The Thinking 

The War Against Sadness

July 19, 2009


Psychologists have worked hard to prove sadness is pathological. They have redefined the black mood and demonized melancholy. They have packaged pessimism as depression and intensity as disorder.

The attempt to rid the world of sadness is totalitarian in nature. There is no happiness, no humanity even, without sorrow and despair.

Every human being finds a satisfactory answer to the riddle of life, or withers inside. In a world that has turned its back on truth and meaning, this answer is missing. For many, sadness is health. Sadness is resistance. Sadness is the subconscious refusal to surrender.

To take this sadness away by classifying it as disease is to remove the last traces of humanity. A machine never aches. A stone never weeps. The war against sadness calls for its counterpart: the war for sadness, the war for pain, the war for ten million tears, felt one by one.

Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

You have a wonderful post on sadness. You are right, people are trying to destroy sadness, like they are trying to destroy beauty.

Sadness is external, I think. You feel sad for someone, you feel sad for something (gone wrong). Whereas depression is internal, it is all about you.

I don’t know why people want to throw out (or throw dirt on) sadness. Maybe it is a reminder of humanity, like you write, which for them might be too hard to contemplate. Like beauty, it makes one feel too much, engulfs one like an unexpected wave.

Yet, it is also very active (pro-active, to use a favorite “modern” world). You are not incapacitated by sadness, like with depression. Sadness actually makes you want to go and help someone, or just change the situation. Or simply have empathy.

Laura writes:

Thank you. You make an important point when you say, “Sadness is external … Whereas depression is internal.” Sadness sees aspects of reality. “Depression” is illness or all illusion. The constant talk of depression is largely marketing, an effort to get people to see pain as abnormal and seek treatment. People think it is unusual to be sad for many days, weeks or even months. But, sadness is not always fleeting. The psychological industry has progressively lowered the tolerance for mental suffering, making pain seem wasteful or useless or incapacitating. People are ashamed to be sad, as if it were a form of indolence. The effort to turn human beings into machines is not without its beneficiaries.
Some people are especially prone to sadness. It’s a form of martyrdom. They are living witnesses and their suffering is not in vain.

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