How Sadness And Sorrow Are Requirements For Finding True Joy

how sadness and sorrow

How Sadness And Sorrow Are Requirements For Finding True Joy


It’s true. Until someone explains how sadness and sorrow are requirements for finding true joy, it sounds counter-intuitive. But it’s really very simple, and completely natural.


If you’re sad, sorrowful, feeling depressed or morose, or even just a bit melancholy, you have such potential for joy. Emotions come and go, and we must let them go if we want either a strategic or tactical advantage in life.


Overwhelming Sadness

There are some – I’m one – who reach a point in life where sadness is overwhelming. By the time I was an adult, I’d had a lot of practice feeling sad and depressed. I was good at it. It didn’t help to learn that my feelings may have resulted from suppressing anger; I was still depressed. It was so overwhelming that I started to think about suicide.



One aspect of being chronically depressed is frustration with it. “Why doesn’t this feeling just pass already, so I can get on with life?!” It’s a good thing to understand the cause, question the duration, and generally get all up in the face of chronic, debilitating emotions.


If one can sustain that frustration long enough, breakthroughs are possible. My frustration didn’t do that. Instead, I gave up.



how sadness and sorrow

There’s a Zen proverb about chopping wood and carrying water (see the nearby image) that has circled around me most of my life.


My step-grandmother was with the Red Cross in China after World War II, and brought home a small, carved ivory figurine of a monk, carrying a water bottle and an ax. The monk’s eyes are sad but he is laughing.


This Netsuke would have been worn by a monk as a sort of talisman; in this case, meant to remind the wearer of how feelings are a part of the human situation, however enlightened that might be.


Not a great reminder for anyone in the Pit of Despair. But paradoxically true. Even though this little Netsuke sat on my desk, it wasn’t a great reminder during those times.


Letting Sadness Flow

The frustrated energy couldn’t power me out of sadness. I had to find another way, and, over many years, I started to learn that I’d known the way all along. I just let the sadness flow. When it showed up, which was often, instead of resisting I allowed it a place at the table.


Musicians must feel the emotions in the music they play and offer these authentically or an audience won’t connect to their music. Technical skill isn’t enough to connect with true fans. The way to let sadness flow, I found, was to put it to music.


You can do this, too. It’s safe and effective. Here’s how it works.


Gateway Music

Music works with you physically, mentally, and emotionally (some would add spiritually), to enable a holistic experience of that emotion. You don’t have to do anything except listen and allow the emotion to take you where it wants you to go.


A piece of music you love that deeply embodies an emotion you feel is a gateway through that emotion.


When I used music that way I found that, a little at a time, I let go of my sadness. And I found myself in an uncharted emotional territory.


Finding Neutral

how sadness and sorrow

At first, it was unusual when I felt emotionally neutral. In that place, where none of the primary emotions predominated (see the nearby image), there was something magical:


With feelings in neutral, you can choose what to feel next.


There were plenty of reasons to choose anger, some for fear, and a few for joy. It took a while to take the joy option, but mastering the release of sadness and sorrow with music opened up the potential for joy, too.



No Zero Sum

Conventional wisdom believes that emotions displace each other so that one feels either sadness or joy. Not true; have you ever seen someone so happy that they cry? There are so many powerful, dramatic moments in the theatre and in movies based on exactly this marvelous ability we humans have for complex emotional experience. One of my recent favorites is how Hermione treats Ron when he finally returns, safely, to join Hermione and Harry in their quest to locate the Deathly Hallows.


So your choice of what to feel next might be complex, but if this practice is new to you, keep it simple for now. If joy is what you want, choose that.


Choose Joy

At first, you may need a joy trigger. Fortunately, that’s easy with the ‘net. If you haven’t got a playlist of songs that make you smile (or ought to) or video clips that make you laugh, create one now.


I’ll wait.


If you’re just feeling too sad or sorrowful to do this right now, spend some time with the music that helps you “flow” sadness until that sadness has flown.


Make certain there are some sure-fire joyful songs or gut-bustingly funny moments in the list you assemble. The ‘net has tools for this; use them!


Your Crash Cart

Now you’re ready. You’ve got the music you love that helps the sadness flow through you. You’ve got some joy triggers close at hand. Here’s how it works, all in one place and easy to follow:


  1. Get down with the sadness – use your music if that helps
  2. Find neutral – sadness is complete; ready to choose a new feeling
  3. Trigger joy – use your joy-triggering playlist


That’s really all there is to it. We can actually leverage sadness and sorrow this way to enhance joy; joy feels so much better when sadness and sorrow are complete first.


Are you beginning to understand how sadness and sorrow are requirements for finding true joy? For questions, coaching, and accountability, please reach out to us here.


If you’re not quite ready for

How Sadness And Sorrow Are Requirements For Finding True Joy


no need to worry. You could always start with this article. or, if you prefer, this one, which is how to deal with sadness without a prescription.


Ready for a deeper dive? The Musimorphic Quest, a fully-mentored online active-learning experience will immerse you in practical ways to meet life’s challenges with skills you may not realize you already have. It’s not for everybody, but you are that unique individual who really resonates with with the power of music and wants to learn to wield it with skill, give it a try. The landing page is here.


Picture of Bill Protzmann

Bill Protzmann