Why am I always so sad?
When you get an ongoing sense and feeling of sadness on a regular basis, you could start asking yourself why you are so sad much of the time. You think to yourself that it would make some sense if you were sad some of the time or if there was a clear reason (trigger), but why would you be sad so much of the time and at times without a clear and obvious reason?
Could the reasons be subconscious?
Well, the truth of the matter is that there probably is a reason why you are sad much of the time but these reasons aren’t conscious. What that means is that they are ‘out of your awareness’ but they are still there regulating your emotions and how you feel.
As you know or perhaps have read in my previous blog posts, your childhood is your software to life. During the childhood years, you’re program is being written and in later life much less so. In adulthood, you basically live out your script which was written in childhood. To what extent you trust people, how vulnerable you permit yourself to be, how safe you feel in the world, the self-esteem you’ve got etc. were by and large established when you were younger through the interactions you’ve had with your parents and caregivers (teachers and other close family members).
Were my needs met?
Now you may say that you didn’t have an abuse or neglectful childhood. I’d be very pleased if that were the case but there are still two main points to consider. 1) Death by a thousand paper cuts 2) ‘silent’ forms of abuse
Death by a thousand paper cuts
You know what its like when you cut yourself from a paper? It isn’t a huge wound but it still hurts. After a day or so, you won’t even feel in anymore. But what happens if you’d get a thousand of those? Would and could it still be considered a small wound that will just pass? Or would that already be a pool of many small wounds and consist of a collective big wound that requires assistance? I think that we’d all agree that this cannot be minimised.
In childhood it is the same. Small paper cuts are not avoidable! Parents are also human and cannot always be there 24/7 in their best (most adult) self. But these cuts you will hardly remember. They will not have affected your development. But what about some neglect, then some humiliation, then a lack of validation, then no tuning in when you got hurt by a friend. Together it starts to mount up.
Self soothing, the missing link
Now what happens when you are sad in childhood and your parents manage to sooth you. They take their time to listen to you, validate your feelings and make you feel like they are there for you – they give you skills and tools when they do that. Because their soothing of you many times over – becomes your inner voice. It becomes your voice of self-soothing in adulthood. Let’s take an example, you get humiliated in school by a friend. You come home and your mother sees that you aren’t that happy. She stops what she’s doing and asks you why you look so sad. You burst out crying and your mother hugs you tight. When you calm down, she asks for your story which you then tell her. She listens attentively and you feel heard and understood.
What if that didn’t happen
Or even worse, the rupture wasn’t with a friend in school but with your parent? Then sometimes, parents will do nothing, go to sleep and wake up in the morning as if nothing had happened. When you wake up in the morning the next day, you might in fact feel a little better. But something vital is missing, something essential for life for left out and left untaught. But this isn’t just about intellectual understanding. There is a core power within a person to sooth themselves when they are sad and that comes from having been soothed by parents. If that didn’t happen, this could be the reason why you often feel sad because the mechanism of self-soothing isn’t available to you with ease.
There is hope….
So as someone that has been treating people with a history of childhood maltreatment and/or neglect, I’d like to tell you that these core tools, can still be part of your psychological toolbox at this point. But, it does require some training. With time you will see that not only do you feel less sad over time but when it does occur, you will know what to do.
The first part of this is to think back if you in your adult life have some examples where you have been a good caregiver for someone else, especially a child. This can be your own child or a family member or someone else that you know quite well. List some examples whereby you’ve been nurturing to this child and when you’ve been protective over this child. Can you find several examples? They don’t have to be super great stories but basic nurturing and protection. If you can’t find any such examples, read my blogs about complications with establishing resources as this is a really important first step in healing from childhood wounds and neglect.
My own adult self
Now that you have found your own adult self, get a very clear image of that person (which is yourself) as they are nurturing that child. Now take the child out of the picture and just stay with you as an adult nurturer in the image. Try to connect with yourself in that picture and notice that you will be working with that adult (which is you) in order to get healed. Normally speaking, your adult self should be very eager to help you.
Whenever you get sad from now on, connect with the adult self and allow the adult to show understanding, empathy and care for you. Let the adult expect you as you are without trying to change how you feel this minute. Allow this attunement to take place on a regular basis which is the essence of self-soothing.
If you have any questions about this, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to address it.