Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion

You suffered an irrevocable loss

You are sad because you lost forever something valuable. You are suffering and seek help and comfort.

Forms of Sadness

The English language includes many words that refer to various forms of sadness. These include: anguish, blue, dejected, disappointed, discouraged, distressed, displeased, dissatisfied, distraught, dismay, feeling bad, feeling uncomfortable, grief, homesick, lonely, lovesick, miserable, regret, sad, shock, suffering, hurt, uneasy, unhappy, upset, and sorrowful.

Agony is an active attempt to protest, prevent, or mitigate the loss.

Neglect is a form of sadness reflecting the loss of relatedness. It has synonyms: alienation, isolating, loneliness, rejection, homesickness, defeat, dejection, and insecurity.

Sadness is the emotion resulting from a loss. Stress is the energy we expend resisting the loss as we work to cope with it or overcome it.


  1. An irrevocable loss
  2. A specific undesirable outcome has occurred
  3. displeased by the appraisal of an event
  4. Impending loss

Many different types of losses can lead to sadness. These include material possessions, health, companionship, affection, stature, safety,

Many emotions are related to sadness. If you blame someone for you loss you feel anger. If you have lost stature or blame yourself for the loss you feel shame. If you feel you have lost affection to another person you feel jealousy, if you have lost safety or security you feel fear or anxiety. Loss of hope can lead to depression.

Types of Loss

A wide variety of losses can trigger sadness. These include loss of stature, hope, trust, health, life, companionship, or of something material or sentimental. The death of a child or other loved one often causes the most intense sadness. If you blame someone for your loss, you are likely to be angry. Consider these questions to better understand your sadness and cope with it:

  • What have I lost? Is the loss real?
  • What is it's value to me? Why do I perceive this as important?
  • Was this my loss or was it someone else's? What are their views regarding this loss? How do you know? Why do you care?
  • Do I feel insulted? Why? Has my ego been attacked? Have I lost some dignity? Was I ridiculed or humiliated? Has my reputation been damaged? Do I feel less competent? Was I denied fair recognition or reward? Is the insult groundless or is it an accurate interpretation of my behavior?
  • Do I feel powerless? Have I lost autonomy? Do I feel cheated? Was I taken for a sucker? Was a trust betrayed? Was privacy breached?
  • Was I coerced into submission or obedience?
  • Have I been threatened, injured, struck, abused, attacked, or intimidated?
  • Has anyone trespassed on my territory?
  • Have my goals been thwarted? Have my freedoms been abridged? Is my safety or security reduced? Is my legacy diminished?
  • Have I lost power? Have I lost stature? Have I lost strength? Have I lost influence? Have I lost access? Has a relationship been damaged?
  • From a rational point of view, how big is this loss? Am I evaluating this loss consistent with my values? What impact will it have?  How can I recover? Can I just ignore the issue?

Sadness and Depression

Sadness is an emotion, it lasts for minutes, or hours or perhaps as long as a few days. Depression is a mood, it lasts for days, week, months, and sometimes years. You can be in a sad mood lasting several days, often called a “blue mood” or “feeling blue”.

Grieving and Sadness

Grieving is the struggle to prevent the loss. It is our way of coping with loss and it may involve anger, anxiety, hope, or guilt. We often assign blame for a loss in an effort to sustain our stature as we resolve our grief. Once the protest and denial is over and the loss is accepted as irrevocable, then grief can turn into sadness and be resolved. Our focus shifts from the past to the future during bereavement.


Expressions of sadness often elicit helpful support and comfort from the community members. This may be the evolutionary basis for sadness.

Reconciling Loss

A magnificent beech tree graced the landscape for more than 80 years. I enjoyed seeing it, watching the leaves appear in the spring, and turn color in the fall. I enjoyed playing under it when I was a child, and relaxing under its shade when I was older. But today it was cut down, chopped up, and taken away. I will miss it, it is a great loss, and I am sad to lose it. What choices do I have in reconciling and coping with this loss? Here are some alternatives:

  • Devalue it — I could tell myself that I really never really enjoyed the tree, it blocked my view, ruined the grass, dropped leaves I had to rake, and blocked the sun. If I convince myself it had little value, then its absence is less of a loss.
  • Memorialize it — I could linger over photos of the tree, recall memories of playing under it, keep dried leaves and other artifacts from it, and work to retain the fond memories of it.
  • Substitute — I could learn to like another tree, find a new place to relax, plant a new tree, or find a new pastime.
  • Deny — I could tell myself the tree will return, or it will grow back, or it isn't really gone. This requires ignoring or distorting overwhelming evidence.
  • Blame — I could blame the tree cutter, land owner, township, government, society, big business, or progress for cutting down the tree. I might get angry at these people, because they were unjust and deserve the blame for my loss. I may decide to hate them to dispose of my grief. I could blame a scapegoat. If I blame myself, I might feel shame.
  • Agonize — I could delay, protest, negotiate, or try to reduce the loss in some way, prolonging the time before I come to terms with the loss and accept it.
  • Accept — I decide to accept the evidence and reconcile myself to the unavoidable fact that the tree is gone, never to return. I accept the irrevocable loss.

Irrevocable loss is ubiquitous; it happens every day to everyone. We get older every day, yesterday is lost forever as our youth wanes. Trees get cut down; people get sick, injured, and die; summer vacation ends, our cars get old and rusty, friends move away, sports contests are lost, we get passed over for promotion, and the list goes on endlessly. Buddhists teach about the inevitable impermanence of valuable things as a way to prepare us to cope better with the inevitable losses in our lives.

Most loss can only be prevented, once the loss occurs it usually cannot be remediated, compensated for, or fully recovered.  This leads to regret and sometimes shame if you fail to prevent a loss. It also leads to resentment if you blame others for your loss. We waste enormous energy in futile attempts to recover from irrevocable loss.

Several emotions are related to loss:

  • Sadness directly recognizes a loss.
  • Anger blames others for our loss.
  • Hate attempts to dispose of our grief by assigning it to the Other.
  • Shame blames ourselves for the loss.
  • Depression gets stuck dwelling in the loss.

How we reconcile our loss affects how we cope with our sadness or other loss-related emotion. No coping strategy can reverse a permanent loss. Careful planning can prevent some losses. Every meaningful loss is stressful. Choose your own path of sadness.

Paths of Sadness

Events that can trigger our sadness are common occurrences. How we respond to these losses and the choices we make affect our peace of mind, well being, and our lives.  The following figure illustrates choices we have and paths we can take to either prolong or resolve our sadness. Use this like you would any other map: 1) decide where you are now, 2) decide where you want to go, 3) choose the best path to get there, and 4) go down the chosen path.

You may wish to print out this one-page version of the Paths of Misfortune map

This diagram is an example of a type of chart known by systems analysts as a state transition diagram;. Each colored elliptical bubble represents a state of being that represents the way you are now. The labels on the arrows represent actions or events and the arrows show paths into or out of each state. You are at one place on this chart for one particular interaction at any particular time. Other people are likely to be in other places on the chart. This is similar to an ordinary road map where you plot where you are now, while other people are at other places on the same map. Begin the analysis at the green “OK” bubble, or wherever else you believe you are now.

OK: This is the beginning or neutral state. It corresponds to someone who is feeling well. The green color represents safety, tranquility, equanimity, and growth potential.

Irrevocable loss: You recognize you have lost something valuable and that it is gone forever. You are sad.

Sad: You recognize an irrevocable loss. Perhaps you are crying or tearful. The yellow color represents the loss and pain.

Loss Accepted: When you can turn your thoughts to the future and leave the past behind, you have accepted the loss and can get on with your life.

Loss Denied: Protesting, denying, bargaining, and reliving the past all serve to deny the loss. You are living in the past and not ready to accept the loss. Grieving will continue.

Grieving: Grieving is the struggle to prevent the loss. It is our way of coping with loss and it may involve anger, anxiety, anguish, hope, or guilt. Once the protest and denial is over and the loss is accepted as irrevocable, then grief can turn into sadness and be resolved. Our focus shifts from the past to the future during bereavement. The orange color represents the agony, pain, duration, turmoil, and loss of the grieving period.

Loss Accepted, Future focus: You have decided it is time to get over it, accept the loss, and get on with your life.

Trouble Recognized: You become aware that you can lose something you value. You are worried and dread the possible loss.

Dread: You feel bad because you understand you may lose something. Depending on what it is you stand to lose, you may feel anxious, fear, anger, shame, guilt, envy, or jealousy. The yellow color represents the loss, anxiety, and uncertainty of the time.

Positive Outlook: Although you recognize a bad outcome is possible, you predict a favorable outcome and maintain hope.

Hope: You believe with all the depths of your being that things will get better. You have hope; and you are doing things to improve your future. You are fearing the worst but expecting the best. Hope is the antidote to the hopelessness of despair. The green color represents the positive outlook, while the yellow color represents the uncertainty and possible bad outcome.

Negative Outlook: You predict the worst, and you have lost hope. You become depressed.

Depression: You have lost hope, the future looks bleak, you are depressed and feel hopeless. The red color represents the prolonged pain of the depression.

Good Outcome: Regardless if you were dreading, hoping, or depressed, you were spared your worst fears and the actual outcome is good. You are relieved.

Relieved: The frustration has changed for the better, and you learn that what you dreaded will not happen, you feel relief. Everything is now much better, you relax and feel a sigh of relief. The green color represents the good outcome and buoyancy of the relief.

Time Passes: The sensation of relief is rather brief. Soon you are back to your ordinary self, looking toward the future.

Bad Outcome: Your fears have come true. Regardless if you were dreading, hoping, or depressed, the actual outcome is bad, and now you are sad.

Physiological Responses

  1. Tears and crying,

Nonverbal Expressions

Expressions of sadness request the assistance and comfort of others.

  1. The inner corners of the eyebrows are angled upwards or the brow is wrinkled.
  2. The mouth is in a frown or wide open with the edges curled down.
  3. Cheeks are raised
  4. The area between the lower lip and chin is wrinkled
  5. The upper eyelids are drooping


[laz] Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions by Richard S. Lazarus, Bernice N. Lazarus

[Ekm] Emotions Revealed : Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life by Paul Ekman

[OCC] The Cognitive Structure of Emotions by Andrew Ortony, Gerald L. Clore, Allan Collins

[Gol] Destructive Emotions : A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama by Daniel Goleman

Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt, Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness, Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience, Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach, Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification, Gratitude, Anger, Remorse, power, dominance, stature, relationships

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