The Power of Sadness

SPOILER ALERT!  This blog is about ‘Inside Out’.  Which I saw.  There are SPOILERS!  If you have not seen ‘Inside Out’ and don’t want to know plot points stop reading now.  Did I mention the SPOILERS?  Lots and lots of spoilers.

I cried during ‘Inside Out’.  A lot.  Really, really A LOT.  Watching the main character, Riley, and her personified emotions struggle with major life changes was hard for me.  Since The Princess was born I have served several different churches which has meant moving.  We have lived in four different communities in her short life span and each move was harder than the last.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but ‘Inside Out’ made me feel like a bad parent.  As I watched Riley’s struggles, I saw my own daughter and recognized the impulse to rush through the stages of grieving over what was lost and move into happiness and acceptance.

In the world that is Riley’s brain, her emotions struggle with the changes to their life.  Through it all, Joy insists on controlling everything.  Riley is a ‘happy girl’ and Joy will do anything to keep that true.  She regulates the other emotions and banishes Sadness from the control console.  She refuses to believe that anyone else can help with this transition.  She doesn’t understand that not only does Sadness have a real purpose, but sometimes it is an essential purpose.  When Joy tries to eliminate Sadness from the equation, things go badly.  Joy tries to keep a sad memory from becoming a core memory and loses them all.  Joy and Sadness get lost and have to try to find their way back with the core memories.  The more Riley is kept from feeling all her emotions, the more she becomes disconnected from who she is and was.  She cannot become a new, whole person without both Joy and Sadness in her life.  It is hard to watch, but the ultimate understanding of the worth of all the emotions is worth the trip.

Sometimes the only way to move forward is to acknowledge what we have lost.  Sadness understands this.  It is tempting to want to be happy all the time.  Sadness has power, but it is stigmatized.  We want to be happy and we want to be with happy people.  However, we are shaped by more than one emotion (personally I think Pixar’s 5 count is a bit low).   Sometimes we are shaped by more than one emotion at the very same time.  One of my favorite quotes from a movie (not Disney) is “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”  We are amazingly complex creatures and when we try to “put on a brave face”, “tough it out”, or “look on the bright side” we diminish ourselves, our emotions, and our experience.  Sadness has power for good as well as sorrow.  Sadness knows that often that emotion is the beginning of a story that has a happy ending.  The challenge is accepting that and having the courage to tell the story.


One thought on “The Power of Sadness

  1. Brian

    You may not be the running partner I thought you were but your thoughts and insights still hit home with me more often than not. It difficult to teach children that all emotions have value when we try so hard to make their world black and white.



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