“I think I miss being sad.” My friend’s voice echoed throughout my room at a too-late hour of the night. I remember his voice filling up the room one final time before I let sleep take over — “At least I was feeling something.” The next day, I kept replaying his words in my mind. As strange as the sentiment was, I knew exactly what he meant.
There is this contradictory delight that exists within melancholy. As painful as it is every time I get my heart broken or let down, I still engage in activities that only strengthen the depth of my emotions. I listen to the same sad songs, look at the same old texts and reread the same gloomy books. Submerging myself in my sadness has almost begun to feel euphoric in that there is a sense of peace that accompanies it. It’s as if the sadness is the calm before the storm of emotions that I know will follow.
The conflict in this comes not from the experience of the emotion itself. People process different emotions in an endless number of ways. The issue comes from the implication of this pleasure. Likening these types of emotions to something satisfactory can easily morph into the conflation of the good and the bad. This can be seen in the addictive nature of toxic relationships.
The primary hallmark of toxic relationships is a clear cycle of abuse. First, tensions build. Communication begins to disintegrate and efforts to avoid a perceived oncoming conflict take its place. These efforts are pursued until there is an inevitable incident. Verbal, physical and/or emotional abuse consumes the relationship. There is a reconciliation period which follows. During this period, parties will apologize, belittle the situation or merely deny its severity. Afterwards there is a honeymoon phase that keeps the toxic relationship afloat. Within this period there is no abuse taking place. It seems as if the conflict is forgotten and all there is — is love. Eventually, the cycle will restart itself and continue as described.
There are a number of reasons people stay in toxic relationships. One reason may be that this is the type of relationship that appears normal to them. Those who have grown up in troubled homes are typically accustomed to tumultuous relationships. As a result, normalcy can feel uncomfortable — or abnormal. Or it may be that they believe they may never receive better, or the partner they have is the one they deserve. The reason I find most compelling, though, is the idea that the feelings they have for their partner are so intense that they make everything else worthwhile. Despite the fact that someone in a toxic relationship knows they will be abused again, the love they feel for their partner feels so passionate and all-consuming that they stay. To them, the brief, fleeting moments of happiness are worth the inevitable periods of abuse.
The contradictory gratification we receive from sadness may overshadow the fact that our dismay is unwarranted. There is disagreement in every relationship, especially those which we attempt to make romantic. However, if you find yourself constantly bickering, every conversation turning into an argument and in a constant state of longing, this is likely not the result of healthy hardship. It’s hard to see the true nature of a situation when you’re in the midst of it. If you find yourself questioning whether or not a relationship is healthy for you, the uncertainty alone may be the answer.
It is challenging not to liken emotions with something great if you’re accustomed to apathy. Yet, rather than place focus on the paradoxical allure of longing and negative emotions, explore why your positive emotions — let them be happiness, joy, or excitement — don’t elicit the same appeal. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wallowing in your sadness, but be wary of whether the reason for this sadness is worthwhile or if it’s keeping you from recognizing the severity of a far graver issue.
LEILA JACKSON is a sophomore in Saybrook College. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .