By Joe Longo
Fall is an inherently paradoxical time. Sadness fills the season with falling leaves, a constant chilly air, and the darkness of the ever prolonging night. Yet this same time of year acknowledges the beauty in the same vibrantly colored leaves, the comfort of bundling up toward a brisk air, and the peacefulness of a quiet night. Fall embraces complex emotion in a way other seasons do not. Whereas summer is a time of happiness, spring a time of renewal, and winter a time of depression, autumns elicits less simplistic emotions.
And it is in this complicated emotional field that we should make our stake this fall season.
Halloween, one of the major events and themes of Autumn, at its core elicits emotion. Children to grown adults dress up as vampires, ghouls, and--this year--Donald Trump. All in an effort to appear “scary.” These ubiquitous tropes are synonymous with feelings of terror and sadness. In fact, the fundamental purpose of the the contemporary festive celebration of Halloween is founded around the joy of extracting pretend fear.
Rather than promoting fake sentiment, how about we begin celebrating genuine emotion? This isn’t supposed to scare anyone, it is only meant to encourage people to acknowledge their emotional states. Instead of ghouls, we acknowledge our fear of being unsuccessful; no need for slasher villains when depression is creeping around the corner. In order for one to have an open and honest understanding of their mind and emotional well-being, they must learn to embrace melancholy.
Yet to fully embrace all emotions is akin to clearing one’s mind. Thus self-reflection is it’s own cathartic therapy. Tapping into the various sentiments one feels results in further happiness. We live in a society promoting physical wellness, yet mental wellness often goes untouched, specifically when that relates to sadness.
This past year saw a significant piece of mainstream media embrace sadness as essential to wellness. Pixar’s Inside Out tells the story of Riley, an adolescent girl’s emotional state, as she reacts to both an environmental and emotional transition. The film depicts the importance of emotion, specifically the role of sadness.
In an article for The New York Times, psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley Dacher Keltner discussed the importance of sadness in relation to Inside Out. Keltner collaborated on the retaining a scientific accuracy to the film
“Scientific studies find that our current emotions shape what we remember of the past. This is a vital function of Sadness in the film: It guides 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,” Keltner said.
Growth of one’s mental health is dependent on sadness. Without sadness, one cannot know happiness. The two dominating emotions are interwoven and function together. Much like a physical wellbeing balances rest and activity, a robust emotional state is dependent on a similar bond.
So embrace the mood of fall. Embrace the sadness. Strap on your running shoes, stream Adele’s new song “Hello” through your earbuds, and take a walk on a path littered with fallen leaves. Be sad. Be emotive. Afterall, if a children’s movie can show us the beauty in sadness in just over two hours, why not let a whole season do the same?