In the movie, when the baby is born, joy is the first emotion to surface.
In the beginning part of the movie, Joy takes over and makes it her mission to keep baby Riley “happy.”
But, as Riley grows and encounters different parts of life, new emotions begins to surface, and she learns about Fear, Disgust, and Anger.
But, there is another emotion that neither Riley nor Joy seems to know what do with, and that is Sadness. In fact, Sadness is the second emotion Riley encounters almost immediately after Joy.
When Riley’s life is turned upside down by her dad accepting a new job across country, Sadness seems to be constantly around becoming uncontrollable. Joy refuses to allow Riley to be sad and instead tries to force her to only stay happy. This continued for an extended period of time. The more Joy tried to make her happy, the more things got messed up. She got mad at her friend. She shut down in school. And, she got into it with her parents. Unable to control all the mishap that was happening in her life, she shut down and ran away, and for the first time, you see Joy cry.
While reminiscing through old, happy memories, Sadness reminds Joy of the pain that brought that moment of happiness. It was then that joy realized that there is no Joy without Sadness. Sadness was not a problem or unwanted disease, Sadness was necessary to remind Riley of the love she has from her friends, the supper from her parents, and the joy she experiences with her hobbies, especially when there’s a bump in the road.
It was not until Sadness intervened and Riley fully broke down releasing all the pain she had been holding on to – embarrassment, disappointment, insecurity, fear – was she able to begin to pick up the pieces, form a new narrative, and reclaim her happiness. Before she could experience Joy, she had to experience Sadness. And, sadness required her to cry.
“Crying helps me slow down and stop stressing over the weight of life’s problems.”~Sadness