The Joy of Sadness

It starts with a lip quiver. Then faster blinking. Breathing deepens. Throat chokes up. Eyes swell.      

I start to cry.

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.
— Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Hands clammy. Heart heavy. Spirit shaken. My crying deepens. I get into it. I try holding back but it hurts when I fight it. I give into it. A voice inside says, “just let go.”
I'm sniffling now with hiccups in my breathing. I get worked up. I feel slightly out of control. So I snap out of it for a second. Judgement ensues. Another voice inside teases, "wait a sec, are you crying?!?! OMG, I can't believe you're CRYING!!! The voice thickens with insult. Shame slithers in for a nasty hello. I feel vulnerable. Completely wide open. Ready for the low blow of public humiliation. But then I look around and remember that I am alone. Safe at home. I smile in relief.

The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.
— Henry Maudsley

I refocus. (TSN turning point). I resume crying with more enthusiasm. I do my best to transport myself back to that exact moment that did me in (when Bing Bong sacrifices himself and says "take her to the moon for me okay?"). I then strangely bask in the manliness of my tears. I let the tears stream down without wiping on purpose so that I can see how much liquid I can produce. I embrace my tears. It feels incredibly refreshing. A weight has been lifted from my soul.

Admittedly, crying over a children's movie is not the most stoic, may be more embarrassing than anything, but I'm proud to say that I owned it. I didn’t hold back on one single tear.

Do not apologize for crying, without this emotion we are robots.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
 Another home run from the brilliant minds of Pixar & Disney

Another home run from the brilliant minds of Pixar & Disney

The movie “Inside Out” by Pixar is about the emotional rollercoaster of childhood and the transition into adolescence. Brilliantly, the emotions of joy, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger are embodied as characters within the mind of a girl named Riley. The interactions between these characters are charming, comedic, and thoughtful. I loved this movie because it addresses our relationship with those uncomfortable emotions. It teaches us that sadness is not a bad thing and that crying is not something to be ashamed of. The movie “Inside Out” demonstrates that sadness is a vital emotion that connects us, and can act as the catalyst for happiness.  

Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma behind the act of crying and the emotion of sadness in our society. Likewise, vulnerability is seen as a state of weakness. Or how we go out of our way to avoid suffering, numb pain, and fight fear, when most often they are simply feelings that are misunderstood.

We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.
— Brene Brown

Sadness, fear, vulnerability, shame, and despair are feelings that give true meaning to the positive emotions of happiness, optimism, courage, joy, and hope. Together, all of these emotions provide us with perspective, balance, and purpose. Together, this beautiful spectrum of emotions make the experience of life so incredibly special.

To use this enlightening movie experience with sadness and crying and shift it to a place of inquiry and deeper investigation, I wanted to open the floor to questions I’ve been pondering for some time:

  • Does one have to experience sadness in order to experience happiness?
  • Does one have to experience tragedy to experience triumph?
  • Does one require pain and suffering to experience growth and gratitude?

In my previous blog entry, I explored my personal experiences with adversity and discomfort. I argued that these terms are consistently misunderstood and undervalued. I concluded by encouraging the use of discomfort as a tool, as fuel to authenticity, and as something to honor.
I am living proof that ‘adversarial growth’ is a powerful phenomenon that works incredibly well.

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
— Saint Paul

Why does the human condition seem bound to this rule of achieving growth through adversity? 

  • Does Carl Jung’s quote hold true, whereby, "the word 'happiness' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."?

What degree of adversity does one have to experience in order to achieve a certain degree of happiness?

  • Does Newton’s 3rd law apply in this investigation, whereby, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”?

To provide further context on my investigation, you could ironically say that up to this point, I have lived a very imbalanced life, in dominating favor of happiness, protected from trauma, tragedy, and sadness. For this, I am grateful to my amazing parents. It is from them that I have a set of core values that enable me to empower others. It is this life free of fear that I am able to think as openly and existentially as I do. It is through this reflection on my imbalance, in favor of happiness, that I am enthusiastically curious to solve for a universal unknown.

To churn this argument through, based on my own experiences, I would argue that the degree of my happiness, comfort, and success outweigh the degree of my sadness, discomfort, and adversity. I've grown much more than I've suffered. I value the positive much more than the negative. I believe that on the absolute, my life is more happy than sad. 

So what now? What are you alluding to Julian?!?!

Perhaps there is no quantifiable answer to this phenomenon. Perhaps there is no objective answer to a subjective question. It may be that I am just sharing my process of thought with no aim to solve for x, or to answer the unanswerable, or to reach a destination. 

I realize that our hypotheses and questions are bound by what we know, how we think, and why we think. And those factors are valid based on what others know, how others think, and why others think. 
This philosophical reasoning  takes me to my conclusion.


My first ever serious girlfriend had always used this phrase when we would argue. I didn't quite understand it at the time, but I realize now that we each have our own eyes, ears, thoughts, opinions, upbringing, and relative context to which we receive and perceive the world we live in.   

RELATIVISM is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity within themselves, but rather only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.

Hence emotions like sadness and happiness have no truth or validity within themselves, but only relative to differences in perception and consideration. The perceptions of our emotions hold value when things like moral standards, beliefs, culture, societal norms, and values, are taken into consideration.

At the moment, I believe that feelings and emotions can be experienced to varying depths and degrees. I believe that they are bound to the rate at which we achieve universal understanding. And that understanding is itself constrained by science and progress.

Feelings should be considered neither good or bad, they just are. They should guide us to curiosity, logic, and awareness. They should encourage, create, and inspire beliefs and behaviors that provide learning opportunities to evolve.

With my investigation on:

  1. Adversarial growth

  2. Exploration into the depths of emotion

  3. Relativism

I am thankfully more aware, appreciative, and altruistic. 
I hope my thoughts have made you more aware of your own emotional well-being. 
I hope I have inspired you to be more open with communicating your feelings.
Because at the end of it all, it is the only way we can truly grow together.

Cheers to tears,