To the Creators of Disney Pixar's Inside Out | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

June 22, 2015

To the Creators of Disney Pixar's Inside Out

To the Creators of Disney Pixar's Inside Out:

My world has been rocked.

I've been home for about two hours since your movie, Inside Out, ended. And I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. What started out as a tentative (we'll get to that in a minute) movie date with my daughters turned into so, so much more.

You see, I wasn't sure I wanted to bring my girls to the movie. Or any movie, for that matter. Because starting a few years ago, when my oldest was around the age of four, watching movies became dicey. It first happened watching one of the Disney princess movies. We get to the end, and there is my daughter, weeping silent tears. I lean over and hug her, ask her what she thought of the movie. 

And she has a complete. melt. down. 

Crying, moaning, thrashing, requesting grandparents. I try to stay calm, and after a while I was able to ferret out that she struggled over the near-death of several characters, as it made her sad. Or anxious. And then when everyone was reunited in the end, it made her happy. In a sad way. For her little 4-year old mind, it was very confusing and completely overwhelming. Since then, most of our movie experiences have had similar results.

My heart goes out to her, and really, I know I am to blame. Because I am a completely emotional person. Overly-emotional. I feel all things things, all the time. I live the life of a secret crier, with a list as long as your arm of things that will bring me to tears. But it's not only sad emotions that I feel so strongly. It's happiness. And discomfort. And anxiety. And fear (because it's totally normally to be completely incapacitated after a stinkbug encounter)

I feel things. And I've passed this blessing (or curse?) down to both of my daughters.

This is why I was tentative going into Inside Out. Because the movie is about emotions. And I may or may not have cried every time I watched one of the trailers. I could only imagine the sobbing mess my girls would be, and did I really want to put them through that? Well, yes. I did. Because Hubby and I know the importance of embracing our emotions, not hiding from them. And sheltering the girls from situations that cause them to feel emotions will do more harm than good. So we decided to no longer shy away from emotional situations, particularly the opportunity to go to the movies.

After getting our snacks and watching the previews, we settle in for our movie journey. The girls could hardly contain their excitement, and I felt a glimmer of hope that this may be a positive experience. Perhaps the girls might actually learn something about emotions, helping them realize feelings aren't scary things. 

Funnily enough, I think I'm the one who walked away having learned the greater lesson.

From the moment the movie started, my daughters and I were completely drawn in to the story, which centers around 11 year-old Riley. You learn that from the moment she was born, her "Headquarters" were piloted by emotions: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger. For most of Riley's life, Joy was the leader of the team, giving Riley a very happy childhood. 

But a cross-country move leaves Riley (and her emotions) struggling, especially when Joy and Sadness find themselves separated from Headquarters and lost inside Riley's longterm memory. As Riley tries to come to grips with the emotions she is feeling (as Disgust, Fear and Anger unsuccessfully man the ship), Joy and Sadness journey to find their way home.

I loved reading that the writers of Inside Out spent several years making this movie because they were so carefully consulting with psychologists. I was floored by the amount of scientific information the movie offers, and I believe it will actually become a great resources for psychology classes and child therapists. The film creatively covers abstract thought, core memories, the subconscious and how emotions and experiences work to build our personalities.

I've always had a vague sense of what goes on inside the human brain. I took psychology classes, and it was part of many discussions in my coursework as a social work major in college. I had a general understanding of my emotions, why I felt them, how I felt them. 

Yet somehow, in the span of 2 hours,  Inside Out helped me (a 33 year old woman) understand my emotions better than any class, textbook or therapist I've ever encountered. 

Thanks to seeing it come alive on screen, I finally understand the way our emotions are with us from birth, but as children we let them take the wheel one emotion at a time. As kids, we feel things in a single way: we are HAPPY, we are SAD, we are ANGRY. But something inevitable happens in our pre-teen years: we grow up

Inside Out captures that uncomfortable transition we face as our emotions become complex. And for the first time I truly appreciated the fact that as we grow, our emotions become multi-dimensional. That we can feel simultaneously happy and sad. And that our emotions are beautiful and necessary to make us whole. 

I feel like I am feeling for the first time, with new lenses with which to experience things. This new awareness makes me appreciate not only my emotions, but my daughter's emotions as well. When they freak out over emotional scenes in movies, I finally understand that one strong emotion is at the wheel, and it's scary. I can now picture Fear or Anger completely freaking out in their Headquarters, and their little minds having no idea how to handle it. My girls need to know that feeling emotions is a beautiful thing, and no emotion is wrong or bad. 

So, thank you, Creators of Inside Out, for giving me a new capacity to parent 

Friends: I can't recommend this movie enough. You need to go see it. 


And if you cry, it's a totally beautiful thing.

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