February in Emotion, pt 1 & 2

The first half of February in Emotion can be viewed as a darkly comical illustration of the weeks preceding a breakup. I have this little obsession with the human experience, which allows me even in times of adversity to "zoom out" and study my own situation the way an anthropologist might, finding the most intense and pitiful details the most fascinating. "So, this is sadness!" I might say, with my glasses at the tip of my nose, field notes in hand and a pile of snotty tissues in my wake. 

I believe that sorrow invites us into a fuller human experience. The psychologist Abraham Maslow described self-actualization as a universal human need for meaning and growing into one's full potential. While we could easily equate self-actualization with happiness or success, surely such growth requires contact with the more difficult emotions like disappointment, anger, and sadness, which lead to greater understanding, empathy, and dare I say the ability to laugh at oneself.  

 

And from the darkness, how much brighter is the light that shines from simple realities like jazz, sweat, rain, and friendship. Thus, I present February in emotion, part 2, or in other words, "Everything except for you, my dear."

If you're interested in further exploring the notion that sorrow is a necessary and even valuable part of being alive, I encourage you to listen to this beloved podcast from On Being in which Krista Tippett interviews the poet Naomi Shihab Nye and they have a conversation about humanity, struggle, hope, and kindness.

I listened to the episode months ago during a run and I still think about it from time to time. Among other epiphanies, it helped me come to terms with the way my personality has changed over the months and years. Perhaps, I've come to think, my shift away from bursting with constant positivity doesn't mean that I have lost something. Maybe it means that I've become more complex. 

What do you think? How can we become fully human? Is sadness valuable? If you could add a human need to Maslow's hierarchy, what would it be? What did you have for breakfast?
Karlee PattonComment