Sadness v. Depression | Michelle Dixon
sadness trauma recovery

The Trauma Connection

You may feel sad for no reason, all the time or very often.

This is a common symptom of all forms of trauma, and one which requires attention and compassion because it can often be overlooked (especially when you are dealing with acute symptoms like panic, anxiety, or health issues).

Too many of us accept feeling sad for a great deal of the time and don’t actively try to shift it (I have been there, too). 

I am going to share with you what’s normal, when to seek extra support, and how to begin to relate to sadness so that you can start to shift it.

Sadness v. Depression

Feeling sad a lot of the time is terrible, but it’s even worse when sadness becomes chronic depression. Chronic depression can stop life in its tracks, and contribute to poor health, poverty, relationship breakdown and even suicidal feelings.

If your sadness has gone on for months, and it’s interfering with your ability to do day to day activities (pay bills, socialize, work),  you should seek immediate support from a therapist or counsellor, or even call a depression hotline (like HERE).

Why call someone? Because a therapist or counsellor, and even someone on a hotline like I suggested will have perspective and insight you don’t have right now, and the support they offer from this perspective can help you feel better.

Befriending Sadness

If you are sad, but not chronically depressed or in danger, you can try this very powerful concept of ‘befriending’ your sadness.

Why start with ‘befriending’ …? Surely I am not suggesting that you consider sadness your ‘friend’!

Well, yes, but not in the way you might think, so let me explain. 

If you’ve experienced trauma, it is so beyond understandable that you feel sad, in general, and about your life and circumstances. 

Unfortunately, the world we live in wants us to put on a brave face, and be happy. 

We don’t have books out there titled: “How to be okay about life not being okay.”

Instead, we are told at every opportunity: “Be happy, and here’s how.” 
But – it’s okay to be sad. 

The problem is that you have to GO THROUGH the sadness to get to healing and happiness.

You cannot avoid it.

You cannot try to ‘cure’ it or get rid of it.

It’s simply a part of the journey, and one that must be accorded respect. 

Sadness is the part of you that says, actually it’s not okay what’s happened.

Sadness desires your attention, awareness, and compassion.

For sadness to shift, you must begin with sitting with it, and really seeing it and feeling it. 

The American neuroscientist Candace Pert wrote an amazing book about the biochemistry of emotion Molecules of Emotion.

She wrote about neuropeptides, and how they are the body’s molecules of emotion.

Each time we have an emotion, we create a flurry of peptides unique to that emotion, and then our cells receive them and get instructions about what to do – about our health, our behaviour, and more.

When your cells are used to ‘receiving’ a certain kind of peptide in a great quantity, they stop creating new cells with different kinds of receptors to ‘receive’ peptides of happiness.

This creates a situation in the body in which it’s very hard to shift a dominant emotion once we are used to experiencing it often.

Yet, we can shift the sadness, using this method:

I use this with my clients, and with myself, and it does help a lot when you make it a regular practice.

Step #1 Validation: don’t turn away, turn towards your sadness, give it a name, and acknowledge it’s there.

Step #2 Affirm your vision for your life: have a vision of the experience you want in your life, meaning how you want to feel, what that ideal life looks and feels like. For a vision to have ‘power’ to manifest, it must emphasize not the ‘things’ you have, but the emotional vibe you long for.

For now, when you feel sad, it’s enough to validate that feeling as I wrote above, and then turn your attention to your vision, and affirm to yourself that this is what you desire to experience instead.

Habits don’t change overnight, but doing this simple process of befriending, and then stating your intention for a different experience, can pave the way for that new emotional state to arrive – and yes, it can!

[I have seen time and time again how people can go from feeling sad all the time to experiencing a contented life!]

Of course, I always suggest you be receiving other forms of therapeutic support because trauma is complex, and requires multiple forms of support!

But if you are dealing with sadness, the suggestions I have given are a very good start. xx

Want more support? My 6 step roadmap for healing reveals:

  • 3 Common mistakes people make when embarking on a healing journey;
  • 3 essential components of an effective treatment plan;
  • Appendix of common trauma symptoms, and what no one tells you about the reason behind common symptoms (from panic, to memory problems, from depression to insomnia);
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