Why do we feel melancholy?

Among five natural human emotions – anger, love, joy, fear and sadness, the last one is hardly talked about, discussed and shared. We spread love and joy, we support each other in fear and discuss when we are angry but we bear sadness alone, in our own bubbles. You will say – excuse you, we empathize and comfort others in the moment of sadness and despair too. I wholeheartedly agree with you. There is nothing better feeling in the world as the time we hit so low, the surrounding world is crumbling and falling apart and knowing that there are people having our backs, caressing and soothing us, wiping our tears and whispering ‘It’s going to be fine’. Even so, who are going to listen to our sobbing stories every day? When the sky is blue but we don’t know why, how many people out there would stop and ‘listen’ to our ‘seem-to-be-nonsense’ plummet of feelings? Sadness is personal and we gnaw at it in our single moment, feel the bitterness of it the most when we are alone and we tend to keep it to ourselves.

Sadness is the definition extending from the extreme of despair, sorrow, grief and depression to the lightest form of melancholy. Today I talk about melancholy.

In the moment of New Year just passing by, I have been struck with melancholy and constant struggle to break through and find the solution to get out. It is not a day in the week or once a month occasion, I have it every day, in the morning when I wake up to the time I lay in bed alone, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, Youtube and Tumblr.

Why do we, human beings, have to suffer from melancholy?

It’s nothing serious happened. No one died, I am not homeless, I have enough food to eat for today, tomorrow and many following days, I have a shelter to hide in when it rains and snows. My parents love me. I am deeply grateful.

Many people have a nearly perfect life but they cannot escape from the feeling of hopelessness striking from time to time. It’s not about sorrow, despair of a loss of life or depression that leading to suicide. Melancholy is an emotion with a purpose and consciousness.

Melancholy or personal existential crisis

Nobody feel the same way unless they have been gone through the same thing, brought up in a same family and breathe the same air. Emotion is subjective as an event left different impression and emotion inside us. Especially a negative event that evoked sadness and feeling of loss, it is engraved in our heart and soul. It is no doubt that, human beings are more likely to remember hurt and pain rather than happiness and joyfulness. A certain event triggers an accumulation of negative feelings inside us and produces an output uniquely to our circumstances. Do you ever feel like no matter how great your friends are, they simply fail to empathize with your pain? ‘Get over it’, they said, ‘things could be worse’. When did it become a competition? That’s why it is deeply personal.

Melancholy is triggered by social and situational factors as one individual acquires a level of awareness of the external world as well as internal world. We, apart from being indulged in our own thought of existential crisis, spend time interact with the world – societies and communities. Intellectuals tell us to recognize what is amiss in this world. The unfair of economic system, the criminals in societies leading to insecurity, the lie of politicians and so one – all of them blog people’s minds with criticism and desperation to figure out underlying causes. We are surrounded by clustered of news on wars, criminals, violence, sex, and exposed to the ignorance of human beings towards other human beings via social media. It dawns upon us about our helplessness in the situation and not much we could resolve the current situation. We struggle, yet no result. Therefore, we feel melancholic.


Here is my share on melancholy:

One day I jolted awake at night, I stared at the ceiling and got aware of my jobless situation. I knew someone from my class had already got a nice job in a capital with a small room, but still they got a stable income now, not worried about the next day. A couple of friends were travelling abroad. They had a sufficient amount of money which unfortunately did not occur to me yet. I stayed alone in this room, waking up in the morning not knowing what to do in the day. I tried to fill my days with reading and cooking, all the meaningless activities that do none solve my jobless, helpless and moneyless situation. Then I could not sleep, thinking about all of years I had wasted, all of people are probably having a far brighter future than myself. ‘My life is fucked up. I’m fucked’ and then I could not sleep. It did not happen once time. Every day, my mind reminds me how useless I am and no matter what I do, reading a fun comic, meeting a new friend, after all, I feel like a loser.

Occasionally, I would read a book or documentary about a specific place and timeline, a sudden of melancholy hit me as I picture the place, years ago, they used to live in this beautiful golden castle. They probably met and loved and raised their children here, with lots of memories. Hundreds years past, all left is a ruin. Time passes by and brings everything with it. I wonder and keep thinking about their life stories, tragedies and loves and regrets. What about me? I haunt myself with the thought about my current life. What can I do for this world? Will someone remember me when I die? Today if I die, who will ever miss me after five, ten or even fifteen years? Even my mom could forget my face after that long time.

What is the meaning of all these feelings?

Melancholy and purpose

Life is not easy and it is indeed messy and full of struggles unlike what we pictured it when we were young. If given a choice, some would choose never grow up. Forever young like Peter Pan, enjoying youthfulness in Neverland, never worries about taxes and houses and jobs. Bad news is that we are not alien who can fly like Peter Pan. We are chained forever into the ground and our responsibilities.

Days by days, we learn to cope with our sadness. Some people let melancholy kill them. Some talks about it, some turns it into motivation.

Centuries ago, famous philosophers and intellectuals in China or Vietnam had a trend to become a hermit after a long journey with politics and human beings. They decided to evacuate to furthest corner of mountains or forests to escape from the dirty dust of normal life style, to breathe in fresh air and not involved with drama.

In modern lifestyle, some would still choose those lifestyles, live all by themselves versus nature. Some are bounded by responsibilities they cannot simply escape. I like the quote by Churchil said never given up on something that you keep thinking about. Melancholy is also a string of thoughts you could never shake it off easily. It keeps coming back and taunting our lives. We are bothered by melancholy.

What do you do with a wound that keep bleeding and never heal and obviously obstruct every movement of your life?

You go to meet doctor, treat the wound and drink medicine.

You take action.

That goes the same of melancholy. What are you thinking about? What keeps you from letting it go? Listen to what you want to do and act upon it. Problem will not go away when you pretend not seeing it. We try our best to live with it, look at it and analyze it.

What do you see?

We cannot expect to solve our problem in one day, don’t we? We first need to acknowledge it and figure out where we are positioning ourselves in it. There are something we can do about it, our melancholy – we can learn from it, to help other people who are in unfortunate positions, we can help ourselves from a sense of worthless.

Like me, I have nothing to do with my life right now. Hence, I went to help local shelter. I need money but my mental fulfillment is even more important. I choose to do a task I love to do, helping animals. I have chances to cuddle with cats, talking with new people and waking up early for a purpose. I am still melancholic about my situation, but I am fine with it now.

You, too, can try to do something that might appear to not be comfortable to you but it will probably be beneficial to your melancholic state of mind.


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