Sometimes kid's stories aren't just for kids - think the Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Toy Story, Up - come to think of it some of the most entertaining, funny - and sad - films are officially for kids!
Pixar's summer blockbuster Inside Out certainly comes into this category. I saw it with my family and absolutely loved it. It ticks all the boxes for good family entertainment. In this post, though, I won't be reviewing its merits as a film (though I'll stick my neck out here and say its worth a shilling each way to be the first animated film to win Best Film Oscar (currently 12-1 with Paddy Power!).
Here are for me the 3 reasons why Inside Out is enlightening
1) Joy is good
Joy is good, happiness is good, we are all good ....
The film starts off as if it is a cheerleader for the psychology of happiness. Riley is happy, she is fun and it's the joyful part of her personality that's in charge. For most of the time, it's good for joy to be in charge. We wouldn't want to be without joy, and it's nice to be around people with that side of their character to the fore. Joy motivates us to do stuff and makes other people want to be with us when we are doing them.
2) But there's room for other sides of our personality too...There are times when we need the other sides to our personality - anger, disgust, sadness - hey, even sadness.
Anger protects us from unfairness
Disgust keeps us safe from poison
Fear keeps us away from danger
Sadness helps others know that we need help.
These 5 characters are based on Paul Ekman's 5 basic emotions.
3) We need to make room for each emotion and also decide which one should be in charge at which time.In the film, there is no "self" deciding which emotion takes charge - they just kind of intuitively decide amongst themselves which should take charge of the console.
This may not be the most accurate portrayal of how our minds work. One of the aims of practical philosophies like Stoicism and psychotherapies like CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and CFT (Compassion Focussed Therapy) is to help develolop a part of you that can take control and act wisely.
In Stoicism, this part is reason, which you train to act in accordance with courage, wisdom, self-control and justice. The emotions would be subordinate to reason - which is another way of saying that we should have wise emotions.
In CBT we train the rational part of our mind to notice our thoughts and thereby influence our emotions. For example, with fear or anxiety we train ourselves to be more aware of jumping to conclusions and catastrophising.
In CFT we aim to develop a compassionate part of ourselves - compassion being a composite of warmth, wisdom, responsibilty and courage and to bring this "on-line" when we need it.
In my therapeutic practice I find that all of these three ideas can work well