~ The Healing Power of Sadness~
Goddess Gift subscribers, please welcome Dr. Steven A. Hodes, M.D., who joins us this month with a message about the healing power of sadness. Dr. Hodes is the author of a column titled The Meta-physician On Call.
Dr. Hodes views healing in the broader context and defines it as any and all activities and choices which make us more aware, knowledgeable, caring, compassionate, loving and joyful. He believes that pain can become a source of healing and that we can learn more from difficult lessons than easy ones. He feels that sharing our thoughts and feelings with others during times of suffering is manifesting the God/Goddess within us.
~ The Healing Power of Sadness~
Sadness is a
universal human emotion, a part of every day
living. Although many of us view it as a dark
cloud that should be avoided and denied, I
believe sadness brings a gift of healing.
Acknowledging our own sadness can be a crucial
step in the healing process itself.
I can assure you, this is not something I learned in my traditional medical training! In fact, physicians are encouraged to avoid emotions – ours, our patients, and their families -- like the plague. However, time and experience -- almost 30 years in medical practice -- have taught me that sadness can be a doorway to transformation.
What is sadness, really? Is it a fact? Is it an emotion? Most of us have experienced it at one time of another – in times of illness, loss, fear, stress, disappointment – as an emotional state brought on by certain circumstances. There are some whose lives are on the perpetual edge of sadness. They feel it lurking around every corner, crouching in the shadows. Some wear sadness like a second skin, or at times feel it sweeping over them like a suffocating wave. Even among those who appear outwardly upbeat and happy, it is always present, a vaguely perceived mist off in the distance.
Healing means ‘to make whole” and sadness would seem to render one fragmented and frustrated. Especially since it can lead to a vicious cycle in which sadness leads to self-pity, further sadness, lack of equanimity or peace and ultimately to dis-ease.
Kabbalah provides a compelling metaphor that can be applied to daily life: All human beings are fragmented, incomplete - yet this is no accident. In fact the entire universe is imperfect, incomplete, fragmented and in need of repair and healing. As human beings we are not expected to be perfect, only participate in the healing of ourselves and the world. Healing, from this vantage point, becomes the essence of the metaphysical journey toward wholeness.
Buddhists recognize suffering is a universal human experience, and that sadness is not punishment. Rather, it is cue from our body, mind and soul that we need to take a moment to do a reality check of our emotional state and get to the source of the feelings. Just as physical pain is necessary to alert us that our body needs immediate attention, sadness serves the same function for our emotional self. Sadness can help us diagnose our emotional ailments. Therefore, rather than deny sadness, we should welcome it as a gift for healing.
Just think of the last time you felt sad. Did you want to retreat to your bed, to lie down, to sleep? Did you want to meditate or go for a walk? How many of us actually give ourselves permission to do that? We may think of that as escapism or being wimpy. Instead many of us react by distracting ourselves with more ‘doings’—work, play, sex, drugs can become a way of avoiding facing our problems. Rather than just ‘do’ something, we should look within and ‘be there’ with our sadness.
Dr. Steve’s Prescription:
* Revisit your concept of the ‘dark emotions’. They are normal. They are a part of every human beings life, there to teach us how to move forward in spite of them. Life without sadness would render joy meaningless.
* Take time to rest. Rather than reach for something that will take you away from the sadness, lay down with it. Feeling sad may be your Higher Self directing you to seek to rest. It may be a moment of reflection, one that will allow you to integrate any fragmented aspects of Self, to realign that which is out of balance and to make “repairs” on a subconscious level. If you feel a strong need to step outside the flow of time, honor it.
* Look for the lessons: Pain carries important lessons for us. In addition to the usual and normal feelings of loss, mourning, or the vague unexplained ‘blues’ that affect us all, sadness can alert us to the need to make changes in our lives. Sadness can be an early warning system regarding bigger problems, depression and anxiety which can overwhelm us.
* Honor sadness. We live in a culture that abhors discomfort of any kind. We don’t want to see it, to face it, or acknowledge how important it is. Pharmaceutical companies and physicians contribute to the belief that we should ‘anesthetize’ ourselves to any negative feelings. The amount of anti-anxiety and antidepressant prescriptions written is mind-boggling. We want to feel ‘great’ at any cost and as a culture we do quite well at drugging ourselves into states of bliss. Excessive use of alcohol, illegal drugs, nicotine, caffeine, sex, and excessive work are often used inappropriately to escape from sadness.
Embrace life – all of it. Sadness may show us that we need to change our lifestyles, or need more rest or relaxation. Sadness may offer clues that it is time for something new: a job change, a new relationship or attitude adjustment. All reality resides within our own minds. How we process sadness, and the world around us, is to some extent a choice that we all can make.
Beware, and take care of, Obsessive Sadness. Ultimately sadness can turn into depression, and can lead to physical illness. We are all aware of the science of the mind/body interaction. Our immune system is clearly impaired by chronic sadness and depression. We owe it to our bodies, as well as our minds and souls, to move through our sadness towards healing.
We need not hide from sadness if we understand that it is offering us opportunities to grow on a deeply emotional and spiritual level.
Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board
certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years
private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge
New Jersey. He received his medical degree from
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine and also
has a degree in Religious Studies
from Franklin and Marshall College.
In addition to his medical
practice, he has devoted himself to speaking and
writing about metaphysics and healing, with an
eye toward helping people regain their health,
strength and the ability to explore life’s
challenges from as more spiritual perspective.
His book, Meta-Physician On Call,
is due out in 2007. Visit him at
learn more about Dr. Hodes and his column.