Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

On Being Sad

Sonoma, California, USA

April 18, 2014

"Sadness is supposed to cure being sad." ...   speaking with Laurence Platt in Conversations With A Friend #2 (Future Perfect) 
This essay, On Being Sad, is the companion piece to On Being Happy.

It is also the sixteenth in the complete group of Experiences Of A Friend (click here for the open group Experiences Of A Friend II):
  1. Stepping Back
  2. At Home As Self
  3. Empty Windows
  4. Futile Like A Freedom
  5. Shut Up And Do What You're Doing
  6. Werner As Intention
  7. Who He Is For Himself
  8. Source Quote
  9. Puzzle Solved, Mind Unraveled
  10. Eye To Eye
  11. Mystical Connection II
  12. Relentless
  13. Being Around Werner
  14. Being Always In Action
  15. Shaken Up And Teary
  16. On Being Sad
  17. The Complete Presentation
  18. Force Of Nature
  19. Everyone's In Love With Everyone
  20. I'm Old School
  21. Werner At The Speed Of Choice
  22. I Get Who You Are From What They Do
  23. The Significance - Not What Happened
  24. You Know I Love You - And I Know You Love Me
  25. Speaking To People's Relationship With Werner
  26. A Master At Being (And Having People Be)
  27. Werner As Source
  28. A Man Who's All There
  29. My Heart And You
  30. Mind Control
  31. Again And Again And Again And Again And Again And Again
  32. Unwavering
  33. The Leadership Course III: Pillar Of The Community
  34. American Genius
  35. Legacy II
so far, in that order.

It is also the first in a trilogy on Sadness:
  1. On Being Sad
  2. The Sadness Of A Wasted Life
  3. "Sadness Is Supposed To Cure Being Sad"
in that order.

It is also the prequel to "Sadness Is Supposed To Cure Being Sad".

I am indebted to Michael Reid who inspired this conversation.

Transformation, it could be said, is a matter of generating context  (that's not someone else's quote - it's something I said). And it's not just a  context for one particular event, circumstance, or situation although that's certainly a part of it. Rather it's a matter of generating context for all of it, a matter of generating context for Life itself. As such, anything showing up in this context ie all the stuff of Life itself, all the content  of Life itself, can and will also show up, at some point in time, in a conversation for transformation.

I have an affinity with just about anything which shows up in the context of Life itself. I'm willing to include just about anything in a conversation for transformation. There's a place for it all. And the truth for me is there are also some topics I've stayed clear of. Being sad is one of them. To be sure, sadness is one of our most commonly occurring emotions. It's also one of our most repressed emotions. There's no particular taboo  against talking about being sad, and there's certainly no particular taboo against talking about being sad in a context of transformation. All good intentions aside, I just haven't gotten around to it - at least not until now.

There've been situations in my life in which I've experienced sadness: being divorced for example. There was a deep sadness for me when our long, happy, productive relationship ended - without me choosing to end it, without me wanting to end it. That wasn't all. Then came sharing custody with my children which prevented them being with me when they wanted to, resulting in sadness for them and therefore more sadness for me.

Now: don't listen this as a soap opera. If you do you'll disempower the conversation. It's simply what happened. It's just what's so. The purpose sharing it serves is it's the entry point into this Conversation For Transformation essay On Being Sad.

My own struggle with sadness has set the bar for my transformation - not that I have to be sad in order to be transformed (of course I don't) but rather in struggling with sadness, I've gotten to exercise my transformation muscle.

An Intrusive Process

We sit on straight backed chairs opposite each other, facing each other, almost knees to knees. He speaks quietly yet his eyes are like lasers. "So what's going on with you?" he asks in an interested, friendly voice. I tell him about my children, what they're doing at school etc. And as I'm telling him about them I notice that's what I do:  people ask what's going on with me or how I'm doing and I respond by telling them about my children  ("That's interesting" I muse to myself ...).

"Great. So what else is going on?" he asks. I pause. Haven't I already  answered the question? Oh well ...   This time I tell him about my writing, about my work, about my fitness regimen, I even share a bit about how I'm doing financially. "Great" he says again "so what else  is going on? What else is there?".

It starts to feel intrusive. That's when, after the briefest flicker of hair-trigger  impatience noticeably crosses my face, in a flash of startling clarity I realize I haven't  already answered the question. That's when I realize all I've been doing until now is filling the space with noise, blabbing. This time I actually look. This time I look deep. And when I see what I see ie when I see what else is there, I don't know if I'm willing to share it.

But this is he and this is me and we're talking. So I'm willing to share it. Yet it's so deep I can barely get it out of my mouth. There's so much  I now see going on. Fear. Uncertainty. Confusion. Inauthenticity. And more. That's what's really  going in. That's what I'm not  'fessing up to. Eventually one solitary orphan word passes through my lips. I can barely articulate it. It kind of just spills out, breathy with trepidation and very soft: "Sad". I hear myself saying "Sad" like I'm deep inside a cave that echoes.

He leans closer. "What was that?" he asks. "Sad" I say again after a moment or so. "There's sadness.". There's sadness in my space. That's the truth. It's what else is there. Like a background, like wallpaper. It doesn't stop me yet it's not distinguished either - at least not until now. "I'm sad" I say, tears suddenly prickling my eyes as I look away from him.

He sits there on his straight backed chair opposite me, facing me, almost knees to knees with me, and then he smiles a broad smile of acknowledgement and respect, and says "Thank you Laurence.". That's all he says. He doesn't ask why  I'm sad or what made me sad or what I'm sad about or how long I've been sad (I'll share that with him later). "Thank you Laurence" is all he says. I get it totally. It's all he needs to say.

Something's different now. Something's very  different. Because it's unfamiliar I don't get it at first. Then I get it. And I'm astonished  by it and by the simplicity  with which I arrived at it. What it is is how marvelously free I am with sadness now, really  free, teary prickling eyes and all notwithstanding.

Experienced Experience Disappears

Going over the process afterwards, I ask him what happened. To be sure, I know  what happened. What happened was I, in the moment, simultaneously experienced being sad and  becoming free with it. But I don't have the words to explain what happened or to communicate it, to relay it, to re‑create  it for others. "You experienced your sadness" he says. "You took responsibility for it. It's that simple. You didn't hold it at bay or resist it. You didn't get stuck in the why or the wherefore or the how of it. So its grip disappeared. For all intents and purposes, it  disappeared. Experiencing being sad is to have  sadness. If you're sad, have sadness. Until now, sadness has had you.".

That was it exactly. It's had me. I didn't experience it. I didn't take responsibility for it. I didn't let it be. Sadness is something I almost never  let be. No, forget the "almost":  sadness is something I never let be. It's something I never own. When I'm sad I resist being sad. When I'm sad I don't want to be sad. When I'm sad I don't like  being sad. And therein lies the enigmatic impossibility:  being sad but resisting being sad, being sad but not wanting to be sad, being sad but not liking being sad. "It's like a dog trying not to be a dog" I say, bursting out laughing, actually seeing the cosmic joke  of it, arguably for the first time in my life.

"And you're right" I tell him, "It is  simple.". "It's simple but it's not always easy"  he adds quickly, looking (for the first time) dead serious.

Generating Completion As The Context For Being Sad

Sadness is my least favorite emotion. Sadness is a bully. When I'm sad I'm defeated, helpless, frustrated, and disempowered. Being sad happens  to me like getting rained on or catching a cold. There's nothing I can do about it. Whenever sadness is front and center stage  in my life (so to speak), all I can do is wait for it, like a rainstorm or a cold, to pass.

I share this view of sadness, this view of being sad, with him. I share with him my sadness with being divorced. I share with him my children's sadness with not being with me when they wanted to. I share with him my sadness with their sadness. He looks at me intently. Then he says "You aren't generating a context for being sad so you're left with no power  over being sad and with no possibility  for being sad. What you've described is poignant. See if poignancy can give you a context for being sad. See if poignancy can give you power over being sad. See if it can give you a possibility for being sad.".


From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


causing or having a very sharp feeling of sadness


"When something is poignant, create it completing something for you  rather than suffer through it" he continues, not looking directly at me - which has the effect of drawing my eyes to his, just as his words draw my listening to them.

Now it's my turn to speak quietly. This is definitely carving out new territory for me. Being sad as completing  something? Brilliant! Not suffering  through sadness, and instead having it complete  something? Amazing ... and  a totally new way of looking at it. Not suffering through being sad, and instead having completion be a context for it?  Why didn't I think of this myself before? Being sad appropriately completes divorce, for example. Being sad appropriately completes the sadness which goeswith  divorce (as Alan Watts may have said) for example.

I can choose to recontextualizes  (I love  that word) being sad as the process of completing whatever the originating incident was, rather than getting in the way of the process by resisting being sad, by not experiencing it fully, by not being responsible for it, by not allowing it to complete whatever it completes. I can chose to allow being sad to complete sadness. I can take a stand for generating completion as the context for being sad. I can take a stand for generating completion as the context for that which is poignant.

It's a great conversation with him ie it's another  great conversation with him. What his way of holding being sad allows for and makes possible (I haven't fleshed it all out fully in detail yet ... but I will) resonates totally with me. I'm not listening this possibility critically. I'm not listening it skeptically. Rather I want it. I love it.

Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2014 through 2024 Permission