I recently saw Pixar’s new movie Inside out. I was intrigued to see how Pixar would approach the subject of our inner mental workings.
The plot follows Riley, an 11 year old American girl, as she begins a transition in her life – her parents move across the country. She leaves behind her old life, readjusts and establishes herself in her new town, as this happens we see Riley’s internal dialogue and how they converse with each other in order to make the best decision for Riley. The conversing characters are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. The dialogue between them and the decisions they make, based on past experiences, determine the actions that Riley takes.
Unlike Disney (who owns Pixar), the story does not always end with Prince Charming coming to the rescue and living happily ever after. Pixar has always been about growing up and adapting to new environments and/or situations. Essentially conveying how we develop throughout our lives.
The film struck me in a number of ways in which I would like to highlight.
Introducing the ever present inner dialogue within our brains, which many of us are not aware exists. Many of us think we alone are the first, or loudest voice, that we hear in our head when met with any given situation. We therefore act impulsively on this thought without the knowledge that there are many opinions in our heads and choice we can make. Inside Out shows us that rather than be at the mercy of our emotions we can use them to understand ourselves and choose how we want to act and feel about a given situation. We therefore then have the knowledge of ourselves and resources to change, that can lead to a happier and more authentic life.
Past experiences colouring our present and future
Inside Out shows how our past experiences dictate what we find value in and how we interact in the world.
The film shows Riley scoring a hockey goal while skating with her parents on the lake, and this influences her passion for hockey as she grows whilst also building affection with her parents. Conversely being surprised by a spider constitutes to her fear of spiders. This is based on the theories of the psychoanalyst Bowlby, who discusses the way we interact with the world is stemmed from both good and bad past experiences.
Running from emotions
The lead emotion during the film is Joy. She is proud that the majority of Riley’s memories are based around herself. This mirrors our society where which we are always expected to put our best foot forward and present ourselves as being happy or joyful.
As Riley moves from her childhood home and starts to grow older, her past memories begin to become tinged with sadness, which is met with fury and resentment by the other emotions. No matter how hard they fight, the memories still become tinged with sadness. Joy, as well as the other emotions, start to see that sadness is just as important as any other emotion whilst growing up and understanding why we feel the way we do.
Listening to our emotions
What becomes apparent is the importance of listening to your emotions so that we can understand what makes us, us.
We spend so long trying to run from tension, sadness, fear and any other ‘negative’ emotions, we tend to forget that they are just as important as the ‘positive’ ones, as they are giving us an insight into how we really feel about the world, other people, our circumstances and ourselves. If we were to suppress or hide all emotions except Joy, we wouldn’t be able to understand a large part of ourselves. We need to look at and accept, the whole range of emotions we have, to understand why we act the way we do, why we think the way we do and who we really are.
With the above point being said; what do I feel Pixar’s Inside Out has achieved?
I think Inside Out has given us a window into the psychological workings of the mind. Many of us live in ignorance of who we are and what makes us, us.
We listen to the loudest voice in our head and think that this is who we are and we cannot change.
Inside Out teaches us that we can choose how we want to act in any situation and that it is natural to change, adapt and grow.
It is OK not to be happy all of the time and in fact accepting the whole plethora of emotions you feel is actually beneficial for your overall mental health, and aids your overall happiness in the long run.
This is not just a movie to teach children, but also the parents that are ‘dragged along too’.