The Beauty of the Blues: High Sensitivity and Feeling Out Loud

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving

I saw a woman standing at a bus stop the other day, crying. She made no attempts to hide her tears or even wipe them away. She simply let them flow down her cheeks, releasing the occasional whimper. At one point, she lifted her face toward the sky. As the sun struck her moist, glistening cheeks, I wondered if I’d ever seen anything so beautiful.

sadness

I’ve been thinking a lot about sadness lately. Numerous friends of mine are enduring difficult times, and I’ve experienced a few recent bumps of my own. I’ve also been pondering the tendency many of us have to bottle it up inside. I might, if I were capable. As a highly sensitive extrovert, it’s not in my DNA. Even so, I don’t recall a time I’ve emoted freely around others without a trace of self-consciousness.

The more we allow ourselves to feel and express our emotions, the better—but that’s not always easy. Rare is the person who lets her heart show like the woman at the bus stop. Even if we manage to, there’s a fine line between showing our sadness and blithering all over the place in a not-so-socially-acceptable way. Given the choice, I say feel out loud. There’s far more risk in the opposite.

One tremendous perk of being a highly sensitive person is the ability to experience mind-blowing joy. One downside, the capacity to feel a greater depth of sadness, is worth it, and very often beautiful.

Particularly for artists, whose lives are anything but linear, marked peaks and lows are common. We’re also less understood when lows happen, which heightens our sense of loneliness. I tend to embrace such pitfalls, keeping faith that good will come, though some tumult we can’t help but chalk up to “sometimes life sucks.” One of my dearest friends lost a loved one recently; there’s little silver lining in that.

Regardless, I’m grateful anytime I can reach out to others who “get” it, and to support loved ones in similar need. Knowing that we’re not alone in our loneliness can turn the fog into a more manageable, sparkly mist. I’ve learned that repeatedly. I also know that given the opportunity, we can cultivate growth, happiness and euphoria in our lives if we choose to never give up. Sometimes that means not rushing out of sadness, but feeling our way through it with open eyes. No good comes from “snapping out of it” advice, in my opinion. More strength comes from letting ourselves feel.

5 Beautiful Facts About the Blues

1. They make us tender. There’s a lovely tenderness about sadness and heartache. There has to be, as most of it derives from love. The more tender we feel, the more empathetic and capable of giving love we become. And we want to give love, because we know what it’s like to crave it.

2. They help us appreciate what we’ve lost or hope to gain. Occasionally we’re blah “just because,” but usually, there’s a reason. That reason reveals what we care about, which makes way for gratitude and hope. I can’t think of stronger fuel than thankfulness and hope. They make us damn-near unstoppable.

3. They help us savor sunshine and rainbows. I never used to understand why Minnesotans plant tulips. They’re beautiful, sure, but they don’t last very long. Last winter, I saw first-hand the magic of those vibrant, colorful tips poking through the frozen ground. After 17 centuries five months of blizzards and subzero temperatures, spring knocked on the door! I’ve had a flower-crush on tulips ever since. Greatness doesn’t seem nearly as magical amid sunshine. Life’s rain plus sunshine equals rainbows, always.

4. They bring us closer together. Low moods can draw us closer to loved ones when we have the wherewithal, courage and fortitude to share. They also show us who we most wish to be close to, and with whom such closeness is possible. I’m pretty sure we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t grown closer to a loved one due to hardship.

5. They inspire us. While the occasional pity party is perfectly fine, and arguably encouraged, there comes a point when we stop settling for what we’re enduring and start dreaming up a happier near future. If life were spiffy 24/7, whey would we strive to grow or change? We really can turn life’s lemons into lemonade. Sometimes it takes a serious case of the blues to recognize the recipe.

And because this made me smile, here’s a bit of Peanuts fun. (Music! Such great medicine.) There’s not a THING wrong with crying our eyes out, or wishing to.

sad

When have the blues helped you grow? What were the rewards? Do you let your feelings out? Do you agree with the above benefits? If you relate because you’re enduring a tough time, I hope you know that you’re not alone, not really. Lots of love, friends. 

For an inspiring post on calmness after storms, check out KM Huber’s Compassion Totters on Friday the 13th. To explore the importance of embracing our emotions for the sake of writing (and any art form, really), read Tiffany Lawson Inman’s Emotional Barrier in Fiction: Why is it so important for you to learn how to cross it? (Part One) via Writers in the Storm.

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35 Comments

  1. Catherine Johnson

     /  September 26, 2013

    Awh I hope you are not hurting for long, August. I think it’s especially hard to get over things in winter months so we all need to look to the sun a bit.

    Reply
  2. Well, I hope you feel better, August. But, you’re very right that sadness is an essential emotion and I think mankind would go insane if they were unable to express that. However, I would be one of those that do not. Mathair says I’m a classic bottler and has always taught me to be comfortable with my tears and express my emotions, but it’s not that I’m ashamed over it. I credit it to not being a half-asser. LOL Yeah, weird right? When I start to cry, it just flows and doesn’t stop until I’m a big, blobby mess. And, I completely envy those that can do it, I’m just not one of them. I do agree with all of our points though.

    Reply
    • I suppose some level of bottling is essential at times – probably not ideal to cry with our whole hearts and quivering bodies in an office setting or at the bank. LOL I also know what it’s like to feel like the crying train will never stop, and only accelerate. It’s exhausting! I hope you’re able to find other ways to emote and feel your way out of gloominess when it strikes. Thanks for the lovely insight. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Thanks for the kind words, August. You make my day as you often do. Means a lot to me.

    To me, the beauty of the moment, if you will, is that we immerse ourselves in it for whatever it is, much as the woman at the bus stop. It has taken me over 50 years to really “get that” but more and more, it is comfortable to open up to the experience of the blues, and if it seems the blues are to play for awhile, then like Charlie Brown, I want all the experience has to offer.

    As always, August, a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.
    Karen

    Reply
    • All of that is mutual, Karen. 🙂

      Immersing ourselves in the beauty of the moment… I LOVE that—same for desiring and savoring all the experience has to offer. All emotions allow us that opportunity, which seems like a very missable, yet vital, point. Thanks so much for weighing in, and more so for being you.

      Reply
  4. For me the benefit is definitely in remembering to savor the good times. I find that I can get so busy that I take the good times for granted and allow them to slip away without fully enjoying them. Then when the blues hit, I come out the other side with a renewed sense of gratitude for the good and I slow down a little more to appreciate it.

    Reply
    • Very well said, Marcy. I love your point about slowing down and savoring. I’m sure we could all use such reminders, even if it takes a bit of the blahs to find them.

      Reply
  5. Charlie Brown reminds me of the time of my divorce from my daughter’s mother. The fact I would no longer have my precious almost-five-year-old under my roof except for visits weighed heavily on me. My wife spent a lot of time visiting friends – sometimes staying overnight – during this period. Tammy Wynette had recently recorded D-I-V-O-R-C-E about that time, and I would play it over and over after I put Lynn to bed. I’d listen to the song for a few minutes and then go stand in her doorway and watch her sleep. No telling how many times a night I repeated that scene, and it’s none of your business how much Scotch was involved.

    I hope none of the rest of you have to go through that particular low time, but if you ever do, the sun will still shine when you get through it.

    Reply
    • What a difficult time that must’ve been, David. Thanks so much for sharing — touching, with or without Scotch! Music sure is powerful medicine. Thank God for it, right?

      Reply
  6. Sorry to hear you’ve got the blues. I don’t like that. The last time I “felt out loud” didn’t go so hot. That was May the 3rd 😉 And, good or bad, I’ve closed off a lot of emotional doors since then. But I’m happy, and that’s all that matters. Feel better ASAP.

    Reply
    • What a weekend that must’ve been! 😉 I’m so happy you’re happy. That IS what matters – though I hope those doors don’t remain closed forever. Sensitivity is such a gift, and yours is worth sharing with extraordinarily special others.

      Reply
  7. I’m also a sensitive extrovert, and I don;t hide anything well. I can “shut down” no emotion, no talking, no real eye contact so I can deal with what I’m feeling in a safe place- usually alone. But I can’t fake that I’m fine well at all.

    Reply
    • It’s nice to know that someone relates, Alica! Perks and challenges with sensitive extrovert-ism, right? 😉 I hope you’re in a happy place now.

      Reply
  8. Bottling emotions doesn’t work for me, but as an introvert I will do that rather than risk the feeling of “exposure.” Thankfully, I’m ok with letting it all out with my family. 🙂 Hugs, August.

    Reply
  9. Raani York

     /  September 27, 2013

    Uhm… today my boss made me cry… I took off and hid in the bathroom until it was over and then used my sunglasses and told them all I had a bad headache.
    Later on I realized, I wasn’t sad… I was pissed…
    Maybe it was better this time to just cry instead of physically break his neck like a twig. (can you tell I’m still angry?)
    What I’m scared off is the fact that I had situations like this one – and before I knew they were the start of an extended depression… I don’t want to go back there… do they make me stronger? Not always… sometimes they leave me weak and vulnerable…

    Reply
    • Aw. I hope you’re feeling better, Raani! I have to agree that crying beat neck-breaking. I’d miss you if you were in the hoosky. 😉

      I know what it’s like to go through deep depression and later fear it’ll rear its head again. I think awareness goes along way, along with continual self-work and letting those feelings out as needed. Best wishes, beauty!

      Reply
  10. Kourtney Heintz

     /  September 28, 2013

    I grew up so much during college. My emotions were so raw back then. Which meant I had a tendency to cry on the metro in DC. It made many people uncomfortable. But I just needed to let it out.

    I think sadness is good. It’s just part of the emotional spectrum. And crying in public is something everyone should do at least once–it’s very freeing. 🙂

    Reply
    • Amen, Kourtney! I’ve cried pretty openly in public on occasion, and you’re right – freeing. 🙂 In my case it made a guy who was bothering me uncomfortable, but not me. (Ha.) So glad you embrace sad times, too. I think it’s particularly important for writers.

      Reply
  11. Life is ups and downs. For some of us, thanks to character we inherited, more than others. All has to be accepted as part of the wider tapestry of life, all of it an experience that will allow us to grow – if we let it. The diversity and variation between us all what makes us human..Blues are as much integral as – well, do we have a colour for joy? We should.

    Incidentally, Elaine Aaron is giving a lecture on HS people here in Wellington New Zealand, in a few weeks, My wife and I are trying to secure tickets;

    Reply
    • The wider tapestry of life – I love that, Matthew. I couldn’t agree more. Enjoy the lecture! I’d love to hear about it.

      Reply
      • Thanks. I’ll keep you posted. It’s a 3 hr event with Q and A so should be interedting. A spinoff from a workshop she’s running for the school of psychiatry at our local university.

  12. It is a slippery slope down into “the hole.” I find it better not to feel sorry for myself and keep on motoring. It would be different if a loved one passed away. Then I would allow myself some grieving time. One thing I’ve learned is not to waste time!!! No pity parties for me! I also am one who looks forward and not back at low points. There are only rainbows ahead for me!
    Thanks for bringing this to the party!!! I am still working through reading everyone’s stories.
    I hope all is well with you August!
    Have fun clicking on links and saying howdy do!

    Reply
  13. Right now is a perfect example of this for me. I know things will move forward and I know I’ll be happy sometime soon. But for now, I need to learn what I can from my situation. 😉

    Reply
  14. Singing the blues is best when one already has felt them. Been there…lifted by poetry and prayer. 🙂

    Reply
  15. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    THIS GAL KNOWS THE BLUES!!!!

    Reply
  16. Elaine Aron’s book was an eye opener and great help to me. I love what you wrote about the ability to feel greater depth of joy but also of sadness and how the periods of sadness can help you appreciate joy more. Art is a great way to express and share those feelings.

    Reply
  17. I can give personal testimony to the accuracy of the 5 reasons you cite that therapy helps creative artists. Not only is it accurate, it is worthy of being etched in stone. I’ve had mental illness problems all my life: OCD, which is a brain disorder that can be treated but will always be with you, and the resultant major depression that occurs from time to time. I’m a retired cop, almost lost my job back in the ’80s. I was also deeply sensitive and had an almost completely unexplored creative streak. I’m 63 now, have had two novels published, with more completed and ready for publication in the near future. Huh? How did I go from a ruined human being (alcoholic, unchecked OCD and depression) on the verge of being fired from a police detective – to a published author? Therapy (and SSRI medication for the misfires in the brain), and lots of it. Decades of it. Not with the hope of helping my creative side, rather with the hope of recovering from a life destroying illness. When all was said and done, the door to my creative side unexpectedly opened. That was 20 years ago. I’ve been told that I have the necessary ability to be successful. And therapy was at the core of my recovery, the reason that my foolish, hyper-sensitivity and all the rest, could be channeled into a whole new, highly unexpected, way of life. A life that I love. Without therapy, I’d have been a goner, in a manner of speaking, decades ago. I implore – I beg – everyone who is suffering to seek therapy. To work with it, embrace it, and become what you truly are.

    Reply
  1. The Beauty of the Blues and Artists |
  2. 5 Benefits of Therapy for Creative Artists | August McLaughlin's Blog

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