Are you stuck in the land of sadness? Do you always come back to this all-too-familiar place, no matter what you do to get out?
Surprisingly, I’ve found very little in the annals of Psychology relating to prolonged periods of sadness besides labeling these states as some variation of depression. It may be called Clinical Depression, Major Depression, Schizophrenia, Anhedonia, or some other name neatly categorized in the manual of psychological diagnosis.
What if the primary cause of, let’s call it, “sadness for no reason,” was emotional “stuckness.” It’s like being stuck in first gear, or being emotionally tone deaf. It’s like feeling only grays and blacks instead of experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion. I like to think of the full spectrum as the colors of a rainbow.
What if there was a way to change emotional mono-tonality into a state of emotional multi-tonality?
What causes emotional mono-tonality? The most likely answer is fear of being hurt. The little boy or girl inside us needs protection from some form of emotional criticism, non-acceptance, or abuse. The subconscious response is to dampen or completely shut off the emotions. It’s a good strategy for a defenseless little boy or girl. However, it becomes a problem later in life when a void of emotions and the program cutting off feelings continues to run causing depression, limited capacity, and self-destructive behavior.
I can vividly remember the moment when I shut down my emotions. I was a thirteen-year-old boy standing in an open field outside my Junior High School. As I recall the experience, I’m struck with feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, and something I can only describe as the raw pain of existence rushing in. These feeling were overwhelming.
I reacted by flipping a mental switch to turn off the uncomfortable feelings. Maybe I was a Yogi in my past life. Who knows? I just did the deed, oblivious of the effect it was destined to have on my future self.
After a morning meditation yesterday, the idea hit me that prolonged, “unreasonable” periods of sadness can be the result of “frozen emotions.” Emotions are supposed to circulate rather than remain fixed. Could my constant effort to control my thoughts and emotions be the cause of the lingering sadness on the sea bed of my emotional psychosphere?
“Of course it can”, I told myself. A frozen emotional state is like a river or a lake frozen solid. Nothing moves.
No movement leads to stagnation. Picture a pond where the source of fresh water has been blocked. What does it look like eventually?
Emotional stagnation leads to sadness and depression. Constantly struggling to “stay positive” can easily lead to the opposite result. Fixing thoughts and emotions on a single desired state of feeling/being is the definition of “freezing.” We can wind up trapped in a state of grays and blacks.
The big question is where is the fine line between over-control and adequate control of thoughts and emotions. There is an interesting theory presented by Doctor David Burns in his famous book, “Feeling Good.” He says, basically, that thoughts determine emotions. I believe there is a fair amount of truth to this idea. In his book, Burns goes on to identify a series of self-defeating thought patterns that lead to sadness, depression, and unproductive behavior. All of this makes sense, and Burns claims to have had a significant success rate with his methods for reversing self-defeating thought patterns.
I’ve tried Burns’ method. It can help, especially in the short run, but I find it incomplete. Talking back to misconceptions becomes too mechanical and laborious after a while. And, it really doesn’t get to the root of the problem: the feelings themselves.
My personal experience teaches me that over-controlling thoughts and emotions can lead, ironically, to sadness and depression. Why? Because emotions need room to breathe. They need time and space to unwind and, if necessary, to heal.
It would be lovely to constantly walk around in a relaxed and released state of being. I’ve been advised to let go of my emotions and allow them to just “arise.” Sounds wonderful. I wish it worked for me.
Here’s the paradox. The demands of everyday life don’t provide us with enough time to allow our emotions to unwind, express, and heal. If you don’t have to work; if you aren’t in relationships; if you have no goals, then, by all means, go ahead and feel however the hell you want to. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself alone and homeless.
So what’s the answer? It’s obviously an individual thing. We’ve all heard and read that it’s necessary to carve out alone time to rest and recharge. It can be a long walk in nature. It can be painting a picture. It can be anything that helps you relax and enjoy. For me, it doesn’t stop there.
I’m currently using a psycho-spiritual approach to get my stuck emotions moving. With no intention of sounding overly dramatic, it’s also something I do to approach my “existential dilemma.”
What I’m about to say is not an attempt to advocate or promote anything. If it resonates, then fine. If not, we can still be friends.
My approach begins with regular meditation periods of about thirty minutes in the morning and just before bedtime. During these periods, I let my emotions out of their corral. In open fields, they can romp and kick without doing any damage to myself or any collateral damage to those around me. I do this meditation in conjunction with a tangible energy field that I tap into through my connection to the Trillium Awakening community of teachers and practitioners. I’m able to reach levels of peace, love and joy within myself aided by the Trillium energy transmission. I know. It sounds crazy, but it works for me.
One of the benefits of this practice is an activation of my emotional core. What gets stirred up isn’t always pleasant, but it’s movement, and, I believe, steps in the right direction.
I’ve also discovered an underlying program that affects my thoughts and emotions. It feels more like it is embedded in my body rather than in my mind. So, it is coming from the bottom up rather than the top down. The program needs to be understood and accepted. I might say “befriended.” Then, hopefully, it will unwind and lose its effect. Or transform into something more conducive to good feelings.
My approach may sound totally bonkers to you. No problem. Find your own way. Whatever you do, let’s discover pathways to breathing in and breathing out the full spectrum of human emotions. Let’s experience the rainbow.
Feature photo by Pop and Zebra on UnSplash.com