The other day I found myself on my living room couch bawling my head off. Not the trickle down kind of tears, but the pour out, shooting out of my eyeballs, face distorting kind of tears. I could barely breathe. I was loud. I felt like I had gotten the wind knocked out of me. And everything set me off. A puppy on tv, the book on my coffee table, a biker riding down the street. I basically checked out from normal life and resigned myself to being a ball of a crying mess on my coach for an entire day. It’s what I wanted to do. It’s what I knew I needed to do. And when my best friend came over to try to cheer me up, it didn’t work. I didn’t want to be cheered up. Honestly, I just wanted to sit there in my sadness and let it take over.
I follow this great blogger named Danielle Laporte who always seems to know what I’m thinking. Her posts feel eerily connected to what’s going on in my life. That week, it was all about letting go. “Active Letting Go,” she calls it, is a pro-active approach to letting go of the things you know you need to let go of, even if you don’t want to. A doing-something-about-it-now approach. And she gave seven truths of said ALG. Two out of the seven are about accepting that it is a FACT that letting go is painful, and it hurts…bad.
And this got me thinking about sadness. I think sadness is one of the most icky emotions. The place we all hate going, hate staying in, and do almost anything to try to prevent. It’s scary and dark and…sad. It’s also the emotion that is SO hard to see others experience. It’s the place where we, as friends, daughters, mothers, fathers, strangers, want to jump in and say “hey…everything is going to be ok,” or “there there, this too shall pass,” or “let’s go out and have fun and forget all about it.” It’s where we bring out a tissue with a subtle message that your crying and sadness is hard for me to see, so please make it go away.
In our coaching courses, the tissue was a no-no. If someone crying asked for one, that was ok, but it was deemed inappropriate for a classmate to offer a tissue before asked. The idea behind it is to let that person have and feel their emotions uninterrupted, without them having to think they shouldn’t be crying, or should do something about them. In coaching we call that “being-with” what’s there. Whatever emotions show up for you, let it be there. Honor it. Treat it like a friend and welcome its presence, and don’t (you dare) try to do anything to make it go away before it’s ready to leave.
So in thinking about this, and my day as a ball on the couch, I came up with these 7 rules of (what I call) “Active Sadness,” which is about consciously engaging in your sadness.
1) Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. Let whatever emotion shows up, be there. Don’t try to push it away, because the more you push it away, the more it pops up in other areas of your life and the harder it is to eventually get over it. Whatever you resist will persist, and will keep showing up. So no more resisting.
2) Don’t try to DO anything about it. Sometimes when I’m sad, I feel like I should do something to stop it. Distract myself, change the subject in my mind, or do something to lessen the hard feeling (like drinking wine). I’m not saying you can’t call friends, but don’t do it as a way to not feel. Only do it if you want to feel more and share it. This one is all about being with what’s there.
3) Ask for what you need. No one knows how to deal with sad people. And no one knows what you need. Fact. So instead of letting them struggle and you getting frustrated, tell them what you need. If you need to talk and cry about it, do that. If you need them to stop talking, say that. If you need to be alone, ask for it. Whatever it is, get what you need because you deserve it.
4) CRY. That’s right. I said it. Cry your freakin head off like you’ve never cried before. Get on the floor. Roll around. Scare the pets and neighbors. But get a good one (or 50) in there. And do it until you don’t want to do it anymore.
5) Engage in extreme self-care. And what I mean is don’t beat yourself up. Don’t think you need to be farther along in the process than where you’re at. Don’t feel embarrassed for crying…again. Don’t apologize and don’t feel bad about yourself. Grieving is a process, and you must honor it and sit with it for as long as it takes. No sense in making yourself feel bad for feeling bad. So engage in activities that make you feel good (taking a bath, getting a massage, relaxing in a garden, etc). Take care of yourself lil lady.
6) Let your sadness show up wherever it needs to shows up. Sadness can pop up at any given time. Seeing an old friend who asks you about said sad thing, or a song on the radio, or a memory, or smell. It can be all around us, maybe even at the grocery store. So when it shows up, let it be there, no matter where it is. Then, see #’s 4 and 5.
7) Celebrate yourself for being human…a living, breathing, part of life that can feel deeply. Celebrate all the parts of yourself. The bright parts as well as the sad parts. I’m not into hippy dippy stuff, but this is all about you loving yourself. The WHOLE of yourself that has a WHOLE range of emotions. Celebrate that you are honoring your true feelings. A friend of mine told me that instead of saying “I am sad” say “sadness is happening.” It’s a way to recognize that “I am not sadness, but rather I am something in which sadness is happening” (her words). Meaning…I am bigger than this sadness. It is not ME. And…this too shall pass. ;-)
You know that quote “the only way around is through,” well I have a new take on it “The only way through it is to feel it.”
Leave a comment below with your experiences of engaging in your own sadness and some of your tricks to be in it. Then we can move on to fun and games (wait…no…stay in sadness! Shiz…this is hard!)
P.s. SO much of this learning (and MUCH of what is to come) is courtesy of my mentor, Lion Goodman. You can check him out at http://everydayawakening.com