You know those tear-jerker movies that have that swelling music in the background that’s designed to leave no dry eye in the house?
I hate those movies.
They feel manipulative to me, as if producers know that there’s a correlation between tears and ticket sales.
Same with scary movies. Why would I want to intentionally scare myself? I don’t like to feel sad or afraid, what’s the point of all that? If I want sadness, I’ll turn on the news.
It finally dawned on me. Movies, books, music, and the arts in general help us to practice our emotional range in a safe place.
Those of you who know me well know that I tend to be a fairly even-keeled person (at least I think I am). I’ve spent most of my adulthood keeping my emotional range fairly narrow. I don’t want to be a drama queen or the kind of person that cries at the drop of a hat.
The trouble with that approach is by narrowing the range on one end (negative), I also narrow the range on the other (positive) since we have to have a yin/yang balance emotionally.
For example, if you lack fear, it’s hard to have courage. If you lack sadness, it’s hard to have joy. If you lack loneliness, it’s hard to feel deep connection. If you lack vulnerability, it’s hard to feel safe. Same with light/dark, good/evil, etc. The yin does not exist without the yang. Allowing and even cultivating the range of negative emotions therefore allows extension of the range of positive emotion. Having the self-awareness and ability to use emotions constructively is one important facet of emotional intelligence.
I still don’t want to be a drama queen, per se, but extending my emotional range can help me feel more intensely alive and connected with others. By intentionally experiencing my sadness, my fear, my resentment, I can intensify my inspiration, my love, my awe. My tears are often expressions of happiness, gratitude, or just the joy of being alive. And yes, just as often they are an expression of sadness.
So grab a loved one and go have a Sadness Night at the movies. Have fun!
This is Silver Lining’s 400th blog! We’ve reached 60 countries and over 2000 visitors. Thanks to all of you who have traveled on this journey with me for the last 3+ years!