The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – digging deeper into the movie “Inside Out.” Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!
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We know that Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out” is based on an imaginary concept — of course there aren’t actually personified versions of emotions running around in people’s heads and controlling how they think and feel. (It would be really weird if there were!)
Instead, the movie uses this creative premise to inspire us to ask deeper questions about our own emotions, and the emotions of those around us.
This is one of the things I love most about the Disney/Pixar films, actually; some may see them as children’s animated films, but really, they’re for everyone. The messages we find in movies like “Toy Story” and “Inside Out” are timeless and universal, and there are plenty of deeper truths to discover, if you’re willing to take the time to look.
Acknowledging your emotions
“Inside Out” gives us an up-close look inside the mind of Riley, an 11-year-old girl who’s going through a time of upheaval. Her family has just moved to a new city, and she’s feeling anxious, uncertain, and unsettled. The different emotion characters inside her head are trying to balance all these complicated feelings (not always successfully). Joy’s goal is for the discomfort to pass as soon as possible, and she just wants Riley to be happy again.
It’s easy to look at Joy and think that she’s right; after all, pretty much everyone would rather be happy than sad. However, this film shows us that it’s not healthy to just ignore our negative emotions and try to cover up our problems.
As she adjusts to a new home, Riley is feeling sad and lonely, and that’s okay. You can’t flip some magic switch and make her suddenly feel happy about her situation. She’s on an emotional journey, and there will be lots of ups and downs along the way. It will take time for her to arrive at her destination, which is a place of acceptance and peace about her new life.
This movie shows how important it is to find balance in one’s emotions: there’s a time for sadness, and there’s also a time for joy.
Of course, Riley’s other emotions have a role to play too. Fear can be a natural response, and we shouldn’t necessarily ignore it (you should be afraid of doing things that aren’t smart and/or safe). However, if fear takes control, it can hold you back from having a full and meaningful life. You may miss out on good things because the voice of fear tells you, “Wait, you can’t do that.”
Anger isn’t always bad, either; we may feel anger when we see injustice or when people we care about are being mistreated. Yet again, when anger becomes too powerful or consuming, it transforms into a dangerous force that can ruin others’ lives and our own. Anger shouldn’t be allowed to dominate our actions.
Sharing your emotions honestly
Keeping one’s emotions in balance is hard enough, but it is perhaps even more challenging to be open and honest about those emotions. When negative emotions like sadness or fear leave us feeling lost and overwhelmed, it can be incredibly difficult to share those emotions with others. Especially when people in our lives take on the role of Joy in this movie and tell us that we just need to “snap out of it” or ask us “why can’t you just be happy again.”
I know I can think back to experiences where I tried to be vulnerable and share my honest emotions with someone, and the other person either responded dismissively or didn’t provide the support I was looking for. I’ve gotten pretty good at withdrawing within myself and letting people think that I’m okay when maybe I’m not. If I was Riley, I’d say Fear ends up in the driver’s seat more times than I’d like.
However, I’ve slowly learned that an important part of emotional health is being honest about what you’re feeling. If you’re struggling, don’t feel like you have to hide it. It’s hard for Riley (and us!) to keep all our emotions balanced in our heads; it’s so important to have a trusted friend or family member you can rely on, to help you process those emotions and to remind you that you are not alone. Riley is able to start healing when she shares her sadness with her parents.
Maybe sharing your heart doesn’t go well every time, but you’ll gradually discover who the people in your life are that you can truly count on. And maybe you’ll also inspire others to be more honest about their emotions as well.