In my opinion, "Inside Out" is by far one of Disney Pixar's greatest films. As a School Social Worker and a parent of two young boys, I am always looking for tools to explain big ideas in kid friendly ways. I aim to help them explore their own emotions and build a stronger emotional self-awareness. I will not be revealing any big spoilers, but rather discuss the movie in a holistic fashion.
"Inside Out" begins with a little girl named Riley and her family. We start to see her memories as well as the character development of her feelings. We get a rare glimpse into her head that identifies and characterizes the emotions of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. While it simplifies our mental health and emotions, it also shows how these emotions can interact with each other. But more importantly, it displays how we do not necessarily experience one emotion at a time. You can have some sadness with joy or some anger with fear. This is so true in real life... how often do we feel a mixture of things all at the same time?
Next comes the plot development, Riley finds out her family is moving and you begin to see the emotions get stirred up as they deal with this new information. Sadness begins to filter into areas that were once joyful, thus causing Joy to try to take over to maintain the "happy." I couldn't help but relate to this part. How often do we tell our kids to "put on a brave face" or "smile, it will all be okay." It is so important to validate our kids/clients when they are facing something that they perceive to be difficult/sad/distressing. The validation of their feelings allows them to accept what they are feeling and then begin to work on it. By invalidating these feelings, it creates an internal dilemma where children are already facing something difficult, but then are trying to change those feelings on top of it. It creates such a confusing emotional state and children do not have the emotional maturity to sort it all out.
Further in the movie, the feelings go through and describe some of these core memories and how they create "islands" that make up Riley's personality. Something happens that puts these core memories in jeopardy and they begin to disappear. As the core memories disappear, the islands (and that part of her personality) also disappear as well (in a pretty intense fashion I might add). This correlation made me think of childhood trauma. I think of the little girl who's core memories are all made up of abuse or neglect. This forms and creates her personality. Or that little boy who had a "typical" childhood, full of healthy core memories, but then faces trauma. The traumatic experience can take away some of those core memories and in a sense re-write that child's personality.
The ACE study, Adverse Childhood Experiences, is a great one to look into if you are not familiar with it. It basically talks about how adverse childhood experiences impact one's life and future health. Not only does our personality develop in our infant/childhood years, but also affects our health as we grow and mature.
I've seen a lot of positive support of the movie as well as some negative reviews. One blogger was not happy with the stereotypes used to display the different emotions (i.e. sadness is frumpy, blue and overweight while joy is cute, perky and fashionable). While, this is true that Disney Pixar did use some stereotypical descriptions, I like that the movie puts feelings in a way that children can identify and associate with. I know when I am doing therapy with a child, I talk about feelings, ask where they feel them in their body and what color they associate them with. Children need to be able to identify an emotion before they can begin to process and work through what is behind that emotion.
All in all, I think "Inside Out" is a great movie that helps to not only bring awareness to the emotions that both children and adults face, but also puts a name to them. I like that they spotlighted sadness and used it as a talking point that sadness signifies to those around us that we need help. The movie normalizes, but doesn't downplay, the emotions that we all deal with. It is okay to feel sad, it is okay to get mad... we are human and this is what makes us that way. Now when one feeling takes over all the others on a consistent basis, it may be time to suggest seeking a professional mental health referral.
If you have seen the movie, please comment and weigh in with your opinion. If you haven't yet seen the movie, grab some popcorn and go watch it. You will be glad you did!
*These opinions are of my own and I have not been paid or reimbursed in any way to write this review.