I am astonished in my practice at how many people come to me having been placed on anti-depressants because they are unhappy. Their unhappiness arises from understandable causes –stressful life events such as the break-up of a relationship, death or serious illness, physical or emotional insult, and even the experience of blocked opportunity and being unable to progress in a career.
Sadness is normal. It is part of the human condition. It is the other side of happiness. If we do not know sadness, we cannot know happiness either. Yet nowadays there is very low tolerance of sadness. People expect to be happy all the time. As a result, sadness is increasingly treated as a condition or pathology which requires medical intervention, such as anti-depressants.
Regrettably, my experience is that anti-depressants do not help people recover from their sadness. They might dull the pain, but they also dull the ability to experience sadness and find a way back to happiness. My added challenge as a therapist is that very sad people often do not even realise that they are sad, and struggle to connect with their sadness – especially if they are on medication.
Good therapy helps people to connect with their sadness and experience it in a controlled way. Crying is a good start. I recommend to clients that they act out crying in front of the mirror, even if they don’t feel the sadness. The feeling will follow. And sad movies or books are another effective way to tap into sadness. In my experience, sad movies are far more helpful in recovery from stressful life events than medication. So cry your eyes out!