This topic has been in the back of my mind for a while, particularly as it is represented in a scene from "Inside Out". The character Bing Bong is sad because his rocket gets dumped and the film shows Joy and Sadness interacting with Bing Bong in different ways. (If you have not seen Inside Out, I highly recommend it!).
Joy tries to cheer up Bing Bong with silly faces, positive thinking, and distraction. But these gestures, as well intentioned as they might be, do not do much for Bing Bong. Sadness on the otherhand, sits down and empathizes with Bing Bong. Sadness and Bing Bong share a moment, some tears, and a hug and then Bing Bong is able to move on. Joy had a clear objective – make Bing Bong feel better. It is hard to say if Sadness had an objective when she approached Bing Bong. But regardless of an objective, Sadness helped Bing Bong feel better.
This scene is loaded for me. For one thing, it reminds me about the often counterproductive act of cheering someone up or cheering myself up for that matter. Often when I am sad or frustrated I will tell myself things like, “think of positive memories,” “remember the things that you are grateful for,” or “it could always be worse.” Though these thoughts are not in and of themselves bad thoughts, often times I end up more frustrated with myself that these positive thoughts do not make me feel better. Inside Out captures this dynamic so well with Joy’s actions toward Bing Bong and her frustration with Bing Bong and Sadness.
This scene also reminds me that compassion is far more helpful than silly faces and distraction. (Though there is a time and a place for silly faces and distraction). The character Sadness wants nothing from Bing Bong. She does not need him to feel better. She notices that he is upset, and sits down next to him. It is a beautiful scene. Sadness sitting with and feeling with Bing Bong.
Translating this outside of an animated film, learning to sit with and feel my own sadness and frustration has been so important. When I am able to create space within myself and show myself compassion, whatever I am feeling might intensify initially, but soon thereafter I am able to breathe a bit easier. Self-compassion is by no means easy, but this scene and concept remind me of the importance of compassion and that of self-compassion.
Finding joy within sadness? My thought is that being compassionate and making space for sadness (or whatever emotion you might avoid) will bring about deeper relationships with others and yourself, and that is a joyous thing.