Inside Out delivers a clear message: always wanting to be happy limits us. The topic of this last movie by Pixar might apparently be geared to adults rather than children but talking about empathy and emotional intelligence doesn’t have a target public.

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The story is about a joyful girl. She is happy partly because she likes her own life (friends, sports, her own family) and partly because her parents, who love her dearly, are always expecting her to smile.

Just like with everyone, there are many more emotions residing inside her, however not all of them are deserved the same space. Sadness, above all, is relegated to the role of the party pooper, treated benevolently,  but, in actual facts, neglected and misunderstood.  At a certain point, however, something changes in this girl’s life: some events scare and disorient her. A relocation, her father’s problems at work, her old friends who are far away while new ones look “impossible” to be made.

The girls begins her painful and risky growing path. The movie shows her inner world; emotions are represented as characters who talk and make decisions. However, whatever the emotions try to do inside her only creates further problems: simply because happiness, anger, disgust and fear are not equipped wth the right instruments to face the situation.
They work hard but all they do is mess things up. The little girl runs away from home, she does’t recognize herself in the mirror anymore, her certainties are shattered. Sadness is shy and clumsy, she is not used to take the floor, to “lead”. Everything she does is seen as a mistake. The story changes only when this emotion allows herself to exist.

The girl discovers the value of a teardrop, the desire of being reassured, the possibility of understanding the suffering of others and of asking for help. She misses her parents and shows them her frailty, allowing them to get closer to her and to love her in a new way.

In a sad moment, we can be with our sadness. Growing fond of one emotion only (even when it is as “wonderful” as happiness) limits our possibility of expression, understanding and evolution.

As parents, it is not easy to accept our child(ren)’s sadness, I know it very well.  Likewise, as colleagues or managers we would like to be surrounded only by happy people. However, learning to embrace what is there and not just what we want is the only way of getting through the difficult times. Listening openly to our and others’ emotions and giving them dignity is the skill that lays at the basis of our empathy, one we can (and should) all be training.
I wrote this post in honor of Antonio, someone I met moths ago during a workshop. He gave me his tie just because I liked it. Now Antonio is no longer with us and I would like to thank him for what he has – and still is – giving me. His smile, his generosity and openness were like open doors that allowed me to know and appreciate him.

Sadness is, inside me, a way to cherish his memory, see it evolve and get free of pain little by little, to the point that it is just bright and golden. I still have that tie and I think I am going to wear it tomorrow.