Sad music can bring us to tears, yet we enjoy listening to it. These people have been trying to work out why

US author Susan Cain is a big fan of sadness.

More specifically, she is deeply interested in sad music, and the “mysterious and seemingly paradoxical” joy or pleasure that it can elicit.

Ms Cain has been trying to understand why sad music – that of Leonard Cohen, for example – moves her more than other kinds.

Understand it has been made trickier by a certain stigma around sadness. We tend to shy away from sad emotions as if they’re something to be ashamed of, Ms Cain argues.

“We all know that life contains these two poles of joy and sorrow and everything in between … and yet, we’re not supposed to talk about one half of our emotional experience,” she tells ABC RN’s Life Matters.

Author Susan Cain has sent decades trying to understand why she enjoys listening to sad music.(Supplied: Aaron Fedor)

But in a world filled with “toxic positivity”, she says exploring feelings of “sadness or heartache or longing” is not just OK – it’s essential to living a full and meaningful life.

The ‘mystery’ of sad music

When Ms Cain listens to melancholic music, it doesn’t make her feel sad.

Rather, the music gives her a “sense of connection” to others. It inspires feelings of “love and gratitude” to the musician or music “for being able to transform what obviously began in sorrow into something that’s beautiful and even transcendent”.

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