Jay Shetty is fascinated by psychology and how that applies to our daily lives. So naturally, he was very excited to welcome Susan Cain as a guest speaker on the ON Purpose podcast.

Cain is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. She recently released a new book called Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, which explores the topic of sorrow and grief.

Secret Sorrow

Many of us never learn how to deal with loss and grief. Often, we keep our sorrow to ourselves because there is little education on the subject.Cain decided to explore the topic of sorrow more deeply. She realized that she felt a connection to the sad songs she would hear. However, it wasn't sadness that she felt, and this intrigued her.

After studying different cultures, she shared with Jay Shetty that "they're all telling us that the willingness to accept that life is a mix of joy and sorrow is one of the great bonding agents we have because we all are humans who are in that same state of being."

Acceptance and Commitment

Cain explained to Jay Shetty that acceptance is the first step in dealing with sorrow. Every person reacts differently, and it is essential to allow all these feelings. Though they can sometimes feel overwhelming, we must let them in and accept them.

According to Steven Hayes in his book, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The Process and Practice of Mindful Change, there are two initial steps to coping with grief. First, you need to accept the facts. Identify the source of your pain and understand that you feel it because something occurred in an area of your life that is important to you. This is a crucial realization to have.

The second stage is committing to the area you just identified. It is taking an extra step of making meaning out of whatever event caused you the pain. When you do this, you can draw closer to becoming whole.


One thing people ignore when it comes to grieving is the feeling of belonging. Cain describes the experience of someone she interviewed for her book. The interviewee explained how attendees began singing together during her grandfather's funeral. In that moment, she didn't feel sadness because there was "a union between souls."

Western society doesn't leave much room for discussing pain. Those who do are considered weak, and discussing it is "disgusting," Cain commented. This is also a common phenomenon on social media. When people openly share their pain, they are often met with judgment. We also tend to compare the intensity of our feelings vs. theirs.

Cain explained to Jay Shetty that the feeling of connection with others' pain is significant. She mentioned how people can still relate to old texts that describe the sadness of losing someone.

In doing so, she brought up the Japanese poet Issa. He wrote a poem about losing his daughter to smallpox. Although Issa was a Buddhist monk trained in impermanence, he felt helpless when his child died. He knew that like him, most people have a hard time accepting the impermanence of their lives, so he wrote a poem that still resonates with the readers even two centuries later.

Cain finds beauty in this shared human experience—simultaneous love and loss. She told Jay Shetty this is one of the primary reasons we consume art in any form, whether music, visual, or other types."

We're allowing our artists, musicians, theologians, and everyone else to tell us these truths on behalf of all of us and join us together that way."

Sad Music Is Uplifting

To Jay Shetty, the concept of finding joy when listening to sad songs is intriguing. We would assume that happy music puts us in high spirits, while sad music accentuates our sadness.

Yet Cain has another theory. She believes that humans, at their core, feel like they belong somewhere else, in a more beautiful state. The feeling of longing is ingrained in our DNA, she told Jay Shetty. And so, listening to sad music makes us feel we are touching something higher than ourselves.

Therefore, Cain finds melancholy music, uplifting "because we're together in that state of exile. And we're together in that state of longing for a better world that we're always reaching for."


While writing Bittersweet, Cain researched multiple cultures and their traditions. For example, she mentioned Portuguese fado music, which is about longing for a lost love that may have never happened.

As Jay Shetty explained, similar concepts exist in Hinduism, such as Varaha or the "loving separation" in the Bhakti tradition."

And loving separation or longing is seen as higher than love in connection because there's a deeper longing, there's a deeper sense of connection and intimacy that is experienced in wanting to be reunited with a loved one, whether that be the divine in certain traditions, or whether that be a person," he added.

Although we often associate longing with negative emotion, Cain believes that it is crucial to differentiate between the material and non-material things that evoke this feeling in ourselves. In her book, she refers to the idea of longing for the divine, a more existential, good, and true longing, rather than for material objects.

Healing Creativity

We connect to art that springs from deep emotions like sadness and pain. Beautiful songs, paintings, and poetry arose in this way. But Jay Shetty wanted to know if everyone is capable of transforming their pain into art.

Cain believes that natural creativity comes from turning pain into something beautiful. There is no need to do it in the classical sense of artistic expression. But it is found in simple things, such as baking a cake or offering words of support to a friend in need. As Cain put it, "beauty can take endless different forms." Transformation is the vital part here.

How To Start

Cain refers to her earlier idea of accepting and committing to the pain. First, we must acknowledge what we are going through and embrace it. Next, we must identify where our pain comes from and why that is important to us.

It can take someone a long time to be able to advance to the next step—commitment. And this is where the creative process takes place. But at the end of the day, connecting to other people is key in our healing process.

Moving On vs. Moving Forward

Cain explained to Jay Shetty that people tend to avoid talking to those who have lost loved ones about the person they have lost. They believe if they bring the person up, the person grieving will be reminded of their loss and be saddened. In reality, those who are grieving never forget. Loved ones who have passed away will always have a place in their hearts and minds and they often love talking about them, remembering them, with others. Cain mentioned the idea introduced by Nora McInerny—moving on vs. moving forward. And the gist is that the deceased played an important role in our lives and our time spent together shaped us into who we are today. That means we can move forward, incorporating our experiences with them into who we are while continuously evolving.

Discussing Grief

In recent years, people have begun to feel more empowered to share their experiences with those who are like-minded. Unlike in the previous centuries, when discussing adverse events or death was unconceivable, we are moving toward a more open world.Cain told Jay Shetty that she considers this new movement to be a reclamation process. People started to realize they could be more whole if they integrated the discussion about negative things into their lives.

Moreover, the term "compassionate leadership" arose in the past decade. More than just bosses being nice to their employees, compassion means “to suffer together.” So, compassionate leadership indicates that leaders understand and empathize with their employees’ needs. They allow them a safe space to express their feelings and work through them together.

Another example Cain gave Jay Shetty was a conference she participated in. The audience had to anonymously write down one challenging experience they had or were currently going through on a piece of paper. The moderator then read each one out loud. It was an eye-opening experience to hear the experiences others had lived through. At first sight, the crowd had seemed cheerful, but after hearing their experiences, it became clear everyone carried some sort of baggage.

It is complicated, scary, and messy to start discussing your sorrows. Still, it is a beginning, and Cain is optimistic that we will evolve to accept sorrow as part of our society.

Finding A Balance

Cain shared with Jay Shetty that life has pain, sorrow, joy, and beauty. Those feelings coexist, and this is what makes our existence bittersweet.

Cain rephrased a Kabbalah belief which says, "If things happen to be going amazingly for you, don't forsake the fact of the tragedies in the world that exists now and may one day exist for you. But by the same token, if things aren't going well, don't forsake the miracle of this world either."

Jay Shetty agrees with the idea that people who live through atrocities need to find meaning and purpose. Being aware of both bitter and sweet experiences is what helps us to maintain balance in our lives.

Toxic Positivity

Cain shared with Jay Shetty how the focus has shifted towards showing only our positive side. This is because around the 19th century, the world became more focused on business.People started to judge what makes others "winners" or "losers," and nobody wanted to be in the losing camp. So they began to put on a mask.

The corporate world is harsh, but recently there have been some movements to improve employees' mental health. However, there is still a stigma around sharing negative things about oneself. Despite this, many employees are still reluctant to share their struggles with management. They fear looking weak and missing out on promotions if they seem unreliable.

Cain believes the world needs more leaders to model how it's done. They need to lead the way to more openness and inclusion. Sorrow, pain, and loss should be accepted as normal parts of life.

Personal Judgment

Jay Shetty shared how he learned to listen without judgment during his time as a monk. It isn't easy to do so because we all see the world through our filters. As a result, we tend to project our insecurities and negativity onto others.

Moreover, he believes we must change our approach from interrogation to intrigue. Ask questions to better understand the other's story, not to find flaws in them as humans.


Cain and Jay Shetty would like to see the world open more for conversations about sorrow and loss. Cain emphasizes the need for connection in dark times, and she understands healing happens through transformation; through acts of creation.

More From Jay Shetty

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “Why It’s Okay to Feel Sad & the First Step to Healing Emotional Trauma” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.

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