recognizing the power of our own love
Despite being a “kid’s movie,” Inside Out is profound. As I go deeper into my own healing journey, I think about the scene when Joy decides to take matters in her own hands after finding themselves in the center of Riley’s crumbling mind. She leaves Sadness to attempt to go up the chute back to the Control Center as she says, “Riley needs to be happy.” She abandons Sadness and attempts to go up the chute, only to come falling down as Riley’s mind continues to crumble. She’s left in the Brain Dump with all of the lost and fading memories. It is there where she realizes Sadness’ true power in being able to access Riley in a way Joy wasn’t able to. It’s Sadness who is able to un-numb Riley’s auto pilot brain and allow her to feel again. And as she finally finds her voice to share with her parents her true feelings of missing home, there’s a pivotal moment when Riley is in the embrace of her parents. Sadness and Joy come together, and she breathes. She breathes a long, cathartic breath as she’s able to finally let go of the heaviness that she had resentfully been carrying.
I was 21 when this movie came out and now I feel this scene on an even deeper level. I remember the first time watching this movie, and feeling a connection with Sadness - her sensitive, cautious, empathetic, and tired personality felt familiar. But I’ve lived most of my life as Joy. Always positive, or so I thought. As I delved deeper into my own healing, I realized there was actually a lot of anger within me. And underneath that anger was sadness. I’ve looked at sadness in my life as a challenge to overcome, rather than a portal to wisdom. When I first discovered these emotions within, it was hard to have compassion for myself. Why am I so pessimistic? Why am I so negative?
There was a moment when I was criticizing myself for being so negative, and I pushed my husband away, warning him that he would be affected by my sadness if he stayed with me. But instead he leaned in closer and said, “then I want to be sad with you.” This was the first time I felt permission to feel sad.
Without our sadness, we lose access to many of our other emotions. By avoiding sadness, we become numb, and eventually feel less and less ourselves. I think there is a fear of being too sad - of becoming overcome with that emotion and succumbing to it. But finding compassion for those emotions gives us access to a very true part of ourselves. From my experience, my avoidance towards my sadness was a conscious choice. I wanted to protect myself from feeling things that I wanted to forget. But instead I was replaying the thoughts and narratives shaped during that time that no longer serve me, that made me feel less like myself. Only by examining that emotion was I able to meet myself with compassion and the greatest sense of love after knowing this vulnerable side.
Recognizing the anger, the hurt, and the sadness and understanding ourselves for these emotions reveals an opening; it’s the point where transformation begins. When we are wronged by someone, when we feel misunderstood or misjudged, when we are hurt by someone, we want that person to know our sadness and our pain and to acknowledge it. And sometimes we are able to get that acknowledgement. But when we can’t, that expectation festers and grows into a heaviness that we carry. Other people may try to comfort us by acknowledging the pain. But sometimes we become addicted to this feeling. We give our power away and agree to be in this cycle of pain. Or sometimes we become numb to it, and feel less and less like ourselves. But eventually, we are pushed to a point where we want off. We want to get off of the train. And that’s when I realized that I am the one who understands my pain the most.
So through meditation, journaling, and a lot of time with myself, I began to understand what it feels like to experience my own love. And it’s so beautiful. My own love holds power because I, more than anyone, know my own pain and I know my own sadness. I am the one who can see and understand myself. And when our wiser, loving, compassionate selves can give love to the part of ourselves that so desperately wanted to be acknowledged, we see that our own love is so powerful. And it’s enough.
I feel I need to put a disclaimer here that this was not a one and done kind of realization. I am sharing my experience after years of working on this self love journey, and I am still not healed and still have my moments. This path is continuous and looks different for everyone. And it’s made better with wise mentors and therapists, friends and a supportive partner who is also on the journey, and kind strangers who have done the inner work and are sharing it with the world. My hope is that maybe someone out there needed to hear something like this to find hope for themselves - that the journey is not bleak, but that all of your experiences are leading you to a place with a beautiful view.
If you’re reading this, I’m willing to guess that you care for others a lot. Maybe you’re a lot like Sadness - you’re empathetic, you’re kind, and you give a lot to the people you care about, perhaps overextending yourself at times (just a hunch). But have you ever felt the same love you give to others, towards yourself? It’s easy when life is going well to feel good about ourselves. But when we’re at our lowest lows and can meet ourselves there, sit with our sadness, and let ourselves feel seen, understood, and loved there - that’s when we become unstoppable. When you experience your own love, you experience the kind of love you give to others. And you realize, you have a powerful gift to give. Let you love you. Let me tell you, we do not know the power of our own love.