I saw the Pixar movie Inside Out a few days ago and really enjoyed it. I’m a pretty big fan of most Pixar movies and this one lived up to the expectations set by the other movies. It also delivered on another level because it pointed out a powerful truth in my life.
It showed me that I’ve been trying to find enough joy, fun, and satisfaction to smother all the sadness I’ve experienced in my life.
My story has had it’s fair share of sadness and I haven’t always known how to process it. Losing my dad was like getting hit by an emotional train and slowly losing my mom was even worse. I never wanted to admit that I was hurt and struggling so I just stuffed down all the pain and sadness.
At some point, this stuffing strategy became a smothering strategy. I thought I could get rid of all the sadness if I experienced enough fun, joy, and satisfaction. Over the last few years, I’ve experienced a constant cycle of great expectations and then despair because I could never get enough joy and fun to make up for all the sadness.
Watching the movie really hit home with me because the same tension between joy and sadness plays out in the story. The emotions of sadness and joy are personified into actual characters in the movie. I found myself passionately rooting against the character Sadness in my mind even though she’s not displayed as an evil character.
While this was in part due to how the story and characters were crafted, the intensity of my response came from my own smothering strategy. I want to defeat all the sadness in my heart by getting enough joy and that desire trains me to think in a certain way.
For starters, I see many things in a polarized fashion because something will either help me cover up the sadness or it won’t. This is a slightly stressful and not very healthy way of looking at life. It also creates a small break in all of my relationships because I’m rarely sharing the exact same goal as those around me.
That subtle shift in motive makes a powerful difference when it comes to working side by side with someone and developing relational intimacy. Now that I think of it, many of my best relationships were formed when I became so worn down physically or emotionally that my smother strategy had to be temporarily forgotten.
This strategy also makes me question whether all of my relationships, whether they be friends or mentors, will continue to provide the same level of satisfaction in the future. I deal with some separation anxiety and it causes me to wonder if people will stop caring about me and step out of my life. When this combines with my smothering strategy, I end up struggling with powerful doubts and questions in most of my relationships.
That struggle distracts me from enjoying my relationships and drains away emotional strength.
All of this is quite new to me and writing this post is a part of processing through it. While I’m not sure how I will tackle it going forward, I know it’s good to get it out in the open. Like every other problem, this is an opportunity to work through something with my Father who cares about me more than I know.
God uses all kinds of things to show us truth and we just have to keep our eyes open for these powerful realizations. Has God shown you anything recently? Could you do a better job of keeping your eyes open for His lessons? What are the roles joy and sadness play in your life?
By the way, this will be my last Thursday post for the foreseeable future. I want to spend more time working on my fiction project so I’ll be cutting my posts down to once a week.
Image Copyright: Tomby