You have to bear with me here as some things might be incorrect and I may have missed some minor details. I watched this with a nearly four year old that finds it difficult to sit still for more than five minutes at a time (I was also cradling a sleeping 11 month old)! Here is a picture of her in the third out of four fancy dress costumes that she changed into whilst watching inside out. A panda costume was the first one, Olaf didn’t cut it as she didn’t want a big tummy, she finished with Doc McStuffins. All very normal pre schooler behaviour I’m sure!
I knew Inside Out was about feelings and I knew it involved a woman called Joy because we’d recently seen a good friend make a wonderful Joy at a Disney themed birthday party. I didn’t however realise how relevant the film was to my work.
As per wikipedia “the film is set in the mind of a young girl, Riley Andersen, where five personified emotions—Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust — try to lead her through life as she moves with her parents to a new city”.
I don’t want to ruin the movie for those that haven’t seen it but briefly let me explain. The five emotions form the bulk of the film as they argue with who should be ‘on stage’ for each of Riley’s experiences. There is a use of ‘core memories’ as each emotion uses previous memories to bring back their feeling. At one point when fighting over emotions Joy and Sadness get sucked up a chute which takes them away from Riley’s mind. Whilst they are away Riley is unable to feel Joy or Sadness. Anger takes over here and Riley demonstrates some very angry behaviour. Joy and Sadness go on a huge adventure as they try to get back into the mind of Riley, eventually they do and Joy recognises that it is Sadness that needs to take centre stage. A spokesperson for Disney was quoted in The Mirror as saying “Sadness is pivotal to the happy memories that are created, as without her there can be no value to the feeling of joy”.
I felt like the film was representative of a course of therapy with me for many of my clients. With clients I often use hypno analysis, also known as regression. I speak to clients about events of the past, sometimes childhood, sometimes not. It’s all about memories. The film portrays the brain really well here. Did you know a Harvard study demonstrated that the brain behaves in the same way whether it’s remembering or actually doing. Therefore when we remember something we tend to get the same feelings back that we had at the time. In therapy this can be useful if we need to go back and deal with previous emotions, we can go back to the memory and ‘file’ or ‘sort’ the emotions so that they do not come out and effect our daily behaviour in negative ways. We can also use this to go back and remember ways that we used to be and would like to be again. It’s important to note here that I do not believe this is the right way forward for every client and sometimes looking forward is the key, not looking back. The emotions also work together to change Riley’s memories so that the feelings she experiences are more beneficial. This is something that can be useful in hypnotherapy – not changing people’s memories but clients thinking about how they would change an experience. With fears, flying for example, thinking about the worst flight and then asking the client to recreate the scene in their mind so it becomes a perfect scene. Thus creating a relationship of good feelings with the situation.
When Sadness and Joy are sucked up the chute I understood this as the emotions being surpressed. Riley was no longer able to feel sadness and joy, they were surpressed emotions. In the film each emotion was in charge of memories that evoked their emotions. Joy and Sadness had to get back to Riley’s mind and play some joyous or sad memories to get her to feel those feelings again. In therapy we use various techniques to help clients find these emotions that they are struggling to feel. My favourite part of the film was when Joy and Sadness ended up in what seemed to be the memory warehouse. There were little workers sorting through all of the memories, discarding them, saving them and sending some into Riley’s mind. This was representative of a technique I use a lot in my work when I help client’s find the filing cabinet of their mind. We work through everything that is bubbling around in their mind sorting things into cabinets (or whatever their storage of choice is), bins, to do piles etc.
Another part of the film I liked was when Riley had her first day at amnew school. Joy recognised it was very important for Riley to feel only good feelings, she drew a circle on the floor, instructed Sadness to stand in it and said everything sadness related had to stay in the circle. Whilst I often use the metaphor of a circle on the floor and ask clients to ‘step into it’ (it has a variety of uses that may form another blog post) I have not ever used it the other way round, after watching the film though I think I might just turn that technique inside out.