I saw Inside Out this weekend with my family, hosting the kind of child-like enthusiasm only a therapist and an 8-year-old child can have at this type of Disney movie. I was quite excited to see how Disney captured the functioning of our emotions in the brain. WOW, did they hit the nail on the head!
In the ending scene of the movie, Joy, the character representing happiness in Riley’s ‘head-quarters’, realizes that sadness, as well as all of our emotions, ARE a part of who we are, a part of our lives and of our memories.
In a moment of sweet, tear-jerking love between parents and child, the message is made so eloquently. Sometimes it takes moments of opening up to our true feelings – sadness, in this case – to create the space for more positive feelings – in this case, comfort.
By opening up to her parents in a moment of vulnerability, Riley was able to let her sadness out. Opening up allowed her loved ones the opportunity to connect with and support her, leading to feelings of comfort and joy.
Alas, the co-existing of joy and sadness.
The point is: You can’t selectively numb emotions
Sadness IS a part of life and if we frantically try to avoid it, distract it, numb it, we inevitably numb all emotions…even the good ones.
Although sadness and other difficult emotions are uncomfortable and hard to deal with, it’s important to open up to feeling them and sitting with them. When we do, it might result in amazing growth, or maybe something as simple as just getting to the other side – AKA less sadness.
Feelings, like waves, come and go. As Jon Kabat-Zinn so eloquently puts it: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”.
Is it easy? Of course not. But allowing it, opening up, and connecting with it helps us get through it.
It’s true, life is not a feel-good Disney movie. What was refreshing about Inside Out was that there was no magic ‘princess-like’ ending where they all lived happily ever after. What they did do was get through the tough times.
3 Steps to Riding Waves of Emotion
So, the next time you’re feeling down, or angry, or lonely, or any other uncomfortable emotion, consider this:
1 Allow it
Instead of jumping to numb or escape it, see if you can allow yourself to feel it fully. Acknowledge that it’s there for a reason.
2 Soothe it
Breathe and meditate to ride this wave of emotion, feeling and soothing it.
3 Connect with it
Though it feels vulnerable to open up, consider talking to a friend, loved one or professional to help process and validate what you’re going through.
You never know what the shore looks like at the end of that wave.
You may just be amazed at what’s on the other side.