Saturday, September 29, 2012

From Tears to Joy

When I was around 11 years old I watched the movie, "Where the Red Fern Grows". The movie, based on the book of the same title,  is about a boy and his dogs. That is probably all you need to know to realize that this is a sad movie. Most movies that list the characters of  boy and dog are about tragedy and loss. So, maybe it is not a surprise that when I watched this film I cried my eyes out. Big time. However, it was a surprise to me.

Until then I don't remember crying with a movie. But, it was the beginning of a strong pattern with me. I am pretty much known around my house as the one who is going to boohoo during the sad movie.

"Are you crying yet, Mom?" is the common question during a tragic scene.

And "Yes," is the common answer if I can manage to choke it out through the flow of tears.

I've even endured an (un)fair amount of teasing from certain members of my "loving" family over my propensity toward emotional expression while catching a flick. But, it turns out that I get to have the last laugh (or victory "cry").

 Recent research indicates that people who feel the most sadness when watching a tragic movie experience a greater increase in happiness. It seems that identifying with the negative emotions of the characters inspires us to consider our lives more seriously, especially to think on our close relationships. The loss we experience through catharsis moves us to dwell on those we love. And because our relationships are the most important source of joy, we experience greater happiness.

In another aspect of this same study people who simply compared their lives with the tragic lives of those in the movie did NOT experience an increase in happiness. The thought, "Glad it's them and not me!", failed to bring any true thankfulness.  The self focused nature of comparison hindered any change in the happy factor.

The wisest of kings said this:
"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart."




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