The Joy of Sadness

Our stress-filled times have also given rise to people and things offering us antidotes: psychologists, life coaches, self-help books, alternative healing… Almost all seem to, um, stress on the need to remove sadness from our life, and thus offer us ways to do so. And how’s that working out? Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out provides an alternative point of view. In the movie, cheery-faced, happy-footed Joy sees the world only through sunshine-tinted glasses and wants everyone else – Riley (the girl whose mind she is in and unwaveringly cheers on) as well as the other emotions in Riley’s mind (Fear, Anger, Disgust, Sadness) – to do the same. And during the crisis of the movie, she draws a circle around blue-hued, feet-dragging Sadness, requesting her to stay within, in order not to add fuel to the crisis. When Sadness fails to do so, Joy then beseeches her not to taint any of Riley’s core memories with her touch (they turn from golden to blue if she does so), else they will turn a figurative blue forever – and so will Riley. And that’s how they resolve the crisis, right? Not. Quite. Her mind, and her heart (if our emotions have minds and hearts of their own), begins to change when she sees that Sadness does a more successful job of helping Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend (part candy floss, part elephant, part cat), deal with his sorrow than all of Joy’s ‘Go, Bong!’ couldn’t. Realising Sadness’s worth, and need, she rushes back to get her toward the end (after they are separated in the second half) to help Riley break down in front of her parents – so that they know what’s upsetting their daughter and can thus do something about it. (It was deeply satisfying to know that Riley and her family do not eventually leave the new city they moved to – that’s what triggers the crisis – but learnt to make happy adjustments to it.) Much as all those shrinks and new-age healing would have us believe then, we need sadness in our lives. (Much as we need all the other emotions. When Joy and Sadness are accidentally ejected from Riley’s headquarters, her emotional expressions are left to the trio of Fear, Anger, and Disgust, who try to be Joy, but fail miserably.) Without sadness, we wouldn’t know what we value (and how much), we may not be able to connect deeply to others (all of us are happy, right; so why bother?), we may not be able to help out somebody in need… Joy-Sadness are like yin-yang, or more crucially, 02-C02. We need oxygen, but not only oxygen. Too much oxygen, and everything around us will be freely combusting. Similarly, we need carbon dioxide, because plants, who we need, need it. So, the next time you’ve got the blues, don’t banish them away. Take your time to get over a low score, an unfulfilled dream, a broken heart, a lost one… Shed a tear, or a torrent, if need be. At the end, you will feel better. Inside out.Joy and Sadness: Inside Out


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