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The Importance of Sadness

Every human is unique in their chemical makeup, and part of this chemical makeup is our emotional motherboard. Have you ever seen the movie Inside Out?

This movie showcases every emotion and how they coexist together to control the reactions of a young girl named Riley. Throughout this movie we can see each emotion take the reins in certain situations and even how you can change your emotions towards something to turn a negative into a positive. However, throughout this movie we notice that Sadness is just present in the room. No one really engages with her if they don’t have to and they do not let her touch “the emotional motherboard” for Riley so as not to make her sad. It seems that Sadness has no place, but sadness is entirely necessary - let's take a look at why through the lens of Riley.

Sadness Creates Growth

In the movie Riley moves across the country for her dad’s job, this is a common situation for a lot of kids and it can be difficult to leave their routine, their friends, and their home. Since Sadness is kept away from the motherboard Riley continues to only express happiness - despite significant distress like the family's moving van getting lost with all of Riley’s belongings. While it may seem like a dream to be happy all the time, we notice Joy, the happy emotion within Riley, noticing Sadness getting restless.

You know the feeling when you need a good cry? Yes, this is that feeling. When you choose to be happy all the time the sadness within gets restless. This may be due to the fact that sadness can promote self-reflection. When you acknowledge that sadness inside, you can begin to really look at what led up to you feeling that way and being to process your authentic feelings inside. Sadness allows for insight and growth.

Sadness Enables Connection

When Sadness becomes restless, she becomes curious at all of Riley’s memories. As humans we create thousands of memories that range in importance to us; some are so important that they become "core memories" because they are what shaped us into who we are today. For example, if you are passionate about playing a sport, you may have a core memory of the first time you engaged with that sport. Joy believes all these core memories need to be happy for Riley to remain happy. When Sadness begins touching these core memories, out of curiosity, we see the immediate effect on Riley. We see Riley, introducing herself on her first day at a new school and become overwhelmed with sadness over her move and the loss of her former life and friends. As Joy works to fix this for Riley, both Sadness and Joy are swept away into to Riley's long term memory. With out Joy and Sadness, we see Riley struggle with managing her other emotions such as anger.

In their quest to get back to "headquarters" Joy and Sadness run into Bing Bong, Riley’s long forgotten imaginary friend. When Bing Bong becomes sad that Riley has forgotten him Joy rushes to comfort him, but when that makes it worse Joy notices Sadness. Sadness sits next to Bing Bong and lets him know that it is ok to be sad that Riley has forgotten him. When Bing Bong feels validated by Sadness, he is able to process his feelings and pull himself together. We can feel vulnerable when we are sad, and when someone supports us in our sadness we are able to process and move forward too. Being authentic in our feelings allows those around us to do the same and our relationships are stronger for it.

Sadness Sprouts Empathy

As Joy continues to believe she is the most important aspect of Riley's emotions, she attempts to abandon Sadness and get to headquarters on her own. Through her journey, Joy recognises that Riley is running away from home because Riley's own Anger has convinced her life is better in her old town with her old friends. Joy realizes that like she did for Bing Bong, Sadness makes Riley feel vulnerable and will allow her parents to comfort her. With Sadness at the helm of Riley's emotions, Riley is able to express her authentic feelings regarding their move and the loss of her friendships. Riley's parents respond to her sadness with warmth, concern, and love. The family, together, cry and share how hard this move has been for all of them.

When you display your sadness people can connect and comfort you. When your loved ones see that you can be vulnerable with them, they will feel safe in coming to you when they need that support.

Sadness teaches us to cherish the happiness we can share with one another. Now, as Riley grows up her "core memories" are mixed of emotions, one of them being the memory of the sadness she experienced when she ran away combined with the love she felt from her parents when she came home. Each of us are unique, as are our emotional motherboards, and our own Sadness is important, powerful and purposeful!


A self-described geek, Maria Laquerre-Diego is a CEO and Owner who is committed to increasing access to mental health services and breaking down the stigma surrounding therapy services. As a therapist turned CEO, Maria has developed a unique perspective when it comes to mental health and the barriers surrounding mental health treatment. Influenced by her time at New Mexico State University in the Family and Consumer Science department, and University of New Hampshire’s Marriage and Family Therapy department, Maria has turned her dedication to giving back and supporting future generations of therapists. In addition to supporting mental health providers, Maria takes an active role in addressing the continued stigma of mental health services through the use of pop culture – everything from movies and television shows to superheroes and Disney characters. Maria has spoken about mental health at several local events, has served as an officer on professional boards and has provided training to clinicians all over the country while maintaining her and her family’s roots as Aggies! Outside of the office, Maria can be found spending time with her family and loved ones, exploring the world through travel, and creating cosplays for herself, her husband and their two little ones. Maria is always happy to talk about Star Wars, Marvel and mental health and can be contacted through her practice website

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