Make friends with your sadness
Last week I went to the films and saw the Pixar movie Inside Out.
Inside Out is about an 11-year-old girl called Riley, but it is shown from the perspective of her internal world and feelings. It’s a children’s movie so they only depict four emotions: fear, anger, sadness, and joy. When the film starts, joy is in control and must fill every moment; the other emotions are just a back-up plan. Joy would arrange everything so that Riley always felt joy no matter what.
I call this ‘Happy Clappy’.
I am a big fan of happiness, but ‘Happy Clappy’ is not genuine happiness. It's the false thought that ‘I will be happy no matter what I really feel at this moment’.
As we started watching, my son whispered, ‘I get what joy, fear and anger do, but what’s the point of sadness?’
I was taken aback. For a start, I am a transformational coach and I talk to my children about feelings. As a survivor of domestic violence I knew it was important for us all to understand our experience, so we did years of family therapy to understand what we had been through and process our feelings about it. This is a family that knows feelings.
I tried to think of a response. I wouldn’t be where I am now without sadness. Sadness is the emotion that lets me know I’m going off course. If I become too focussed on my business (which is easy to do when you love your work as much as I do), I start to feel a sense of sadness that I am missing out on the beautiful moments that make up my children’s childhood. I’ll pull back from my work and soak up precious moments with them. We don’t have to do anything extravagant; it’s purely being with them. This also works the other way. If I haven’t had time to write because I’ve been too focused on other aspects of my business, I feel sad and that pulls me back to my passion.
So I said to my son, ‘Sadness is what we need to appreciate what makes us happy’.
That didn’t really cover it, but it was the best I had sitting in the movies.
When the movie ended, my son looked up and said, ‘Now I get what sadness is for, sadness lets us know that we need more and we can ask for help.’
Beautifully said, my son, I thought!
I’m a big believer in feeling our feelings deeply. There is freedom and beauty in letting our internal world feel what it needs to feel. I don’t dwell on the feelings and I don’t entertain self-pity– that’s not a party I want to attend. But isn’t one of the magical privileges of being human that we get to feel the whole range of emotions available to us?
To me happiness and sadness are both important; if I lose happiness, sadness will always direct me back to it.
Lisa McAdams is an author, speaker and transformational coach and has just released her new 90 day program in which she teaches women who feel stuck and directionless to eliminate self-sabotage so they create a clear life plan and career path. Lisa has also started Hope Beyond Abuse blog and podcast to give woman still in domestic violence relationships hope and access to resources.