You need your pain. Grief makes you real, and disappointment can inspire creativity, change, and growth.
Sadness brings texture to the joys we experience. And yet, it's also not wise to let sadness take us over.
In today's episode, we discuss how to set healthy boundaries with emotions like sadness and loneliness.
Here's what we cover:
—The surprising benefits of sadness
—3 types of grief
—The science of tears and how they help us
—What loneliness needs to heal
—Childhood play and how it informs your adult dreams
—What to do when you just don't have the time for the pain
Be sure to pick up your 3 free Boundaries for Your Soul resources here.
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Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
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- Inside Out Movie Trailer
- IFS Institute
- Find a Christian IFS Therapist
- Episode 39: Boundaries for Your Soul—How to Navigate Your Overwhelming Thoughts & Feelings
- Episode 40: 5 Steps to Healing Painful Emotions & Why Parts of Us Get Stuck in the Past
- Psalm 23
- Isaiah 53:3
- The House that Built Me, by Miranda Lambert
- Rebuilding Beautiful, by Kayla Stocklein
- Matthew 5:4
- Psalm 68:5-6
The Best of You Podcast: Episode 42 23rd Feb 2023
With Dr. Alison Cook
Boundaries for Your Soul — Sadness and Loneliness
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Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started, as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, and welcome back to The Best of You Podcast. I just want to tell you how much I enjoy doing this podcast. I have heard from so many of you how much this podcast means to you, and I can't even tell you, as we're approaching episode 42, so ten weeks away from a year, how much joy I've gotten from creating this podcast.
Oftentimes when I'm talking to people about their dreams, and what they long for, and what they want, and what they desire. I often say, "What were some of your childhood dreams? When you were by yourself, what would you do that was just pure joy?" Because often that's a cue to what our real longings are. What our real dreams are. And, for me, it really was this playing school. It was getting to talk to people about the things that I found really fascinating.
And that's what I get to do every single week, with this podcast, is talk to you all about these ideas that I think are so fascinating. And that have informed my own life, and informed my practice, and inform my work. And the fact that you're responding to that and that it means something to you, that's just the sweet spot, that's just the joy. That the thing I love to do is resonating and connecting with you and what you need, that's the magic. That's the magic.
And, so, thank you so much for your feedback, for your encouragement, for your responses. I appreciate the ways you've been sharing this podcast with your friends,
with your family members, and with other people. We just continue to grow every week, and it makes me excited. I just have this sense of God ushering in His healing through these means, through technology, through modern technology. And I just pray with you, as we learn to honor these parts of ourselves, in partnership with God's spirit, that we would just bring more healing, more goodness, more beauty, more kindness. More of this compassionate self-awareness into our lives, into our relationships, into this world that is so desperately in need of it.
So thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing it. I also want to add, that today is my birthday. I wasn't planning to record this episode today, but it also feels very right, and timely, that I'm recording this episode on my birthday. It's one of those birthdays.
I actually have very complicated feelings about it. It's a little bit of a milestone birthday. And when we have complicated feelings, usually, that's a cue that there are different parts of us. Different parts of you have different feelings about this birthday. And today we're talking about these vulnerable emotions. These emotions we tend to want to exile, in particular, sadness and loneliness.
And, so, today, as I was reflecting on my birthday, on these complicated emotions I have about it. And I've been steeping myself, as I prepare for this episode, in thinking about sadness and loneliness. It actually came together for me in a really beautiful way, personally. And that is this a part of me is really happy and deeply grateful, today, on this milestone birthday.
I am very aware of how grounded and anchored, and content I am in the work God has given me to do. How content I am in my family in my relationships, in my life. There's a lot of sweetness on this birthday. And that ability to recognize the health, the goodness, the joy, is very much informed by the reality of sadness and loneliness, that has characterized a lot of my adult life, especially, my 20s and 30s.
These experiences from the past that are not as much part of my current reality, of my present realities. But that have very much played a role that I'm experiencing today. The happiness that I feel today, is informed by the sadness and the loneliness I have experienced in the past. And because I can still connect to those parts of me, I haven't eradicated them. They're a part of my story; but they've been reintegrated into this larger, more beautiful tapestry of my life.
I can enjoy the present happiness in a much more complete, a much more nuanced, a much more textured, vital, beautiful way. I see the fruit of all of these parts of me. There's a humility in the gratitude I feel today. Because parts of me understand deeply what it's like to experience life's fragility. When sadness and loneliness are very palpable and very close at hand.
And, so, I appreciate more deeply the experience of today because of, not despite of, the sadness and the heartache. But because of their part in this story that is my life.
There's a way in which the sorrow, the parts of me that are acquainted with grief, with loneliness, with sorrow, give texture and illuminate the joy.
It provides a fuller picture of all of the whole of this story of life that we're all in the business of creating. We're in the business of working out this story that is our life. The acquaintance that parts of me still have with those experiences of sadness and loneliness, creates a more beautiful harmony as I experience the whole.
And, so, today, as we look at two of these emotions that are such a deep and vital part of every human experience, sadness and loneliness. I want you to consider that while these emotions are challenging to navigate, especially, when you get really lost in them. And I've been there at different times of my life, and I've walked numerous people through those valleys.
When you're in the valley and all you can see is sadness, and all you can feel is the aloneness. We all go through those valleys, some people more than others, but they are real. Those valleys are real.
But when they begin to be held within healthy boundary lines, in your soul. And they begin to come together with other parts of your story. Other parts of you that begin to experience joy, and begin to taste goodness, and begin to experience connection, they become beautiful parts of who you are. That light up the landscape of your internal life in beautiful, nuanced, textured ways.
And, so, I don't want you to eradicate these parts of you. I do want you to learn how to establish healthy boundary lines with them. So that they create color, so they bring a little texture. They bring some nuance like those flutes in that middle school band, we talked about in episode 39. They bring some beauty and some nuance to your story, but they don't tell the whole story of who you are.
So I want to start off with sadness by saying, first of all, you need your pain. Grief, sadness, suffering, sorrow, disappointment, while painful, these emotions make us real. They are part of being alive. If we got rid of those emotions we would not understand the feeling and experience of joy, of happiness, of excitement, of anticipation, of hope. Those emotions go hand in hand.
Part of the joy that we experience is because we're aware of what it feels like when things are hard. It's a very odd dichotomy, but it's one that even Jesus experienced. "He was a man who was acquainted with suffering, with sorrow, with grief." And He was also a man who understood joy.
We don't want to numb out. We don't want to shut down these harder emotions, they help bring us alive. They also help us understand resilience, which is something that we need to survive. They can fuel our creativity. Our ability to connect with other people and bring life and bring innovation.
They help us to understand what it's like to walk so closely by faith, when we are walking through the shadow of the valley of the dark. When we have a sense of God's leadership. Even though we feel alone, and scared, and maybe even lost a little bit.
The pain of our lives can drive us to seek Jesus, to seek out other people, to dig deeper into ourselves, to grow. And I'm not saying that makes it okay, but I am honoring that pain can have a byproduct of teaching us resilience. Of teaching us how to be stronger, of teaching us how to change certain things. To fight for what is good and honorable in our lives.
It could fuel purpose. Sometimes when we're hurting, when we're struggling, when we're sad, we start to look for purpose. We start to look for meaning; and we can gain new insights. And those insights that are hard won in the battle of our suffering. Can lead us to be incredible channels of empathy, and healing, and hope, and goodness for others.
So we need our pain, we need our sadness. We need our sorrow to help us become more of who God wants us to become, on this side of heaven. In this world that desperately needs us to be real, as we show up to our own lives and to other people. And that means coming into contact with our sadness, with our sorrow, with the things that are hard.
The trick is not to let those emotions overtake us. To feel like they're all of who we are. The trick is to keep our sadness, to keep our sorrow within healthy boundary lines. And that'll be easier at different times of life than others.
There are times when we're just in it. When we're just in the hard stuff, and we're really in it, and we need anchors around us, we need other people. We need anchors to keep us going. To keep us strong until we can get to that place where the light starts to break through. We start to see our way forward and we start to climb out of that valley. We don't stay in the valleys forever. And when we're in the valleys, we need support to guide us.
But those valleys also become beautiful places that when we look back on them. When we look at our suffering from the rear view mirror, we say, "I'm grateful for that. It was hard, I don't necessarily want to go through that again. But I'm grateful for what God did in my life through that season. And for the good that I have to offer out of those places inside my soul."
And, so, I want you to consider, as you're listening today, what's your relationship like to your own sadness. Is it an emotion that's very close to you, that you access readily? And you have to work to keep it within healthy boundary lines, so that it doesn't take you over. Maybe you're somebody who struggled a little bit with depression or struggled to remember the good. It's easier for you to sink into the sorrow. And there's no shame in that, but it's just something to be aware of.
For some of you, listening, sadness comes fairly easily and you have to work to remember the joy. You have to work to keep that sadness within healthy boundary lines. And remember that there are other parts of your experience, there are other parts of your stories. And, to be honest, folks who are very well acquainted with sadness tend to be highly empathetic. They tend to be highly in tune with the suffering of others. It's a beautiful quality, and I don't want you to shame yourself if you feel that your sadness is fairly close to you.
In fact, I want you to honor that as a gift and, also, think of that sadness as just one part of you. And some of you listening feel like sadness is a little further away. It's maybe harder for you to tap into it. Maybe you have very healthy protectors that just keep sadness far away. Maybe you're someone who produces, or performs, or pleases some of those P-words, and that helps you keep sadness at bay. Or maybe you're someone who has a little bit of anxiety or anger, and all of those things are more present to you.
And, so, you don't as easily or often dip into that well of sadness. It doesn't mean it's not there. It's just a little more far away from you. It's a little more foreign to you. And for those of you listening who find that sadness is farther away, there's no shame in that either. I would encourage you to consider your relationship to sadness, and consider that it is an important part of your internal family. That grief and that sorrow isn't something to shove aside. That it's something to bring into relationship with these other hardworking parts of you.
That sometimes sadness can remind you, "Hey, it's okay to slow down."
"It's okay to ask for help."
"It's okay to need support."
Sadness can help you bring yourself back into balance.
So whether sadness is close to you or whether sadness feels far away. This is an opportunity to just get curious about your own relationship to this God-given emotion. An emotion we know Jesus was deeply acquainted with. This is an emotion that is not to fear, not to exile, it's an emotion to get curious about.
What are some of the benefits of sadness? Well, number one, we've all experienced loss in life. We've all experienced some pain. And those losses, those parts of our story, are worthy of honor and respect, right? These are parts of our story that we can exile, or we can honor, and reintegrate into this larger narrative that is our life in a healthy way. They can help us become aware of these losses, or of burdens, that we may still carry with us that need our attention.
They can help us understand our own hearts and the things that we deeply love, the things that we deeply value. Where there is sorrow, there is something that we've grieved.
There's a good thing, a beautiful thing that we've lost. And that helps us understand, "Oh, wait a minute, I'm someone who valued that friendship or who longed for that thing. And the sadness reminds me that there was good in that longing. That I'm someone who cares about these relationships, that cared about that thing. And while there's loss in owning that, that's also a cue to some of my God-given desires. To some of my God-given makeup.
These parts of us that carry sadness, that carry loss, can help us develop empathy and come alongside others who are suffering. It's a channel for connection to other people. Sadness can help us honor the reality of our story and the hardships we face. And I like that word honor; to honor those parts of our stories, they're real. We survived something. We got through something.
Sadness helped us get through that. Sadness told us you're alive, you're human, and that is something to be sad about. And if I weren't sad, I'd be a machine, I'd be a robot. I'd be an unfeeling person or I might even be a sociopath. I wouldn't care.
Well, that's not what it means to be human. Our sadness reminds us that we're human and that we experience loss. And, gosh, if we could shut that off, that would not be a good thing. We don't want to be robots in this world. We don't want to be people who are cut off from our feelings. And sometimes our feelings get the best of us over and over again.
You hear me saying we want to set healthy boundary lines with our sadness. We don't want it to take us over and we don't want it to go away. It reminds us of what's real. It reminds us of people that we've lost, that we love, that we do not want to forget. That we want to create a space to honor, even as other parts of us are able and ready to move forward.
This is what I love about this parts model. Parts of us grieve even as parts of us hope in a future that we still have before us. This is health. This is health that both of these things can be true. I can honor my heartache about that loss, about that hard thing, about that hurt. And I can also honor parts of me that are hopeful about the future. That are even looking forward to a future. Those two things can exist side by side, and in fact, they should exist side by side. In fact, they both help make us more complete. They make us whole. They create a harmony.
Now, sadness can get too close. And when it's too close to us, we can be overtaken by feelings of sorrow, of suffering. We can even move into victim mentalities. Where we just feel like we're destined for a life of sadness. We can shift into depression and despair. We can feel worn out, and exhausted, and burdened, and heavy laden.
When sorrow gets too big we can stay ruminating and stuck in painful memories from the past. Instead of healing them and allowing them a proper place within our internal family. We can move into shame, self-doubt, even false guilt, some insecurity.
So we want to keep sadness within healthy boundary lines. When it gets extreme, it can take us into some dark places. And if you've struggled with depression, you know this. And there's no shame in this, it happens. But, again, we don't want to exile the parts of us that carry sorrow altogether. We want to welcome them as important members of our internal family and help them find healthy boundary lines within our soul.[00:20:42] < Music >
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It's helpful to think about three different categories. The first is when we experience sadness over the loss of something that was good that we wanted. The second, that sometimes surprises us, is there can be sadness or sorrow over the loss of something painful. And then finally there's the sorrow or sadness about a lost dream. Something that might have been. Something that we longed for, that never was. And all of these things can cause sorrow or sadness in different ways
When you think about the loss of something good. And this is why we get into this very delicate relationship between sorrow and joy. If you're someone who has moved a lot. That was the source of a lot of my sadness and loneliness in my adult years as I moved around a ton.
And, so, I was very untethered from communities. I was very untethered from this very anchored childhood, all the way through 18 until I left for college. And, so, I understood what it felt like to be tethered, very intimately, to a real present community. And then suddenly in my 20s and 30s I was very untethered, it was the opposite. And there was so much sorrow around that loss, of that anchoring community of my childhood.
I just couldn't recreate it, and a lot of that was my own choices. I made a lot of movements. A lot of us who are part of sort of Gen X, if you relate, we started moving around. We didn't stay where our families were. And everybody started moving around, and our friends started moving around, and nobody was in the same location. And it's created some good things; we had these different opportunities, and it created a lot of loss. A lot of loneliness, a lot of untethering.
And then technology came into that in the '90s and the 2000s. Suddenly, we're all on technology and that contributed to some of the untethering. It created some ways that we could reconnect, but it also wasn't the same thing.
And, so, there's a lot of sadness in that untethering. And, so, there's a loss of something good. It's a good thing to become aware of, "Oh, my goodness, there was good in that. And, so, I'm sad now because I missed something that was really beautiful and really good and I can't fully recreate it."
And, so, what do we do here? What do we do with the sadness? Because the sadness is telling me something important and I've got to figure out how to move forward, not back. I can't get stuck in what I don't have anymore. I've got to figure out how to take that sadness, let it inform me about what I value.
And I tell this story in Boundaries for Your Soul, in the chapter on sadness. About, for me, it was all about revisiting that community of my youth and letting myself grieve. I didn't know how special it was until I left it. It's all I ever knew. I literally was born in the same house that I left when I was 18, and went off to college.
And, so, all of that safety, all of that security that was no longer there, suddenly, in my 30s. And I'd been living in all these different cities and no permanence, no stability of community. And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, that's a loss. I am sad about that." And I didn't even know it until it overtook me. And slowly I began to listen to that sadness and let it inform me, so that I can make wiser, healthier, decisions moving forward.
I couldn't recreate the past. I couldn't go back. And I talk about that Miranda Lambert song and that song still makes me cry when I sing it. It's the song about "The House That Built Me". This poignancy of that feeling of home that I'd had, but that was gone and would never be again.
And also that sadness informed me. It began to tell me I value roots, I value anchors. I need to figure out how to move toward that over the next few years. I can't magically bring it in, but I can begin to move toward it. I can begin to reconnect with some of those people that made me feel so tethered in my youth. I began to return to Wyoming. You'll hear me talk about the mountains of Wyoming; that's why they're so important to me.
I began to build in ways of reconnecting to those beautiful images. The anchoring of the land of that mountain face that I would look at every single day until I was 18, into my present and future reality.
I let that sadness, that grief, that feeling of loss, help me reintegrate important things that I valued into my life. Some of you feel sorrow over a person that you've lost. Maybe someone who has passed away, who is no longer with us.
Maybe a relationship that is gone and that person cannot come back. That relationship cannot come back. And that sorrow reminds you of love. It reminds you of love. It reminds you of the beauty of a human life. Of a relationship that brought something to you that might have healed parts of you. And even though that relationship is gone, a part of it remains because it changed you. That person might be gone, but that person remains because they changed you.
And, so, that sadness, while it's so hard to face, also, reminds you of the tremendous good that that person brought to you. And that still lives on, not just in that memory, but in the part of your soul that has forever been changed by that person or by that relationship.
And, so, while the sadness is hard and the grief is hard, it points you to something deeply good. Something deeply beautiful. Something God brought into your life to change you and to bring good to you, and you'll find ways to honor that good. You honor that person, or that relationship, by holding the good that they brought to you alive and by celebrating that. This is how we honor grief. We honor the people and the good things that we miss by honoring the parts of us that have been forever changed. By those situations, by those people, by those relationships.
This is the work of healthy boundaries with sadness. Where instead of letting it take us over and consume us and destroy us. We let it bring up the very best. Not only of who we are but of these other people and of these other relationships that have enriched our lives.
We want to honor those other people with the goodness that we bring into our life, as a result of having been touched by those humans. This is the work of grief. This is the work of honoring our sadness because our sadness points us to something that was so deeply good. This is the work of healthy boundaries.
It's not exiling our sadness. It's not saying, "Oh, God, I just won't go there, you took that person for a reason." It's also not saying, "I'm going to dwell in that sorrow and I'm going to let it take me out, and keep me from living this life that I still have."
It's saying, "I'm going to honor the place that person had in my life. The place that relationship had in my life by becoming even more of the person I really am. I honor them by moving forward with this beautiful life."
Now, this is a process, this takes time. You can't rush this process, but I want you to hear me talk about this healthy balance. There's a little bit of a tension in our souls. This is delicate, nuanced work of honoring the sadness. Even as we let it shape us into someone even more whole, even more beautiful. Even more of a reminder of the way that person or that relationship left a lasting impact.
We can also feel sadness over the loss of something painful. Something that reminds us of a really complicated, maybe, even, terrible chapter of our lives. Now, this is complicated grief, complicated sadness. This is where we get into the complexity of trauma.
I've worked with numerous women who have had to get out of abusive relationships. And there's a grief involved with that too. There's a complicated grief. There's the grief of, "It took years from my life."
There's the grief of "There was a little bit of good there or I wouldn't have been in it." But then that good went bad, that good went awry. So there's complexity. There was something there at the beginning that then turned toxic.
And, so, I have to grieve both the lost years, the lost time, and I have to grieve what I had hoped it would become. So there's nuance to that loss. When something went sideways, when something went bad, a relationship or a person.
We have to sometimes grieve the loss of a childhood that we never had. Where there was complexity in our relationships with our parents, there's sorrow there. And the sorrow doesn't, necessarily, just simply point us to something that was good. It points us to a really complicated part of our life, where we suffered at the hands of someone else's toxicity.
And, so, we're sad that we got ensnared in that. We're sad that that person became that toxic thing. We're also sad about what we didn't get, and this gets complicated. And there might be some anger there close, side by side with the sadness and that anger needs to be there.
And, so, there's a little bit more complexity to working through that sadness. And people sometimes feel a lot of shame or a lot of frustration with themselves. "Why do I feel sad about this relationship?"
"Why do I feel sad about this person, this parent, this ex? They only mistreated me. Why do I feel sad about that relationship?" Well, that sadness is there for a reason. That person was all you had. You didn't know any better, at the time, when you were a kid or when you were in that relationship. They did provide parts of you with something, even though now you know that it wasn't healthy. Overall, there was something you got from that at the time, that was all you knew.
And, so, your grief is complicated. And you want to do that work with someone else. Don't do that work alone of teasing apart the different layers of sadness. The grief over something that even was toxic. And the ongoing grief, if the person is still in your life.
So every time I bump against this person, I have grief over the fact that that relationship is gone. And I have grief over the fact that that person was never the mom, the dad, the spouse, the ex-spouse, that I wish I had had.
And, so, grief can be a little bit ongoing and we have to nurture that relationship to it, so that it stays within healthy boundary lines. Grief work is often ongoing. It doesn't happen on a dime. It's a way of tilling this garden inside your own soul. And you can find ways as you, tenderly and compassionately, care for those parts of you that carry that grief. Where it doesn't go away but the burden is eased, the burden is lightened.
And that's what Jesus says, again, that He comes and He says, "My burden is light." It doesn't mean the burden isn't there, but He steps in and He helps you carry that burden. And it becomes a little lighter and it begins to inform you of the person you want to be, and the kind of relationships you want to form, going forward. And you till that soil with care because it matters and your story matters. And you want to honor that part of your story without letting it take you over. Without letting it rob you of the best of who you are.
And then, lastly, there is this loss of what might have been. The loss of a dream that can no longer materialize. The loss of a certain way of living, that has been curtailed by a physical limitation. Or a quote-unquote "Happily ever after." It's not the life you had imagined for yourself, but it is the life that you have. And there's disappointment with that and there's loss with that. And there is also beauty that can come from that.
And, man, this is the work and the work is not to let one run roughshod over the other. If you too quickly go to "There is purpose and pain."
Or "There's beauty and brokenness." You risk exiling that sad part of you that needs to be heard, that needs to remind you of the disappointment, of the loss, even of the anger. And, also, if you let that part of you take you over, too much. You risk missing out on the ways in which God wants to help you weave together another beautiful story.
Really I appreciate the work of Kayla Stoecklein on this. She writes about her experience surviving her husband's death by suicide and raising their children. And she just talks in very profound and very nuanced ways of the heartache, and the sorrow of that, and the ways in which she's continuing to create her own life.
There's a lot of nuance and texture in this work of creating healthy boundaries in your own soul. I want to remind you that roughly one third of the Psalms express lament. Lament, signifies faith, not weakness. It shows that you're hanging on. It shows that you value the good things in life.
So when you notice pain, or you notice sadness, or you notice disappointment, don't try to shoo it away. Instead name it, befriend it, extend compassion toward it. "There you are, sadness, I see you there. It's okay, you can be here with me and I bless you for this grief you're reminding me of. I don't want you to take me over, but I do want you to be here with me. You're welcome here; and God welcomes you too."
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." We won't know comfort if we don't first honor the sorrow. We won't understand the deep and meaningful ways that God meets us, in our sorrow, if we don't first acknowledge it to ourselves and to a few safe people.
Now, for those of you for whom sadness can be hard to let in. I invite you to consider a part of you that might be sad. What if you could befriend it? Not so that it takes you over, but so that you can tend it.
What if you could honor its pain? And in doing so, it might even soften a little bit to become this very tender, very sweet place inside your internal family. What if instead of fighting to keep it away? The tears that it holds are part of what will bring you even more connection to your God-given self and maybe even to other people.
You know, crying is such an interesting thing when it's done in a safe, supportive environment. And it's so healthy for us, that it releases endorphins and other good chemicals. It reduces stress and it can function as a deep form of self-soothing. It can help you sleep better. It connects us to hope, paradoxically.
A good cry can really open us up to more connection to others and to more connections to God, which opens us up to hope. The release of sadness is a prayer of surrender. So often your tears say, "I don't have the answers. I have no more words. I simply have the reality of these human emotions." And that is my form of prayer right now. If you have much buried pain, please don't try to cry it out all alone. Seek help from someone who can help hold some of that pain with you.
But, regardless, we don't want to let sadness take us over, but we also don't want to exile it either. It's a beautiful part of being human. It's a beautiful member of your internal family. We want to have a healthy relationship with our sadness.
So as we close, I want to answer a question. Essentially the question was this, "I struggle with sadness and loneliness. But I am so overwhelmed with the things I need to get done in my life. I'm a parent, I work all the things. How do I do this work when I have such a busy life? It feels so overwhelming." And I really love this question. I want to give you a couple of really practical nuggets, especially, with sadness and also loneliness. Though sadness and loneliness are not the same thing, but they are similar in one way. And that is that they scare us because they can take us over.
And, so, the thing with both sadness and loneliness is that when they take us over, when they get big, they literally depress or suppress body function. So they're the opposite of activating. Activating emotions are things like anxiety, anger, those amp us up, they get us going.
Sadness and loneliness slow us down. They suppress us. That's where the word depression comes on. They depress some of our bodily functions.
And, so, as is suggested in this question and it's like, "I don't have time to be sad. I don't have time to be lonely." And, so, I want to address that briefly here because that's very real, I get it. I mean, we're busy parents, we're working. And you can start to maybe feel those emotions tug at your soul and you're like, "I don't have time for this." And I hear that all the time.
And here is what I want to say, a couple of things about that. Structure is your friend. And in order to build trust with those emotions, so that they don't take you over. Because here's the thing if you don't honor them, and if you don't tend to them a little bit, they will start to come out. They'll come out sideways. They'll overtake you when you least expect it. So you don't want to completely ignore them, but you can build trust with them and you do it by scheduling it.
And here is an example, if you're a parent and you've got a bunch of kids. And you've got a kid come home from school and they've had a really bad day. And they want to tell you all about it because their friends were mean to them, and they're really okay, they're not dying. They're not in an emergency. And you've got stuff to do. You've got a commitment. And you cannot just drop everything and be present to their every emotion. When you've built trust with your child, you can say to your child, "Listen, I want to hear all about it. I'm so sorry this happened to you. I can't do it right now, but we're going to circle back later tonight after dinner. I've got time after dinner, I want to sit down and I want to hear all about it."
You schedule it and then you got to circle back because you're building trust with them. And you can do this with your kids and it's actually healthy because it teaches them they're going to be okay in that emotion. They're not going to die. You're going to be there for them. You can't drop everything in this moment, but you're going to circle back, so you build trust. You're teaching them emotional tolerance that they can tolerate their emotions.
A couple of things are going on there that are really valuable. This gets into healthy boundaries. "I want to be present to you, I can't do it right now. So here's the time that we're going to do it.” It's the same with these parts of our souls, this is the goal.
Now, again, at the front end of this work, you may need to schedule the time with a therapist. Because if you've never looked at your sadness or there's been a lot of loneliness there, that you haven't wanted to look at. You will want to do that with a therapist who can help you pace that process.
But this is the goal, I want to paint you a picture of when you schedule that time. When you notice, "Man, I am sad about that and I don't have time to be sad about that now." Instead of shoving it aside, you mentally think to yourself, "Where can I talk about that grief? Can I call a friend and say, 'Hey, listen, can we take a walk on Saturday, I need to talk to you about something?'
Can you tell a neighbor, 'Hey, listen, could you have coffee with me tomorrow? There's something I need to get off my chest.'" And what you're saying to that part of you is, "I see you there; I am not going to just shove you aside. I've scheduled some time to really dig into you, or I'm going to schedule some time to journal about you later today."
And this leads me into tip number two. When you are reaching out to a friend, to a neighbor, even to a therapist, to someone at church. Whomever it may be, to your small group, communicate on behalf of that sadness, on behalf of that loneliness versus from it.
Here is what it sounds like to speak on behalf of it. "Hey safe person, who I trust,
I am going through something. I'm not sure what it is, but I wanted you to know that I'm struggling with some loneliness. I'm struggling with some sadness. Would you be available to talk it through with me? Could we have coffee? Could we have lunch? Could we take a walk this weekend? Because I'm noticing this and I need to have a place to talk about it."
What friend isn't going to be like, "Yes, I'm there for you, let's do it." Because you are taking responsibility for that emotion when you speak on behalf of it. You're saying, "Here is what's going on with me. I'm aware of it; I need some support for it. Would you come alongside me as together we begin to unpack it?" This is friendship, this is connection.
And it's so different than just downloading on a friend.
So when we first name, and befriend, and extend compassion for ourselves and say, "Here's that sadness again. You're welcome here but, man, I don't have time for you right now. Gosh, loneliness is really closing in. It's not good, I'm going to work but, then, I'm coming home and there's that loneliness. Or it's just a little too lonely on the weekends or when my kids aren't at home with me, boy, that loneliness is there. I'm lonely in my marriage even. I don't know what to do with that, but I need to get support for that."
When you focus and you befriend, and you're not shaming yourself. And you're a little bit differentiated from it. You can actually reach out and get the help that you need in a more strategic way, that honors the busyness of your life. That says, "I don't have time to do this this week but, boy, this weekend I'm getting some support for that part of me.
And you start to care for that part of you, just as you would care for a child in your own family.
I want to remind you, again, today, as we close, that if you are suffering. If you have sadness inside of you. If you are lonely, there is a God of the universe who honors those parts of you, who loves those parts of you. Who wants to help you create healthy, beautiful, boundary lines within your own soul where we can get comfort to those parts of you. Where we can get community to those parts of you. I love the psalm that says, "God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows. He sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing."
It starts with honoring, with naming, with befriending. And, then, with God's help getting those resources to the lonely, to the sad parts of your soul that are so precious and so worthy of your care and God's love.[00:26:46] < Outro >
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review. It helps so much to get the word out. I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.
Sandy Powers says
No real words for this one………….. just 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭
Cindy Wiest says
Thank you for your transparency. And happy belated birthday. I really appreciated the scheduling a time for dealing with grief, sadness, etc. great ideas and wisdom there.