myself thinking today a lot about where I am emotionally and trying to observe it.
The last few days I’ve been feeling sad. Some of it may be due to work-related stress, but I know that is not all it is because I’ve had more stressful days at work that didn’t affect me like this. Some of it may be due to the cold; I’m not at my best in the darker/colder months. Some may be related to just hormonal cycles or the effects of recent medical treatments. Whatever the reason, I’m sad. I have found myself near tears on several occasions.
There isn’t anything particularly interesting about the fact that I’m feeling sad. As Jung correctly notes in the quote above, sadness is a part of our lives. It’s inevitable. What is of interest to me today is that, when I feel sad and I don’t have a really good reason (like someone being really ill, losing my job, a family tragedy), I also feel very silly and guilty. Hmmm… (more svadhyaya – I say hmmm a lot when I’m not sure what else to say and I like parentheses).
Why do I feel so guilty about being sad? I don’t feel guilty about being happy. Both are just emotions and neither is worse than the other, right? My best guess is that it is related to cultural and family socialization. I grew up in a culture dominated by a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” philosophy that doesn’t have much use for being down and tends to treat it as something that must be fixed – just watch television for 60 minutes and see how many commercials you see for psychotropics. “Bad” emotions are suspicious. I also grew up in a household with an adult who experienced serious and prolonged bouts of depression, resulting in hospitalization on several occasions. Even as child, I knew that wasn’t considered normal, and saw how people pretended not to notice, suggesting to me that not only was it abnormal, but it was shameful.
Yeah, so I internalized all of that and I’m not good with sad. I’m not even good with other people’s sad, unless they are very small people or it’s related to something specific. It’s something to work on, and by “work” I don’t mean doing something but doing nothing, just observing the emotion and letting it go.
How do you respond to your own blue periods? (Yes, that’s a Picasso reference, but you get extra credit if you are thinking about the Smithereens right now)