I rewatched the movie Inside Out last night. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a Pixar production. The story is centered around the personified emotions of a pre-teen girl who has moved with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. The emotions are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. They are sent into a crisis by the move because Joy is the girl’s dominant emotion and Joy attempts to repress Sadness.
I watched--for the second time--and I was moved.
“Moved” might not be a strong enough word. At one point one of my daughters asked whether I might not need some Gatorade. The implication being that I was in danger of becoming dehydrated by my tears.
I confess it. I can be sensitive. When I was growing up, my dad said I was “tender-hearted,” but my big brother, using the honesty for which big brothers can be relied, called me a “bawl bag.”
Those who know me well, know that I am not a sad person. It is just that, with me, most strong emotion--Joy, Anger, Sadness--is expressed in tears. That is the mechanism that my body uses for it. I don’t have a choice. That is to say, I don’t have a choice other than to try to repress any strong emotion.
I relax that repression when I watch the movies with my family. So my daughters think I’m something of a bawl bag too. I need the release.
I’ve been repressing my emotions during the COVID Pause as well.
I don’t think that is a bad thing. In the novel Dune, George Herbert has a character whose mantra is this: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
This quote isn’t about repressing fear, exactly. It recognizes that the fear is there, but fear is not allowed to be the master. The emotion of fear if not controlled does impair clear thought. Yet the energy that is imparted by fear cannot be denied. Controlled, it can sharpen focus. Repressing fear is not the answer. Disciplining oneself so that one can properly harness the resources released by fear is.
I think a lot of people have trouble doing that by themselves. In my opinion, that is why we have traditionally had strong leaders in battle.
In the book “Empire of the Summer Moon” by S.C. Gwynne, it is recounted how incredibly fierce the Comanche were in battle. They were fearless. That is, they were fearless until their chief was killed, then they ran. They fought with the strength of his “medicine.” When the leadership wasn’t there, the medicine was gone.
I cast no aspersions on the Comanche here. This is a real thing for all people. We need a leader we can draw strength from. Someone who recognizes danger, but can control his (or her) fear. Someone who will not fall victim to the “little death” but will use the energy to act rationally with great focus.
We are programmed to work this way.
We need all of our emotions. They are God’s good gift to us. But He gave us rational minds to discipline our emotions. May we be able to find the leaders He has sent us to help us control our fear.
Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.