My husband and I took our daughter to see the movie Inside Out yesterday. Man, was I impressed! Disney/Pixar used their resources to create a visual and entertaining educational film about basic human emotions, and a little bit about how to use Emotion Coaching with our children. My husband, who is a visual learner and communicator, said that he wished he had seen this movie years ago. If you haven’t seen it (you really should!) the story is about 5 core emotions at work inside the brain of Riley, and 11-year old girl, how her experience of the world is shaped by these emotions, and how her parents and her emotions influence her memories. The back story covers many of Riley’s younger years, including when she was a toddler being introduced to broccoli! Under the stress of moving to a new city, as well as being about to enter puberty, Joy and Sadness get lost in Riley’s mind, and we get see what happens when Anger, Fear, and Disgust are left in charge. Although the film-makers simplified a hugely complex system, the science is good. For example, even though there are countless different nuances of emotion such as pride, embarrassment, surprise, and awe, the main characters Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger do seem to many scientists to be the core emotions that all humans possess.
One of the encouraging messages of the movie is that all of our emotions have an important role to play in our lives, and we do ourselves and our children a dis-service to hide or avoid them. Anger cares very much about protecting justice, and reacts with action when things are not fair. Fear takes the controls to keep us safe when dangerous conditions are present. Disgust keeps us from being poisoned! Sadness has a huge role in this film, leading Riley to seek the comfort of her parents as she experiences loss.
Another great gem in this movie is the idea that intense emotions are soothed when we hear them, sit with them, and listen to them. Sadness demonstrates this step of Emotion Coaching when she has a moment with Riley’s childhood imaginary playmate, who is fading in Riley’s memory. Joy recognizes this process, and realizes that Sadness is essential to get Riley’s life back on track. To read more about Emotion Coaching, here is a link:
Some members of the Autism community are expressing gratitude for this film, since it represents the abstract idea of emotions in a concrete and visual way. To see a good article you can look here:
Thank you, Disney/Pixar. You just gave us all, kids and parents, a tool to understand and talk about emotions and how our brains work. Our babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids who see this movie will grow up with an understanding that we probably didn’t have as kids. We parents will have an understanding that maybe our own parents were not fortunate enough to be able to learn. What a great way to invest in the mental health of young families!