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By (March 7, 2009) (,)

I can remember feeling sad in two specific situations this week. Although these two instances triggered sadness within me, its magnitude was not overwhelming. Instead, it was a transient, momentary sense of sadness triggered by looking at two “images.” I then ponder how often we actually feel sad for fleeting moments in the day, to a degree that we may not even be aware or conscious of.

One trigger was petting and relaxing my dog, who had unfortunately defecated on herself and was coughing. The other trigger was watching a TV show where a character cried on screen. When interacting withy my dog, the trigger for sadness was the thought that she was getting older and would eventually pass away. Sadness is an emotional reaction to a sense of loss, especially to an event that we have no control over. In terms of the television show, humans are social and empathetic creatures who react to seeing another sad or hurt. Seeing the image of the character crying, even if not real, spurs empathy and sadness within me as the viewer.

Reverse engineering triggers of sadness is difficult because sadness deals with loss that is out of our control. One way to minimize sadness would simply be to remove or hide all such triggers. Although one may not be able to prevent it, one could try to manipulate the trigger to elicit other emotions following those of sadness, especially by framing people’s outlook and perspective. Immediately after feeling sad because of my dog I could be guided to think about all the positive experiences still left to have with her. For the person crying, the image would have to change to one with a  different facial expression so that I feel that the character’s pain has been relieved. Similarly, if I could perform some action that would stop the crying, it would relieve my empathetic, sad feelings.

March 7, 2009