Emotions: First We Get Really Uncomfortable…
Life would be a whole lot more comfortable and easier to navigate if it unfolded neatly or predictably.
Alas, that’s not the case for most of us. Mix in a contentious, complex topic (e.g. the inability to reproduce) and watch the discomfort rise. It’s understandable.
Beyond the biological unpleasantness, there is upheaval to our sense of order and the ‘right’ way to proceed. The ‘right way’ paradigm confounds those living with infertility and those made to think about it. Add a dash of conventional wisdom, a little religion, some philosophical differences, and/or societal expectation. The result can be downright combustible.
Emotions Laid Bare
Of course, when we boldly share our infertility survival stories we also invite criticism and commentary. Not all of it is constructive, kind or compassionate. That’s unfortunate. Setting aside the often inelegant way some have for sharing differences of opinion on infertility’s impacts, decisions and the struggles that result. At least we are talking about it and the emotions that accompany it. That’s a step in the right direction.
It’s heartening to see a new generation of writers, bloggers and speakers openly address infertility emotions and failed fertility treatments. There’s a fearlessness. A ‘here I am scars and all’ willingness to challenge, to communicate the spectrum of emotions, and to give voice to the experience. So much more so than there was a decade ago.
Inside Out: Putting Our Emotions to Work
Now, taking a page out of Tracey Cleantis’ book, The Next Happy, it’s time for a movie homework assignment. A new film provides a look at what our emotions do for us. Not since the movie Up! has there been an animated film I look forward to more.
Here’s why: according to the “The Science of Inside Out” in The New York Times Sunday Review, the movie tackles how emotions govern our stream of consciousness. It lays out how emotions color our memories. According to the piece: “The movie’s portrayal of sadness successfully dramatizes two central insights from the science of emotion. First, emotions organize — rather than disrupt — rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations.”
Check out this observation from the scientific experts brought in to consult with the creative team:
“The truth is that emotions guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation.”
Sadness guides [protagonist] Riley to recognize the changes she is going through and what she has lost, which sets the stage for her to develop new facets of her identity.
I particularly liked this appreciation of sadness. Paraphrasing from the NYT:
“The film’s central insight: Embrace sadness, let it unfold, engage patiently … Sadness will clarify what has been lost … and move toward what is to be gained: the foundations of new identities.”
As an aside, the authors’ observation on the motivating force of anger was also illuminating:
“Studies find that when we are angry we are acutely attuned to what is unfair, which helps animate actions that remedy injustice.”
The writing team deftly uses nuance, laughter and a soft touch to make us appreciate how central sadness can be in helping us make sense of life, particularly losses and disenfranchised grief. This film should be mandatory viewing for people of all ages. But it’s certainly one that can help those of us who often lack context and the words to convey our complicated response to life and the feelings it evokes.
For more on what emotions can do for you, check out this blog flashback from June 2011: I Was the Elder Price of Infertility Treatment.
What, dear readers, do your emotions help organize for you?