INSIDE OUT (2015), the animated motion picture, highlighted the importance of validating sadness in the maturing of joy — a brand new, enhanced emotional ‘console’ was then available to the maturing Riley.
The character Joy had initially wanted Sadness controlled so as to not ‘infect’ good things for Riley; to protect her. Sadness was seen as a negative. But, at a point where Joy could do nothing to appease Bing Bong’s sadness, Sadness came to fore, as an empathising counsellor. Joy realised something — a flash of revelation — Sadness had a purpose, especially when life became irreconcilable.
Sadness, then, is no inferior or unacceptable emotion, as if in contention for Joy. Sadness is our truth at times. We are blessed to accept what is, feel it, and allow it to take us where we need to go — which is often into a conversation with someone like Sadness (or a counsellor) who might simply listen to and hear us.
Sadness is pivotal to be felt. If we do not feel our sadness, we do not travel all the way through our grief into the pleasantly clothed plains of acceptance. If we cannot traverse through sadness to acceptance, we will inevitably rebound the other way where denial, anger and bargaining are the only alternatives — and none of denial, anger or bargaining want to wrestle with truth. Only sadness can do that. Only sadness can lead us through our depression to joy.
If we were to get back to Inside Out, we might reason that denial is played by Fear, anger is played obviously by Anger, and bargaining is played by Disgust. We deny the truth when we fear it. We bargain because we are disgusted by the alternatives. If we get back into the movie Inside Out we can see what a botch of things Fear, Anger and Bargaining made of Riley’s life whilst Joy and Sadness were stuck out of HQ.
Without Sadness and Joy we travel in a shell of a life. We make decisions that appear to be good, but with vision only for what we feel in the moment (fear, anger and disgust), our decisions are poor, and that just leads to more denial, anger and bargaining.
The only hope we have is to tackle the truth, go into our sadness in a safe way, and trust it to take us to an accepting joy.
For depression then, as a fourth phase through grief, having travelled through denial, anger and bargaining, there is good news. We cannot get through to an acceptance of life as it is without feeling the force (the truth) of our emotions. Acceptance, when we reach it, shows us a new and better life than we could have imagined. We have new mastery over our emotions, which is the ability to plumb greater depths and ascend greater heights. The range between is deliciously voluminous when we have no fear, anger or disgust riding roughshod.
Joy is acceptance of the felt status quo. It sits there with the presenting emotion, not afraid of the sadness. Indeed, joy has made friends with sadness, where sadness will never again be unwelcome. Joy has learned that sadness enhances life, because where there is sadness there is truth. And only by venturing in the truth can we hope to be free.
Sadness will never kill us. We think we cannot bear sadness, but we can. When we go into our sadness accepting our status quo, taking God there with us, we hear him commend us for our fortitude. And if our sadness cannot keep us down — if we can honour it — then nothing can harm us. Then the enemy will flee!
© 2015 Steve Wickham.