"Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for, and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are."
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
You are a whole being. Within you are all potentials. Though they may not all come to the surface, there still underlies the possibility. We can deny ourselves these truths and limit our capacity, or we can come to accept them.
In denying our wholeness, we believe there is some absolute ideal. In renouncing wholeness: we deny flaws, we deny imperfections. Yet the world is imperfect and messy — and so are we. In-between reality and expectations lie dissonance and suffering. In refusing to acknowledge unpleasantness, we pursue short-term relief at the expense of long-term unity — peace.
And what we sacrifice in the long-term compounds; it accumulates until what we have lost far exceeds what we gain in the instant. The best chocolate is a balance of bitter and sweet. The best fragrance is a combination of pure and sour. On the subject of style, a blend of only the most appealing and colorful is tacky. The mixture of drab and appalling is tasteless. Beauty is harmony and within harmony is balance.
Good taste involves experience and refinement. Likewise, wholeness calls for maturity and emotional sophistication.
The Sufi Mystic
In "The Guest House," Rumi writes:
We have come to believe, that somehow, by default, we "should" be happy. And that happiness can only occur as a natural consequence of avoiding sadness.
This "should" diminishes our potential. If we "should" only be happy, when we are unable to maintain happiness as a status quo, we believe we are perverting our natural state. Under these restrictions, how can we ever find peace?
The Children's Movie
In Pixar's Inside Out, each emotion is given its own character. The character Joy must reconcile her seemingly paradoxical relationship with Sadness. Through old memories, Joy discovers the times where she was the sole emotion are easily forgotten. The most meaningful memories come in a combination of feelings.
Joy, to herself:
Without difficulty, life has no meaning. Without sadness, there is no depth to our connections. And each additional emotion adds greater depth.
A Plural Existence
There is a general relativism to our existence, not only in how science explains the natural world but also in how we experience it. How do we know happiness without anger or sadness? If nothing upsets us, then nothing can give us joy. If we continue erasing bits of ourselves that we think are less than perfect, what is there left to relish? What anchors gratitude? In shedding away parts of our nature, we lose seeds of potential that could have bloomed to virtue.
In fearing sadness, we shrink from wholeness, creating hopelessness. In not finding satisfaction, heartache becomes omnipresent. Reductionism cuts us to a fragment; Holism sees the whole being.
When you acknowledge
The wholeness of yourself,
You will find unity,
You will find peace.
No more searching;
You have found yourself.
There is a need for diverse emotional experience. Well-being and whole-being are one and the same. Panic over undesirable feelings introduces panic while highlighting those very feelings you wanted to remove. Negative emotions have their place, like any emotion; observe but do not dwell.
Aristotle called happiness "human flourishing." Not something you bear but something you grow.
When you pursue positive feelings for the sake of pleasure, you lose out on meaning, purpose, and excellence. When you lack a cohesive relationship with yourself, how do you cultivate meaningful relationships with others? Connecting with yourself, maturing as an individual, engaging in community — connecting to a larger whole — results in happiness.
In Daring Greatly, research professor Brené Brown writes:
A Greater Wholeness
When the character of Bing Bong is at his lowest, it is Sadness, not Joy, who comes to the rescue. Joy tells others to cheer up, telling Bing Bong, "It'll be okay," breaking out into song and dance. Feeling Joy's peer-pressure to be happy, Bing Bong's anguish worsens.
Sadness is willing to feel what the other person is feeling, to diffuse their discomfort. Sadness empathizes. Joy can only share in the good times, not in the difficulties.
For us as well, it is not always our most "positive" and "happy" friends who are with us in times of great need. In fact, they may avoid us, only willing to surround themselves in joy. They may have even warned us, that they will only allow positivity into their lives, and anything less is cut-off.
Empathy-wholeness expects some pain. Pure positivity-partiality requires apathy.
Sadness sits next to Bing Bong, putting her hand on his shoulder, and gently consoles him:
Bing Bong weeps into the open arms of Sadness. Sadness doesn't judge or try to fix, she only listens. Present in the moment. Sharing in his memories — first the bad, then the good — accepting the complexity.
Joy should not be mistaken for happiness. Joy is the emotion. Happiness only occurs when all the emotions are present.
Joy, to Sadness:
Happiness is not a feeling, it is an amalgam; one we must continuously develop.
Useful Companions (Improve Your Education and This Site by Buying a Book):
- The Essential Rumi - Coleman Barks (Translator)
- The Good Life - Hugh Mackay
- The Emotions' Survival Guide: Inside Out - R.H. Disney
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead - Brené Brown
- The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life – Michael Puett, Christine Gross-Loh
- Analects: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries – Confucius (Author), Edward Slingerland (Translator)
- The Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle (Author), J.A.K. Thomson (Translator)