I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's March 4, 2021, and on today's episode we'll be discussing the role of sadness in our spiritual lives as part 5 of our 7 episode series on emotions in spirituality. Are you ready to grow your soul?
When it comes to talking about emotions, the weird thing in a way… Well, not weird, it makes sense when you think about it. But the notable thing is that when people divide feelings in to good and bad, the good is all basically flavors of happy, but the bad is a whole wide range of things. Anger, fear, sadness, frustration… They aren’t just varying levels and varieties of unhappiness, they’re distinctly different. Sadness isn’t a different level of fear. Grief isn’t a different type of shame.
And on some level, this makes sense because we’re more focused on the so called negative or bad emotions because we want to avoid and reduce them. We always focus more on the stuff we don’t want.
Now, I think that’s one of those balance things we would do well to work out for ourselves, starting by not just trying to reduce how much so called bad stuff we feel, but by actually putting more focus on the so called good emotions we want more of. To end up with as varied a range of positive emotions as we have negative ones.
But anyway, today’s topic is sadness. And there are variations on this – different types of sadness due to different things that make us sad. Grief, disappointment, hopelessness. But one of the things that’s common in just about all types of sadness is a feeling either of loss or lack. It’s a feeling of not having something, either something you had and don’t have anymore, or something you want and didn’t get. And not just physical things – the understanding of this can be expanded by looking at it by all the elements.
So yeah, there’s definitely sadness over the loss of physical, material, earth things or sources of material things. Belongings, jobs, that kind of thing. Pets. Even the loss of a sense of physical safety and security. A loss of income. A loss of home. Then there’s the water stuff – relationships, friends, groups. Connection. A sense of belonging. Air stuff – Losing influence, losing arguments, losing in conflicts, no longer having a sense of understanding or direction or even expertise. Fire stuff – Losing in the sense of failure, losing motivation, losing agency and control and even the ability to physically do things. Loss of ability.
We’re sad when we don’t have. Which may sound contrary to some spiritual ideals. We are taught that we shouldn’t want, that we shouldn’t care so much about what we have, but shame is next week’s topic, and I’m not just talking about material possession. We are sad when we don’t have, and there are things we absolutely do need in life.
More than that, it’s okay to want things in life.
It’s okay to want things in life. Actually, it’s good to want things in life. It’s good to want things, we all need things, and sometimes we won’t have them. That’s I think the very most simplistic way to think about sadness. We want people in our lives, we want things to be certain ways, we want to be stable, we want to accomplish things, we want the things we enjoy, we want stuff we think is cool, and it’s inevitable that we will lose those things sometimes, that people will die or leave, that stuff breaks, that we don’t get what we want, that we’re denied things… It’s inevitable.
So sadness is inevitable, too.
But the important mindset shift here is that sadness isn’t the lack of happiness, it’s the lack of something else. The solution to sadness isn’t to grab more happiness. Well, first because solution isn’t the right approach or the right word. Being sad isn’t a problem to solve.
So that’s the first big thing. It’s part of life, it’s a natural human feeling, and it’s not one we can get rid of and it’s not even a good idea.
But beyond that, the way to cope with or respond to sadness isn’t to desperately grab other forms of happiness like you’re trying to overbalance a scale. Sadness comes from someplace, it’s caused by something, and no amount of other happiness, other joy is going to erase it.
But that’s only the start of the bigger topic here, which is the place sadness fills or the role it plays in spirituality. Is our spirituality supposed to help us alleviate sadness, cope with it, turn it into something else? Is sadness the kind of suffering that we’re supposed to go through to lead us to something else? Different spiritual paths have different answers, but what I’m hoping to do today is arrive at an answer that’s logical and makes sense in terms of self-evolution and growth.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode for the fourth episode of this series on emotions in spiritual life where we talked about curiosity. And come back next week when we'll talk about shame in part 6 of the series.
Let’s get back to the fundamental concept at the foundation of all these dives we’re doing into various emotions, and that’s the concept that emotions are just energy. They’re emotional energy and, like every other kind of energy, we can work with them in magical ways.
In this case, I think it’s helpful to kind of step back and look at what happens with that emotional energy in terms of sadness, where it goes and what happens to it. Because if you think about it, sadness energy is stagnant. When we’re sad, we tend to draw into ourselves. That emotional energy doesn’t make us want to do things, it makes us want to not do things, right? Our responses to various kinds of sadness are to withdraw, to reach for our support network, to rest, to isolate, maybe even to overthink about things. And energetically this is a lot of holding our energy inside.
But it’s not just holding onto it. It’s conservation of energy. Sadness makes us want to focus on keeping our energy and using it to heal emotional wounds. It’s like any other healing situation, it means rest, not exerting ourselves too much, and leaning on our circle, our community to support us, to help protect us while we’re recovering.
Now, there’s a lot to unpack in there, especially when you combine that with this idea that sadness always comes from some kind of loss. But it’s not all loss, right? Some loss is good. There are things we want to be rid of, that we want to lose. There’s stuff we are kind of indifferent to having or losing. Those losses don’t make us sad, in general.
It’s not the loss as much as the attachment.
That’s the key. The value we place on those things. The emotional energy we’ve already invested in those things. The relationships we already built. So there’s an aspect here of those attachments and relationships and investments of emotional energy are something we need as humans to a point. But if we’re experiencing an inordinate level of sadness and grief and hopelessness, it’s worth taking a hard look at whether we’re just suffering an undue amount of loss or whether we’re attached to too much, attached too strongly, building unhealthy one-sided relationships.
If there’s one thing that sadness points to, one purpose of it – because as I’ve been talking about in the other episodes, emotions have a purpose. They aren’t a problem to solve or a weird bad side effect of being human that we need to minimize. They’re around for a reason, and in the case of sadness it’s really all about relationships. It’s about the relationships we form that result in sadness when the relationship is damaged by loss.
I don’t know if anyone else has been watching WandaVision, but grief is a huge part of the plot, and there was a really beautiful flashback moment where Vision said something to Wanda about grief – he says, “What is grief, if not love persevering?” Which is, a) beautiful, but b) gets right to the point that sadness is about relationships.
And what are relationships if not energetic connections?
Every relationship we have – with people, with objects, with ideas, whatever, and whether they are good or bad – is a flow of energy.Tweet
At its best, a relationship is an exchange of energy, where both ends of that connection give and take and circulate energy between them. At its worst, a relationship is a one way push or pull of energy, or even a situation where one party or the other pours energy into it as a boundary, a block, a protection from the other. The thing is, no matter how healthy or destructive or taxing a relationship is when it’s an active connection, when it’s gone there’s an energetic impact on you. If there was any bit of energetic inflow on your part, if you got anything at all out of the relationship, you’re going to feel some loss and some resultant sadness when it’s gone.
Sadness points us to the things we’re energetically tied to, the things we have been energetically tied to, some of which we may not have realized how much of a connection was there and which might constitute a larger pattern in our lives. It calls upon us to look at those bonds, the ones that are broken and damaged, but also it calls us to look at the bonds we still have, the ones which we can lean on as we heal.
And I think a lot of you can see where this is going – that the remedy for sadness isn’t more happiness, it’s more connection. Better connections. A better understanding and better way of managing and protecting and choosing those energetic connections we get into.
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I’m sure that looking at sadness as a matter of relationships is reassuring for some of you and a bit less reassuring for others. Because managing our relationships is one of the biggest human challenges on a good day, right? And it’s on some level what most of us get into magic and spiritual practice to help with.
I’m not just talking about love spells and and that kind of thing, although definitely that’s part of it. Just not all of it. We get into magic to bring things and people into our lives and keep them out, right? To manifest stuff and manage stuff and those are all relationships. Energetic relationships.
Part of what magic is about is recognizing that we exist in this web of energetic connections, that it’s a constant circulation, give and take, push and pull of energies and that we don’t just have to sit in that web and accept what comes to us. Magic is looking at the world, looking at that web of energy, and taking some control of our little part of it. Using it, working with it for our purposes, for our benefit.
So everything we want to manifest? That’s energetic connections we’re building.
The people you want to bring into your life? Those are energetic connections. They’re all relationships.
We’re energetically connected to all kinds of people and things and ideas and whatever in the universe, and those are all relationships, and they don’t last forever, and when those connections and relationships break or are lost, we feel sad. We feel grief. We feel loneliness. We feel hopelessness. We feel that disconnection.
Now, the point of all these episodes is really to talk about where emotions fit into our spiritual life, not just how to use our spiritual tools to manage or deal with our feelings. So I don’t want to get deeply into a discussion of how to be less sad, because I think that’s missing the point. Because sadness in all its forms is really, really valuable in a spiritual sense.
First of all it’s a doorway, a window into where we need to do the most shadow work. I think I mentioned in another episode that growing up I was never really taught how to deal with emotions like sadness that didn’t have to do with grieving family deaths, that kind of thing, that those were things I was taught should be turned over to a higher power and let go of. And when I realized that, when I finally set out to deal with all the emotional baggage that I’d built up over all those years, what had to happen was me digging into all those feelings again, all the losses and broken connections that had caused those unresolved feelings and take a really good look at the kind of connections, the kind of relationships I tended to create and cling to and why I did that. So it’s not pretty, there was enough crying and listening to Nine Inch Nails that some of the less emotionally aware people in my life were a bit scared.
But that’s a huge, huge, huge part of spirituality and an even bigger part of magical practice.
If you’re into a magical tradition or practice and you’re not doing your shadow work, not digging deeply into self, two predictions: your practice isn’t manifesting what you really want, and what it is manifesting isn’t changing your life the way you hoped it would.
But aside from the shadow work part, there’s also the part about building good relationships and networks and honoring and valuing the energetic connections that you want in your life. Like I said at the beginning of the episode, we humans have a tendency to focus so hard on the things we think are wrong, the things that bother us in life that we aren’t as good at acknowledging and focusing on all the good.
And even when we’re sad, especially when we’re sad, the beneficial connections in our lives are essential for dealing with whatever losses we’re experiencing.
One final note here about loss. Not every loss is total. Sometimes it’s just a change. We lose physical relationships with loved ones but that energetic connection isn’t gone. It’s different. When we want to build a relationship, that want creates an energetic connection, and even if we don’t get the relationship we wanted, that connection to the idea of it is still there.
So the big takeaway here, aside from do your shadow work, dig deeper into your sadness to figure out what those relationships are that are spawning your feelings of sadness – but aside from that the big takeaway is that the existence of sadness in our life comes from the ties we have to the people and things in our world. And it’s worth the eventual sadness of loss to build those relationships, to honor them, to fully participate in them. To choose them consciously, intentionally. Because isn’t that really what spirituality is about? Our connections? Our relationships? What we choose to be connected to and why and how we live those relationships with our community and our circle and the universe and our little curated corner of existence?
So that’s what the toolbox download for today is about, it’s really focused on relationships. Because sadness is important, it’s inevitable, but if we’re deliberate about our relationships and energetic ties sadness also means we’ve experienced connection and friendship and happiness and love.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.