Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I chose this book because I had read and enjoyed Quiet, a book about introverts, written by the author. With that being said, I skimmed through much of the book. However I did pick up some personal insights, many of which are not surprising to me. For example, based on her Bittersweet quiz, I have a bittersweet state of mind. Or let’s just say, that I can be a very sensitive and empathetic man. As the author points out, when you experience something like a personal tragedy early in your life as I did, you tend to accept sorrow and longing.
The author also suggests that whatever paying you cannot get rid of, make it your creative offering. I do this primarily through my writing.
I can’t say this book will provide you solace or relieve your pain if you are in sorrow or mental distress. But it may explain how you feel or could feel…
Shown below are my notes from the book:
This book is about the melancholic direction, which I call the “bittersweet”: a tendency to states of longing, pregnancy and sorrow; and acute awareness of passing time; and they curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world. The bitter sweet is also about the recognition that light and dark, birth and death—-bitter and sweet are forever paired.
Most of all, bitter sweetness shows us how to respond to pain: by acknowledging it, and attempting to turn it into art, the way musicians do, or healing, or innervation, or anything else that nourishes the soul. If we don’t transform our sorrows and longings, we can end up inflicting them on others via abuse, domination, neglect but if we realize that all humans know – – or world now – – loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other.This idea of transforming pain into creativity, transcendence and love is the heart of this book.
It’s long been known that the vagus nerve is connected to digestion, sex, and breathing – – to the mechanics of being alive. But in several replicated studies, Keltner discovered another of its purposes: when we witness suffering, our vagus nerves make us care. If you see a photo of a man wincing in pain, or a child weeping for her dying grandmother, your vagus nerve will fire.
Then, the reminder that we have no missing half. “Here’s a little bit of darkness,” he warns. We need to accept that there is no partner who would understand the whole of us, who will share all our of our tastes in large and small areas. Ultimately, it is always a percentage of compatibility we will only ever achieve.
Even in the healthiest relationships, belonging often returns. In these unions, you can raise children, if you want you can share inside jokes, favorite vacation spots, mutual admiration, and a bed; you can search the streets of a brand new city for a heating pad when you’re traveling and your partners back goes out. In the best relationships, you can still, every so often, go to the moon and back. But most likely your relationship will be an asymptote of the thing you long for. As LVL says, “those who search for intimacy with others are reacting to this longing. They think another human will fulfill them. But how many of us have actually ever been totally fulfilled by another person? Maybe for a while, but not forever. We want something more fulfilling more intimate.
Whatever pain you can’t get rid of, make it your creative offering.
Angelou (Maya) story suggests, many people respond to loss by healing in others the wounds they themselves have suffered. Angelou did this through writing, but the process takes many forms. Indeed, the “wounded healer,” a term coined by the psychologist Carl Jung in 1951, is one of humanities oldest archetypes.
What are you longing for?
To find out how bitter sweet you are…¨
Do you tear up easily at touching TV commercials?
Are you especially moved by old photographs? ¨
Do you react intensely to music, art or nature?
Do you feel elevated by sad music? ¨
Do you tend to see the happiness and sadness in things, all at once?
Does the word poignant especially resonate with you? When you have conversations with close friends, are you drawn to talking about their past or current troubles?
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