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Sadness, Humility and the Truth about What’s Under the Bed

by Dr. Amy Johnson on September 21, 2017

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I’m not typically sad.  

Of course I experience up and down moods like anyone, but depressed isn’t a feeling that visits very often.

Except for this past summer.

Off and on, here or there. There was a depth to my moods that I can’t remember experiencing in the past. A flat feeling that I recognized in theory, even if the texture wasn’t all that familiar.

I saw over the summer that there were a few ways this might go.

  1. Sometimes it went like this: What in the world is going on with me?

I thought “I don’t experience this kind of feeling” as if we’re locked into a range. My feelings and your feelings.

As if I’m somehow immune to sad thoughts and the feelings they bring.  As if these thoughts and feelings are personal and have something to do with me.

When it went that way, it felt hard. I was not only feeling sadness, I was adding self-righteousness, rigidity and judgment to the mix.

I was adding me to the mix (whatever jumble of thoughts “me” was in that moment).

Sad thinking + me thinking = sad feelings tinged with shame because they are filled with stories about “me”.

It was personal.

  1. Or it went like this: Why?

What’s going on? What is this and what’s causing it?

Those three little letters kicked off a search for causes and reasons, all of which were something other than energy-brought-to-life-as-thought-in-the-moment.

I looked for other thoughts that might be lurking in the shadows, causing the heavy feeling. (Unmet expectations, self-judgment, fear…you guys in there?)

I looked out further, racking up even more outside factors that also can’t cause depressed feelings. Hormones? Not enough sleep? Too much pressure? Summer is almost over?

As if there’s a reason. As if anything other than thought-in-the-moment can produce feeling.

As if arriving at an unbiased why is something I could have done with my reasoning, memory and intellect. And as if arriving at that unbiased why—if it were even possible—would help.

Sad thinking + why thinking = sad feelings tinged with anxious scrambling and attempts to fix myself.

  1. It also went like this: Okay.

Not feeling great. Okay.

This may not be the happiest day of my life. It may be one of those days you just get through. Peeks of peace and content may be few and far between today.


Okay isn’t a mantra I said to cope. It is truly the way it looked when I saw that I was feeling one formless universal energy taking temporary form.

Not bad energy, just The One energy.

Not ‘what if this is my new normal?’, just temporary form.

In those moments my feelings didn’t look like something unfortunate happening to poor ole’ me.

It was impersonal.

And it didn’t feel like I was searching for the tiny hole that was letting all the air out of the tire. Where is that thing? I’m running out of time…grab a patch and throw it on!

It simply looked like I was not feeling my best. Okay.

The Ending

Whether I was in #1, #2, or #3, the ending was always the same.

I either suffered some and then it eventually let up, or I didn’t suffer as much and then it eventually let up.

You’re either afraid of the monster under the bed and you wake up alive and safe, or you’re not afraid of the monster under the bed and you wake up alive and safe. The outcome was never in question because the monster was never real.

The fear you feel lying in bed says nothing about the reality of the monster. It only shows you what your mind happens to be talking about.

For me this past summer, sadness could look like a million different things with a million different meanings.

And, the whole time, it was always just sadness.


A really interesting thing happens to me every few months or so.

I feel some uncomfortable stuff. Stuff I righteously thought I might never feel again. And I see that I’m not immune from anything.

That might sound scary—at one point it would have thrown me into a panic attack. Zero immunity?!? Anything could show up at any time?!?

But again, what’s showing up is just the imaginary monster under the bed. It’s nothing.

The thinking about it—the fear of it—is the only scary part. And that’s only a little impermanent thinking moving through, nothing that’s truly dangerous in any way.

These cycles of “What? Me? This?” keep me humble.

Maybe I’m making this up, but it feels like they somehow keep me grounded.

I’m capable of more empathy. They make me a better helper because I’m reminded that we’re all exactly the same. Humility allows me to talk with people more than to them.

No one is ahead of, behind, or wiser than anyone else.

We’re just feeling the shadows of our own imaginary monster under the bed and those shadows look real to everyone at times.

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