4 Important Life Lessons We Can Learn from Disney’s Inside Out

If you haven’t seen the film, read at your own risk! 

The debut of the film Inside Out in 2015 helped boost the conversation about one’s emotions. This year is no different! Inside Out 2, the most awaited sequel to the smash 2015 film, is currently in theaters and - yet again - making us feel seen in so many ways. 

Disney's innovative storytelling paved the way for conversations with kids and adolescents about how we relate to our feelings. Notably, the film's writers collaborated with professionals to portray the subtleties of emotions, ensuring consistency on screens.

 

Inside Out teaches us to be open and accepting of our feelings, but it also shares insights that can help us take care of ourselves better.

1. NoReNa! - Notice, Recognize, and Name emotions!

I know new emotions can feel unhelpful at first. I’ve learned that every emotion is good for Riley.” - Joy, Inside Out 2This was emphasized in the sequel, where the primary emotions - Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust - struggled with the newcomers inside their Headquarters. With Riley's transition into puberty came the addition of Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and Ennui to the squad.As we go through different stages of life, we go through changes inside and outside of ourselves—in our bodies, in our relationships, and in our surroundings. Riley was having a hard time with her feelings and thoughts in one scene from Inside Out 2 because her friends were going to have to move to a different school. Let's not forget the rapid mood swings she had when she woke up (hey, we've all been there)!Mindfully noticing, recognizing, and naming our emotions is an effective method to regulate them. When we name and acknowledge our feelings, we lessen their impact on us, and we are better able to manage them. It is critical to educate and emphasize this to children and teenagers, since some feelings may shock them and cause them to respond in an inappropriate way.  

2. Letting go of the feeling means letting go of control

Growing up includes learning how to let go gently. To let go does not mean we ignore our surroundings. It simply implies letting go of those over whom we have no control. It is a form of self-care in which we let go of the burden of constantly attempting to be in charge.

We also witness this in the film, as Joy and Anxiety discover that they can protect Riley by allowing her to feel all of her chaotic yet beautiful emotions. 

3. Big emotions aren’t bad

“Riley needs you (Sadness).” - Joy, Inside OutWe have learned from both films that it is important to embrace our emotions, among other things. Yup! This is easier said than done, and it is a difficult pill to swallow! Experts recommend practicing "mindfully embracing," which involves observing one's feelings without passing judgment, instead of allowing intense emotions, especially strong ones, to consume oneself.Anger, fear, embarrassment, or anxiety are often labeled as “bad”. While experiencing these emotions can be stressful, they shouldn't prevent us from moving forward in life. These emotions also protect us - like how Anxiety wanted to shield Riley from experiencing embarrassing or scary situations - and signal when we need to pause or examine something in order to be more present in life. It becomes much more difficult to do so  when we suppress our emotions.  If these feelings get overwhelming, talking to a mental healthcare professional can help you navigate them better.

4. Embrace changes

Crying helps me slow down … over the weight of life’s problems.” - Sadness, Inside OutRiley's body, her feelings, and the way she thought about herself changed as she hit puberty. She tried to fit in and win over her new friends, but anxiety got the best of her and made it challenging for her to accept the different parts of herself. We all go through these changes as we grow and move on to the next stage of our lives. When these changes occur, we may act in ways that initially make us feel uncomfortable and gradually worsen over time. It forces us to grapple with the contradictory characteristics we all possess.The most important thing it does is show us that it's beautiful and meaningful to accept and love the changes and contradictory parts of our character traits, even if we want life to be happy all the time, as Joy and Anxiety did for Riley.

“Every bit of Riley makes her who she is. Every messy, beautiful piece of her.” - Joy, Inside Out 2

Inside Out highlights the complexities of a person's emotions, mental processes, and interactions, all of which have an impact on their sense of self, knowledge of their feelings and thoughts, and actions. It not only encourages us to love and accept ourselves, but it also underlines the importance of social connections and how they help us navigate difficult situations, embrace ourselves, and be ourselves more easily. We highly recommend this film!

References:

  • Caron, C. (2024, June 14). What 'Inside Out 2' Teachers Us About Anxiety. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/14/well/mind/inside-out-2-anxiety.html
  • Hill, D. J. (2024, June 18). What Inside Out 2 Reveals About the Diversity of Emotions. Retrieved from Greater Good Magazine: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/inside_out_2_Reveals_About_the_Diversity_of_Emotions
  • Plutchik, L. (2024, March 15). Pixar’s "Inside Out" and Plutchik’s Theory of Emotions. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-colors-of-contemporary-psychiatry/202403/pixars-inside-out-and-plutchiks-theory-of
  • Zakrzewski, V., & Marsh, J. (2015, July 14). Four Lessons from “Inside Out” to Discuss With Kids. Retrieved from Greater Good Magazine: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_lessons_from_inside_out_to_discuss_with_kids

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