Thursday, October 15, 2015

It's Okay to be Sad

Since I shared my review of the first season of The Flash last week, I've had the chance to watch the season premiere for the second season, “The Man Who Saved Central City.” While I wouldn't normally do posts on the same topic two weeks in a row, there were a couple of scenes in this episode that I felt moved by.

Logo for The Flash TV Series
My educational background is in psychology and social work. Psychology is defined as the study of the mind and behavior, which includes emotions. In both my education, and in life in general, I have learned the value of being emotionally healthy, which includes the healthy expression of feelings.

Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, which includes emotions
Often in our society, expressing certain emotions is taboo. It's not okay to express anger. It's not okay to admit to fear. It's not okay to express sadness or to cry (which is especially true for boys and men). In fact, it's often not okay to express anything but joy. The movie, Inside Out did a good job of showing how feeling some things (particularly sadness) is bad, and is an indication that something is wrong with the individual.

We live in a culture where many feelings,
 including sadness are taboo to express
When I think about it, how often in any given day do I ask, or am I asked, “How are you?” And how often is the response anything other than “good” or “fine” or some variation of those? How often does the person asking really want to know? And if the individual answering gives anything but one of the standard answers, how often does it lead to a moment of awkwardness?

In reality, suppressing feelings, pretending we're not angry, hiding our fear, burying our sadness, is not healthy, and certainly is not authentic. When feelings are suppressed, they will find other ways to be expressed, and usually not of our choosing.

This episode explored the expression of feelings, and what can happen when individuals don't allow themselves to feel or express emotions, as well as contrasting it with when individuals do allow themselves to feel and express their emotions. If nothing else, the message I got from this episode was, “it's okay to feel.”

Logan Williams playing Barry in a flashback
During a flashback to Barry's childhood, about six months after his mother's death, he's still not allowing himself to feel certain things. In his case, he does express anger, but he uses it to hide other emotions that he doesn't want to feel, and that he doesn't want others to see.

At one point, Joe, Barry's foster father, says to him, “It's like a move, being angry all the time. I get it. You miss your mom and dad and you want to show them that you're strong. Being mad makes it easier. Tougher thing to do would be to let yourself feel. It's okay to be sad. You can be sad Barry. Your parents will understand if you're not strong all the time. That is why I'm here.”

Barry has been pushing away his sadness, because he believes that feeling it, that letting others see it, will mean that he's not strong, and that he's being weak. But all that he needs to express his sadness is permission to do so.

As soon as Joe finishes speaking to him, Barry immediately hugs him, and breaks down crying, Cradling him, Joe says, “It's okay son, I got you.”

When the episode goes back to the present time, Joe is with Barry as he is waking up after nearly being killed by the episode's villain, as he was refusing his friends help, as that was easier than expressing and letting them see how some painful experiences effected him. Joe gives Barry a reminder of the lessons of the past, and let's him know that he's not alone, and once reminds him that it's okay to feel. And as  Barry sheds a tear, we see the emotional healing process begining for him.

Joe (Jesse L. Martin)  lets Barry (Grant Gustin) know that he's not alone
It's not often that episodic TV, especially one that tends to be as light-hearted at The Flash, gets into something so emotionally deep. And it's even less often that a learning experience on healthy emotional expression is shown. I was already a fan of The Flash, though after seeing this important message about emotional well-being, I'm even more impressed with this show.

No comments:

Post a Comment