Sadness traditionally has been viewed as humanity+U0027s natural response to deaths of intimates, losses in love, reversals of fortune, and the like. It arises, as Shelley says, because [the world+U0027s wrong!]1And, when the losses and strains that evoke the sadness are profound, the resulting emotions can also be severe, seeming to defy expression. In Samuel Coleridge+U0027s words:
A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear.2
The potential intensity of what appears to be normal sadness poses some difficult questions for psychiatric diagnosis. How is it possible to separate experiences of normal sadness from depressive disorders? How, after all, do we know that intense sadness is within the bounds of human nature and therefore can be psychiatrically normal, as common experience, as well as literature, would suggest? How can the known variations in the expression of sadness across cultures be consistent with a biologically designed and universal human capacity for sadness? And, if sadness is indeed a normal part of human nature, what is it for, that is, for what function could this painful and often debilitating emotion possibly have been naturally selected? To lay a foundation for the argument that modern psychiatry confuses sadness with depressive disorder, this chapter considers the characteristics and evolutionary enigma of normal sadness and presents evidence that it is a designed aspect of human nature.
Normal sadness, or nondisordered responses to loss, has three essential compon ents important to our argument: it is context-specific; it is of roughly