“Sadness is a Lucky Thing to Feel”

Over the past couple years, I’ve become a huge Louis C.K. fan. I’m almost done with Season 2 of his show Louie, which is amazing. 20 minute episodes packed with comedy and real insight.

In his recent Rolling Stone interview (paywall), he says this:

I don’t mind feeling sad. Sadness is a lucky thing to feel. I have the same amount of happy and sad as anybody else. I just don’t mind the sad part as much; it’s amazing to have those feelings. I’ve always felt that way. I think that looking at how random and punishing life can be, it’s a privilege. There’s so much to look at, there’s so much to observe, and there’s a lot of humor in it. I’ve had sad times, I’ve had some hard times, and I have a lot of things to be sad about, but I’m pretty happy right now.

Agreed. Observing how you feel, not judging it or immediately trying to change it, is a powerful habit to develop. It’s the lynchpin of the Vipassana meditation I practice.

“Negative” emotions like sadness can deepen you. Suffering deepens you. These feelings can be instructive. They can inspire empathy. They can be darkly hilarious. And ultimately, they’re impermanent. As Goenka says, all sensations arise, pass away. Arise, pass away.

Wise people seem to know this: when bad shit happens to you, experience it. Don’t run from it. Don’t run from grief or pain or suffering. Accept it. Observe it. And then observe it leave your body, over time.

My 2007 post Do Only Negative Emotions Count for Depth? covers this theme, and the comments there are excellent. In the five years since, I’m still not sure whether joy really stretches and deepens you. But I am as convinced as ever that sadness does.

“When have you felt really sad?” is an interesting question to ask someone.

171 Responses to “Sadness is a Lucky Thing to Feel”

  1. This is awesome. I think wrestling with loss/sadness is actually one of the greatest ways to inspire empathy.

    Doing startup work and feeling the losses down the road helped me empathize when other startup guys ran into roadblocks themselves. It’s almost a shared appreciation for the emotion itself, I think, that we gain by just ‘accepting’ the moment for what it is.

    The gut reaction to these feelings seems to run in the other direction, but actually letting it deepen you is a fresh take on the experience. Thanks for the post.

  2. Chris Yeh says:

    Sadness of all types should be acknowledged and experienced. Those feelings are part of the human continuum of emotion. But my general philosophy is not to linger on them; rumination has been shown to increase feelings of depression, and while depression leads to greater realism, I prefer happiness.

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    Check out his interview on Howard Stern.

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  4. Daman says:

    Perfect timing for this, self observing a bit of a rut. Definitely need to remember the teachings of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and the separation of thoughts and self.

  5. DaveJ says:

    Nietzsche takes acceptance a step further and says that we should *affirm* our experiences and feelings and life, whether it is joyful, sad, or otherwise. Say YES! to it.

    That said, we watched about six or eight Louis CK episodes and have kind of stopped enjoying it. It’s not really that funny – sort of more creepy and pathetic – though it does have funny moments. Not really what we’re looking for in relax-before-bed TV.

    • Daman says:

      It hits a bad spot toward the end of the first season (particularly the episode where it’s little kid Louie in church). Stick through it, the show hits it’s stride and gets MUCH better.

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