By Wendy Rice, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist
While I’m not in the business of reviewing movies, I was fortunate to receive an invitation to see an early preview of the new Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out. I went in with an open mind and came out blown away. This is a dream movie for any psychologist who wishes to help their patients talk about their feelings and internal experience.
But that’s not all. This movie doesn’t stop at being entertainment for parents and young kids. It also sheds light on marital relationships and the internal experience of how each of our brains work. It is based on legitimate brain science and considers such important things as how memories go from the present into long-term storage and how emotions are connected to our memories.
Our emotions can sometimes get the better of us. Let Today be the day we deal with all those feelings.
A Surprisingly Accurate Look at the Real Deal
WOW! Finally a movie (for kids no less) that gets it right instead of making things up to try and explain away feelings. This is real progress!
It turns out, that Pixar even enlisted an expert on the science of emotions to make sure they got it right. UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner served as a consultant on the movie along with his mentor, psychologist Paul Ekman. Together they helped to guide the creators in animating emotions and turning them into characters.
The movie begins with the birth of the main character, Riley, and we meet the five primary emotions who operate the control center of her brain: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Joy is the primary character, which is a good thing because she is the voice of reason. She is the one who helps to turn negatives into positives, helps Riley to dig deep and find alternative ways to look at situations, and combat negative self-talk.
The Realities of Dealing with Emotions
Much of our work as psychologists is to help our clients to reframe experiences and not become overwhelmed by the negative voices in their heads. And, while this is one of the primary messages of the movie, it is also important for fear, sadness, anger, and even disgust to be able to express themselves. We just don’t want them running the show most of the time.
The movie also does a wonderful job of portraying the teenage experience when both Joy and Sadness end up getting sucked out of headquarters and they are no longer at the controls of Riley’s brain. This leaves Anger, Fear and Disgust in charge of all of Riley’s emotions and associated thoughts. Despite their best efforts, they are mostly unable to channel their inner Joy. In the absence of Joy and Sadness, Riley cannot connect with her passion for ice hockey, her love for her family, devotion to her friends, and she seems almost blank in terms of her emotions.
This is a hard thing to watch but if you have experienced the depths of depression where you can barely feel anything at all or have spent time with teenagers who seem to check out emotionally, you know what it’s like to be unable to connect with your own feelings or to spend time with someone else who is feeling internally disconnected. The movie offers an inside view to this experience and perhaps this little bit of insight may help parents and those living with someone who is depressed or suffering from mental illness to show more compassion and understanding.
Two Thumbs Up!
So, with all that said I am officially declaring myself a movie reviewer and giving Inside Out two thumbs up!
I highly recommend this movie for children, teenagers, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, psychologists, other mental health professionals, and anyone who’s in a relationship of any kind with anyone because it gives amazing framework for talking about your own feelings and those of others. Basically, EVERYONE should see this movie.
As a side note, I have never willingly purchased a piece of Disney merchandise other than a T-shirt or sweatshirt while I was at Disney World but you can be sure that I have already ordered my Inside Out action figures for both of my offices because I can’t wait to say to the first child, “What would Joy say in the situation?” and pull out my little Inside Out characters to help my clients put their thoughts and feelings into words.
If you or a loved one is struggling with emotions and how to communicate them, we can help. Contact us today to discuss our services and find the best solution for you –> https://ricepsychology.com/how-we-can-help/