I Am Breaking My Own Rule on This One

Posted on Jul 1, 2015

I have never used this platform to endorse a product but I feel I must take a moment to encourage you see the new Pixar movie, “Inside Out”.

Now, granted I am a member of their target audience and I expected to like the film. But after seeing it, I was really impressed. Without giving away to entire movie, I’d like to tell you why “Inside Out” is a must see.

For those who don’t know, the plot follows the life of Riley, an 11 year old girl, the only child of two loving parents. The narrative is told primarily from the perspective of her emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. Usually, Joy reigns over the other emotions but the balance of power shifts when Riley must cope with her first major stress: moving from Minnesota to California.

“Inside Out” is a must see because:

  • The movie uses “Joy” as the driver of positive feelings, not “Happy.” These words are not interchangeable. Happy is a temporary state that is created from the outside in. It is subjective and situational. Happiness is often a response to getting what we want. Joy comes from within and consists of many elements, like contentment, hope and gratitude. Joy is more stable and lasts beyond the temporary experience of happiness.
  • “Inside Out” shows that when we experience stress, we struggle to balance the pull between the natural reactions to it and the desire to hold onto the way we normally feel. When Riley moves, she experiences a deep sense of loss: her friends, comforts of home, her father’s attention. She should feel sad, thus Sadness becomes dominant. However, Joy, the usual dominant emotion, fights for control in an effort to protect Riley from this difficult feeling. In the end, “Inside Out” teaches us that that all feelings are normal, valid, and necessary. Even Joy feels sadness by the end of her long and fruitless journey. It is only when she allows herself to feel this despair that she realizes that Sadness is actually adaptive. She sees that when Riley is allowed to experience sadness, her parents are able to help her.
  • As parents, we often have a strong need for our children to be happy, not only for their well-being, but for our own. When Riley begins to act out the difficult feelings she is experiencing from the stress of the move, her mother (who we know is an excellent mom) missteps by telling Riley that she needs her to be “her usual happy self” to support her father’s success. It is no surprise that this lack of attunement makes Riley feel more alone and upset.
  • This movie is not just about emotions. Though it is not 100% accurate in terms of neuroscience, the movie does an amazing job of visually expressing the structures in our brains in a way that makes complex concepts easily understandable. It explores different types of thinking like imagination, abstract thinking, and how personality is created. It explains how memories are made, stored and recalled, sent deep into the subconscious or totally forgotten.

“Inside Out” reminds us that all feelings are valid and when we share our feelings with the people we love, our connection with them deepens.

The movie is aimed at children, but its message is ageless.