My wife often comments, usually when she’s annoyed with my inability to empathise with her, that I lack empathy. I beg to differ, I actually am really good at empathising, especially when friends of my mine have big exciting news to tell me. It doesn’t matter how I am feeling I will rise to celebrate their victory with them, and revel in their joy, and put my own sadness to the side to empathise with them.
I’ve lived most of my life as a hedonist, and most hedonists see sadness as something to avoid, but even though sad is something I am not often, I would embrace it. Before I met my wife, I lived alone at Dinner Plain (near Mt Hotham in the Victorian Alps), a remote small town that was busy in winter but very quiet in the warmer months. I would indulge in any grief (after being dumped, I know it’s hard to believe), or sadness and go for a long day hike in the mountains on my own. I would really embrace the sadness, throw it around in my head and would always arrive back home feeling centred and that I had resolved the emotional issue.
When my Mum died, the family spent a week closely together. Then when my sister Lisa died 6 months later, the remaining family spent another week closely together. Death is such a positive experience really, because there is the funeral and the wake with friends and family from all over to celebrate the life that was, and console each other and laugh of the good times shared. I went one step further and made a documentary to really make sure I resolved my grief.
These days I sometimes may just feel sad for inexplicable reasons. I try to understand why I am sad and embrace it, but mostly I just shrug it off and focus on the joy around me. With a young family I don’t often find time to indulge in it, but I am careful not to let any unresolved sadness fester.
I understand sadness is necessary, and after reading this article titled “Four Ways Sadness May Be Good For You” I discovered how you could profit from it; by improving memory, judgement and interactions as well as inspiring motivation. Perhaps if you feel sad about your current health it will motivate a positive change in your diet.
Mostly I see sadness as a necessary time to reflect, like taking a personal history lesson to learn what to do in the future. If only our governments could do the same, and heed the words of Split Enz, “history never repeats, I tell myself before I go to sleep”
This blog originally featured on the Changing Habits website.