Mind Matters: Go see ‘Inside Out’

Two clients and one friend in the past week have talked about seeing the movie “Inside Out.” Usually we (my husband and I) wait for Netflix, but all the talk prompted a trip to the movie theater instead. This Disney-Pixar film captivates older children and adults alike in its story about an 11-year-old girl, Riley. She is a happy hockey-playing kid in Minnesota when her family moves to San Francisco, thus disrupting Riley’s life just as she is on the cusp of puberty.

“Inside Out" delves into the mind of Riley by depicting emotions through various characters. At first Joy, and her positive, “can do” attitude leads the action through tumultuous times. However, it is Sadness whose role is also critical. When Sadness and Joy are lost, deep in the labyrinth of Riley’s mind, the characters Fear, Disgust, and Anger are left at the controls. Havoc ensues, and we see Riley acting out.

What the animation portrays well is how we all have an internal dialog of feelings that interacts with another’s cacophony of feelings. Moms and dads would do well to consider how their own emotions interact and intertwine with their children’s. There is one scene where Riley is reactive with her parents, one minute displaying Anger, another minute Fear, and another Disgust. Father escalates the turmoil by reacting with his Anger, and mother in turn reacts to father. Seeing this reactivity makes us laugh — but it also gets us to think — about our own emotional reactivity.

In another scene, Sadness sits and listens to a sad story being told by Riley’s imaginary friend. He weeps because Sadness is listening and is being understanding. Because of this, this character finds himself at the other side of his story, feeling some resolution to his grief. Joy, who at first wanted to gloss over his feelings with some “happy” distraction, sees that Sadness has an important role. She is the balance to Joy’s energy. Joy and Sadness are opposite sides of the same coin.

This film wisely did not portray any emotion as “negative.” We need our feelings; they are not to be gotten rid of. In right proportion and integrated, Fear helps us avoid danger; Disgust also keeps us safe—from being poisoned, for example. And Anger can help us recognize injustice.

This movie may help us understand the pre-pubescent kids in our midst, but it also gives lessons about our adult selves.

It’s worth going out to go inside.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or 610-388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com. See book.quietwisdom-loudtimes.com for information about her book, Quiet Wisdom in Loud Times: The Rise of the Wounded Feminine.

About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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