Lead in

In this presentation, we discuss the emotion of sadness.


Sadness is a coherent emotion that is accompanied by negative feelings internally, and externally, a downturned mouth, including tears and sometimes crying.

Definition of sadness - needs to be definition of the emotion.

Sad looking woman

Sadness is not an easy emotion to define.  Obviously everyone experiences it differently and there are a great many words, in the English language, at least, for synonyms of sadness.  Our task here is not to define sadness in a way that is universally applicable, but to define it in a way that is applicable to emotional fitness theory.  For this purpose we have the following definition:

We become sad as a result of loss.  It may be loss of a loved one, a favourite toy, a job prospect, our pride, respect, or our sense of well-being.  Whatever, once it is gone, it is gone and there is nothing we can do about it except let it go so we can start afresh.  Sadness is letting go.  When a person is sad, in many ways, it is their body telling them to relax and let go of tensions in the mind and body.   When people are unable to let things go they may start to have more ingrained problems, such as a depressive disorder.

Benefits of this definition

By focusing on this narrow definition of sadness, we are more able to apply a practical solution.  Loss is a universal experience.  Winning is usually associated with happiness and loss with sadness.  When we win we are happy.  When we lose we are sad.

The main event

Sad and depressed man

As discussed in previous presentations on Emotions obey Physical Laws, and Emotions are Rational, happiness and sadness generally occur in a rhythmic pattern alternating over time.  When we are sad, we should know that we will not always feel this way, and due to the laws of the universe embodied in our own homeostatic processes, we will naturally and spontaneously progress back towards a happier state over time, irrespective of what we do.  What goes down always comes back up.


Experiencing, and being able to experience sadness is an important part of healthy emotional behaviour.  An emotionally fit person is able to experience coherent sadness and will usually find the time and space to adequately express and deal with it as required.  For instance loss of a loved one might involve taking time off work for a while, saying good-bye at the funeral, sharing the experience with other people and grieving properly.  A life without experiencing sadness may not be as rich as one where sadness is present.  The physical laws of motion applied to emotions would suggest that where there is happiness, there should also be sadness, because of the natural alternation between the two states.  A person who experiences healthy amounts of happiness will also likely experience similar healthy amounts of sadness, as part of an emotional equilibrium.


When there is little or no balance between happiness and sadness, a person may not be able to experience sadness coherently and may instead experience depression.  Depression involves medium to long term experience of negative effect and can be seriously debilitating. It is also the most common of all psychological disorders, affecting about a quarter of the population (in most Western countries) some time in their lives.

In the presentation on Stored Emotion, we discussed how emotional energy gets stored somehow in the body.  The most likely explanation for the inability to experience an emotion such as sadness properly, is when emotional forces applied to us some time in our lives, are not adequately responded to, and the energy gets trapped in the body.  Recall the opponent process theorem discussed in the presentation on Emotions obey Physical Laws, this is equivalent to the person having a highly traumatic event, like skydiving from an airplane for the first time, and then having no safe place to land.  With no safe place to land, the body does not have the opportunity to spontaneously progress back towards a happier state and normal behaviour of the nervous system is blocked.  The energy has to go somewhere, and is stored in the body, and the result can be a diminished ability to experience coherent emotions.

Depression is an incoherent emotion of a different sort, in that, because of its persistence and duration, we call it a psychological disorder, which interferes considerably with daily functioning and can often require medical intervention.


Depression and sadness can be channelled successfully, by using the experience of the downward pulling emotion to encourage the body to relax.  This is an extension of channelling as described in the presentation on Processing and Channelling Emotion, where,  rather than channelling energy into changing body structures, we channel the lack of energy we that we feel into relaxing our body in ways that we have perhaps never relaxed before. This can be done using any relaxation method, but depression sometimes provides such a powerful sense of futility that it is often not necessary to use anything and all you have to do is let the weight of the emotion drag you down into a relaxed state. 

For this channelling to work you do need to be well practised at self-relaxation and it helps to be conversant in other aspects of emotional fitness technology as well.

The benefit of channelling depressive episodes into self-relaxation is that it is possible for you to relax parts of your body in ways that you have never done before.  Once those parts of the body are fully relaxed, and you keep them that way for the duration of the episode, then they are ready to be activated in ways that you may have never used them before.  The result is that something in the way your body works is improved.  I cover this in detail in later presentations.

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Personal example

When I was an adolescent the experience of depression came to me on a few occasions as a powerful downward gravitational pull.  I literally could not stand up, and felt my body falling into the ground.  I found it constructive to channel that sensation by lying on my bed and allowing myself to relax.  Over the decades I used depressive episodes to teach myself to relax and let go.  In the process I would ride out the storm and at the end feel quite relaxed and ready to move on.


Sadness is a negative emotion that is associated with loss.  A person who is unable to experience sadness coherently may instead experience depression.  It is possible to effectively channel depression into heightened ability to relax.

Challenge to audience

Sadness might be considered a negative emotion, but it makes a positive contribution to the quality of your life in that it is a natural part of your emotional balance.  It is an emotion that can be grabbed hold of and harnessed to help you move on and forward with your life. I challenge you to view sadness and depression as your body telling you that you need to relax and let something go.

References and further reading