So basically, Inside Out (2015) blew my mind. Disney Pixar have definitely outdone themselves with this ridiculously intelligent way of explaining to children how the human mind works. Written and directed by, Pete Docter and, Ronnie Del Carmen, Inside Out follows the story of an 11 year old girl called Riley. Riley has a fairly normal childhood and we see it through her emotions; Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. When Riley and her family move to San Francisco both she and her emotions have a hard time adjusting. Amid the confusion, Joy and Sadness get lost in the far reaches of Riley’s mind and she is left with only Anger, Fear and Disgust to keep her positive. There will be spoilers unfortunately, but without further ado, her are the 7 lessons Inside Out taught us about our emotions.
1) Moving always affects your mental state
Coming from someone who was moved as a pre-teen, I can vouch for this. Moving away from everything you know or simply moving down the road (something I also did very recently, and I’m still not fully adjusted) can really mess with your head. When you’re a child it’s a disjointing and confusing experience, and as soon as it happens Riley’s emotions all freak out. Joy is stunned, and that part is really important, because moving is also super exciting. I couldn’t wait to move, I was extremely happy about it and the physical part was like one big adventure. While all of Riley’s other core emotions are screaming, Joy is wide-eyed and optimistic and plays a big role in pulling everyone together.
It’s the aftershock that hits you, and it hits Riley like an anvil. While Joy is trying to keep Riley as cheerful as possible, she isn’t helping the situation at all. Riley thinks she might be living in a gingerbread house and actually arrives at a dilapidated shit-hole. School is an awful ordeal and sadness eventually takes over – being happy or sad all the time is exhausting, and Riley’s emotions are working overtime to process it all. Problem is, Riley isn’t quite ‘old enough’ yet to manage her feelings, and they overpower everything until all she can understand is her feelings of loss and a desperate need for familiarity.
Moving is really hard for everyone at any age, but the experience of moving for an adult conjures up some vastly different emotions to that of a child. Children see things differently, process things differently and therefore behave differently. It’s hard. Be patient and don’t go to ‘Yeast of Eden’ for pizza…ever.
2) Young children’s emotional scales are raw and basic
Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust are the main parts of Riley’s psychological understanding of the world around her. There is a wire on the floor and she is scared, once that is over with she is back to being happy. She is angry when there is no pudding, but happy when an aeroplane fork lands in her mouth – children are ‘simple’ creatures with ‘very simple’ needs. You can distract a distraught child and after 30 seconds, it’s like nothing ever happened. Whatever Riley feels, she feels it to the fullest as her emotional scale has not developed enough for her to feel anything but those five, hilarious characters manning the control panel of her brain. This is why toddlers are so demanding of us adults, we have forgotten what it is like to be reset to factory settings and have such high levels of feelings. We are comfortably numb (thank you Pink Floyd).
Kids be crazy emotional. There isn’t much of a conclusion to add here, if you’re just skipping through the content and reading the stuff in bold then you missed out on a brilliant Floyd pun – gutted.
3) Sometimes, happy memories become bitter-sweet
Don’t you just hate it when that happens? A memory that once used to be a comfort blanket is now the source of all your pain. It can be applied to so many things like breaking up with someone, a holiday that ended badly, the shopping spree that made you declare bankruptcy…you get the point.
When you see things from a different perspective it can change the emotions they evoke, Riley is unable to look at anything from her previous life in a positive way. She wants it back to normal so badly that she is forgetting all the good times and only seeing what she can no longer have.
This is all normal. We have to look at our past differently at some point, otherwise we would have the same outlook as we did when we were little and unequipped to understand certain situations. As Riley grows up throughout the movie, she begins to view this memory as a negative mixed with a positive and nothing will ever be the same again! She has took the giant leap between infancy and childhood, because her emotions made it happen.
Some memories won’t ever change and some will give you a different feeling over time. Go with it, because who knows? They may change again. Our emotions are amazing things and they literally shape our understanding and mental development, perhaps the happy times weren’t as rad as they once seemed, but that’s good. It means you’re learning.
4) People do really stupid things when they are miserable
When Riley loses her ability to show sadness or joy, the other negative emotions are left behind. The experience of moving away from everything she knows has caused a massive shift in her ability to express any feelings, and therefore Riley feels disconnected from the world both mentally and physically. The things Riley used to once hold dear like her family and being free spirited have gone and a new personality is starting to form – but before that she has to experience a sort of depression. Riley decides that the only way she can be truly happy is to run away, but in doing this she represses her sense of honesty and her close bond with her family. Riley turns into a person that neither her parents, her emotions or herself can recognise and this is why Inside Out is another Disney Pixar masterpiece.
When you experience depression or loss, it can turn you into someone you aren’t. The people around you can find this difficult as they notice the changes in your emotions. Depression isn’t all about being sad; it’s actually about being deeply angry, disgusted and fearful of the world around you. Luckily, Riley has an awesome family who help her through the tough times and are able to forgive her actions because we all know, that people do really stupid things when they are miserable.
5) Anger is the least useful but the hardest to contain
Did you notice that Anger didn’t help out much when he took control? Did you notice that Anger often pushes the other emotions to one side, and not even Joy can suppress him? Good, cause that is basically how it works. Anger solves none of the situations apart from when they use his burning hot hair to make a big hole in the window, and that cant be psychoanalysed at all…
The thing is with anger that you have to let the pressure valve off at some point or it will all bubble over and become a problem, Riley hasn’t ever really experienced anger like this before. When she speaks to her friend from home and finds out that she has met another ‘best friend’ Riley immediately becomes jealous and angry. Instead of being happy for her, she struggles to conceal her anger, and hangs up. Inside Out also shows us that this gets easier with age. When we see inside the parent’s heads there is a different dynamic playing out between the emotions. They all seem somewhat more relaxed, especially anger.
Not everything becomes easier as you mature but understanding and controlling your anger is definitely part of ‘growing up’ – Riley is only 11 and on a shorter fuse that is only going to get shorter as she progresses into puberty. Anger is rarely useful in any situation, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t acceptable for a person to be angry. Sometimes you have to go home, shut your doors and let that little red dude have a go on your emotional control panel.
6) Some things are best forgotten
As Riley grows older, her core memories change and her long term gets filtered down into a bleak memory wasteland. This made me think about people with autobiographical memories (The Boy Who Cant Forget) and how unhappy they are, because they literally cannot forget anything. Joy and Sadness encounter Riley’s imaginary friend, BingBong roaming around her long term memory. In the same way her interest and personality changes, Riley’s memories change as she grows older and we learn that growing up is an act of letting go, whether it’s saying goodbye to who you used to be or forgetting you had an imaginary friend – you have to let go. If you were visually creative enough to have an imaginary friend that you forgot about when you got older, then you killed it just like Riley killed BingBong. You monster.
Something that once seemed very important can become distant or you may not be able to fully recall it, this is how your mind copes with things. If you remembered everything and retained all the information the brain is able to process in one day, let alone one lifetime, you would probably go a bit insane. It’s nice to look back and remember the good old days, but it’s natural to forget. It’s good to forget. It’s necessary to forget. Not all of childhood transfers well into adulthood.
7) As you develop your personality changes
You really cant stay the same, it isn’t possible. A person could sit in a room by themselves and do nothing for a year and their personality would still change. Can you imagine if we didn’t gain different interests? We would all still be playing with Barbie and throwing temper tantrums (*cough*). If I still had the same interests that I had when I was 11, I think I would be trying to be a Pokemon master right about now. Having a massive personality overhaul like Riley does is traumatic and the brain goes into a state of flux, your emotions hang by a thread and you feel very strange indeed. Part of Riley’s depression is that she cannot be static, she has to fall apart to rebuild and her emotions are just following suit.
If we want to be very psychoanalysis-clever-dicks, we could argue that Joy and Sadness didn’t ‘get lost’ as the story suggests, but that Riley’s sub-concious kicks them out of the control room. Joy is setting her up for failure with her over-positive delusions and Sadness turned her safe memories into bleak recollections, so she kicks them out. With all the stress of moving, her personality shifts and she retreats into the far corners of her mind to make sense of what is going on. Riley becomes depressed, but remembering aspects of her childhood and ultimately saying goodbye to BingBong, enabled her to move forward and maturely deal with her feelings. Not only does she come home, she apologises and lets her parents in on some of the difficult emotions she has been dealing with.
Riley learns to cope with her new life from the inside, out. Firstly she gets herself and her emotions in check, then her personality matures so that she can finally begin to accept and move on, with a broader emotional spectrum and therefore a deeper understanding of how to control them.
There isn’t much more for me to say, well I could write a whole essay on this if you want and footnote it and everything but…I like my weekends. Also, the China Town reference is brilliant.