What is the purpose of sadness?

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Disclaimer/don’t call me out for stealing content: I didn’t pinch this from Disney’s Inside Out, I’ve been pondering this question for a long time.

I think sadness probably has many purposes, but in the interests of keeping this post short enough to comfortably read in one sitting, I’ll only explain a few of my theories. I’ve not studied this from textbooks or questioned experts, it’s only what I’ve gathered from my own experience and the occasional video on the all- knowing, 100% reliable, television and internet 😊

I think sadness is first of all necessary in order to heal and move past events that cause distress or unfortunate situations. Sadness as an emotion, and specifically the shedding of tears can release hormones and chemicals in the body and brain including numbing agents and painkillers. Tears produced for different reasons (in response to pain, cutting onions, cool air being blown and/or intense emotions) contain different chemicals to deal with the situation. Put simply, crying until you feel numb is a real thing; it’s something your body does to help you feel less sad. It’s also the reason listening to sad music can make you feel happier – it intensifies the sadness and makes your body release happy chemicals to remedy the situation. Very melancholy art such as music can also make your life seem less upsetting in comparison to the unfortunate situations described in said art.

Sadness, unlike anger, is a passive emotion, so it can help keep you out of trouble. It makes you slow or shut down for a little while, preventing you from reacting in dangerous ways. Anger will get you fired up and can block your rational thinking, allowing you to jump to conclusions or make silly decisions that you wouldn’t make if you were sad. Being sad is little motivation to do anything; even if you’re sad because of a situation, you’re unlikely to be in a state to fix it. Sadness can be turned into anger more easily than the reverse, much like how it takes longer for tea or coffee to cool to room temperature than it does to first boil the water.

The third and final reason I’ll cover today is that sadness is useful as a communication tool, a distress call if you will, to others that you require assistance or help. If you see a person crying, you will notice it more so than if a person was smiling. It seems to set off a kind of trigger in the brain – probably because as humans we are a very social species. We as people need emotional support from each other, and as a result we can be very attuned to noticing sadness even if it isn’t obvious. It’s non-verbal communication at it’s finest. And when someone we love is sad, we want to help. So when we are sad, it is useful for us to communicate this to others in the hopes they can help.

So please don’t fear sadness, it’s there for a reason. Don’t be afraid to show emotions, you are a human who was designed to feel things. Hopefully you understand sadness a little more now, and if you can understand what it can do for you maybe you can learn to use it in your favour. If you can sense yourself getting fired up and don’t want to get into a fight, listen to some sad music. If you’re sad, don’t be afraid to cry until you can’t feel the pain anymore because it will really help. Don’t hide your sadness from others and put on a happy mask, because there are people who can help you if they just know that you’re feeling down. These ideas don’t completely explain extreme sadness or disorders/illnesses/conditions like depression, but hopefully they can be of some use to you.

Stay safe,

keyboardphilosopher xx

2 thoughts on “What is the purpose of sadness?

  1. Well said, particularly your point about anger driving people to action whereas sadness does not.Sadness is a legitimate emotion that doesn’t necessarily need to be immediately escaped. As you say, it can serve a purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

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