Friday, June 26, 2015
Inside Out - Can Sadness be Good?
Like many other parents with young children I spent part of last weekend seeing the new Pixar movie, Inside Out. For those that haven’t seen it, the story is about the emotions, memories and feelings of an 11 year old girl, Riley, who experiences a difficult time when she and her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco. The emotions in the control center of her brain act as guardians to protect her, they are; joy, sadness, anger, disgust & fear. Joy is clearly in control of most memories and formations of personality in the early years. Joy‘s well-meaning attempts to protect Riley often push Sadness away and try to contain her so she does not taint the joyful memories. Spoiler alert: Sadness becomes an important part of Riley’s journey and eventually even Joy recognizes the value Sadness brings to Riley and all the emotions work together successfully.
Being happy does not mean there is no room for sadness. In fact, as this wonderful movie points out, sadness is an integral part of our overall happiness and wellbeing.
When we work hard to be happy we often think that means we should avoid anything bad or negative and that sadness is something to fear. That is not the case at all.
As a clinical therapist I focus A LOT on using Positive Psychology in my practice and in my life. I work one on one helping people find more joy and teach a workshop called “Increasing Optimism, for a Happier, Healthier, More Productive YOU!” A practice I also use both personally and professionally is mindfulness. When practicing mindfulness it is not about trying to get rid of negative thoughts, but of acceptance. Recognizing and observing without judging is a key component of mindfulness.
What I have learned is that many of us want to be happier so we consciously try to increase our happiness by avoiding all sadness and pain. Avoidance and suppression of negative feelings often lead to greater pain the future. The more you try to push away any thought or feeling, the more prominent it becomes. Awareness and acceptance builds resilience.
Sadness helps us appreciate more of what we have lost. It fosters a sense of empathy and compassion towards others.
It can help us connect to others and appreciate what we have and can strengthen our sense of gratitude and thankfulness.
Life is full of ups and downs and experiencing good and bad moods is entirely normal and healthy. Recognizing and understanding that everything is about balance will increase overall well-being. Life is not about extremes or perfection, but about experiencing and being.