Don’t let this animated film trick you into thinking that this movie is just for kids. Inside Out, Pixar Studio’s new movie, offers a delightful and thought-provoking vision of the inner workings of our emotional lives. Director Pete Docter developed the concepts woven into this film in collaboration with leading neuroscientists, developmental psychologists and psychiatrists. While his imaginary depiction of what happens at “headquarters” isn’t technically accurate, Inside Out illuminates powerful psychological concepts and can spark increased self-awareness and self-regulation.
As a therapist, much of what I teach people to do hinges on first building the capacity to observe thoughts, emotions and actions. This self-awareness is the foundation of improved coping and resilience. I have often encouraged my clients to imagine their feelings. Doing this can enable us to “see” our feelings and thus get some space from the experience to make room for a new response rather than a reaction. Inside Out offers a fun way to “see” our emotions and inner workings more clearly so that we can be less controlled by strong emotions and make choices about how we want to respond to the situation at hand.
Since seeing the film, I have giggled regularly to myself, watching my own Fear and Anger run around in circles trying to hit my inner alarm buttons, and this amusement has invited Joy in more often. I have seen how, like Riley (the movie’s protagonist), my Sadness enables me to connect with my loved ones and experience compassion. I’ve contemplated what my “personality islands” are and have wondered what core experiences established those parts of me. I have also found myself thinking about how I might strengthen and elaborate parts of my islands that would enrich my life. Few films have given me this much food for thought.
I hope you will go see Inside Out and let it spark your imagination about your inner world. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org after you see it and let me know what you think!