Chuck Schaeffer, Ph.D.: Evolutionary Purpose of Sadness | Sero Boost #49

In this episode, host Lu Ngo is joined by Chuck Schaeffer, Ph.D., who is a licensed psychologist, clinical advisor, and adjunct clinical faculty member at New York University

Sadness, often considered an emotion to avoid, is important in individual evolutionary history and social interactions. Contrary to the pursuit of constant happiness, understanding sadness’s purpose offers profound insights into your emotional well-being and social bonds.

Meet Chuck Schaeffer, Ph.D.

Chuck Schaeffer, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, clinical advisor, and adjunct clinical faculty member at New York University. For over a decade, he has taught people and organizations how to use the latest research to overcome anxiety, mood, and sleep disorders. Schaeffer was previously research director and guest host for the Dr. Fritz Show on WWRL-AM radio in New York, NY. 

His writing and expertise have been featured in Psychology Today, HuffPost, Vice News, and NBC News Health.

His book When Panic Happens: Short-Circuit Anxiety and Fear in the Moment Using Neuroscience and Polyvagal Theory will be released by New Harbinger Publications in July and is available for preorder on all major online sellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

About the episode

Sadness, one of the primary emotions you express from infancy, is a vital survival mechanism. Firstly, it acts as a signal, drawing attention and care from those around you, thereby ensuring you receive the support needed for survival. This is particularly evident in infants whose survival depends on the care elicited by their expressions of sadness.

Moreover, beyond individual survival, sadness has a significant social function. Specifically, it fosters closer connections among people by encouraging sharing and support during grief or loss. Unlike fear or anger, which can create distance, sadness and happiness are emotions that draw people closer together, thereby facilitating a shared experience that strengthens social bonds.

According to Chuck, cultural norms and gender socialization play significant roles in how you express and deal with sadness. Traditionally, men are often encouraged to suppress emotional expressions, including sadness, which, consequently, can hinder emotional intelligence and the ability to form deep social connections.

Furthermore, recognizing and sharing feelings of sadness can lead to more fulfilling relationships and a healthier emotional state. However, with its constant connectivity and emphasis on showcasing happiness, the digital age can obscure the importance of experiencing a range of emotions, including sadness.

Additionally, social media can create a performative space for emotions, thereby distancing you from authentic emotional experiences. Therefore, taking time away from digital distractions to reflect on and share feelings can lead to more genuine connections.

Chuck shared that a simple practice for embracing sadness’s evolutionary purpose involves reflecting on what causes you pain, identifying the physical sensations associated with sadness, and considering what this emotion is signaling. Furthermore, reaching out to a supportive friend or family member to share these feelings can lighten the emotional load and strengthen social bonds.

Overall, understanding and embracing the role of sadness in your life can make you appreciate its value in human development and social connections. Rather than shying away from sadness, acknowledging and sharing your experiences can lead to deeper relationships and a more nuanced appreciation of your emotional landscape.

In conclusion

Embracing sadness as part of your human experience validates your emotions and enriches your relationships. It reminds you that the full spectrum of feelings is essential for a fulfilling life.

It draws others to offer support and creates a platform for deeper human connections through shared experiences. When acknowledged and embraced, this fundamental emotion can lead to stronger relationships and a better understanding of yourself and others.

Be the first to see our next episode. Follow us on social media to stay updated: 








You can also subscribe and listen to the show on your preferred podcasting platforms:

Apple Podcasts



iHeart Radio




Google Podcast

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.