We all do it. Whether we want to believe it or not, crying is part of our human experience. We cry when we're happy. We cry when we're sad. We cry when we cut onions. Biologically, we are designed to emit tears. According to research crying can mitigate tension (Geststein, 2011), rebalance nervous system proclivities (Nelson, 2005), and enhance internal well-being.
The quiet virtues of sadness: A selective theoretical and interpretative appreciation of its potential contribution to wellbeing
Critical emotion theorists have raised concerns that “normal” human emotions like sadness are increasingly being pathologised as disorders. Counter efforts have consequently been made to normalise such emotions, such as by highlighting their ubiquity and appropriacy. This paper goes slightly further by suggesting that sadness may not merely be normal, but could have inherent value, and might even be an integral component of a flourishing life. It offers a selective theoretical and interpretative review of literature on the potential “virtues” of sadness. Three overarching themes are identified, each comprising four subthemes: (a) sadness as a mode of protection (including as a warning, as prompting disengagement, as a mode of conservation, and as enhancing accuracy); (b) sadness as an expression of care (including as a manifestation of love, of longing, of compassion, and eliciting care); and (c) sadness as a vehicle for flourishing (including as a moral sensibility, as engendering psychological development, as an aesthetic sensibility, and as integral to fulfilment). It is thus hoped that the paper can contribute to a more “positive” cultural discourse around sadness, suggesting that, for many people, experiences of sadness may serve an important function in their lives.