How to Deal with the Blues: Situational Sadness and Personality Type
“And here’s to the blues, the real blues – where there’s a hint of hope in every cry of desperation.” – David Mutti Clark
All Personality Types Face Sadness
Blues is an American musical genre that has influenced many other musical forms since its inception. It’s rich in themes of loss and longing and often includes stories and situations familiar to most people. It’s become synonymous with feeling down, with or without musical accompaniment.
“Blues” is a soulful word for unhappiness caused by life events, an unhappiness that is distinct from a broader clinical type of depression. There can be crossover between clinical depression and the blues – but they can also exist independently of each other. The blues, as a rule, are less pervasive and more temporary. It’s less an illness and more a life event. It’s like when that new love interest who appears to be “the one” suddenly says they don’t feel the same way about you. Yes. There may be obsessing and grieving. But a subtle realization eventually emerges. Indeed, there are other fish swimming in the sea of love. While it may not be evident at first, the lost-love blues eventually come to include that hint of hope mentioned in David Mutti Clark’s quote above. Things will get better.
Blues can come from a realization about life (“I feel stuck in a job that sucks”), or it can come from a shock to the system that is situational (“My hard-earned savings were wiped out in a market crash”). Sometimes we’re responsible for our own sorrows. Sometimes we’re not. But there is something of value to learn and experience either way. The following advice is mostly geared toward the “time heals all wounds” type of sadness – the blues. But the advice we offer here is generally suitable for anyone who feels down.
When Analyst Personality Types Get the Blues
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
Discomfort with expressing feelings is different from not having them. Even the stoic Analysts get the blues – although a few might deny it.
When they do get the blues, Analyst personalities are likely to see it as a dilemma to solve. While that in itself is not a problem, it can hinder their personal growth if they do so to distance themselves from the pain by trying to rationalize it away. The blues are often simply asking us to pay attention to something, and trying to outrun them can leave much unattended to in life.
In addition, these problem-solving personality types may even feel guilty about feeling bad. (“I should be able to handle these pesky emotions better. I should be able to fix them.”) It’s not easy for someone who believes rationality can provide the solution to everything to run across a problem that may not be easily solved by some formula. Sometimes difficult emotions just need to be patiently experienced and allowed to run their course.
Some advice for the Analyst blues:
- Yes, find a solution, but... When you can, fixing whatever is making you sad is fine – required, even. That’s what you do. But sometimes your blues may not be about fixing something. You can’t fix the fact that someone who you love has left you or that death has taken away someone important. Sometimes, our emotional and maybe even our physical health depends on just indulging the grieving process for a time. None of us can control everything. Life sometimes pushes our “pause” button long enough for it to work on restoration and repairs, even without our permission. That’s called grief, and it often accompanies the blues.
- The blues are telling you something. Treat these periods of time as you would anything else. Just because it’s an emotional state and might seem a bit soft in the data department doesn’t mean that it isn’t a rich area in which to search for insights. There are truths in that place you may never discover elsewhere, but you may have to wait for them in a more passive state than you are used to. Your blues mantra: “Avoid avoiding emotional truths. Patiently wait for them.”
- Then take care of yourself. Analysts have a way of living independently and in their heads. Make sure during the stressful bouts of the blues that you take care of your body and overall well-being. Better yet, if possible, let others take care of you occasionally. It’s not a sign of weakness.
While there can be plenty of intellectual fodder and data available during a case of the blues, human experience isn’t always something that can be itemized on a spreadsheet. Well, maybe it can. But that may not be what you need to get through the blues or to resolve them. Emotions exist for a reason, and sometimes you may simply need to sit patiently with them to discover what they’re about.
When Diplomat Personality Types Get the Blues
“I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds – but I think of you always in those intervals.” – Salvador Plascencia
Where others may run away from emotions, Diplomats are just as likely to dive in. Feelings are their realm. When it comes to the blues, Diplomats are likely to pay attention and treat them as something valuable, and their lives may be richer for the experience even if it’s painful. But that doesn’t mean that they always handle the blues well.
One concern for Diplomats is becoming too immersed in emotions. Among these personalities are those most likely to spend significant time reflecting on the past, and they tend to romanticize emotional events in their lives. They often fall in love deeply, and often fall out of it with much tragic fanfare. Picture the lovelorn, chin on palm, peering through the window at the moon and sighing audibly.
The blues might be an emotional place filled with deep meaning for the discerning soul to explore, but it’s not necessarily someplace to take up residence for long. With the blues, there is a thin line between meaningful and maudlin. Emotional catharsis can be wonderful... in small doses. The Diplomat balance involves appreciating the importance of emotions while learning when enough is enough.
Some advice for the Diplomat blues:
- Look for growth. It’s not that Diplomats relish the pain. Because of your Intuitive and Feeling personality traits, you probably regard a bout of the blues as profoundly important. And you’re often right. But remember that the purpose of growth is to gain a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness, and to achieve that sense, you probably need to move on. Scan the horizon for a healthy way to leave the blues behind. There is more to learn and experience beyond that horizon.
- Set concrete goals. Diplomats might benefit from setting concrete goals. Vague intentions and aspirations aren’t always enough, and, as long as you’re alive, there is a future to attend to. It need not be an initial reaction after an emotional blow, but establishing concrete goals may help slowly build a comprehensive action plan that can help you cope with any life changes, disappointments, or events – the new normal. Your blues mantra: “My goal is happiness and fulfillment.”
- Remember to eat. And sleep. And exercise. And laugh. Sadness, even temporary, situational sadness like the blues, can be mentally and physically draining. Take a holistic approach and maintain the strength you need to remain vital.
Your sensitivity and your attraction to the human experience give you a profound relationship with sadness. But when experiencing the blues, also value your natural need to grow. Appreciate your impulse to be a more complete human. Let that inclination toward growth be the motivation that brings you to a brighter place.
When Sentinel Personality Types Get the Blues
“There’s more to life than increasing its speed.” – Frank Sonnenberg
Sentinels, both Thinking and Feeling types, may see the blues as a painful inconvenience – a disruption in the stability they crave. They are likely to seek quick and time-tested resolutions in hopes of restoring the lives they are accustomed to leading, as nearly as possible. While Sentinels with the Feeling personality trait are more outwardly affected by the blues than those with the Thinking trait, both tend to spring into action to lessen the pain. They derive comfort from a steadier, more controlled path. They may attempt to work their way out of sadness by sheer will.
But difficulties arise when what looks like productive activity turns into soothing busyness. There’s nothing wrong with taking one’s mind off one’s troubles, keeping things together, or finding effective solutions. It’s fine to keep busy. However, when activity is a distraction, rather than a purposeful tool, it can become problematic. Cleaning the garage will only divert the pain, not make it go away.
Some advice for the Sentinel blues:
- Slow down. Nobody is asking you to wallow in your blues. You’re not likely to even if they did. But mourning has a place. When sadness overtakes us, there is usually something lost, even if it’s something nonmaterial like innocence or a dream. Taking time to experience the loss, understand it, accept it, and adapt to a new reality can be necessary ingredients to growing and successfully emerging from the blues. It’s okay to slow down long enough to mourn. It’s okay to feel sad.
- Plan. And it’s also okay to indulge your longing for a better day. You can both slow down (avoid soothing busyness) and set some intentions for your life at the same time. Intentions offer hope and provide the anchor that Sentinels need. Don’t ignore your feelings. But then imagine: When things get better, what will life look like? How will things be different? Take some small steps. Intentional baby steps toward a better place allow you room to deal with your blues and adjust as you go forward. Your blues mantra: “Intentional, not busy.”
- Let someone take care of you. Sentinels typically prefer to take care of others. Making sure everyone around them is okay is one way to maintain stability. When you feel the blues, reverse the roles if someone offers. Or ask them yourself. Tell others what you need. Use someone else’s shoulder to cry on, rather than always being the one who provides the strength.
Sentinel personality types with the blues will do what they are most comfortable doing: attending to the business at hand. This may help the situation, or it may morph into a type of busyness. Pairing clear intentions with small practical actions can help you work through your blues.
When Explorer Personality Types Get the Blues
“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.” – Kahlil Gibran
Explorers are perhaps the most resilient of all personality types. There is a part of them willing to move on at any point. Loss may be more relative for them. Their independence and flexibility are such a part of who they are that their name for “momentous life change” could be... “just another Tuesday.” Okay. That’s an exaggeration. But Explorers don’t generally stay mired in painful emotions for long.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that they don’t get the blues, and get them bad. All those artists and entertainers among them must get their material from somewhere, after all. Explorers with the Feeling trait are perhaps among the most sensitive and caring types – often feeling deeply for others, especially children and animals. The difference, perhaps, is that since life is generally more transitional for these personalities, the blues, no matter how intense, may be less enduring.
Some advice for the Explorer blues:
- Don’t leave it too soon. You’re likely considering the next thing on the horizon all the time. When done in a healthy way, that’s a powerful tool for managing the blues. There’s hope in that thinking, and who doesn’t want to escape emotional distress for better times? But avoid running toward the future at the expense of learning from the past. You probably recognize your tendency to be impulsive – when you’re in the midst of the blues, it may not be the right time to indulge in that tendency and run away. There may be lessons to learn. Too often, the situations that generate the blues are the product of our own actions and thinking, and even when we’re not directly responsible for our troubles, the blues still typically offer a buffet of life lessons.
- Create a souvenir. As an exercise, use your skills to create a memorial of your blues event. Draw a picture, write a poem or song, create a story to tell your friends over a beer. Find a way to express this period of your life. Preserve it as important. Your blues mantra: “Express yourself. Express your blues.”
- Grab your bliss. As you’re going through the blues, cling to what brings you joy. Offset the pain with activities you enjoy. Just make sure that it’s a counterbalance to the blues, rather than an escape from the real issues at hand.
Explorers are deeply affected by the blues. However, they may not last as long for you as they do for other personality types. Your flexibility allows you to adapt quickly as you yearn for something new and different. That’s all great – as long as it doesn’t short-circuit a healthy processing of your emotions.
The Final Word on Handling the Blues
You may have noticed a pattern in our advice. The first bullet point examines attitudes. The second offers something to do, or at least consider doing. The third is about self-care. All three considerations are important. Balancing a look inside, a look outside, and one’s well-being is important during the blues.
All the advice in the world will never compete against this one piece of advice: be kind to yourself and take care of yourself during a bout of the blues. These inevitable times will pass. When the new chapter in your life opens, you want to be in the best shape possible to face it and make the most of it. Be good to yourself.