The Positive Power of Sadness
How Good Grief Prevents and Cures Anxiety, Depression, and Anger
by Ron Johnson, PhD, and Deb Brock, PhD
March 2017, 150pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5499-6
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5500-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young adults, while those who experience undue anger often pose great danger and bring harm to themselves or others.

Written by two clinical psychologists with nearly a century of combined experience, this book explains how people who suffer from depression, anxiety, or undue anger can overcome these difficulties by allowing the normal process of grieving to occur.

Sadness is generally characterized as a negative emotion, yet experiencing sadness plays a positive and key role in achieving and maintaining mental health and in avoiding anxiety, depression, and anger. Indeed, sadness can be understood as a normal and necessary feeling that always occurs when one loses something that is loved. The Positive Power of Sadness examines the experience of sadness, taking into account the personal, relational, and neurological factors of sadness; explains the cultural reasons that many resist feeling sad and consequently displace sadness into secondary processes; and provides a practical and systematic way to overcome anger, anxiety, and depression by allowing the normal process of being sad to occur.

This simple paradigm of love and loss causing joy and sorrow in tandem is founded on solid research, carefully considered theory, and extensive experience and will serve to stimulate further thought and writing. Professional therapists, psychologists, counselors, teachers, and clergy who work with people in various settings will find this enlightening reading, as will general readers seeking self-help or possessing an interest in psychological functioning or relational difficulties.


  • Provides a solid foundation for understanding anger, anxiety, and depression as well as a practical and solid approach for overcoming these difficulties
  • Examines the neurological factors associated with feelings, particularly sadness, and identifies the relational complications that arise when one experiences sadness
  • Describes the cultural and personal resistance to the experience of sadness that often compels people to keep their sadness "bottled up"
  • Explains how anger, anxiety, and depression can be prevented by accepting and experiencing sadness
Ron Johnson and Deb Brock, husband and wife, are clinical psychologists who have been in private practice for a combined total of 90 years. Their practice, Midlands Psychological Associates, is located in the Madison, Wisconsin, area. In addition to both doing intensive psychotherapy, Brock sees mostly women and focuses on trauma resolution, while Johnson sees mostly men and conducts extensive psychological evaluations.


"This is a sorely needed book. As an inevitable part of life, grief affects each of us. Yet, we learn to ignore it, and the cost of this to us as individuals and society is great. In this book Deb Brock and Ron Johnson have created a great resource to help remedy this tragic issue. The book provides thoughtful, friendly, and practical advice which is accessible to readers of all stripes. Myself, as a white, middleclass male, found that behind much of my own suffering lies unresolved grief. I learned that what I thought was depression which appeared during my divorce, was in a big way grief. Ron and Deb helped me learn to cry, to feel the pain; my internally caused suffering has begun to recede. Through this, I’ve become a better coach and educator, and a better man. This book is required reading for becoming a whole, happy, and self-actualized adult in America. Everyone needs to know what is in this book."—Scott Savage, MA, President, Scott Savage Consulting LLC

"Good Grief provides much wealth and wisdom by the authors many years of experience. I have shared concepts from the book with colleagues and clients who have all found the ideas to be very helpful with practical suggestions to deal with the big and little sads or losses in life. Not only is there helpful theory to support the concepts of grieving, but also very practical tools to assist in the grieving process. There is much to be gleaned for both mental health professionals and nonprofessionals alike."—Dan Feaster, Executive Director and psychotherapist with the Samaritan Counseling Center of Southern Wisconsin

"This book is a must-read for all mental health professionals but also for any human being wanting a better understanding of the ups and downs of day-to-day life and how to better cope with them. I found this book so helpful, clear, and pragmatic, that I began to put the principles to work in my practice the day following reading it and have applied them to my own life with wonderful results. Drs. Johnson and Brock present a game changing perspective on life with such warmth and tenderness that the book feels like a big hug while they change the way you look at especially life’s disappointments."—Kenneth H. Waldron, Clinical Psychologist

"Superb, insightful, and an impactful read. One ephipany after another about grief and the opportunity for growth through it. Dealing with our small losses can potentially set us up for success in handling our larger losses. This book provides the reader an immense opportunity to understand grief in a good way. Excellent personal examples throughout the book! Well done Dr. Ron and Dr. Deb!"—Tim Jorgensen, Counseling Psychologist, retired

"There was a point in my life where I didn’t understand how to process negative emotions like sadness. Through working with Dr. Johnson and his wife they taught me how to grieve when I encountered loss in my life. Instead of trying to bottle up everything I was feeling and hold on to it, he taught me how to let it be just what it was . . . sadness. Instead of running from it, if I would just allow it to be what it was, feel it even though it didn’t always feel good at the times it would eventually come to pass. The well had went dry so to speak and there was nothing left. Just like a scab that physically heals but this was how we emotionally heal. Then it was about moving past the grief and finding the beauty in whatever it was life was trying to teach me. But that can only happen once we have let our grief dissolve otherwise it is just kind of like a landfill and burying stuff on top of it. Because it we don’t let it our grief out properly it will find its way out one way or the other and we can either choose to do that in a way that is health or unhealthy. He taught me how to do it in a way that was healthy. This skill of how to understand our grief and move beyond it is an essential life skill. When I first saw and heard he was writing a book I was thrilled because he has truly taught me something I will use the rest of my life. Knowing that what he taught me can now be found by anyone that picks up this book to me is a true gift to the world and I am grateful that others can now share in the same gift he gave me more than 10 years ago. Thank you Dr. Johnson and Dr. Deb Brock for making the world a better place and by writing this book that can now be shared with all us."—Joseph Hastreiter, Vice President, EWH Small Business Accounting

"As a father of a beautiful daughter that suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, The Positive Power of Sadness opened my understanding to what my daughter goes through and how 'good grief' can help her overcome it. It also personally helped me work through the hardship of my father’s death. The Postive Power of Sadness is a fantastic 'self discovery read' regarding what makes us feel anger, depression, and anxiety and how we can 'cure' ourselves of it."—Christopher A. Sandler, Creative Arts Director, River Hills Church
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