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Sadness: Precious Teachings from this Emotion

Giovanni Cucci, SJ - Mon, Nov 27th 2023

Sadness: Precious Teachings from this Emotion

An outlawed feeling

Sadness is certainly not a desired or attractive feeling with its dense cluster of synonyms that are difficult to separate with any precision (boredom, angst, depression). It never has been, even if it has had a certain consideration in literary and philosophical circles (think of Spleen, the meditative or melancholic sadness, of Romanticism and decadence, or of the angst of Heidegger as the cipher of human existence) and has, in general, influenced the entire history of culture and medical research in the West.[1]

Starting after the Second World War, perhaps with the intention of leaving behind the horrors of what had happened, some sought to eliminate sadness and propose a vision of existence marked by perfect serenity. And yet sadness is a part of life and it helps us understand the richness of its subtleties; it also contains important lessons for living well. Trying to suppress sadness would be like trying to eliminate the night from the arc of a day. Eliminating sadness would mean preventing oneself from experiencing the emotions and attitudes that are its mirror-opposite, like joy, peace, creativity and enthusiasm for life.

Art reminds us of its necessity. One need only think of the play on chiaroscuro that, for example, characterizes Caravaggio’s Call of St. Matthew. When the dark colors are taken away (something that can easily be done by computer), the final effect is horrible; it becomes impossible to grasp the beauty and the dramatic depth of the depiction of the event that forever changed the life of that tax collector.

Sadness as an illness

In 2007, a study entitled The Loss of Sadness was published.[2] This study takes note of the disturbing trend of confusing motivated sadness (sadness with a cause) with depression (sadness without a cause). Where the latter is to be treated, even with pharmaceuticals, the former is important for a healthy and rich life. Unfortunately, this tendency has become more and more accentuated in recent years.

In psychological and psychiatric circles, the most emblematic example is the most recent edition (the fifth) of the most authoritative reference text for mental health, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published in 2013.[3] In this text, behaviors and tendencies that express sadness are considered pathologies, and cures are prescribed for them, beginning from infancy (something previous editions did not do). But in this way, fundamental aspects and things which defy quantification are under-valued, like interpersonal relationships (even the doctor/patient relationship), feelings, everything that has to do with the subjective and unique dimension of the human person, presenting an ever-sicker image of man.

In comparison with previous editions, this text is significant from this point of view. The first edition of the DSM (1952) classified 106 disturbances, presented in an equal number of pages. The fourth edition, from 1994 (partially revised in 2000) contained 297 ailments in a volume of 886 pages. The fifth edition contains 1168 pages and lists more than 400 disorders, among which is found sadness. The DSM-5 no longer distinguishes between sadness and depression, eliminating the vast area of situations in which it is healthy and good to feel sad. For example, think of the reaction to losing a loved one, or one’s reaction to any tragic event: feeling sad is the sign of a healthy personality, capable of expressing affection. For the DSM-5, however, unlike previous editions, grief is no longer a condition for excluding a diagnosis of major depression. Whoever feels sadness in those cases should be considered sick and, therefore, be treated.

The psychiatrist, A. Frances, who directed the editing of the previous edition of the DSM, notes with concern the tendency to take drugs (pharmaceuticals) to eliminate uncomfortable feelings: “We are transforming into a society of pill-swallowers. One in five adults in America uses at least one drug for psychiatric problems; 11% of all adults took anti-depressives in 2010; nearly 4% of American children use stimulants while 4% of adolescents take anti-depressives; 25% of residents in nursing homes are administered anti-psychotics […]. 6% of the American population is addicted to prescription drugs: the number who end up in the emergency room because of prescription drugs, like the number of those who die from them, is greater than those caused by drugs illegally sold on the streets […]. An incredible number of soldiers, 110,000, take at least one psychotropic drug; many take more than one and every year more than 100 die from an overdose.”[4]

Above all, Frances continues, the DSM-5 tried to introduce a kind of “preventive psychiatry.” This is the most dangerous and invasive aspect of this tendency, one that can give rise to still graver harm, slapping the label of sick and handicapped on a person with too much ease. “Are we suffering? Then, we have major depression disorder. Do we have concerns about our physical health? This becomes psychosomatic disorder. My difficulties of remembering things now that I am 71 years old? This is minor cognitive disorder. My greater tendency to eat all of these cookies and anything that is on the table becomes binge eating disorder. My capricious grandchildren suffer from disruptive disorder. The definitions of illnesses have become lax, making it easier for normal people to be labeled.”[5]

The tendency to numb the psyche with drugs to reach an artificial serenity, “D-I-Y”, can have serious consequences for mental health, distracting from the hard work of finding points of reference for a healthy life, like family, loved ones, relationships, physical activity, hobbies, reading, helping the needy in volunteer work: “Overcoming problems in a personal way, normalizing the situation, helps us acquire new abilities and it brings us closer to persons who can help us […]. The ability to feel psychological pain has a great adaptive power and has the same aim as physical pain: it lets us know when something has gone wrong. Transforming psychological pain into a mental disturbance, will make us radically change ourselves […]. If we do not learn to deal with sadness, we will not even be able to be happy.”[6] Pharmaceuticals are certainly a help for psychiatric disorders, which for Frances can be found in 5-10% of the population, a much smaller segment than those suggested by the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-5.

Nevertheless, despite the numerous, grave objections from a large part of the psychiatric world, even from the USA, the DSM-5 was published in May 2013. On the occasion, the president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in a personal conversation with Frances, recognized that the text contained too many lacunae and problematic aspects that invalidated its reliability. Yet, considering the enormous cost to produce the volume (25 million dollars, compared to the 5 million the DSM-4 cost), it had become impossible to delay its publication.[7]

Underpinning this “technical” approach to discomfort, there are obviously enormous economic interests, especially on the part of the pharmaceutical industry. The sale of antipsychotics alone (which represent only 6% of all drug sales) in 2011 brought in more than 18 billion dollars: 11 billion for anti-depression drugs and 8 billion for those treating attention-deficit syndromes. In 2015, some 425 billion dollars were spent in the US, an increase of 8.5% from 2014.[8] In a ten year span (1987-1997), the number of patients with depression grew by 300%; depression is believed to be the greatest cause of disability among persons between the ages of 15 and 40, at a cost of some 43 billion dollars a year.[9] Who pays the real price for this expense? Those who truly suffer from depression for whom there are not the necessary economic resources for adequate treatment.

The events surrounding the publication of the DSM-5 demonstrate a serious crisis within the psychiatric community. In 2012, 29 English psychiatrists signed a joint text in which they denounced a change caused in the field with the use of pharmaceuticals, to the detriment of interpersonal relations.[10] In the USA, many psychiatrists left the editorial team of the DSM-5, accusing the APA of having become a political association, dominated by pharmaceutical companies (which finance the formation and scientific research of psychiatrists) and moved by economic and ideological interests, leaving little room for freedom of expression. Those expressing a different opinion can, in fact, find their funding cut by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or risk being incriminated and expelled from the profession.[11]

No previous edition had registered such strong dissent and the extreme diversity of judgments it contains radically undermines the professional objectivity which the manual wants to represent.[12]

Cultural marginalization of sadness

This change of direction is not only tied to psychiatry but rather reflects a general cultural climate that finds a classic example in the famous play of Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman. The protagonist, Willy Loman, despite his consistent hard work, finds himself without a job and in constant conflict with his wife and children. He decides to fake a traffic accident in which he loses his life, so that his family can receive the money from his life insurance policy. When it first appeared, in 1949, critics and theater-goers alike found in the story the symbol of the suffering of one who tried, in vain, to chase after the American dream (riches, well-being, fame). In 1999, 50 years later, the reactions to the play were completely different. An editorial in the New York Times told the protagonist to take Prozac. This caused the author to respond. Miller specified that the main character was not depressed, but sad and he had every right to be so, given that the cause of his suffering was not psychological, but economic and social.[13]

Also at the religious level, proposals based on perfect serenity have also had great success. The New Age is among the most famous: in 1988 alone, in the USA, more than 18,000 new books belonging to the category of “self-help” or “transformative literature,” tied to interior well-being and “do-it-yourself” were published. In Italy, the book La profezia di Celestino went through five editions between September and December 1994. This can be seen also in film by important directors like Stephen Spielberg whose productions are dominated by the search for perfect harmony and a dream-come-true, the very dream of the new Age of Aquarius. One need only think of Close Encounters of the Third Kind or the Indiana Jones series or the film by Oliver Stone about Jim Morrison.[14] It is certainly not a problem searching for what helps one to feel better; it becomes a problem when this search comes at the cost of eliminating other essential elements of the human person and of life.

This same tendency has been seen in therapy, beginning especially in the 1960s. B. Rosenthal introduced the term “oppiatism” to designate groups that sought to flee situations and the difficulties of daily life, seeking cheap gratification. This type of experience, for example, group sessions held on weekends in nice, relaxing locations far away from the city and from those “alienating” daily events, are not helpful because they avoid confrontation, idealize an artificial situation and tend to separate the cognitive from the affective.[15]

Rosenthal recognizes that these associative forms have effected a positive change in free emotive and relational potentialities but they have also assumed an “opiatic” meaning, becoming, that is, a calming anesthetic for anxiety and frustration, increasing the feeling of isolation from society and preventing one from carrying out changes that are important and necessary for one’s life.

Another worrying sign of the marginalization of sadness is the growth among adolescents and youth of alexithymia, that is, the incapacity to recognize and express one’s own affections, a situation of chronic coldness and superficiality. This condition of anaffectivity can lead one to grave self-harm. Numerous cases of under-age prostitution of children belonging to middle and upper class families (seen recently in the papers in Italy) demonstrate how, in the majority of cases, these children suffer from alexithymia, and are incapable of perceiving the destructive consequences of sexual promiscuity.

One need only think of the spread – also greater and publicly encouraged – not only of pharmaceuticals, but also of drugs and alcohol to obviate interior emptiness and the sadness of life.

Seeking refuge in the virtual

The trend toward anaffectivity can be worsened by the digital revolution, as evidenced by the new forms of traps for the mind, together with a vast array of possibilities and resources. The enormous possibility that social networks offer can also be a means for running away from sadness and the incapacity to be alone. I have already had the opportunity to show how the  physical dimension is indispensable for true relationships,  especially for the ability to recognize and express feelings.[16] Research done in this area among university students reveals a worrying lack in the capacity for empathy (recognizing and understanding a mental state different than one’s own), tied  especially to the large quantity of time dedicated to digital means of communication. These means of communication are seen as a way to flee from unpleasant feelings, like solitude and sadness.

Turkle has studied the theme of communications in social networks for years, especially among youth and adolescents. In her latest research, she confesses with amazement that the large part of those interviewed do not speak of “interests” or “desires” to grow in relationships. Rather, relationships tend to grow out of an attempt to avoid undesirable feelings, which are considered to be negative. Because of this, navigating the web ends up being an escape from reality, first and foremost from one’s self: “Boredom and anxiety are signs that drive one toward a greater participation in the reality of things, not in an escape from it […] More generally, the experience of boredom is directly tied to creativity and innovation.”[17]

Above all, the more you seek to hide your own vulnerability, the more you become dominated in a more hidden and deeper way, becoming prey to a widespread and constant sadness. For example, such is the case with the alarming diffusion of the “sad passions,” to take up a title of the research of M. Benasayag and G. Schmit, signs of a grave interior suffering, a deep-seated and complex discomfort. The “sad passions” (as Spinoza called them) express an existential unease; “they are not pain or crying, but impotence, disintegration and the lack of meaning that make the current crisis something different from others […], it is a crisis of the very foundations of our society.”[18] Boredom, sadness and solitude are undoubtedly sources of suffering, but they are also a door accessing possibilities beyond oneself, like creativity, the truth about self, empathy and compassion. We can be creative when we do not negate our vulnerability and fragility but rather, learn to accept them.[19]

In 2013, in an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien (one of the most well-known talk shows of NBC), the American comedian Louis C.K. (stage name of Louis Szekely) explained why he did not think it was right to buy a cell phone for his two little girls. Among the different reasons, he indicated the need to feel sadness, listen to it, without trying to run away from it with electronic devices. This reasoning was born from a personal experience that profoundly affected him: “I began to feel sadness and I grabbed my cell phone, but then I said to myself, ‘You know what? Don’t do it. Be sad and leave it alone. Open the street to sadness and allow it to run you over like a truck.’ I then pulled the car over and cried like a hopeless man […]. But, then, I began to have a feeling of contentment because, when you abandon yourself to sadness, your body produces a sort of antibody that rushes toward sad feelings. And yet, because we don’t want to experience the first feeling of sadness, we seek to send it away through our cell phones. This way, we don’t ever feel completely happy or completely sad. We only seem to be happy with our technological things. And yet…then we die. That’s the reason I don’t plan on buying a cell phone for my daughters.”[20]

The disappearance of sadness, of that sadness cum fundamento in re, as Saint Thomas would say, or confusion between sadness and depression, has certainly not improved the quality of life, but it has exacerbated unease and suffering.

The teaching of sadness

Sadness was much studied in ages past, which recognized its complexity and profundity. Saint Thomas dedicated four questions to this emotion in the Summa Theologiae (I-II, qq. 35-39). Sadness, for Saint Thomas, is a form of pain, it is pain of the soul. Like corporal pain, sadness is a warning bell that should be listened to, not suppressed, because it invites one to look for a necessary good that is missing (I-II, q. 36, a. 1) and, at the same time, makes it possible to comprehend the suffering of others. Associated with sadness are pain, anxiety, sloth, envy, anger and clemency (I-II, q. 35, a. 8). Sadness is also important in the spiritual realm. When one repents of the evil one has done, one feels sadness, that contritio, remorse (literally, the conscience that bites), “a rational and voluntary pain that constitutes a kind of psychological oxymoron, because it makes contrition simultaneously an action and a passion, an act that strikes rationality and sensibility at the same time.”[21]

This kind of sadness (that Thomas calls “moderated”) favors the interior life, both under a spiritual and an intellectual profile, because it brings one to set aside distractions and useless deviations and, therefore, “can be of benefit to understanding: especially when it deals with understanding those things which provide the hope of being free from sadness. For this, during times of trial, men are more disposed to receiving the teachings of God” (I-II, q. 37, a. 1). From this conclusion comes the healthy necessity of this feeling: “If, indeed, one did not get sad and did not feel pain, one would show that either he did not feel, or did not appraise an action as repugnant: and, one or the other of these is certainly bad. Therefore, it is a good, assuming the presence of an evil, that sadness or pain follow […]. Just as the enjoyment of a good makes it that the good is sought with greater enthusiasm, so, too, pain or sadness for evil makes it so that the bad is fled from with greater commitment” (I-II, q. 39, aa.1-2). On the other hand, not having the possibility to feel or reject evil on one’s own would be much more dangerous and grave, distancing oneself from that which is truly good for us (I-II, q. 39, a. 3).

Another interesting facet, in the same vein as what has been stated above, is that sadness is not, in and of itself, the opposite of joy because each belongs to a different aspect of human life. [22]

The worst kind of sadness or sorrow is sloth, the inability to enjoy the good, to the point of refusing it, revealing a distressing emptiness: “Wherefore sorrow, in itself, calls neither for praise nor for blame: whereas moderate sorrow for evil calls for praise, while sorrow for good, and again immoderate sorrow for evil, call for blame. It is in this sense that sloth is said to be a sin” (II-II, q. 35, a. 1 ad 1). When the retreat from sadness becomes the only motivation for action, this brings one to do anything, as long as it frees one from sadness, impeding one from doing the good and, it is this possible final result that renders it evil. Many gratuitous acts of violence are tied to this kind of interior emptiness, to boredom, that one desperately tries to chase away.

These clarifications show the difference between Christian doctrine and other points of view, like New Age, that identify the spiritual experience simply as “well-being” and want to make perfect serenity the goal of life. There is, then, a healthy sadness, a necessary one, like that of one who shares the sufferings of the people he loves (cf. Rm 12:15) or sadness felt when one prepares to take on a decisive test, one that is congruent with the choice made. It is the sadness experienced also by Jesus: “My soul is sorrowful even to death” (Mk 14:34), he said to his disciples in the most dramatic and important moment in his life. The proper lens for determining the situation should be identified in the coherence between values chosen and these, sometimes, entail sadness (cf 1 Pt 1:6-7), understood as a purification and check regarding the foundation of one’s own actions. It is an analogous situation to the moment of proof (cf Dt 8) that reveals the human heart, often disclosing surprising truths.

Remedies for sadness

Regarding possible remedies, Thomas Aquinas invites one, first of all, to express one’s own sadness, for example, in crying and sobbing (I-II, q. 38, a. 2). Or, by taking care of one’s body, by sleeping or taking a warm bath (I-II, q. 38, a. 5). Manifesting sadness is one way of taking it on and of taking it into one’s own hands, a profoundly therapeutic act, one also seen in psychological therapy. Secondly, he notes the fundamental importance of relationships: when one shares pain with a friend, the sadness of others can become a motive of consolation (I-II, q. 38, a. 3). Even intellectual activity is of help, especially the contemplation of the truth and of union with God, whose love is greater than any suffering. Thomas presents the testimony of the martyr, Saint Tiburtius, in this regard: when he was walking barefoot on the burning coals, he said: “Methinks, I walk on roses, in the name of Jesus Christ” (I-II, q. 38, a. 4).

These considerations are inspired by the necessity to read what stirs in the heart, distinguishing one’s own feelings, without non-critically assuming them as criteria of truth. Also reaffirmed is the power of freedom that always remains in man’s own hands, and faith in the Crucified one, who renders possible the impossible.

Ignatius of Loyola, in the same vein as what has been seen above, provides a complex evaluation of the state of sadness, which he qualifies with the term, “desolation.” This can have different meanings and different possible interpretations.[23] Ignatius is, first and foremost, attentive to reveal the importance of sadness which is capable of maintaining the spirit awake, of conserving vigilance and, above all, inviting one to be humble, all indispensable conditions for progress in the spiritual life.

Vigilance is fundamental for a proper reading of sadness: feeling incapable does not mean being incapable, and this judgment of the truth regarding lived experience is decisive for the next steps. It is the motive for Ignatius fervently advising “in the time of desolation, there is no need to make changes, but to remain firm and constant in purpose and in the decision in which one was the day before that desolation, or in the decision one had made during the previous consolation.”[24]

Therefore, never make a rushed decision because one risks being carried away to where one does not want, following only the wind of emotions, without recognizing the value of what is in play. For this reason, sadness as “shaking up of the soul” is a help, an invitation to go into the depths of the spiritual life, preventing one from lightly identifying a life of grace and serenity. Being without preoccupations or regrets can, in fact, lead to a dangerous interior coarseness.

Making use of the present

Moreover, sadness can remind us of the value of time, of persons and of possibilities that we will not always have. In a novel by G. Carofiglio, the protagonist learns from a dear friend that his wife of 34 years became sick and died within three months. The friend comments on this with a few incisive words: “‘You know, Guido, in that moment, you think of a lot of things. And, mostly, you think of wasted time. You think of the walks you didn’t take, the gestures of affection you didn’t give, of when you lied. When you acted like an accountant with the coin of affection; I know, it is trivial, but you think that you would like to go back and tell her how much you love her, all of the times you did not do it and you should have. That is always. It is not just the fact that you don’t want her to die. It is the fact that you wish that time had not been wasted, in that way.’ He spoke in the present, because his time was broken.”[25]

It is rare that an adult sees their own sadness as an invitation to better plan the present. When Milton lost his sight, he wrote a magnificent sonnet, On His Blindness, in which he expressed all of his sadness at not being able to better serve God as before. But he knows that God will not ask him something that he is not capable of doing, and, most importantly, that there does not exist a condition in which he cannot offer his own contribution: “God does not need/ either man’s work or his own gifts, who best/ Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State/ is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed/ And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:/ They also serve who only stand and waite.”[26]

In the light of Milton’s splendid poem, a precious truth emerges that the poet knew how to express with his own example: sadness can help us do the good, speedily, to take advantage of the possibility before us, rendering our life worthy of being lived.

[1].Cfr J. Starobinski , L’inchiostro della malinconia, Torino, Einaudi, 2014; R. Klibansky – E. Panofsky – F. Saxl, Saturno e la melanconia, 1983.

[2].A. V. Horwitz – J. C. Wakefield, The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder, New York, Oxford University Press, 2007.

[3].American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), 2013.

[4].A. Frances, Primo, non curare chi e normale, Turin, Boringhieri, 2013, 11.


[6].A. Frances, Primo, non curare chi e normale, cit., 52; 179; cfr F. Occhetta, “La salute tra etica e diritto”, in Civ. Catt. 2016 IV 269-281, that gives data for the situation in Italy.

[7].Cfr P. Migone, “E’ uscito il DSM-5. Dove va la diagnosi in psichiatria?”, in Psicologia Contemporanea, gennaio-febbraio 2014, 47.


[9].Cfr C. Murray – A. Lopez (eds), Global Burden of Disease and Risk Factors, Cambridge (MA), World Health Organization, 2006; M. Olfson et al, “National trends in the use of outpatient psychotherapy”, in American Journal of Psychiatry 159 (2002) 1914-1920; R. Pear, “Americans Relying More on Prescription Drugs, Report Says”, in The New York Times, December 3, 2004; Th. Croghan, “The Controversy of Increased Spending for Antidepressants”, in Health Affairs 20 (2001) 129-135; P. Greenberg et al., “The economic burden of depression in the United States: how did it change between 1990 and 2000?”, in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 64 (2003) 1465-1475.

[10].Cfr P. Bracken et al., “Psychiatry beyond the current paradigm” in The British Journal of Psychiatry 201 (2012) 430-434; R. Whitaker, Indagine su un’epidemia. Lo straordinario aumento delle disabilita psichiatriche nell’epoca del boom degli psicofarmaci, Rome, Fioriti, 2013.

[11].Cfr G. A. Fava, “Road to nowhere”, in World Psychiatry 13 (2014) 49 f.

[12].Cfr V. Lingiardi, “Dsm, la rivolta dei medici”, in Il Sole 24 Ore, December 4, 2011, 31; F. Ronchin, “Ma non siamo tutti matti”, in Corriere Lettura, October 7, 2012; M. Zaccaria, “Le osservazioni dell’Ordine all’APA sul DSM-5”, in Notiziario dell’Ordine degli Psicologi (2011), nn. 2/3, 19. For more information regarding this point, see S. Chapman: and also:

[13].J. McKinley, “Get that man some Prozac”, in New York Times, February 28, 1999; cfr  A. V. Horwitz – J. C. Wakefield, The Loss of Sadness…, cit., 3f.

[14].Cfr A. N. Terrin, “New Age: la religiosita del post-moderno” in Id. (ed), Nuove ritualita e irrazionale. Come far rivivere il “mistero” liturgico?, Padova, Messaggero, 1993, 34-69; P. Vanzan, “Contestualizzazione socioculturale e discernimento teologico-pastorale del New Age”, in E. Fizzotti (ed), La dolce seduzione dell’Acquario. New Age tra psicologia del benessere e ideologia religiosa, Rome, LAS, 1996, 53-101.

[15].Cfr B. Rosenthal, “The nature and development of encounter group movements”, in L. Blank – G. B. Gottsegen – M. G. M. Gottsegen (eds), Confrontation: Encounters in self and interpersonal awareness, New York, Macmillan, 1971, 435-468; here, 462.

[16].Cfr G. Cucci, Paradiso virtuale o Rischi e opportunita della rivoluzione digitale, Milan, Ancora – La Civilta Cattolica, 2015, 42-57; D. Winnicott, “La capacita di essere solo” in Id., Psicoanalisi dello sviluppo, Roma, Armando, 2004, 156-163; S. H. Konrath – E. H. O’ Brien – C. Hsing, “Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta-Analysis”, in Personality and Social Psychology Review 15 (2011) 180–198.

[17].S. Turkle, La conversazione necessaria. La forza del dialogo nell’era digitale, Turin, Einaudi, 2016, 50; cfr Id., Insieme ma soli. Perche ci aspettiamo sempre piu dalla tecnologia e sempre meno dagli altri, Torino, Codice, 2012; S. Mann – R. Cadman, “Does being bored make us more creative?”, in Creativity Research Journal 26 (2014) 165-173.

[18].U. Galimberti, L’ospite inquietante. Il nichilismo e i giovani, Milan, Feltrinelli, 2007, 28; cfr M. Benasayag – G. Schmit, L’epoca delle passioni tristi, ivi, 2005; M. W. – R. Alzahabi – C. J. Hopwood, “Media multitasking is associated with symptoms of depression and social anxiety”, in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking 16 (2013) 132-135.


[19].Cfr G. Cucci, Abitare lo spazio della fragilita. Oltre la cultura dell’homo infirmus, Milan, Ancora – La Civilta Cattolica, 2014.


[21].C. Casagrande, “L’uso delle passioni”, in Oss. Rom., November 10, 2010,4. This is the sadness of which St. Paul speaks: “For even if I saddened you by my letter, I do not regret it; and if I did regret it (for) I see that that letter saddened you, if only for a while) I rejoice now, not because you were saddened, but because you were saddened into repentance; for you were saddened in a godly way, so that you did not suffer loss in anything because of us. For godly sorrow produces a salutary repentance without regret, but worldly sorrow produces death” (2 Cor 7, 8-10).

[22].“Whereas sorrow and pleasure in respect of objects that are not contrary but disparate, are not specifically contrary to one another, but are also disparate; for instance, sorrow at the death of a friend, and pleasure in contemplation. If, however, those diverse objects be contrary to one another, then pleasure and sorrow are not only specifically contrary, but they also have a certain mutual fittingness and affinity: for instance to rejoice in good and to sorrow for evil” (Sum. Theol., I-II, q. 35, a. 4).

[23].“The principal reasons we find ourselves miserable are three: the first, because we are tepid, lazy or negligent in spiritual practices and, this way, spiritual consolation distances itself through our own fault; the second, because the Lord wants to test our worth and how far we will go in his service and in his praise, even without an abundance of consolation and great graces; third, because we know with certainty and we convince ourselves, in a way to feel interiorly, that it is not up to us to acquire or conserve a great devotion, an intense love, tears or any other spiritual consolation, but that all is a gift, a grace, from our Lord God; that is, because we do not make a nest in the house of others, elevating the mind to vainglory or pride attributing to ourselves devotion or other forms of spiritual consolation” (I. Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, n. 322).

[24].Ib., n. 318.

[25].G. Carofiglio, Ad occhi chiusi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2003, 88.

[26].J. Milton, Sonnet XVII, On His Blindness, in A.Q.- Couch, The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250-1900, Oxford, OUP, 1963, 318.

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