On the Whole Being: Within You Are All Possibilities

Pixar's   Inside Out

Pixar's Inside Out

"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:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

The Western Psychologist

In The Good Life, psychologist Hugh Mackay distinguishes the idea of happiness from the fear of sadness.

I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that — I don’t mind people being happy — but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness.

It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying ‘write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep’ and ‘cheer up’ and ‘happiness is our birthright’ and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish.

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. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much.

Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, ‘Quick! Move on! Cheer up!’ I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word ‘happiness’ and to replace it with the word ‘wholeness.’ Ask yourself, ‘Is this contributing to my wholeness?’ and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
— Hugh Mackay

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.


I love that one too. It was the day the Prairie Dogs lost the big game. Riley missed the winning shot. She felt awful.

Joy, to herself:

Sadness... Mom and dad and the team... They came to help because of Sadness.

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.

On Well-Being

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:

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

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.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.
— Brené Brown

Sadness sits next to Bing Bong, putting her hand on his shoulder, and gently consoles him:

I’m sorry they took your rocket. Something you loved is gone. That’s sad.

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.


Sounds amazing. I’m sorry.

Bing Bong:

I’m okay now.


How did you do that?

Sadness shrugs:

I don’t know. He was sad, so...

Joy should not be mistaken for happiness. Joy is the emotion. Happiness only occurs when all the emotions are present.

Joy, to Sadness:

Riley needs you.

Happiness is not a feeling, it is an amalgam; one we must continuously develop.

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