Susan Cain’s New E-book Explores the Query: What Is Disappointment Good For?

In 2010, celebrated Pixar director Pete Docter determined to make an animated movie concerning the wild and woolly feelings of an 11-year-old woman named Riley. He knew the tough outlines of the story he needed to inform. The movie would open with Riley, uprooted from her Minnesota hometown and plunked down in a brand new home and faculty in San Francisco, whereas additionally caught within the emotional storm of incoming adolescence.

Up to now, so good. However Docter confronted a artistic puzzle. He needed to depict Riley’s emotions as lovable animated characters operating a management heart in her mind, shaping her recollections and every day life. However which emotions? Psychologists instructed him that we now have up to 27 different emotions. However you may’t inform a superb story about so many alternative characters. Docter wanted to slim it down, and to choose one emotion as the principle protagonist.

He thought of a number of totally different feelings for the starring function, then determined to position Worry on the heart of the film, alongside Pleasure; partly, he says, as a result of Worry is humorous. 

However three years into the event of the movie—with the dialogue already completed, the film partially animated, the gags with Worry already in place, a few of them “fairly impressed”—he realized that one thing was incorrect. Docter was scheduled to display screen the movie in progress for Pixar’s govt group. And he was positive it was a failure. The third act didn’t work. In accordance with the movie’s narrative arc, Pleasure ought to have discovered an excellent lesson. However Worry had nothing to show her.

At that time in his profession, Docter had loved two mega-successes—Up and Monsters, Inc. However he began to really feel positive that these hits had been flukes.

 “I don’t know what I’m doing,” he thought. “I ought to simply stop.”

His thoughts spun into darkish daydreams of a post-Pixar future wherein he’d misplaced not only his job but in addition his profession. He went into preemptive mourning. The considered residing exterior his treasured neighborhood of creatives and enterprise mavericks made him really feel he was drowning—in Disappointment. And the extra despondent he grew, the extra he realized how a lot he beloved his colleagues.

Which led to his epiphany: The actual purpose for his feelings—for all our feelings—is to connect us. And Disappointment, of all of the feelings, was the last word bonding agent.

All through this course of, Docter had an unlikely ally: Dacher Keltner, an influential College of California, Berkeley psychology professor. Docter had known as in Keltner to coach him and his colleagues on the science of feelings. They grew to become shut associates. Keltner’s daughter was struggling the slings and arrows of adolescence similtaneously Docter’s, and the 2 males bonded over vicarious angst. Keltner taught Docter and his group the features of every main emotion: Worry retains you secure. Anger protects you from getting taken benefit of. And Disappointment—what does Disappointment do?

Keltner had defined that Disappointment triggers compassion. It brings individuals collectively. It helps you see simply how a lot your neighborhood of quirky Pixar filmmakers means to you.

The manager group accepted the concept, and Docter and his group rewrote the film—which in the end received the Oscar for Finest Animated Function and was the very best grossing unique movie in Pixar historical past—with Disappointment within the starring function.


One of many cornerstones of Keltner’s analysis, which he summarized in his guide Born to Be Good, is what he calls “the compassionate intuition”—the concept we people are wired to respond to each other’s troubles with care. Our nervous methods make little distinction between our personal ache and the ache of others, it seems; they react equally to each. This intuition is as a lot part of us as the will to eat and breathe.

The compassionate instinct can be a elementary side of the human success story—and one of many nice powers of bittersweetness. The phrase compassion actually means “to endure collectively,” and Keltner sees it as certainly one of our greatest and most redemptive qualities. The unhappiness from which compassion springs is a pro-social emotion, an agent of connection and love; it’s what the musician Nick Cave calls “the common unifying power.” Sorrow and tears are one of many strongest bonding mechanisms we now have.

These findings inform us that our impulse to reply to different beings’ unhappiness sits in the identical location as our need to breathe, digest meals, reproduce and defend our infants; in the identical place as our need to be rewarded and to enjoy life’s pleasures. They inform us, as Keltner defined to me, that “caring is true on the coronary heart of human existence. Disappointment is about caring. And the mom of unhappiness is compassion.”

Copyright © 2022 by Susan Cain. All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Crown, an imprint of Random Home, a division of Penguin Random Home LLC, New York. Picture by Bricolage/Shutterstock

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