INSIDE OUT (2015) is a brilliant Disney production that any family therapist could build a whole philosophy around. It’s a movie about Riley, an eleven year old girl, and her mother and father. They move from Minnesota to San Francisco and that’s where Riley’s troubles start. The movie is based on what Riley actually experiences within the emotions of her inner world — with each of her emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust) having a character. Without spoiling the movie for those who wish to watch it, there is a key reversal where Joy empowers Sadness.
Sadness is the hero, because, when the chips are down, and Riley is losing all her core memories (her identity is falling apart), it is only Sadness that can get through. Sadness gets through with empathy, because Sadness calls the doldrums of life what they actually are. For a great deal of time in the movie, Riley is forced to run emotionally without either Joy or Sadness, so she only has responses of Fear, Anger and Disgust to draw from.
We could say that Joy and Sadness are interdependent. True joy cannot be experienced without the ability to experience genuine sadness, for both require honesty. If we are not honest enough to be sad when we are sad we will react in fear, anger or disgust. If we are not honest enough to be sad when we are sad then we don’t have the capacity to experience joy. This is because joy is only truly meaningful and true with honesty. Is there anything worse than a fabricated joy?
When Sadness heals everything it touches toward the end of the movie, it’s clear that Sadness is exactly what Riley needs — to be true to her actual feelings. Only then, when she reaches out to her parents in courageous truth, to communicate what she’s really feeling, does she receive, in truth, a response every good parent is blessed to give. They meet her in that emotional space.
Sadness has a depth about it that courageously employs honesty for healing.
When we can be sad, without anger or fear or disgust intruding, we are closest to God’s healing touch, because we honour what is our truth.
Sadness is central to growth, because it is central to honesty. When our honesty reveals sadness our vulnerability opens us up to healing.
From this it can be seen that emotional and spiritual growth don’t initiate with joy, but from an acknowledgement of genuine sadness.
When we can be honestly sad, then we can honestly feel joy.
If we wish to be healed we will embrace our sadness and always have a home for it.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.