As is common with most therapists, the opening question at the start of the therapy hour is usually: “what’s on your mind?” This has become more intriguing given the increase in the general public’s understanding of what goes on inside our minds. Some credit goes to an Oscar winning production from Pixar – the “neuroscience rich movie – “Inside Out”. This is a rather cleverly conceived and delightfully delivered movie about Riley, an 11-year-old girl who relocates with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. The heart of the story is the personification of this girl’s five core emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust), which are colorfully depicted as “live” animated characters.
The movie does an excellent job of increasing the audience’s emotional intelligence in learning how to identify each core emotion and its role in daily life. But it goes further to show the complex interplay of emotions and thoughts and behavior within an individual. Furthermore, viewers gets to see the role that emotions play in organizing one’s life and the impact of core memories in shaping one’s personality. Riley’s dominant emotion from childhood was Joy but as the movie unfolds, the reality of sadness (and loss) plays a bigger role. By the end of the movie there is a greater integration between joy and sadness (as well as other emotions) as portrayed in a vulnerable and intimate family scene where Riley is finally able to share her sad feelings of missing her life and friends in Minnesota.
In our lives, learning how to manage ones emotions is a daily challenge. A good starting point is to know what you are feeling and reflecting on what these feelings are teaching you about what is important to you. How are you doing in identifying your emotions and learning from them?