Susan Cain on her bittersweet ‘quest’: ‘The light and dark always come together in this life’

Virgin Radio

28 Apr 2022, 10:44

Susan Cain

Credit: Getty

After diving into the world of introversion for her first book, best-selling author Susan Cain is back with a new look around loss, pain, and longing. While on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, the writer revealed why we should never lose the ability to turn sadness into beauty in a world determined to stay relentlessly positive. 

Susan admitted to Chris that her new book, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, is based on a ‘five-year quest’ to figure out what bittersweetness really is, and why we often seek out longing while doing everyday things, including listening to music. 

The author said: “The reason that I even started this whole book, this whole quest of trying to figure out what the value was, in this bittersweet way of being, came from the response that I have to sad music.

“You don't actually feel sad [listening to sad music], what you feel is a kind of love, you feel a connection to all of humanity who have experienced the sorrows, that the music is somehow expressing your gratitude to music itself for being able to transform pain into beauty in that way.”

Susan added that her journey learning about the delicate balance of happiness and sadness, also meant understanding how relentless positivity shouldn't be the way forward. 

She continued: “What bittersweetness really is, is it's a recognition that joy and sorrow always come together, that light and dark always come together in this life. And that there's a deep impermanence to everything and everyone that we love. 

“Somehow with that awareness, comes a great creativity and connection, and even transcendence. So we live in a culture that's telling us to be kind of relentlessly positive, you could say toxically positive, but it's actually our bittersweet moments that give us some of our deepest states of creativity and connection. So you really don't want to lose that.”

Longing obviously plays a big part in Susan's new book, but it’s often a bigger part of our lives than we would think, and isn’t something to fear either, despite its negative connotations. 

Susan said: “People can sometimes find it a bit abstract, but what I would say is to look at where our religions take us, you know, that there's a reason that all of our religions have this aspect of longing to them. You know, you're longing for the Garden of Eden, you're longing for Zion, you're longing for Mecca.

“There's a reason that so many of our children's books, you know, that the protagonist are orphans like Harry Potter, because there's this sense that longing that comes with us as we enter the world is actually what catalyses all of our adventures. in contemporary culture, if I say to you the word longing, like most people might associate that with, like, you know, mired in longing or somehow held back by longing, but, but the whole etymology of the word longing, it literally means to grow longer, you know, to reach for.”

Susan Cain’s new book Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole is out now.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.