You may have read numerous essays on mental health issues,
but you won’t have read many regarding one of the most frequent and
long-lasting human emotions: sadness, sorrow, grief, melancholy. 20% of the
human race experience symptoms of depression, one of which is commonly sadness.
That is roughly 1.5 billion people. Just let that sink in… Sadness is more
common than ever as a result of many reasons, but I’m not here to address the
reasons, I’m here to discuss my view on sadness and why it is not necessarily a
Before we begin, let’s look at the etymology of the term.
The word “melancholy” originated from the words “black
bile”, of which in the medieval period, was (mistakenly) thought to be
discharged from the kidney and spleen, causing the reflective sadness known as
melancholy. The modern definition of melancholy is “a feeling of pensive
sadness, typically with no obvious cause” of which simplified, is a deep
Our society tends to view sadness in a way that makes it
seem damaging, unnatural and, to an extent, an illness. With technological
advances in the medication industry, people feel more inclined to consume
anti-depressant drugs to cope with this common emotion. In 2015, the UK alone
has prescribed an enormous quantity of 61.0 million antidepressant drugs– which
is 107.6% more than in 2005. Should we rely on drugs to numb the pain? By no
means. Here’s why…
While there is a distinction between depression and
melancholy, they do have similarities and could potentially prove convenient.
For instance, depression and melancholy both compel individuals to feel deeply
unhappy yet contemplative, almost meditative and could assist people to possess
a more profound understanding of who they are as an individual. It can indeed
support people to get over unwanted experiences, and it can truly provide space
for a transformation in which people may develop to become healthier, happier
people. However, depression can be extremely dangerous and harmful as well,
with other symptoms ranging from fatigue, lack of sleep, agitation, stress and
at worst, suicidal thoughts and feelings. While depression is a mental health
problem, sadness isn’t. Do not take substances to make it go away. As humans,
we need to work through our emotions as they help us build up resilience.
Without negative experiences, we are about as resilient as a soggy biscuit.
As scientific studies have come to show, sadness can have
positive outcomes too as it can make your judgement less biased, allowing you
to look at situations from different angles. It can make you think more
attentively and can promote an analytical mindset, amongst other things.
Another positive outcome is that you can become more motivated to help people
to feel happy in life, as you know what it feels like to feel down and upset.
In an experiment carried out by Professor Joseph P. Forgas, Ph.D., a game was
played; Players were given money and were instructed to donate as much of it as
they wished to the other player. The other player then had the choice to either
accept or decline the offer. If the offer was declined, both players received
nothing, if accepted, the transaction was completed. Forgas asked participants
to play the game after they felt happy or sad. He made note of how long it took
for them to make the decisions and how much money they gave the other player.
Those in a negative mood gave significantly more than those in a positive mood
and took longer to make their decisions. This suggested to Forgas that they
were more attentive to the needs of others and showed care in their decisions.
What’s more, the receivers in a sad mood attempted to improve the fairness of
the game, declining any imbalanced offers for both parties, signifying that
mood may play a part in the selfishness of an individual (or lack thereof).
A study has shown that women are generally more emotionally
experienced and knowledgeable than men are, excluding anger and pride, but
while this may be true, it is by no means something that is correct in all
circumstances. Gender should be irrelevant when it comes to emotion. It is,
after all, one of the most fundamental human things you could possibly imagine.
While women are generally seen as more emotional, who is to say that men can’t
be equally as emotional? Society is partially at fault concerning this, as the
stereotypical man is seen to be “strong” and “macho”. But
as gender roles continually change; we may in the future see a society where
males are not looked down on for crying or showing emotion.
You may have heard the expression, “The Tortured
Creative”. This is what many people picture when thinking of
world-renowned musicians, artists, writers, and poets. For example, Van Gogh is
a primary example of this phrase. You may not have heard of some patterns that
occur in creative people’s minds. For example, creative minds may have a
tendency to see correlations that others don’t and may, more often than not,
dwell on negative experiences. They can often be found playing and replaying
scenarios in their head in order to understand their feelings and to understand
what they can do about their feelings. But one reason that will most likely
come to mind is the fact that they put their emotions, thoughts and even their
very beings into their art form. It helps to portray your feelings if you feel
in such a deep way and to understand even the smallest of feelings of which you
can embody into your artwork, creating room to get over your feelings. Their
inner torture can help them to produce great pieces, paintings, poetry, etc.
Yet, it can in a way help them work through their emotions by expressing them
through the artwork in which they produce.
Now, by this time you are probably thinking to yourself,
“This student must experience this emotion quite a lot, to have such an
in-depth knowledge.” My answer to that is yes, I experience sadness daily.
It shapes who I am, and it may sometimes affect me on a deeper level than
others, but I should not be labelled because of it. I should not be told that
what I am feeling is unnatural, or “not good”. I am simply a
melancholic person, I spend time in thoughtful sadness and sad thoughtfulness
and that is not bad, it’s just the way I am.
To recap, I find that sadness is a beneficial human emotion
that can improve an individual. It should not be suppressed and should not be
spoken poorly of. It is a natural process that must be respected and people
should work through sadness and let it be. Of course, I’m not advocating for a
positively negative view of the world, but a negative side to your positivity
wouldn’t go amiss.
As the famous poet John Keats once said, “Do you not
see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an intelligence
and make it a soul?”