Inside Out: A Counselor's Critique
Two Things I Loved
First, the movie taught that you cannot pick and choose what emotions to feel. A healthy person is willing and able to feel a variety of emotions. This was the main point of the movie. The main character, Riley (11-years-old) moved from her hometown in Minnesota to San Francisco. For a time, her emotions, which were portrayed by the characters Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, simply tried to make her happy. Sadness was told to get lost. Anger, Fear, and Disgust submitted to Joy as she tried to keep Riley happy. During this process, it seemed that Riley became numb, seemingly feeling nothing at all. I can not tell you how many times I have sought to help a person feel sadness and grief.
Many of us have learned that we are supposed to suck it up, move on, and get over it. We teach our children this when we do anything we can to prevent them from experiencing sadness or hurt. Inside Out creatively shows the value of grief. When Joy finally tells Sadness that she is needed, Riley was able to feel again and express her emotions. Her parents are then able to connect with her and comfort her. The purpose of our emotions is not primarily to make us feel good. Emotions let us know what we value and enable us to connect with others in loving, meaningful, and intimate ways.
Secondly, there was a focus on core memories and their importance in shaping who you are today. Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks to different core memories that deeply affected Riley and shaped her personality. People often come to counseling because they do not understand why they do what they do. When this is the case, I often begin to explore the client's childhood. We all have different memories from very formative years that impact us greatly.
Consider your life between the ages of 5 and 15. You cannot remember everything that happened, but you are able to remember some events with detail and emotion. We all have "moments of life" and "moments of death." Life moments are when something happens and you felt great, as if all is right with the world. Maybe you made a game winning shot or your dad danced around the house with you. Simply put, you felt alive! Death moments are when something happens that makes you feel miserable or worthless. Perhaps you found out that your parents were getting divorced or you got made fun of by someone who you thought was a friend. We make vows to ourselves in moments like these. We vow to do whatever it takes to experience the great feelings we had during moments of life, and we vow to never again allow ourselves to feel the pain we had during moments of death. This affects what we pursue in life, the depth of relationships we allow, and the walls we put up.
One Thing I Would Have Changed
Where were truth and logic? Each person's brain had a headquarters in the movie. An emotion in headquarters could get behind the control panel and affect what the person felt, said, and did. The other emotions that were in headquarters could try to influence or take control from the emotion in charge. I wish each brain would have had two headquarters. One headquarter would have been for the emotions and the other would have been for truth and logic to have a place to function. The movie was brilliant in teaching that the emotions, and even sadness, need to be felt and expressed. However, the movie failed to portray the struggle between thinking and feeling. It seemed as if feeling is all we do, and we must give in to whatever emotion is behind the control panel.
What does it mean to be emotionally healthy? One thing it means is that we do not stuff or bury our emotions. However, it also means that we are not controlled by them. As a Christian, I believe I should apply the great truths that I know from the Word of God to what I feel. I ought to consider and value my emotions, and I must consider what I know to be true despite how I feel. I felt that this balance was missing in the movie.
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