Inside Out is a film that I was elated about Disney making, and every single time I watch it, I’m more in awe of it than the time before.
I don’t want to spoil too much for those of you who haven’t watched it, but I’ll give a tiny non-spoilery synopsis. The Pixar film revolves around the life of a young girl named Riley as she embarks on the oh-so-wonderful journey that is pre-teenhood, where the audience is taken aboard on a colorfully emotional journey through the eyes of Riley’s mind pals – her five central emotions – joy, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear.
That film makes me cry such ugly tears, because there are moments that connect with you on an emotional facet unexplored by many storytelling platforms. The most profound takeaway, and ironically profound since it should be such a simple and given concept, is that we need every single one of the five emotions.
So let’s stop being ashamed of that.
I’m going to fixate right now on sadness and anger – two emotions with the most negative connotations.
“Stop being sad.”
“Don’t be angry.”
There are times when you have to play with your demons. They’re your demons after all.
I’ve tried to suppress those two emotions before. It wasn’t until a recent point in my life, where I was very, very hurt and very, very angry (two not-so-fun combinations as you can imagine), that I learned about the importance of owning my emotions. A personal incident occurred, and I instantly tried to bury all my “negative” feelings and kept looking at positive quotes on Pinterest to try and help me let it go. It wasn’t until one evening after the incident when I had reached my emotional breaking point, that I let it all out to a friend of mine who was kind of enough to let me vent, and I mean really vent, to her – all the ugly thoughts, the anger, the darkness. And you know what? I liked it. I liked being angry, and bitchy, and nasty. I didn’t turn into Maleficent, don’t worry. My friend said something that night that stuck with me, though:
“See, that’s what we call a release.” And you have to release to heal.
I’ll be honest – after I had embraced that darkness in me, I held on to it for far too long. I’d try to let go of it, and I’d run back to it because it felt good. It’s easy to revel in anger once you open that door. When you feel angry, you feel powerful. And there is power in anger. It took quite a bit of time and work to let go of being angry, because I enjoyed feeling that power. I enjoyed being cold. Anger is important to acknowledge and own and revel in a bit, but I had to let go of it to keep moving forward.
Sadness, oh sadness. Often times it comes under the guise of anger. I find that it’s easier to be angry than it is to be sad. You can spiral with sadness into a black, dark vortex that takes life out of you, little by little or sometimes all at once. Depression is more terrifying to me than anything. I’ve been in it before, and there are times when it can consume. It leaves you feeling helpless, which is far more terrifying than anger. With depression, you don’t feel life, or fuel, or power. You feel like you’re stuck in a hole and there’s a part of you buried deep that’s clawing to get out, but the rest of you can’t seem to be bothered. Sometimes our sadness, yes even that deep sadness, is something we need to stand in.
And now to the not-so-distressing portion of this blog post. Why do we need anger and sadness? Simply put – they’re real. They’re two emotions that are parts of us, and just like Riley in Inside Out, we hopefully come to realize that there shouldn’t be shame in them. Burying them might help you put on a show for a week or two, but eventually you have to show up and feel and cry and be irrational and crazy and despondent. And it’s not until we allow ourselves to feel those emotions, that we can get to the other side. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The flame of the candle that lights up the darkness.
I’ll leave you all with this poem from one of my favorites, Robert Frost, and this quote that I stumbled upon recently.
Acquainted with the Night
“I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.”
– Robert Frost
“Darkness always had its part to play. Without it, how would we know when we walked in the light? It’s only when its ambitions become too grandiose that it must be opposed, disciplined, sometimes—if necessary—brought down for a time. Then it will rise again, as it must.”
– Clive Barker’s Abarat