I recently watched a Disney/Pixar movie called Inside Out.The movie’s premise is around five emotions that drive Riley, an 11-year old girl’s, thoughts, actions, and behaviors and her struggles surrounding her parents decision to move away from the home and friends she’s always known.
It was interesting to watch as Joy toiled with why Sadness was one of the members of the emotional team. At one point she draws a circle on the ground and asks Sadness to not step out of it. This was Joy’s way to prevent her from having any influence on Riley’s psyche. As I watched her do this I thought oh no….emotional suppression…this is going to backfire. Spoiler alert….it did and in a big way.
In the film, like in real life, all of our emotions serve an important purpose to our well-being. They provide us insight to our inner and outer environments in ways that help us to connect with others, avoid danger, and recover from loss.
Anger helps us to overcome obstacles, fear alerts us to threats and engages our fight or flight responses, sadness signals loss, and happiness (joy) helps us to pursue and attain important goals and encourages us to cooperate with others.
Another task that Riley’s five primary emotions performed was to take care of her “core memories;” the memories that define her personality. When Sadness touched one of memories, it started to shift from a happy memory to a sad one. This frustrated Joy who only ramped up her efforts to control Riley’s emotional state. Her frantic behavior caused the core memories to become dislodged from their secure location, requiring Joy to chase them. Next thing you know she and Sadness are out of the control center and into Riley’s memory banks and unable to get back inside.
Most of us, at one time or another, have wondered what purpose sadness serves in our lives. Sadness helps us to slow down and examine a situation, a process, a decision. Without it we wouldn’t think too deeply on how our actions and behaviors affect ourselves and others.
There are a couple of scenes in the movie where Sadness’ natural tendency is to lay down and rest in the mist of challenge. This balanced out Joy who is overly full of action and ideas on how to get back to the control center. Joy had the energy to move them both through the memory banks and Sadness provided the road map on how to get back. T
We need to think of our emotions as a gift rather than something to be suppressed and avoided. When we don’t acknowledge our feelings we loose our sense of self. We may be conscious or not of this but feelings are the drivers of everything we do – they are in charge. The movie was a great visual depiction of this process.
“Our feelings are the primary motivating source in our lives. Without acknowledging our core feelings, we lose our sense of self.” – John Bradshaw
In the movie Inside Out the five emotions provide:
Knowing, feeling, and expressing all of our emotions whether love, joy, fear, sadness, shame, anger, etc…is good for our health. They keep us moving steadily through our lives. The word emotion derives from the Latin verb meaning to move or move out. This is exactly what our feelings do; they help us to move in the direction which we need to go.
Being able to notice a broad range of feeling provides us with a richness and balance in our lives. Emotions give us clarity about our responses to events and access to them is a critical piece to developing heightened self-awareness.